Friday, February 27, 2009

Add Kubuntu to your Vista machine

Kubuntu is a full featured, Linux based operating system (a.k.a. Linux distribution) that can you can use instead of or together with Windows.

A few days ago I came to a situation where I had to install Kubuntu (8.10 Intrepid) on my laptop (Dell Studio 1537) that had Vista pre-installed. Although the installation of Kubuntu itself is pretty straightforward, having Vista already installed makes the things a bit more complicated. One of the major issues related to dual booting Vista and Linux is how to re-arrange and resize the existing partitions. Vista (even Home Basic) comes with a tool that can help you manage the partitions of your hard disk, however it has one big limitation. It is not particularily good at resizing existing partitions and this is exactly the situation that you are facing when you want to free up some space for Kubuntu.

My hard disk (320GB) had three partitions initially:
  • Vista's main partition (C:) - occupying almost entire hard drive
  • A rescue partition with a size of 10GB
  • Some additional partition with a size 0f around 140MB
A fresh installation of Vista was taking around 17GB out of the C drive. My goal was to shrink this drive to something like 40GB and leave the rest (around 260 GB) to various Kubuntu partitions. My first attempt was to use the Vista built-in disk manager in order to resize the C drive partition. However the total "shrinkable" space available on this partition according to Vista was only 110GB. The rest around 150GB had to remain on the C drive. This was not what I expected but it was still OK at least to start installing Kubuntu, that is why I proceeded. I changed the boot sequence from BIOS, so that the CDROM (actually DVD drive) becomes the first bootable device, restarted and inserted the Kubuntu CD so that the computer can boot from it instead of Vista. Kubuntu started just fine from the CD. It even had screen resolution at the right size (1280x800). On the desctop there was a shortcut that lets you begin the installation. I clicked it and a wizard popped up that, amongst the other things, let me manage the existing partitions on the hard drive. I selected the Vista partition (150GB) and changed its size to 35GB. I had some feeling that this might not end well for Vista but nevertheless I decided to go on. The resizing took some time but no errors were reported and I went on creating the Kubuntu partitions. I also deleted the rescue partition and chose the following layout:

  • 10 GB for the root partition (/) - this was the ex-rescue partition
  • 3 GB for the swap partition (I know that some would say that it shall be double the size of your RAM but I just don't see any point having a system swapping 8GB to the HDD)
  • 10 GB for the /tmp partition - I prefer to have my /tmp mounted on a separate partition rather than under the root partition.
  • The rest of the size remained for the /home partition
Having made these changes to the partitions I continued with the installation and everything went just fine. Kubuntu recognizes that there is another operating system installed as well (Vista) and installs a boot manager on the master boot record that lets you choose which operating system to boot (Kubuntu or Vista). After the installation was complete I tried to boot both the operating system (one by one) to see if everything is OK. Kubuntu booted just fine, however Vista started some hard disk checks (I guess because of the resizing that the Kubuntu installer did). However when the checks were done Vista booted normally and I was able to use it as well.

Going back to Kubuntu I noticed that there is an icon in the tray that prompts me to activate proprietary drivers (Broadcom for the wireless and ATI for the video card). I activated both the drivers and I had everything working. Even the audio control touch buttons were working normally.

So the general conclusions out of the situation:
  • Kubuntu Linux seems to be more capable of resizing Windows Vista (NTFS) partitions :) !!!
  • If you have some fears trying Kubuntu, ... well don't. It seem to be a great operating system and it is becomming better and better with every new release that we see.

No comments:

Post a Comment