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Dual-Booting Windows Vista and GNU/Linux

on the Dell Latitude E4300

By kalwisti
May 2014
1 Disclaimer 2
2 Hardware Specications 2
3 Default Partition Arrangement 2
4 Procedure 3
4.1 Preparing the Hard Drive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
4.2 Overview of Disk Partitioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
4.3 Steps with GParted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
5 Install Your Linux Distro of Choice 11
This guide outlines how to prepare the hard drive of a Dell Latitude
E4300 laptop so that Linux can be installed in a dual-boot setup. These
preparatory steps are distro-neutral and should be valid for freeing up
disk space for any variety of Linux you wish.
You will need to have several things ready beforehand:
A Linux Live / Install CD or DVD (with the distro of your choice)
A CD with the GParted Partition Editor
Or, a Live Linux distro such as Puppy (which includes GParted as
one of its standard applications)
This guide is targeted towards beginningintermediate Linux users
who have some basic knowledge of partitioning as well as basic famil-
iarity with the GParted Partition Editor. It also assumes that the reader
knows how to burn a downloaded ISO image on a CD/DVD optical
disc, or to a USB ash drive.
1 Disclaimer
This procedure worked for me; I hope that it will save you time and work for
you also. I have tried to carefully document the steps I followed. However,
I offer no guarantee that this how-to will work with 100% accuracy on your
system. I am not liable for any damage to your Windows operating system or
your computer; use this at your own risk . . .
2 Hardware Specications
This used laptop (Figure 1) came with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (P9400 at
2.4 GHz), 2 GB of RAM, a 150 GB hard drive and a 13.3 screen (native res-
olution of 1280 x 800). The Dell-branded 1510 wireless-N card contains a
Broadcom BCM4322 802.11a/b/g/n wireless chipset. The pre-installed op-
erating system was Microsoft Windows Vista Business edition (32-bit, Ser-
vice Pack 2).
Although I am not a Microsoft fan, after some family discussion we de-
cided to preserve a dual-boot setup so that my son could do some of his
schoolwork with Windows-centric programs (since not all Windows pro-
grams can run adequately under Wine).
3 Default Partition Arrangement
The hard drive was pre-formatted by the vendor in the following way, ac-
cording to GParted:
Partition # Filesystem Label Size Used Unused Flags
sda1 ntfs Recovery 5.86 GB 3.14 GB 2.7 GB boot, dia
sda2 ntfs Windows 143.19 GB 16.29 GB 127 GB
unallocated 1.84 MB
Within Vista OS, partition /sda2 is identied as Windows (C:). Partition
/sda1 is designated as Recovery (D:).
Figure 1: Dell Latitude E4300 laptop.
Note: Your hard drive will likely have a different partitioning scheme
than this units. Nevertheless, the general procedure below can still be used,
and you can modify it to suit your specic situation.
4 Procedure
4.1 Preparing the Hard Drive
Please note that this conservative approach does not touch the hard drives
Recovery partition (D: , Linux notation /sda1), since this laptop did not
include any recovery or installation discs. Hopefully this will decrease the
chances of damaging / corrupting Windows Vista Business edition.
Defragment (defrag) your hard drive. Look under Start > All
Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter,
as shown in Figure 2.
Click on the Defragment now button to begin running the utility
program (see Figure 3).
Figure 2: Windows Vista Disk Defragmenter.
Figure 3: Begin defragmenting your hard disk.
Note: The program will not report on the percentage of disk fragmen-
tation, nor will it provide any feedback while it is running.
Shrink the C: drive using Vistas Disk Management utility.
This is the most cautious approach to freeing up disk space within
a Windows partition. You can access it by opening up the Control
Panel and typing the word partition in the search box, as shown in
Figure 4:
Figure 4: Accessing the Disk Management utility.
Click on the blue link, and you should see something similar to Fig-
ure 5:
Figure 5: Disk Management display.
Right-click on the partition that you want to shrink, and choose Shrink
Volume from the menu, as illustrated in Figure 6:
Figure 6: Choose Shrink Volume to resize the Vista partition.
Now you will need to do some calculation. In the box labelled Enter
the amount of space to shrink in MB, enter the amount you want
to shrink by, not the new size of the partition. The utility will automat-
ically calculate the total partition size after shrinkage, once you have
made your choice. Figure 7 shows the dialog window you will see.
In my case, the maximum available shrink space was 129341 MB (126.3
GB). I decided to shrink Vistas partition by 113664 MB (111 GB), which left
it with a total size of 32961 MB (32.18 GB).
If youd like some assistance with converting MB to GB, there is a handy
online converter at http://www.egret.net (shown in Figure 8).
