Introduction: How to Dual-Boot Windows XP and Linux (Updated!)

Picture of How to Dual-Boot Windows XP and Linux (Updated!)

Most computers we use have Windows on them. Most have Windows XP. But what if you need to run something in Linux and it needs to actually be installed on a computer? For most people who aren't total geeks, it seems like a daunting task. But not anymore! Just follow this Instructable and you will have a working Linux distribution up and running in less than an hour, without losing any of your Windows information! You also don't have to spent a single dollar. This was tested on a real computer, not a VMware machine. This would probably work exactly the same on Windows Vista, but I haven't tested it.

If you have any questions or problems during the installation, just post a comment.

If you have a USB wi-fi adapter, it will work in version 8.10 and above.

Also, this is my first Instructable!

Note: This was originally done using this guide. I just put it into Instructables. It's pretty much the same, but I've done it on a real computer, and APC did it in VMware.

This instructable was newly updated, in the old version I used Ubuntu version 8.04, and now I'm using 9.04!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
What you need:

  • Computer with Windows XP installed.
  • About 5 GB of free hard drive space, a lot more is recommended
  • Any Ubuntu desktop install CD; get the new version (9.04) here. This guide will work with any version from 8.04 to 9.04.
  • CD burner
  • Blank CD-R
  • ISO Recorder; get it here
  • About 45 minutes of time

You should also not be afraid to do the following:

  • Editing your computer's partition table
  • Using the command line
  • Not using a GUI

The ISO Recorder program installs as a "Power-Toy". To use it, just pop a blank CD into your CD burner and double-click the ISO you want to burn.

The reason you have to use a special ISO-burning program is because the ISO file that the Ubuntu installer is in can't just be burned to a CD like music. ISO's are like ZIP files in that they are expanded when they are burned to a CD. If you just drag the ISO file to a CD in Windows, it will write just that one file to a disc. If you write it in the ISO burner, you can see that there are a lot more files on the disc.

Step 2: Prepare the Materials

Picture of Prepare the Materials

1. Open up your ISO burning software and burn the Ubuntu ISO to a CD. The CD will be bootable, so you can start your computer with it.

2. Restart the computer you will be installing Ubuntu on. When you are on the manufacturer's logo or start up test screen, it may say something like "Press F2 to enter Setup" or "Press DEL to enter Setup". Press the key it says to press to enter setup. If it doesn't say anything, try pushing F2, F10, F12, or Delete. If you get to the Windows XP startup screen, it's too late. Restart and try again. If you get to the setup screen, go to the "Boot" tab and find a setting called "Boot Device Priority". Press Enter to enter the priority settings.

3. Change the devices listed so that the CD-ROM drive is above the hard drive. To change the placement, push either the + or - keys or Page Up and Page Down. It doesn't matter where the floppy drive is because we won't be using it here.

Step 3: Installing Ubuntu

Picture of Installing Ubuntu

Ok, so we've burned the image to the CD and set up the BIOS. Now all that's left to do is install the operating system. Follow these steps to get Ubuntu up and running.

1. Insert the Ubuntu CD in the drive and restart. If you set the BIOS correctly, you should be greeted by a screen like the one seen below. Select the second option, but if you'd like to try it out before installing it, feel free to select the first option. Don't worry about the rest of the options; we don't need them now.

2. Now you need to give a little information, such as language, time zone, and keyboard information.

3. The installer will load the partitioner. If you followed the version with 8.04, this will look a little different to you. The resize option isn't the default, and it doesn't seem to be there at all! Instead you choose to "install them side by side", as you can see below. Accept and move forward. This may take a little while depending on the hard drive size.

NOTE: You may not see the resize option on the "Prepare disk space" screen. If so, DO NOT click any of the other options or it will erase your entire hard drive. Cancel the installation, eject the CD, and boot Windows XP. Then try again.

Step 4: Installing Ubuntu (continued)

Picture of Installing Ubuntu (continued)

4. Enter some information such as your name and password. Another new thing here is the option to log on automatically! That's nice!

