Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dual Boot (Windows Vista + Linux Mint 15)

So... I know Windows Vista is a less than desirable Windows OS but... its the latest one I have paid for and... my old dilapidated PC had a motherboard go bad. So, long story short, I built a new computer without any pre-installed OS and wanted to do a dual boot system since I have been recently reintroduced into the Linux world and absolutely love the Linux Mint distro.

Here's my "stack":

  • Hardware: 
    • ASRock Z87 Extreme4 motherboard 
    • Intel i5 Processor
    • 120GB SSD (Samsung) 
    • 8GB RAM (no video card initially)* 
  • OS: 
    • Windows Vista - 32bit 
    • Linux Mint 15 (Olivia) - 32bit** 
  • SSD Partitions:*** 
    • (1) 60GB NTFS 
    • (2) 30GB extended 
    • (2a) 8GB swap 
    • (2b) 10GB ext3 (mounted as /) 
    • (2c) 12GB ext4 (mounted as /opt) 
    • (2d) 4GB fat32 (just because) 
    • (3) 15GB NTFS (used to "share" between linux and windows) 
    • (4) 15GB xfs (mounted as /home)
* I will update this post when I install the video cards
** I did try to install the 64bit edition but ran into problems that I didn't have the time nor knowledge to solve.
*** Probably the most important info is that it is all on the same drive and I used extended/logical partitions. The sizes of the partions and the filesystems chosen were experimental.

Step 1 - Install Windows Vista into partition 1 

This went flawlessly using the install DVD. Other than having to sit through the three to four years of updates and reboots, it went fine. (FWIW, this used about half of my 60GB partition! I didn't expect it to be quite that large and just reaffirms my growing grumpiness with MS.)

Step 2 - Install Linux Mint 15 from LiveCD 

This also went flawlessly.

Step 3 - oops! Intermittent problems booting Vista from Grub 

Vista would always boot but 50% of the time it had one or more of the following bad symptoms: (1) Video was distorted (2) USB Keyboard would not work (3) USB Mouse would not work

Step 4 - the fix 

I won't go into all the google research and options I tried but here is what finally seems to work very well!
  1. Repair Vista MBR
    Used Vista install DVD to repair the MBR (see http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=158228); do not reinstall/enable grub at this point 
  2. Reboot
    Now, Vista boots great (but grub is gone so you can't yet boot into your previously working Mint installation) 
  3. Use EasyBCD
    Under Vista, use EasyBCD (just google it and install) to "Add a new entry". Choose: 
    1. Linux (and whatever your Mint root partition is) 
    2. Grub2 
  4. Reboot
    Your system now uses Windows Boot Manager natively then lets you use grub. This is backward from most install instructions you'll find for dual/multi boot systems but I don't care as long as it works :) 
Feel free to post comments though I am personally most interested if you have solutions that make GRUB work or know of why I might be having problems with the 64bit edition of Mint.

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