More detailed instructions can be found online here:
Resize a Partition for Free in Windows 7 or Vista. How-To Geek. 7 Jan.
After running the Disk Management program (which did not take very
long), it showed 113664 MB (111 GB) of unallocated space. We can proceed
to the next step, which is partitioning the hard disk for our Linux OS.
Figure 7: Enter the amount of space to shrink.
4.2 Overview of Disk Partitioning
Disk partitioning is a complex topic which is beyond this guides scope. Im
assuming that you have some basic knowledge of partitioning as well as
basic familiarity with the GParted Partition Editor.
If you would like to read a more in-depth tutorial about disk partitioning,
the Ubuntu Community Wiki is a good starting point:
HowtoPartition. Ubuntu Community Help Wiki.
For creating our Linux partitions, GParted is the tool of choice. It is one
of the most popular partitioning programs, and it features a user-friendly
GUI. If you need additional background on GParted, Dedoimedo (aka Igor
Ljubuncic), a Linux Systems Programmer and former physicist, wrote a thor-
ough tutorial on using it:
GParted partitioning software Full tutorial. 25 Apr. 2009.
The solution I adopted was to turn the 111 GB of unallocated space into
an Extended partitionnot another primary partition. An extended parti-
tion acts as container for logical partitions; it may include as many logical
Figure 8: Egret.net KB-MB-TB converter.
partitions inside as you wish, thereby overcoming the 4 primary partitions
limit. (In other words, by replacing one of the four primary partitions with
an extended partition, you can then make any number of logical partitions
within the extended one.)
4.3 Steps with GParted
Before diving in with GParted, it is worthwhile to restate four basic safety
tenets of working with hard disk partitions:
1. The recommended way of using GParted is in a live environment
because partitioning operations must be done on hard drives when
they are not in use, to avoid data corruption.
2. Carefully think through your partitioning needs and create partitions
before installing Operating Systems.
However, because an extended partition is also a primary partition, it might be necessary
to remove a primary partition rst.
3. Think twice and back up any critical data BEFORE making changes to a
partition. Never edit partitions without a proven, tested recovery plan
in place!
4. Remember that Windows (XP, Windows 7, etc.) must be installed on
primary partitions to function properly. Linux does not need primary
partitions, and can be installed on logical partitions.
I have included some screenshots of the partitioning process, taken within
a Live CD session of Puppy Linux. Hopefully, this will give you a clearer idea
of the steps involved.
Figure 9 illustrates the menu choice for GParted in Puppy Linux.
After careful consideration, I chose to format the 111 GB of unallocated
disk space in the following way:
Partition # Filesystem Size Mount Point
sda5 ext4 20 GB / (root)
sda6 linux-swap 4 GB swap
sda7 ext4 87 GB /home
(Just a reminder that logical partitions will start with the number 5 [or
higher], e.g., /hda5 or /sda5).
The rst step is to create a new partition in the free, unallocated space
(111 GB). Mark the free space and click on New.
Instruct GParted that the new partition should be an Extended parti-
tion, as illustrated in Figure 10.
GParted should conrm that the new partition will be created as an
Extended partition (see Figure 11).
To choose the lesystem types of the Logical partitions inside the Ex-
tended partition, right-click on the target partition and select your
desired lesystem, as shown in Figure 12.
As Dedoimedo points out, until you click the Apply button, none of
your proposed changes will actually be written to the hard disk. So
dont panic if you make a mistake . . . Nevertheless, I recommend that
you work carefully, and at a time when you will have minimal inter-
ruptions / distractions.
Thanks to Dedoimedo for these reminders.
Figure 9: Selecting GParted (Puppy Linux Live CD).
The nal partitioning scheme is shown in Figure 13. Notice that
the newly created Extended partitionbecause it is also a primary
partitionwas automagically assigned the designation /sda3.
Figure 10: Creating an Extended partition, Step A.
Figure 11: Creating an Extended partition, Step B.
5 Install Your Linux Distro of Choice
You may now select your preferred Linux distro and proceed to its installa-
We decided to install Mint 13 Maya, with the Cinnamon 1.4 desktop
environment and 3.2 kernel. It was partly chosen because it is an LTS (Long
Term Support) release which will be supported until April 2017. Everything
just worked out of the boxincluding the Broadcom WiFi chipset.
Debian 7 Wheezy (KDE) also performs well on this laptop. After using
Mint a while, I decided to return to Debian roots. The only caveats I would
mention are the following:
Do the installation via a wired Ethernet connection because the Broad-
com WiFi will not work out of the box.
Follow the Debian Wikis instructions on setting up the Broadcom
Figure 12: Choosing the lesystem type.
BCM4322, with the proprietary Broadcom wl driver. They work per-
Figure 13: The nal partitioning scheme.