Sunday, 28 June 2009

Triple boot Windows 7 RC (64bit), Ubuntu and Windows XP

After a relatively successful beta test of Windows 7 and the warning from Microsoft to change to the latest iteration, it was time to try the release candidate...

Ok, how did I do the triple boot?
I already have Windows XP on an old PATA 200Gb Maxtor drive and was reluctant to over write this. The main drive is a SATA 1 Tb Samsung, which I intended to use as a dual boot with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.04 (64bit). To start with Microsoft requested a complete clean install of Windows 7 Release Candidate, and considering that I had Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on a dual boot previously, I thought it was time to upgrade both.

The first step was to back up all the important files you need for later. I then used GParted Live 0.3.4, a really excellent (free) Linux based partition tool. I wanted to split the 1Tb drive into 3 partitions, the 'main' partition for windows 7 at ~500Gb and the the other two approximately 250Gb each for Ubuntu and for 'an other' (I'm always looking to test other operating systems).

Just a note on the GParted save headaches...I found it was in fact easier to format just 2 partitions to NTFS, Ubuntu will work out the partitions later and you are left with the ability to set your final partition to 250Gb with a simple slider ;) (hey presto - 3 partitions). Why? I know you can format any which way using GParted but I found that Ubuntu airs on the side of caution and tries to add another partition if you have already catered for Linux operating systems, its just nice to keep things tidy. After all, I'm going to try to break the software in testing later.

From previous experiences I prefer using the Grub boot loader, advantageously this installs as standard on Ubuntu. This made for an easy decision on installation order, install Windows 7 first then Ubuntu last. The reality? It worked, Ubuntu 9.04 had no problem recognising the old PATA 200Gb (with XP), plus Windows 7, it then installed itself and quite happily set up grub. All that was needed was a simple tweak in Grub to set which operating system boots first, ...enter the terminal and sudo grub.

Grub tips
There are a lot of useful tips on the ubuntu forums and Grub site when I did the install, but recently I found this handy post that simplifies the process. Remember that if you put one 'section' of code above another, that will shift the order closer to the top of the boot loader window. The first section of code (one at the top) always boots first by default (e.g. just below: ## ## End Default Options ##). If you you want to tweak a little further, rename the 'title' to something more meaningful for your purposes.

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