5. If you choose to, you can import your preferences from Windows XP.

6. Click "Install" on Step 7 of 7 (finally!). This might take a while, so grab a drink and a book just in case. You've done well so far.

7. Are you still here? Good. When it's done, click the Restart button.

Step 5: Where to Go Now

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When you restart, you will get a boot loader called GRUB. There are 4 options on it. You only need to use the first and fourth options for now. The rest are for diagnostic purposes if something goes wrong. When you start up Windows XP for the first time after the Ubuntu installation, it will notice that its disk size suddenly changed and will want to scan the disk. Let it do that, and it will boot normally after that.

What to do now:
  • If you have an internet connection connection, try downloading Wine. It's a program that lets you run Windows applications on Ubuntu.
  • Open the Terminal from the Applications menu and type "apt-get moo" and type your password. You will be presented with a funny picture of a cow.
  • If you have an internet connection, download the newest updates by clicking the red arrow in the top right corner of the screen.
  • Go to the next step and install video card drivers.

In Ubuntu 8.10 and higher, wireless networking does work. Click the networking icon next to your name to connect.

I hope this works for you!

Step 6: Get Video Drivers!

Right now, the screen is in 800 x 600 resolution. This looks a bit big on 4:3 (square screen) monitors, and looks horrible on 16:10 (widescreen) monitors. If you have an nVidia or ATI video card, there's an easy fix.

1. First, boot into Windows and go to the Device Manager to check to see if you have one of those video cards.

2. If you do, reboot into Ubuntu and make sure you are connected to the Internet.

3. Click "System > Administration > Software Sources" and make sure that the "Universe" and "Multiverse" boxes are checked. Click "Close" and it will say that the information is outdated. Let it update the information, and then go to "System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager."

4. In the list on the left, scroll down to "Utilities (universe)" and type "envyng" in the search box. You will get 3 choices: envyng-gtk, envyng-core, and envyng-qt. Click the box next to envyng-qt and click "Mark for installation," then apply. It will install the program and all its dependencies.

5. Once it is installed, click "Applications > System Tools > EnvyNG" and click the button to automatically install drivers for your graphics card. If you have an ATI card, install the ATI driver, and for nVidia cards, use the nVidia driver. It will scan your graphics card and give you a list of drivers. Click the one that is both compatible and recommended. It will install the driver automatically. When it asks you to reboot, do it and when you start back up, you will be in your native resolution and you will be able to enable desktop effects.


batvanio (author)2018-01-12

And how is the opposite? I have another version of Linux (Lubuntu) and I want to put Windows XP as a second OS.

ElmeriK (author)batvanio2018-01-17

look this url:

it might be useful for you

MaciekK (author)2015-02-11

I have a problem after installing. I had Windows XP SP3 on my computer before installation. When I restarted my PC it was here. After an update i can't saw it from System menu. It just Disapeared! (I have only Ubuntu... bla bla bla... and only that. Before update there was "Windows XP SP3 Professional" too!)

thetre97 (author)2014-04-17

i have just discovered this after much 'dithering' about how dual booting works, and i would like to try it but could you update it for the latest ubuntu (12.04 OR 13.10) please?????

thanks :)

nerd7473 (author)2013-12-22

Ok I think this is going to be easier than I thought

nerd7473 (author)2013-12-22

what if I don't know the system requirements

Pie Ninja (author)2009-09-18

My computer has 2 HDDs, a master and a slave, I was wondering if I installed ubuntu on my slave drive, would it give me a boot prompt or just automatically boot from the master? Cause if it prompts me to choose a drive, I can just install ubuntu on my slave drive.

Pie Ninja (author)Pie Ninja2009-09-18

OK, just tried to partition my slave and it broke, now I have a blank 279 GB drive. Oh well, it needed reformatting anyway, it was only 128 GB before, but I did lose a LOT of DBZ episodes DX

stargazer418 (author)Pie Ninja2009-09-18

That's never happened to me... I put it on my slave drive by selecting the option to use the whole drive (sda1) instead of the master (sda0). It installed perfectly and I got the boot menu when I started up.

