How to dual-boot Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon/MATE and Windows 7

Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon and Linux Mint 13 MATE are the latest editions of the popular Linux desktop distribution based on Ubuntu Desktop. This tutorial presents a step-by-step guide on how to dual-boot either one with Windows 7 on a computer with a single hard drive.

Because the Cinnamon and MATE editions of Linux Mint 13 share the same installation program, the steps involved are the same regardless of the edition you use. For this tutorial, a 32-bit installation image of the Cinnamon edition was used.

If your computer is running a self-installed copy of Windows 7, the default number of partitions will be just like the ones shown in the image below. Keep in mind that the partitions on an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) installation could be different. For this tutorial, the operating assumption is that you computer is running a self-installed copy of Windows 7. Note: On your computer, make a mental note of the amount of free space on the C drive listed on this image. You will need the information during the installation of Linux Mint 13.
Windows 7 Partitions

The objective here is to install Linux Mint 13 on the same hard drive, with GRUB, Linux Mint’s boot loader, installed in the boot partition (of Linux Mint), leaving Windows 7’s boot programs in the hard drive’s Master Boot Record (MBR) untouched. Then using another application to add an entry for Linux Mint 13 in Windows 7’s boot menu, so that at boot time, you will be able to choose which operating system to boot into. Selecting Windows 7 will cause the computer to boot into Windows 7 and selecting Linux Mint 13 will boot the system into your newly installed copy of Linux Mint 13, but not after a brief stop at Linux Mint’s boot menu.
Windows 7 Boot Menu

After creating partitions for and installing Linux Mint 13, the new partitions as seen from inside Windows 7 will look a lot different. This image shows the partitions from the computer used for this tutorial after the dual-boot operating has completed.
Windows 7 Linux Mint 13 Partitions

For this tutorial, the partitions that will be created for Linux Mint 13 are: a partition mounted at /boot; root partition mounted at /; a partition mounted at /home; and a Swap partition. You do not need to create all four, but that is what will be done for this tutorial.

What do you need to complete this tutorial? Just five items:

  • This tutorial
  • You, and an Internet-connected computer, needed to read this tutorial.
  • An installation image of Linux Mint 13 (MATE or Cinnamon edition). You may download it from here. Burn the downloaded image to a DVD, or transfer it to a USB flash drive.
  • The target computer running Windows 7 (Note: you may opt to reinstall Windows 7 anew)
  • EasyBCD – a free software from NeoSmart Technologies that will be used to add an entry for Linux Mint 13 in Windows 7’s boot menu

Note: If you are not familiar with disk partitioning in Linux and how to dual-boot operating systems, it is highly recommended that you read guide to disks and disk partitions in Linux and tips for dual-booting Windows and Linux before continuing with the rest of this tutorial.

Now that we have a pretty good idea of what we need to accomplish, time to get it done. To start, boot the computer from the Linux Mint 13 DVD installation image that you made. Linux Mint 13 DVD is a Live DVD and by default, will boot into a Live desktop environment. Click on the installer’s icon on the desktop to start the installation process. When the installer starts, click through the first steps until you get to the one shown below. You definitely do not want to select the second option. Like the second option, selecting the first option will lead to an automatic partitioning of the free space needed to install Linux Mint 13.
Mint 13 Disk Partition Options

Selecting the first option will actually bring you to this step, where you can see how the installer will resize the main Windows 7 partition (the C drive). The problem with selecting the first option, is that GRUB will be installed in the MBR of the hard drive, where it will overwrite Windows 7’s boot files. Since this is not what we want to do, the only option left, is the last option (Something else). So, if you are at this step, click the Back button.
Mint 13 Install

Selecting Something else and clicking Continue will bring you to the Advanced Partitioning Tool. “Advanced” does not mean that the tool is really advanced, it just means that it is for people who know how to partition disks in Linux. If you read and understood the material discussed in guide to disks and disk partitions in Linux, consider yourself an advanced user.

The main window of Advanced Partitioning Tool is shown below. By default, the partitions listed at this step – sda1 and sda2, are the two Windows 7 partition that we saw on the first image on this page. In Windows’ parlance, sda2 is the C drive, while sda1 is the System Reserved partition.
Linux Mint 13 Advanced Partition Tool

The task here is to resize sda2, freeing up enough space that will be used to create the partitions for installing Linux Mint 13. To begin, select sda2 and click Change.
Linux Mint 13 Windows Partition

This is the resize window, also known as the Edit Partition window. The sda2 on the computer used for this tutorial has about 320 GB of disk space. How much of that disk space we can free up depends, of course, on what is available. This is where you have to be very careful.
Linux Mint 13 Resize Windows Partition

The system used for this tutorial was a recent installation, so Windows 7 has only used about 7 GB. With that, I decided to allocate 100 GB to Windows. That amount is what should be shown in the New partition size field. And that is all you need to do here. Click OK.
Linux Mint 13 Resized Windows Partition

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  1. Thanks!

  2. I’m having some trouble. I went through the steps as you stated them (minus the /home partition – I omitted that), and it all worked (ignoring this problem I’m having). The issue is that when I select Linux Mint from the bootloader, it brings me to a screen that says only “Initializing variable space. Starting cmain()…” or something to that effect and does not do anything beyond that, except blink the cursor indefinitely.

    Does anyone have any insight on this?

  3. When i’m creating a ‘Primary’ partition with Mount Point ‘/boot’, the system shows the rest of the available space 178GB as unusable. It does not allow me to create any further partitions.
    Can anyone help me on this.

