Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why Vista's such a pain to dual-boot


If you're into dual-booting your system, Vista isn't necessarily your friend. It has been criticised for its nasty habit of overwriting the MBR (Master Boot Record) of any system its installed on with its own bootloader, irrespective of what's already installed.

In the latest issue of the print edition of APC Magazine (February), I worked through a few dual-booting scenarios. They're now online and improved with a lot more screenshots that make the process totally step-by-step.

If you're running a Windows XP machine and wish to dual-boot Vista, it's really very easy. Vista recognises that XP is installed and takes over booting it with no fuss. Other operating systems however, especially Linux, are in trouble.

The best way to dual-boot Vista and any flavour of Linux is to install Vista first and then Linux – Vista still installs its own bootloader into the MBR, but Linux does a better job of adjusting to an existing installation of Vista than vice versa.

However, perhaps you've already got a Linux installation and don't fancy having to reinstall it from scratch just to dual-boot Vista. In this case you've got some work to do.

If you installed Linux cleanly on your system, chances are that whichever boot-loader you're using is in the MBR. Vista will overwrite this and there's no way to prevent it. So, you need to reinstall the Linux bootloader to the Linux boot partition, NOT to the MBR.

Then you can configure Vista's bootloader to make use of it using NeoSmart EasyBCD – this a great little app for modifying Vista's boot options, which is a much more complex process than with Windows XP, unfortunately.

EasyBCD does have an inbuilt app called NeoGrub, which is designed to boot an existing Linux installation without having to reinstall GRUB.

However it seems to be in the early stages of development, and doesn't work too well just yet. Installing GRUB to the boot partition is the recommended option.

So far I've only tried this with GRUB/Ubuntu – as time goes on I'm going to try different Linux distros and and different bootloaders.

The first three tutorials we've put together are the beginning of a series of how tos dealing with Vista and dualbooting – different scenarios, different distros and different hardware configurations.

Your comments and experiences with dualbooting Vista are very welcome.

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About Me


Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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