Pie Ninja (author)stargazer4182009-09-18

Doesn't matter now anyway, I found a spare HDD and I have an empty drive bay in my computer, I'll just switch between HDDs manually, I'm not gonna be using Ubuntu for much anyway.

yeah one thing you could do is RAID (if your hardware can handle it) the hard drives then multiboot like above

Pie Ninja (author)2009-09-11

I've done everything you say to, except as soon as I get to the partitioning part of the install, there's no option to install it side by side.
I have ~20GB free space, and I'm using the latest version of ubuntu. I've tried rebooting 3 times, but still no option to install side by side, I've also tried 2 different CDs.
Also, before it runs the install, I get a black screen with 2 lines of text on it that say:
( 11.49600 ) atal: SSRT failed (errno=-16)
( 21.50800 ) atal: SSRT failed (errno=-16)

Or something close to that, only with square brackets, then afterwards the install starts fine, except for the whole no side by side install thing.
One more thing, I have to run ubuntu in safe graphics mode otherwise I get no GUI on the install screen, could that be a problem?

Please help.

stargazer418 (author)Pie Ninja2009-09-12

Will it let you select the option to try Ubuntu without any change to your computer?

Pie Ninja (author)stargazer4182009-09-12

yep, also I typed the error(?) messages wrong

( 11.496010) ata1: SRST failed (errno=-16)
( 21.508010) ata1: SRST failed (errno=-16)

The number strings are in square brackets, but the errno things are in normal ones.

I'm wondering if I should just do it manually, but I don't really know how :P

Pie Ninja (author)Pie Ninja2009-09-18

Also, I've tried using partition magic to make a new partition on my drive, but it doesn't work, just gives me an error at the beggining of partitioning.

Pie Ninja (author)Pie Ninja2009-09-18

I think somethings really screwy with my drive.

cyrozap (author)2009-03-18

Oh, and 8.10 is the way to go. a few bugs (probably has to do with compiz) but nothing too serious.

stargazer418 (author)cyrozap2009-04-23

I installed 8.10 on my real computer and I got Compiz working perfectly. The only bug I know of is that it drops my wireless network connection about every 45 minutes.

Pie Ninja (author)stargazer4182009-09-18

That could just be an issue with your router though.

cornboy3 (author)2009-06-29

For this don't you need sudo access? "Open the Terminal from the Applications menu and type "apt-get moo" and type your password. You will be presented with a funny picture of a cow."

stargazer418 (author)cornboy32009-07-26

No, because you aren't downloading any packages to the computer, you're just pulling something off the Internet.

Arbitror (author)2009-05-09

Easier way:
1. Insert your Ubuntu live CD. (while in Windows)
2. Follow the on screen install instructions.
3. The Ubuntu installer will install Ubuntu just as if it were a windows program.
4. To use, restart your computer, and a boot list will come up.
5. Select "Ubuntu" and press enter.
6. You successfully dual booted in 5 minutes!

stargazer418 (author)Arbitror2009-05-09

Please read through the comment list before you add a comment. The conversation between cyrozap and UbuntuNinja says the same thing you just said.

Arbitror (author)stargazer4182009-05-17

It's not using Wubi, though.

will421 (author)2009-05-06

Does anybody know how to install XP on a Ubuntu 8.10 PC?

stargazer418 (author)will4212009-05-09

In Ubuntu, go to the terminal and type in (without quotes) "sudo gparted". Click on your Ubuntu partition (should be the only one) and click "Resize/Move" at the top. Drag the edges of the partition so that you have enough space for both Windows and Ubuntu. Click OK, then Apply. Then reboot with your Windows CD. When it asks which hard drive you want to use, make sure you select the right partition.

ReCreate (author)2009-03-20

The first time i tried IMGBURN in ruined my last CD At 99 Percent it gave me a stupid error and ruined everything on the CD,And it was my last CD

stargazer418 (author)ReCreate2009-04-12

Sorry about that. Try Googling "Free ISO Burner" and see what it comes up with. Also, try setting the burn speed as low as it goes. It will take a long time, but there's less of a chance it will mess up.

