Linux

DIY: Can I dual boot Linux on a dynamic disk?

Jack Wallen answers a TechRepublic member's question about whether it's possible to get Linux to install into a dynamic disk on a partition.

Read my answer to TechRepublic reader Mike Flynn's question, and then please post your suggestions for the member in the discussion.

Q: I have discovered an irksome issue with some hardware. I think the way to go is comparison so bear with me.

I used to load Linux (name the version) on a back partition on my WinX machines so that I can ease into learning about Linux before I make it my primary system. I would use tools to squeeze out a partition and then install Linux to this back partition. It (in this specific case) would add a boot menu so that I could load either Linux or WinX during the boot process.

Now, we come to the "issue." I got a new HP G-62 laptop (loaded with Win7 and using Linux 10.4.x LTS) and decided to follow the steps above and they failed. I did some investigating and discovered that the system was configured to use "dynamic" disk structure and wouldn't let me install Ubuntu to the partition I created due to the disk configuration. Now, I don't want to re-install everything, so I did a work around. I added a portable drive, loaded Ubuntu, and when I boot now I go to the BIOS select the portable drive to get Linux, a real pain, but it works.

The question, can I get Linux to install into a dynamic disk on a partition, and get the boot menu like the good old days?

A: The simple answer to this is "no." With the creation of dynamic disks, Microsoft is basically saying "There can be only one!" As far as I know, Linux does not in any way support the dynamic disk structure. Because of that you can always convert from dynamic to basic. How this is done will depend upon the version of Windows you have. If you attempt to try this, make sure you BACK UP YOUR DATA FIRST.

The easiest method for doing this is to simply virtualize Linux. Install VirtualBox in Windows and then install your distribution of choice that way. By virtualizing you won't harm your Windows installation, and you won't have to reboot to continue trying to learn Linux. For my money, virtualization is the way to go. Just make sure you have plenty of RAM -- especially if you're using Windows 7 as the host.

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I'll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

12 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I often see help forums and no one seems to say thanks, so thanks for the help. I will investigate the offered solutions. Some of them are going to take some "learn'n" on my part. I guess I am going to have to just jump in, I was in the hopes of easying into Linux, but it looks like I will have to plunge in. First, this seems to bode ill for Linux, I guess Linux is making in roads that have torqued off Microsoft and the other for profit entities. Second, we have to come up with a solution or work around that is easy so we can continue to provide a path for new users. Third, it will definitely guide my future purchases, I am going to look into the other makers (before my next purchase); now that I know what to look for and it will definitely guide my future buying. If you like Linux I suggest you do the same. Unfortunately we all know money talks. I have imaged my system so I can bang on it and attempt to iron out a solution. If I find a solution, a simple one, I will send it to Jack (as you can tell I am not a writer) so he can pass it on. I don't want to force you folks to read my poor scribbling and end up bleeding from the eyes.

kwwall
kwwall

I face a similar issue. I have a new HP laptop running Windows 7 Premium. HP / Microsoft loaded it with the Windows 7 OEM version and they configured it to use ALL FOUR primary disk partitions. I called HP support to ask if I could save off the data for one of those partitions to make it into a extended partition, and then subdivide it int multiple logical partitions. My plan was to copy the saved data back onto one logical partition and insstall Linux on others. HP technical support told me that if I did that, my system would no longer boot Windows. They said all the partitions had to be primary partitions. When I asked "why?" they said this was to prevent other operating systems from being installed. They said it was a restriction on OEM versions of Windows and that if I installed a non-OEM version of Windows, I could configure it to have multiple operating systems. I'm not sure if HP tech support was feeding me a bunch of BS or not. (E.g., some of the software on the 2 other partitions were HP specific so I'm not sure why this would matter to Windows.) Unfortunately, when I bought this laptop, either the Best Buy representative lied to me or didn't know, because I asked him explicitly if I could dual boot this with Linux and he said "yes". I prefer Linux over Windows and in the past, only booted up Windows occasionally to patch it and to do my taxes, so I'm have way tempted to just blow it away, but given that it the only working Windows box that I have, I can't really do that unless I want to plunk down a chunk of change for another Windows installation. What upsets me was that I was mislead by Best Buy and there was no warning on the outside box by HP citing this as a restriction. I've never had issues on otherdesktops or laptops that came with Windows. Had I known of this ahead of time, I would have never purchased this laptop. As it is, I'll probably just pull the eentire laptop drive and install a new one that I can partition for Linux. And then come April 2012, reinstall the old drive, wait 8 hrs or so for all the updates to complete, and then start on my income taxes again. (Sure wish I could get Turbo Tax to work under WINE. Sigh.)

jim77kahn
jim77kahn

I have a G-62, It came with 4 primary partitions. I backed up the reinstall and the hp-Bios partitions. Then deleted the windows 7 partition. Then created an extended partition with 3 logical partitions one ntfs, one swap, and one linux ext4. I don't know if your version of windows will work in such an environment. It is a pain to setup initially, but makes the laptop usable.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Another option may be some brand of bootable external hard drive. Do your prefered Linux distro install on the external drive with boot loader. drive not plugged in = Windows on fixed hard drive drive pluggged in = Linux Distro seporate from fixed hard drive

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Grab virtualbox or VMware. You'll be able to setup a daul booting virtual machine so you can break and rebuild it all you like until comfortable mucking with dual-boot stuff. The keys are being familiar with partitioning and how your partitions are layed out and the order you install the OS in. Generally: - cut partitions to desired sizes (50/50, 30/60.. whatever makes sense) - install the Windows distro first because it's going to mash any existing MBR and boot loaders - install the Linux distro second because it is going to "play nice" when finding an existing bootable OS on the hard drive. Good luck. Bring back any questions that turn up.

