Installing Windows and Linux on the same computer is an excellent option to take advantage of both operating systems. These types of facilities allow install different systems together, but without interfering with each other and with the possibility of starting them quickly and easily.
The idea is that a regular Windows user who has bought a computer with the Microsoft system pre-installed and surely has never tried anything else, can install a GNU / Linux distribution on the same computer without affecting your main system. Or, on the contrary, that a Linux user can try the latest version of Windows for pleasure or necessity for some tasks, keeping the system free for daily use.
Taking advantage of the launch of the new versions of the most used Windows and Linux (Windows 10 2004 and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS) we set ourselves the task of updating a guide that we have been offering you year after year trying to make it as practical as possible. We will deal with two use cases, a completely zero installation of both systems and another with the installation of Linux from a Windows computer already installed that we intend to maintain
Of course, you can use other Linux distributions other than Ubuntu. And the same Windows. If you don’t like Windows 10 and want to use Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, the basic method is the same. We could even install macOS under hackintosh or other additional systems in the middle of them, as long as we have enough space in the equipment’s storage units and we carry out the process in the correct order.
Windows and Linux – Hardware
The hardware requirements to run both systems they are very similar And any computer capable of running Windows 10 will be able to run Linux. Note that there are some specific GNU / Linux distributions to run on lower hardware computers. The official minimums established by Microsoft for Windows 10 give us an idea:
1 GB of RAM for 32-bit versions, 2 GB of RAM for 64-bit versions.
32 GB of free disk space.
1 GHz (x86) processor with PAE, NX, SSE2 and support for CMPXCHG16b, LAHF / SAHF and PrefetchW.
Screen resolution of 800 x 600 pixels.
Graphics card with DirectX 9 and WDDM 1.0 support.
Internet connection for updates.
As you will see, these requirements are too “minimal” and although they will allow the systems to run, they will not offer a satisfactory experience. In fact, the current hardware average is much higher. To carry out this practical, we use a desktop PC with a 6th generation Intel Core processor, 32 Gbytes of RAM, an RTX 2080 Super graphics and a PCIe solid state drive for storage.
As for Linux hardware support, it is known that it is not as complete as Windows, but has improved a lot in recent years and the primary hardware (motherboard, processor, graphics, memory and storage) will work on the vast majority of computers because Linux distributions today have great support for main architectures and drivers, either using free or proprietary drivers.
Windows installation from scratch
We start from a computer with a completely empty storage unit (an SSD in this case) where we have previously made a backup of files and data that we want to keep. In this type of dual-system installation, Linux should always be the last one that we install because it will be its boot loader that will offer us access to one or the other.
Step 1. Get the system image
Run the downloaded file “MediaCreationTool2004.exe” and accept the license terms.
Click on the second option “media creation” to download the ISO image of the system.
Select the language, architecture and edition of the system or use the default options recommended for the equipment.
Choose the medium to use. Although the tool can directly burn a USB, we recommend downloading the ISO file and burning it later with another application.
Select the path where you will save the downloaded image.
Step 2. Prepare installation media by burning the ISO
Once you have the image saved on your computer, use your favorite application to “burn” the image. You already know that we have a predilection for Rufus, free and that works perfectly especially with Windows images. We download it.
Insert the medium that we will use in the recording. You can use a DVD, but we recommend using a pendrive or USB disk, faster and safer. Its minimum capacity must be 8 Gbytes.
Run Rufus. You will see a very simple interface in which you will first have to select the downloaded Windows image by selecting the “Startup choice”.
It only remains to configure the rest of the options. GPT in «partition scheme», target system «UEFI (not CSM) and NTFS or FAT32 as file system. Click on start to obtain the installation medium.
At this point we have to remember the problems of this type of “GPT” partition scheme with older computers and operating systems such as Windows 7 and older Linux distributions. If you have problems managing this type of installation mixing Windows and Linux you will have to use the MBR partition scheme and disable Secure Boot in BIOS, the secure boot system that requires signing firmware and software. Note that the new Linux distributions have no problem with this type of partition and, for example, Ubuntu has supported UEFI for some versions through the official Microsoft Secure Boot System for Linux published by the Linux Foundation.
Step 3. Install Windows 10
Insert the created media into a USB port on the machine, restart the computer and access the BIOS / UEFI to make sure that the USB stick is located as the first boot media. If you know the access to the internal boot menu of the computer you can activate it without entering the BIOS.
