Gray Matter


Dual Booting Windows and Linux on Your Computer

RT Cunningham | July 17, 2020 (UTC) | Linux, Windows

dual booting windows and linuxI don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to setting up a dual booting Windows and Linux computer. In fact, I’ve only done it three times, and on the same laptop computer. It’s the laptop computer I’m using right now. I’m currently running Windows 10 with the latest updates and Linux Mint 20 with the latest updates.

Two Ways to Set Up Dual Booting on a Windows Computer

The first way is the way most people would set things up: Shrink the Windows partition to allow for enough space to install Linux and then install Linux alongside Windows. If you only have Windows installed on your computer, it’s going to be using the largest partition.

The second way is to wipe out all the partitions, reinstall Windows and then do everything the same as the first way. Before you do that, download the latest Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO) and create your installation media from it. It will fit on an 8-gigabyte USB flash drive, but I recommend 16 or larger. The Rufus utility works well with Windows to create a bootable USB flash drive.

If you have an older computer, your Windows license key may not be stored in the firmware. If it is, you can retrieve it with this Windows Power Shell command:

(Get-WmiObject -query 'select * from SoftwareLicensingService').OA3xOriginalProductKey

If you’ve made it this far, I have to assume you already know which Linux distribution you want to install. You’ll need a second USB flash drive for it. USB flash drives are relatively inexpensive if you don’t go beyond 32 gigabytes in size. If you don’t know which distribution you want to install, I can recommend the 64-bit Linux Mint Cinnamon edition if your computer is relatively new (within the last three or four years).

Shrinking the Windows Partition

The Disk Management tool (right-click on the start menu icon) can shrink partitions. Pick the C: drive and you can’t go wrong. I prefer the Minitool Partition Wizard. It’s what I used the last time.

Most Linux distributions will easily fit within a 20-gigabyte partition. If you plan on storing a lot of documents and images, you may want to allow for a 100-gigabyte partition.

Storage Choices

External storage is far less expensive than it used to be. You can now get a 256-gigabyte SD card or USB flash drive for under $50. Two of those devices have more storage space than most included laptop hard drives.

You can replace the CD or DVD drive in a laptop computer with a drive caddy (less than $20 on and put almost any 2.5-inch hard drive or solid-state drive in it. The interface is SATA, so it’s going to be faster than any USB device.

If you don’t want to spend money on storage, you can get 15 gigabytes with a Google account (you can get 100 gigabytes for $19.99 per year). If you don’t use the syncing software, it won’t take up any of your computer’s storage space. There are many other online storage options and I’ll leave it up to you to find out what they are.

Plan for Multiple Linux Distributions

If you shrink the Windows partition to about 100 gigabytes and then decide on external storage drives, you can install multiple Linux distributions. With a 500-gigabyte internal hard drive, 10 or more Linux installations are conceivable.

That’s a bit of overkill, but I’m making a point. One Linux distribution may suit you better than another and you can’t possibly know that with only one. If you hang onto your Windows license key and keep several USB flash drives with Linux distributions on them, you can do everything over as many times as you like. The only thing you’ll lose is time.

Image Attributions: Original work: Microsoft / Public domain and Larry Ewing and The GIMP / CC0
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in March 2020.

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