The Ultimate Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux Dual Boot Guide

Dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu in 18 easy steps

Dual-boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux by shrinking your Windows installation, installing Ubuntu, then modifying your computer's default bootloader.

As of January 2020, Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Person dual-booting Windows and Linux on the same computer
Lifewire / Jiaqi Zhou 

This procedure works for Windows 7 and Ubuntu 14.10. However, the procedures are similar for Ubuntu through version 19.10.

Take a Backup

Macrium Reflect software

This is probably the least interesting but most important step in the whole process. Without a backup, all your Windows settings and documents may be lost if you make a mistake later in the process.

We recommend using Macrium Reflect. Download the free version for making a system image.

Create Space on Your Hard Drive

Disk Management

Make some space on your hard drive for the Linux partitions. Shrink your Windows partition using the disk management tool.

To start the disk management tool, click Start and type diskmgmt.msc into the Search box.

Check out our tips for opening the disk management tool if you need more help. 

Shrink the Windows Partition

Shrink Disk

Windows is likely to be on the C: drive and can be identified by its size and the fact it usually has an NTFS partition. It will also be the active and boot partition.

Right-click the C: drive (or the drive that contains Windows) and choose Shrink Partition.

The wizard automaticallys set the amount that you can shrink the disk by without harming Windows. 

Before accepting the defaults consider how much space Windows might need in the future. If you plan to install further games or applications it might be worth shrinking the drive by less than the default value.

You should allow at least 20 gigabytes for Ubuntu. 

Choose how much space you want to set aside for Ubuntu including creating space for documents, music, videos, applications, and games and then click Shrink.

Create a Bootable USB or DVD

Universal Installer

Download Ubuntu. If you have a 64-bit computer choose the 64-bit version otherwise download the 32-bit version.

With the ISO on your computer, create a bootable DVD:

  1. Right-click the downloaded ISO file and choose Burn Disc Image.
  2. Insert a blank DVD into the drive and click Burn.

If your computer doesn't have a DVD drive you must create a bootable USB drive. The easiest way to create a bootable USB drive for non-UEFI drives is to download the Universal USB Installer

If your computer uses UEFI instead of BIOS, the instructions differ in important ways.

Formatting the drive will erase anything on it, so if you have any data on the USB drive that you want to keep copy it to a safe location, first.

  1. Run the Universal USB Installer by double-clicking on the icon. Ignore any security message and accept the license agreement.
  2. From the dropdown list at the top choose Ubuntu.
  3. Click Browse and find the downloaded Ubuntu ISO.
  4. Click the dropdown menu at the bottom to select your flash drive. If the list is blank place a check in the Now Showing All Drives checkbox.
  5. Choose your USB drive from the dropdown list and check the format drive box. 
  6. Click Create to create the bootable Ubuntu USB drive.

Boot Into Live Ubuntu Session

Ubuntu Live Desktop

Reboot your computer and leave either the DVD in the drive or the USB connected. Click Try Ubuntu in the menu that appears.

After Ubuntu has booted into the live session click the network icon in the top right corner. Choose your wireless network. Enter a security key if one is required.

If you don't seen a network icon, click dropdown arrow on the top right and select "WiFi Not Connected."

To start the installation, click the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop.

Troubleshooting

Ubuntu Live Desktop

If the menu doesn't appear and the computer boots straight into Windows you need to change the boot order on your computer so that the DVD drive or USB drive is booted before the hard drive.

To change the boot order restart the computer and look for the key that you need to press to load the BIOS setup screen. Generally, the key will be a function key that you press when the computer is booting up, such as F2, F8, F10 or F12.

After you have entered the BIOS setup screen, look for the tab that shows the boot order and switch the order so that the method you are using to boot Ubuntu appears above the hard drive.

Save the settings and reboot. The Try Ubuntu option should now appear. Go back to Boot Into Live Ubuntu Session and repeat that step.

Choose Your Language

Ubuntu Installer Choose Language

 Choose your language and then click Continue.

Choose Keyboard Layout

Keyboard Layout

Choose your keyboard layout by selecting the language in the left pane and then the physical layout in the right pane.

Test the keyboard layout by entering text into the box provided.

The detect-keyboard-layout button attempts to match your keyboard automatically.

After you have chosen your keyboard layout click Continue.

