Open Source

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.)


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

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