TechCreative
TechCreative

I have an HP dm4 that had the same issue: all four primary partitions in use. After some research on the web, I backed up the HP_TOOLS partition, then used GParted to delete it, shrink the main Windows partition, and create all the logical partitions I needed -- including a new HP_TOOLS partition (which I moved to the end of the available space and restored), plus all my Linux partitions and an NTFS partition to store and share data between the two operating systems. (I also put GRUB in its own separate boot partition, and used EasyBCD in Windows to create a boot menu). I'm relatively new to Linux, but I've been dual-booting with the resulting system for several months and so far it's been working great for me. However, I suggest you look for more detailed instructions on how to go about doing it, as I've left out a lot of details and your system and results may be different from mine. I also did this on a new computer, so that I wouldn't lose data if anything went wrong.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've found that the partitioned setup works well but would add; watch the win7 setup for the option to install all in one partition or include the new win7 boot partition. Install win7 without that and your Linux boot loader should be able to find the win7 loader easily enough.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

He already has Linux on the external drive but he doesn't want to enter the BIOS to select between them. The best solution would be to point the BIOS to the Linux install as the primary boot device and then add your Windows install to the GRUB menu. This way when GRUB comes up you can choose from all of the OS options you have.

kwwall
kwwall

Thanks for the pointer. I considered doing the same thing as you (backing up HP_TOOLS primary partition and then eventually restoring it on a logical partition). The HP tech support person told me that it was not supported for OEM versions of Windows, but he wasn't sure if it would work or not. (Actually, the one I spoke to on the phone said that it would not, but one whom I communicated via email said he thought it would work, but that HP and Microsoft would not support it with the OEM version of Windows.) My only question... did you do this with Windows 7 or some earlier version of Windows? Microsoft seems to have gotten more draconian with the OEM Windows policies as it relates to dual booting. Thanks!

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

(1) carrying around an external disk is an unnecessary PITA if your internal disk is big enough, and (2) most BIOSes will screw up your boot disk priority settings the first time you boot without the external disk attached, leaving you with having to go into BIOS settings repeatedly for just about every boot anyway.

TechCreative
TechCreative

Home Premium 64-bit, to be precise, on a fairly new HP dm4-1160us, in case you want to check the specs. I suspect that using up all four primary partitions is coming from HP, not Microsoft, and that the tech support person was either misinformed or blowing smoke. Before I'd believe it, I'd want to see whether other OEMs (Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, etc.) are doing the same thing. Although I simply backed up the HP_TOOLS partition, recreated it as a logical partition, and restored the files, it appears to me that you might be able to download the diagnostics directly from HP (see the "Prerequisites" section for info about manually creating the HP_TOOLS partition, and make sure the download applies to your product): http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareDownloadIndex?softwareitem=ob-93497-1&cc=us&dlc=en&lc=en&os=4063&product=4308941&sw_lang= Before I started messing around with my new computer, I did a lot of web searches, such as "dual boot Windows 7 [insert your distro name here]" for more information about partitioning, etc, and you might want to do the same. This site in particular seems to have some excellent tutorials: http://www.linuxbsdos.com/ And the following post had the solution to my right trackpad button not working under Ubuntu and Mint: http://photonymous.blogspot.com/2010/02/dual-booting-hp-mini-210-hd-with.html I can't promise that what worked for me will work for you, of course (i.e., anything you do is at your own risk), so I suggest you fully back up any data you have on your computer, leave the HP system restore partition untouched, AND make or order recovery disks before you start (nice to have two ways to do a factory restore, just in case). By the way, HP's system restore gave me an option for a "clean" install of Windows without the crapware, which I took advantage of before doing anything else. Nevertheless, although I've only been using Linux a few months, I already far prefer it to Windows.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

use the "boot device menu" key during boot. It's faster than modifying the BIOS standard settings if all you need is a one time or irregular choice. I have a machine with Win7 and Debian except the Win7 partition is Truecrypt encrypted whic Debian's Grub2 doesn't like so much. To much with the win7 boot loader as little as possible, I had Debian drop it's boot loader on an SD. long term default to Deb; leave in SD allowing SD hosted boot loaders to do there thing (win7 listed in menu bot not bootable due to how Truecrypt handles boot order) long term default to Win7; remove SD allowing HDD hosted boot loaders to do there thing (no menu option for Debian since I pointed Truecrypt at Win7 only) short term default to either; F11 during BIOS POST to trigger the boot device menu and boot HDD or SD as desired Putting the system default boot loader on removable media has been a habit since 1.4 meg of storage became useless for anything but a boot loader. You can do some fun little things simply with how you setup your defaults on the HDD versus bootable removable media. A nice addition for the security over-aware; place your entire boot partition on the removable SD (ext2 or similar non-journalling FS of course). Now you can do a full disk encryption since the SD hosts the boot partition which must remain cleartext by necessity. Tada.. no more Evil Maid threat; just keep your SD with you when the notebook is not in use; as a key fob with your other keys even. :D

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