July 21, 2006

Dual-booting Windows and Linux the easy way (Linux.com videos)

Author: JT Smith

The Gnome Partition Editor Live CD is a simple tool that will shrink a (usually "the") Windows partition on your hard drive, then make Linux partitions almost automatically. These four videos step you through the process of downloading GPartEd (the program's nickname) from SourceForge.net, defragmenting Windows, shrinking your Windows partition, and installing the three most commonly-used Linux partitions. As a free bonus, a fifth video will show you how to uninstall Linux and stretch your shrunk-down Windows partitition until it once again takes up your whole hard drive.

All popular Linux distributions now have some sort of simple (usually GUI) disk partitioning utility included. If you're going to devote an entire hard drive to Linux, you might as well go with your chosen distribution's default partition setup. But if you want to boot Windows and Linux on the same computer, you may be better off making your partitions with a specialized partitioning tool. Norton Commander is a pretty good one, although it is neither free of cost nor free in the free software sense. There are plenty of other proprietary partitioners out there, too, but free GPartEd is all we need to handle simple partition resizing.

A couple of notes before we begin:

I talk about Windows hard drive defragmentation. This is something you should do periodically even if you never move to Linux -- although if you do switch to Linux, you'll find that the equivalent Linux utility is much faster than the Windows defragmentation routine.

You can use GPartEd to make multiple Windows (NTFS or FAT) partitions on a hard drive. Or to make partitions for almost any popular operating system that runs on standard X86 PCs, not just Linux. It's a great tool to have around, Linux or no Linux.

I advocate using the ext3 file format. It's a proven journaling file system, compatible with all popular Linux distributions. Indeed, it's the default file system for most of them. Other file systems may be slightly faster or offer other advantages, but Ext3 does its job well enough on desktop PCs that you don't need to think about it at all or even learn how it works. Just use it and be happy.

Downloading from SourceForge.net is another good habit. SourceForge.net (owned by the same company that owns Linux.com) is chock-full of free, open source software for Linux, Windows, and other operating systems. Today's first video will show you how the SourceForge.net download process works, which is great to know even if you decide not to make Linux your primary operating system at this point in your life.

Video #1: Download and burn a GPartEd bootable CD

Your first Linux experiment.

Video #2: Defragmenting Windows -- a necessary step before you resize your Windows partition

Click to play Video 2

Video #3: Resizing your NTFS (or FAT) Windows partition

Click to play Video 3

Video #4: Making your Linux partitions

Click to play Video 4

Bonus Video: Uninstalling Linux -- just in case. A good thing to know. You can use the same process to remove Windows from a hard drive and make it 100% Linux, too.

Click to play Video 5

Previous Linux.com training videos:

Your first Linux experiment

- This group of three short videos shows you how to download GNU/Linux, make a bootable Linux CD, and how to boot Linux on your computer without going through a tedious installation routine. We used Ubuntu for this demonstration, but the steps shown apply to all live CD Linux distributions.

Installing Ubuntu - Two short videos show you how to install Ubuntu GNU/Linux on your hard drive.

Updating and installing software in Ubuntu - The first video in this pair shows you how to update all the software in your Ubuntu GNU/Linux installation in a single, big gulp. The second video shows you how easy it is to install and remove software with the Synaptic Package Manager.

About the videos: They're in AVI format, encoded with the free XviD codec, compatible with media players for almost all popular desktop PC operating systems. If your computer does not have the XviD codec installed, you can get it here or through your favorite free operating system's software respository. Windows and Mac users can find easy-to-install XviD binaries here.