Connect to the Internet

Connect To The Internet

Although you should automatically connect to the internet, consider choosing to disconnect if you have a poor connection speed. By default, Ubuntu downloads updates as it installs, which adds time to the installation process.

Choose Your Installation Type

Installation Type

The Installation Type screen is where you get to choose whether to install Ubuntu on its own or whether to dual boot with Windows.

There are three main options:

  • Install Ubuntu Alongside Windows 7.
  • Erase Disk And Install Ubuntu.
  • Something Else.

Choose the Install Ubuntu Alongside Windows 7 option and click Install Now, then Write Changes to Disks.

There are two checkboxes on the installation type screen. The first one allows you to encrypt your home folder—a recommended practice.

Create Partitions Manually

Create Ubuntu Partition

If you selected the option to install alongside Windows 7, skip this step. This step only applies to those who elected manual partition changes by selecting Something Else.

Some people prefer separate root, home, and swap partitions as it makes it easier for replacing the version of Linux and when upgrading your system

To create your first partition:

  1. Choose the free space and click the plus symbol.
  2. Choose the logical partition type and set the amount of space that you wish to give to Ubuntu. The size you give to the partition will depend on how much space you have to start with.
  3. The Use As dropdown lets you set the file system used. There are lots of different file systems available for Linux but in this instance stick with ext4.
  4. Choose / as the mount point and click OK.
  5. When you are back at the partitioning screen, find the remaining free space and click on the plus symbol again to create a new partition. The home partition is used to store documents, music, videos, photos, and other files. It is also used to store user-specific settings. Generally, you should give the rest of the space to the home partition minus a small amount for a swap partition.

Swap partitions are a contentious subject and everybody has their own opinion as to how much space they should take up. 

Make your home partition use the rest of the space minus the amount of memory that your computer has.

For example, if you have 300 GB of disk space and you have 8 GB of memory, enter 292000 into the box, to represent the space in megabytes.

  1. Choose a logical partition as the type.
  2. Choose the beginning of this space as the location and select ext4 as the filesystem unless you've got a good reason to the contrary.
  3. Select /home as the mount point.
  4. Click OK.

The final partition to create is the swap partition.

Some experts say you don't need a swap partition at all, others say that it should be the same size as memory and some people say it should be 1.5 times the amount of memory. 

The swap partition stores idle processes when memory is running low. The swap partition was important in the past when computers used to frequently run out of memory but nowadays unless you are doing some serious number crunching or video editing it is unlikely that you will run out of memory.

  1. Leave the size as the rest of the disk and change the use as box to Swap Area.
  2. Click OK to continue.
  3. The final step is to choose where to install the bootloader. There is a dropdown list on the installation type screen which lets you choose where to install the bootloader. Set this to the hard drive where you are installing Ubuntu. Generally speaking, leave the default option of /dev/sda.
  4. Click Install Now.

Do not choose /dev/sda1 or any other number (i.e. /dev/sda5). It has to be /dev/sda or /dev/sdb depending where Ubuntu is installed.

Write the Changes to Disks

Write The Changes To Disks

A warning message will appear stating that partitions are about to be created.

This is the point of no return. If you haven't made a backup of Windows, consider choosing the Go Back option and canceling the installation.

Click Continue when you are ready to install Ubuntu.

Choose Your Timezone

Choose Your Timezone

Choose your timezone by clicking where you live on the map and click Continue.

Add A User

Add A User

Set up a default user. Ubuntu doesn't have a root password. Instead, user accounts must be added to a group to enable them to use sudo to run privileged commands.

The user created on this screen will automatically be added to the sudoers group and will be able to perform any task on the computer.

  1. Enter the name of the user and a name for the computer so that it can be recognized on a home network.
  2. Now create a username and enter it.
  3. Repeat a password to be associated with the user.
  4. The computer can be set up to log in automatically to Ubuntu or to require the user to login with the username and password combination.
  5. Finally, you get a chance to encrypt the home folder of the user to protect the files that are stored there.
  6. Click Continue.

Complete The Installation

Complete The Installation

The files will now be copied to your computer and Ubuntu will be installed.

You will be asked whether you want to restart your computer or continue testing. Restart your computer and remove either the DVD or USB drive. When your computer reboots, a menu should appear with options for Windows and Ubuntu.

Try Windows first and make sure that everything still works. Reboot again but this time choose Ubuntu from the menu. Make sure that Ubuntu boots up. You should now have a fully working dual-booting system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux.