BackTrack Linux is now known as Kali Linux. You may read all Kali Linux articles and tutorial at http://linuxbsdos.com/category/kali-linux.

This is the just another tutorial on BackTrack 5 published on this website. You may read the previous tutorial’s on this distribution’s category page at http://linuxbsdos.com/category/backtrack.

BackTrack is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu Desktop, but specifically designed and loaded with applications for security and penetration-testing professionals. The latest edition is BackTrack 5 R3. The R is for Revolution.

When attempting to dual-boot a Linux distribution with Windows 7 on a single hard disk drive (HDD), the most important decision you’ll have to make is where to install GRUB, the boot loader on virtually all Linux distributions. By default, the Linux distribution’s installer will want to install it in the HDD’s Master boot Record (MBR). However, doing that overwrites the Windows boot loader, so the recommended location for GRUB when dual-booting with Windows, is the boot or root partition of the Linux installation. That requires creating partitions manually, which is not a difficult task, if you have some knowledge of disk partitioning in Linux. If you don’t, guide to disks and disk partitions in Linux is a highly recommended read.

If you’ve ever attempted to dual-boot BackTrack 5 and Windows by installing the former on partitions that you created manually, you know that the installer will not allow you to install GRUB in the boot partition or any of the partitions used for BackTrack 5.

In this article, you’ll see how to install GRUB in the root partition using a backdoor method. It’s a very simple method that does not require manual disk setup for BackTrack 5. Here are the steps involved:

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A. Install Windows 7: If you have an existing installation of Windows 7, then you do not have to reinstall. If you decide to reinstall, you may optionally set aside the disk space that will be used for BackTrack 5. Because this step of the installation process for the system used for this tutorial was done on real hardware, there are no images for show for this step.

B. Install BackTrack 5 R3: There is a GNOME and a KDE version of BackTrack 5. The GNOME version was used for this tutorial, but it does not really matter which version you use. You may download an installation image from here. Burn the downloaded image to a DVD. You will be using one of the installer’s automated partitioning modes to create partitions and install the system. By default, BackTrack’s installer creates two partitions. The first will be mounted at /, and the second for Swap, with GRUB installed in the MBR.

C. Install GRUB in BackTrack’s Root Partition: After the last step, this step calls for installing GRUB in BackTrack’s root partition. When this step is completed, you will have GRUB in two locations – in the MBR, and in the root partition. But this is only temporary, because in the next step, you will be wiping GRUB from the MBR.

D. Reinstall Windows Boot loader in the MBR: After the last step, boot into Windows 7 and reinstall its boot loader in the MBR.

E. Add BackTrack 5 to Windows Boot Menu: Finally, add an entry for BackTrack 5 R3 in Windows 7’s boot menu.

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Now that you know what it takes, here’s a step-by-step guide on how I did it, starting from step B.

1. BackTrack 5 Partitioning Methods: Reboot the computer with BackTrack’s installation DVD in the optical drive. At the boot menu, select the default and press the Enter or Return key. By default, BackTrack doe not boot into a graphical desktop. At the command prompt, typing startx will start the GNOME or KDE desktop, depending on the version you are using.

Once in the live desktop, click on the Install BackTrack icon on the desktop to launch the installer. Then click until you get to the step shown in the image below. In the test installation used for this tutorial, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7, leaving some unallocated space for BackTrack 5. You can see the scheme in the upper green bar. If you do not have the luxury of reinstalling Windows 7, the installer will take care of freeing up space it needs to install the system. That is the default option.
BackTrack 5 Partition Methods

2. Advanced Partitioning Tool: This image is just to show the existing partitioning scheme as seen from the installer’s Advanced Partitioning Tool. You get here by selecting Specify partitions manually (advanced), then clicking Forward in the previous step. You didn’t have to come here, but if you did, click the Back button.
BackTrack 5 Advanced Partition Tool

3. Install BackTrack 5: Ok, back to this step, the best option for me was Use the largest continuous free space. By selecting that and clicking Forward, the installer took care of the rest.
BackTrack 5 R3 Partition Methods

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11 Responses

  1. partitioning a hard drive was always a head banger so to speak (for me) and i never did try to do it, but i saw i had to do it for LMDE and with your article it was a no brainier, thanks

  2. Wow, I tried to install the newest linuxmint debian version and hit a dead end. I’m used to linux doing everything for me! I’m still in the dark but not as much as I was before. Actually going through the steps gave me a better understanding! Very much appreciated =)

  3. Please consider testing on multi-disk systems. If I install on sdb, can I get grub to write to sdb, and not overwrite sda’s grub? My BIOS has a disk boot selector built-in. Thanks.

    1. Yes, you can write GRUB to the MBR (Master Boot Record) of sdb, or even to the boot partition of the OS installed on sdb.

      When you do that, you would then have to edit the boot menu of the OS installed on sda to add an entry for the OS installed on sdb.

  4. Question of accuracy here…
    On September 18th, you advocated a ext4 for the /boot partition, and yet, in this article you now say to use ext 2 for it.

    Which is the correct procedure for /boot? ext4 or ext2 ?

    1. I did say you can use ext4 for /boot (most distros use it by default) and I also made the point in that article (maybe in a subsequent one) that there is an ongoing debate regarding using ext4, a journaling file system, for a file system directory that does not need it.

      The bottom line is this: The overhead associated with using a journaling file system for /boot is negligible. So it really makes no difference whether you use ext4 or ext2. It will not break anything.

      I used ext2 in this article because that is what Debian uses by default. Of the distros that I have reviewed, Debian is the only one that still uses ext2 for /boot. Debian is also the only one that still uses ext3 as the default journaling file system.

      1. What about using ext3 for your boot-partition? I would argue that as long as the system boots, it does not matter very much, which file system you use. And you’re right that journaling is not necessary for the boot-partition. Speed of the file system and overhead are not much of an issue as the /boot is quite small. A backup of the MBR via dd is useful, especially when there is an update of the init.ramdisk or an upgrade to GRUBW which can break things badly.

        1. Most Linux distributions use ext4 for /boot so you can use ext3, too. The point I always try to make with regards to this subject is it does not matter. If in doubt, when in doubt, use the distribution’s default. If you do not trust the developers, use ext2.

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