  4. Quick Question:

    When I get to the Partitioning table, I see sda1[ntfs], sda2[ntfs], and sda3[ntfs] with sizes 14.0 GB, 0.1 GB, 256.0 GB respectively. I’m running Windows 7 Home Premium, and it was pre-installed by the OEM.

    Is this normal?

    • Yeah, and I’m guessing that one of those ntfs partitions is a recovery partition, and sda1 is the most likely candidate. sda2 (100 MB) should be the system partition, and sda3 is your C drive.

      You can verify this by logging into Windows and using the partition manager to view the details. Let me know if I guessed right. If I’m right, you can shrink sda3 and install Mint on the freed space.

      • Yeah, it is the recovery partition. But the problem is when I make the Linux Mint boot partition (primary) the Linux Mint installer won’t let me create another partition – even a logical one.

        • By making the boot partition primary, you just maxed out the number of primary partitions you can create. Any space outside of the 4 primary partitions will be unusable. Creating the boot partition as a logical partition should solve the problem. If you have not done so already, it is highly recommended that you read guide to disks and disk partitions in Linux.

          • Well – don’t do what I did.

            I deleted my recovery partition, moved all the partitions up to fill that gap, put the excess back into my Windows partition, and tried to reinstall Linux Mint (/boot in a primary partition now). Table looked like this I guess:

            Primary – System Reserved
            Primary – Windows (C:)
            Primary – /boot
            Logical – /
            Logical – /home

            I got a “grub rescue >” prompt on next reboot and then a Windows Boot Manager message saying to insert my installation disc on the next one.

  5. Pingback: Linux Install.. Finally « Technological Ramblings

  6. Hello,

    Great tutorial. I used the tutorial for Linux Mint 13 KDE. Up to the part when you need to install EasyBCD … is this necessary? I can choose from the different operating systems when I start my computer.

    • If you installed GRUB in a boot partition, then, yes, EasyBCD is necessary. But if GRUB is installed in the MBR and you are happy, then you do not need EasyBCD.

  7. Thanks a zillion, this went flawless.

  8. Hi there, this tutorial is great!
    I’ve got a problem when I follow your tutorial. After I chose “Primary” as the “/boot” mount point, the remain free memory coudn’t be done any more new partition. So, I chose “Logical”, and followed your steps.
    After the installation, the dual boot menu didn’t show up. It just run Win7 directly.
    Can’t figure it out!!
    Thanks anyway. You did a great job.

  9. This tutorial is perfect! I’ve set up dual-boot systems before using this method, but it’s so rare I always have to hunt and peck to figure things out.

    Having everything in one place, well explained, is a service to humanity. :)

  10. Thanks a lot forsharing this information, it was a big help. A side note: I have installed Linux Mint on two HP/Compaq laptops. In both of these, all primary partitions were allocated by the os and junk from HP and the installation failed. So if you end up with a new partition that can not be used, you’ll probably have to get rid of one or more of the “bonus” partitions.

  11. goood, thanks.

  12. Elson Justine

    This is the best tutorial ever! I had no idea on how to do this stuff, but thanks to you I’m able to and I did it.

  13. Excellent tutorial. Everything worked as expected.

  14. Hi, I tried installing Linux Mint 13 and I’ve run into some issues. Once entering the Advanced Partitioning Window I see not just two partitions, but three, sda1 (fat16) *41.1 MB*, sda2 (ntfs) *13.2 GB*, and sda3 (ntfs) *987 GB*. Now, I’m guessing that sda2 is what Windows 7 is installed on, but what I’m lost on is which partition I should be changing. I don’t want to screw anyting up. So I guess my question is which partition should I be changing to make the Windows 7 partition 100 GB, sda 1, 2, or 3? Then once I do that will all 900 some-odd GB of storage be considered “free space” fo other partitions and then files of sorts? I’m sorry for all the questions, first timer with Linux and want to get it right. Thanks!

  15. I’m new to installing any sort of linux distro and I have some questions. Why do we not want to choose the first option “Install Linux Mint alongside Windows 7”? Why do we not want it to overwrite the Windows 7 boot files? It says “Documents, music, and other files will be kept”. Will they not be kept if I choose the third option? I mean I know they will be kept in some way on the hard drive itself, but will I be able to access them on the Linux Mint file system and not have to be switching all the time? Sorry for all the questions, I just don’t want to mess up my computer if something goes wrong. Oh and one last question, is it possible to uninstall Linux Mint after it is already partitioned if for some reason I don’t enjoy it as much as Windows 7, for who knows why?



    • The first two options are automated, which means that the installer does the disk partitioning for you. The first option “moves” Windows aside and installs Mint on the free space it created by moving Windows aside. That is why it is called “Install Linux Mint alongside Windows 7.″ Nothing happens to your data (Documents, music, ec), but Windows’ boot files in the Master Boot record (MBR) will be overwritten with Mint’s boot loader. By doing that, it just makes it easy to choose which OS to boot into when you restart the computer.

      The second option, though also automated, will delete everything before installing Mint. If you want to keep Windows and your data, this is obviously not the one to choose.

      The third option puts you in complete control of the disk partitioning part of the installation process. So the installer will not do anything that you did not tell it to do. That’s why that step was chosen in this tutorial.

      After installation, you can access your files and folders in Windows when you are working on the Mint side. See this guide. So if you are working in Mint and decide to see a file on the Windows side, you do not have to switch.

      Finally, if you decide that Mint is not for you, you can just delete its partitions from inside Windows.

      • Thanks! I really appreciate your help! I’m deffinatly geting this disto of Linux Mint. Its awesome, and great tutorial, very easy to understand! I’ll comment again when I finaly have the chance to do it. Thanks again!

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