ReCreate (author)stargazer4182009-04-12

oh,a lower burn speed eh? why didn't i think of that?

stargazer418 (author)ReCreate2009-04-12

Yeah, I've had that problem while using Roxio to burn an audio CD at 48x.

ReCreate (author)stargazer4182009-04-12

well,i was burning at (i think)8x maybe i should try 2x?

stargazer418 (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

Yes, some large files like Ubuntu don't like burning at a high speed. Try 2x, and also if your computer came with a cd burning program, check that to see if it has an "ISO" or "Image to Disc" mode.

ReCreate (author)stargazer4182009-04-13

Ah yes it CAME with that program, 7 years ago. Now that i upgraded to xp i no longer have it. I did have nero though,it is supposed to be a good cd burner,right?

stargazer418 (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

Yes, Nero is one of the best! Check that to see if it has an "ISO to Disc" or "Image to Disc" option. I updated my Instructable so I don't recommend a program that messes up CDs anymore.

ReCreate (author)stargazer4182009-04-13

Did i mention,i did have nero,not anymore but i could reinstall it if i want to,but first i need a new hdd,mine only has a few kbytes of space left

stargazer418 (author)ReCreate2009-04-13


ReCreate (author)stargazer4182009-04-13


UbuntuNinja (author)2009-03-18

One more thing i forgot (sorry). 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope is being released next month.

stargazer418 (author)UbuntuNinja2009-04-12

UbuntuNinja and cyrozap, I'm planning to update this Instructable with 8.10 and (hopefully) 9.04.

cyrozap (author)2009-03-18

One word: Wubi. That's how i installed Ubuntu. I just dualboot when my PC starts up. Oh, and it's really easy.

UbuntuNinja (author)cyrozap2009-03-18

In my opinion, native partition installs are better because when you use Wubi, it creates a somewhat big virtual disk thing inside the Ubuntu folder on the root of your Windows drive. Also, if you have anti-virus software, when doing a routine scan of the system just to make sure that everything is in good shape and virus-free, the scanner might think Ubuntu is a virus. Anyway, Windows sometimes doesn't like big files.

cyrozap (author)UbuntuNinja2009-03-18

Well, I have a 500GB HDD and AVG Anti-Virus Free and everything is OK.

UbuntuNinja (author)cyrozap2009-03-19

Cool. Nice roomy HDD. That's always fun cause you can chock' it full a' stuff and download things and yet it never fills up! Actually, if you wanted to install Ubuntu from a live CD, i would not actually recommend doing the install to the same HDD as Win XP. I have only tried to install via resizing the Win partition 1 time but that did not work. This is just my opinion. My reasoning: Microsoft OSes in general reflect their proprietary nature by being very non-compatible with anything that is not Microsoft. Especially the open source community. If you want to install from a live CD just holler and let me know, and i could tell you how or even post an 'ible if i had a week or two.

stargazer418 (author)cyrozap2009-03-19

I agree with UbuntuNinja. Wubi just isn't the same as doing the partitioning and having the risk of losing all your data.

N1CK4ND0 (author)2009-03-19

LOL! I really wish I ready this earlier... About a week ago, I tried installing Ubuntu on my computer that already had XP home edition, I knew I was supposed to put it on a seperate partition, but lazy me, forgot. It ended up really messing up my internet connection, but I just reformatted after, I was going to reformat in the first place so this just gave me another reason to.

UbuntuNinja (author)2009-03-18

Oh yeah, and cyrozap is right about 8.10. Why are you using 8.04? In the image of the download site, it has Ubuntu 8.10 as an option.

stargazer418 (author)UbuntuNinja2009-03-19

I used 8.04 because the original guide I used said to use 8.04. I didn't try 8.10 because I haven't tried it and I didn't want to tell you how to do something that might not work. Also, 8.04 is supported for another year.

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