How to dual-boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.04

All the partitions have been configured. You may continue with the rest of the installation. But before you do, decide where you want to install GRUB, the boot loader. You may install it in the Master Boot Record (MBR), the default, or in the boot partition (/dev/sda5 in this example). A good case can be made for either choice.

If you install GRUB in the MBR, it will overwrite Windows’ boot programs. This is the most common and requires no other configuration on your part. However, upgrading or reinstalling Windows, or even installing a Service Pack can overwrite certain aspects of GRUB. Restoring GRUB is not a very difficult task, but you can save yourself the trouble by installing GRUB in the boot partition of Ubuntu. This is the recommended method because it completely separate the two operating systems, even as they co-exist on the same disk. It does requires additional configuration on your part. That, however, is nothing compared to the potential headache of the other option.

For this tutorial, I will follow my recommendation and install GRUB in /dev/sda5, the boot partition. Note that the version of GRUB used by Ubuntu 11.04 is GRUB 2.

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After installation and reboot, the computer will reboot into Windows. The final task then is to add an entry for Ubuntu in the boot menu of Windows 7. For that, the easiest program to use is EasyBCD, a free program by NeoSmart Technologies. Download and install it like you would any Windows 7 application. Start it and click on the Add New Entry tab, then on the Linux/BSD tab. From the “Type” dropdown menu, select “GRUB 2,” the version of GRUB used by Ubuntu 11.04. Click on the “Add Entry” button. Click on Edit Boot Menu tab to view the new configuration.

These are two entries you will see every time you boot the computer. The default is Window 7, but you can change it to Ubuntu 11.04 if you like. Exit EasyBCD and reboot.

This is the boot menu you will see.

And this, when you attempt to boot into Ubuntu. Note: If at any time you decide to have GRUB be responsible for dual-booting, you can do so easily. Just log into Ubuntu and write GRUB to the Master Boot Record, or MBR. And if you want to switch back to Windows’ boot manager, log into Windows 7, start EasyBCD and use it to overwrite GRUB.

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