Author’s Note: This article shows how to dual-boot the OSs, with GRUB installed in the MBR. While this method works, the recommended method is to install GRUB in the boot partition of Ubuntu, so that the Windows boot loader will be responsible for dual-booting. A step by step guide for this latter approach has now been published: Dual-booting Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.10 (Part 2).
While I will never encourage anybody to use Windows, any version of Windows, I do accept the fact that a significant percentage of users still have to use it. I also accept the fact that some users would like to dual-boot between Linux (whatever the distribution they prefer) and Windows. Linux and BSD installation programs make dual-booting with other operating systems very easy, such that if you are satisfied with partitions created by your distribution, a tutorial like this one is not necessary. However, if you need to create a custom partitioning scheme, different from the system default, this tutorial will be useful, especially if you are new to disk partitioning in Linux.
Images used in this tutorial were obtained from installation in a virtual environment, with a disk size of 200 GB. The objective is to use about 50 GB of that for Windows 7, and the rest for Ubuntu 10.10. When setting up a dual-boot configuration between Windows and a Linux or BSD distribution, always install Windows first. Otherwise, Windows will happily wipe your hard disk clean and install itself. The first task then is to install Windows first, then Ubuntu. Note: The assumption here is that Windows 7 is being installed anew. So boot up the computer the Windows 7 installation CD.
You might also be interested in how to dual-boot Linux Mint 10 and Ubuntu 10.10 on a computer with two hard drives.
At the disk partition step of the installation process, the window similar to the one below should be on your screen. To create the Windows partition, click on New.
Here the Windows 7 installer lets you specify the disk space to use. The original size of the disk in shown. All that is required is to change it to the size we want to use for Windows 7.
With the required size assigned, click Apply.
The installer will create two primary partitions as shown. The first one (Disk 0 Partition 1: System Reserved) is for installing Windows 7 loader files and the second (Disk 0 Partition 2) is for installing Windows 7 itself. When it comes time to install Ubuntu 10.10, the Ubuntu installer will identify these two partitions as /dev/sda1 and /dev/sda2 respectively. The unallocated space is what will be used for installing Ubuntu. Click Next to continue with the installation, which should take about 20 minutes.
With Windows 7 installed, time to install Ubuntu 10.10. Reboot the computer into the Ubuntu installation medium. When you click to install, you will click through about three steps before getting to the one shown below. There are three options. Because the goal here is to create a custom set of partitions different from the Ubuntu default, select the last option and click Forward.