(If you do not know how to access the BIOS or the boot menu, review this article where we offered you the special keys programmed for access, pressing the corresponding one during the hardware testing phase that happens when we start the personal computer).
Once you make sure that the pendrive is the first boot medium, start the installation of Windows 10 from it.
The installation is quite automated. Select the version of Windows 10 to install remembering that it must correspond to the type of license you have for it.
In the type of installation select “Custom” to get to the section on disk partitions. If you have partitions from previous installations, delete all of them to clean the SSD or the hard disk as follows:
This section is where we can create the partitions, taking into account leaving an empty space to install Linux later. The reserved capacity will vary according to the use that you are going to give to both systems. Or if you have several storage units installed and want to use one for each operating system, something possible and even recommended, although it will work the same way if you install the two systems on a single disk.
In our case we only have a 1 Tbyte unit. Click on “New” to create a 700 GB partition for Windows, leaving the rest of the space unallocated to later install Ubuntu. The installer will create additional partitions, but will not interfere with the Linux installation.
The installation begins on the partition created for Windows:
The rest of the process is trivial and we are not going to stop because if you follow us you will know it by heart. On a PCIe SSD like this, you will have Windows 10 installed in 7 minutes.
Linux installation from scratch
Installing a GNU / Linux distribution is nowadays as easy a process as installing Windows. At this point, we again indicate that we have chosen Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, but you can also use your preferred one, be it one of its variants (Kubuntu, Xubuntu …) or any of the distributions of other providers. The method is similar with any of them and as easy as Windows.
Step 1. Get the system image
Access the Ubuntu web portal and download the Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 LTS version.
Compared to the “bullshit” of the Windows download and its “installation medium”, Canonical allows you to directly download the ISO image of the system, in this case the file “ubuntu-20.04-desktop-amd64.iso”.
Step 2. Prepare installation media by burning the ISO
Use your favorite program to record the ISO. From here we continue to recommend a Rufus that works just as well to “burn” Windows or Linux images.
Insert the medium that you will use in the recording. You can use a DVD, but we recommend you to use a USB stick or disk with a minimum capacity of 8 Gbytes.
Run Rufus, select the downloaded Ubuntu image by selecting the “Boot choice” and keeping the other options, GPT in “partition scheme” and target system “UEFI (not CSM). Click on start to obtain the installation medium.
Step 3. Installing Ubuntu
We have already said above that the installation of Linux has advanced in an extraordinary way in a process -almost fully automated and very fast. As follows:
Insert the created media into a USB port of the machine and make sure that the USB stick is located as the first boot media in the BIOS / UEFI as we saw in the Windows installation.
Restart the computer to start the installation and click on “Install Ubuntu”.
You will enter the graphical installation mode that is explained alone. Click on install and select the language.
Select the keyboard layout, the type of installation and if you want it to download the latest updates.
You will come to an important section that shows the enormous ease of installing Ubuntu. As you will see in the following image, the installer recognizes the installed Windows system and allows you to install Ubuntu together with it without touching the existing partitions at all and creating your own. (Advanced users can choose to customize, resize, etc.)
Click on “Install Ubuntu with Windows Boot manager”. The rest of the screens are trivial and the installation will finish without further ado. On a computer like the test one, with NVMe SSD, it is completed in 6 minutes.
Once the Ubuntu installation is complete, you will have the GRUB boot loader available, which is activated every time the computer starts and allows you to start Windows or Linux. That is why in this type of configuration Windows and Linux must be installed first afterwards.
You can also select the system to start in the BIOS / UEFI, but it is more cumbersome to access it every time. If you select Ubuntu as the first boot partition, you will have access to its boot manager and you will be able to start either system. If instead you put Windows Boot Manager first, the system will boot directly into Windows 10.
Installing Linux on a Windows machine
A second case study can occur for a user who wants to install Linux, but keeping the Windows system they have installed. It is as simple as the previous case except the previous step of free disk space to install the GNU distribution later, because the new computers that preinstall Windows usually have all the disk space occupied.
You can review our guide to Windows partitions in case you are interested in knowing how they are handled. A step by step of the essential would be the following:
We access the Windows 10 disk manager from Control Panel> Administrative Tools or using the command “compmgmt.msc” from the run window.
As you will see in the example, the computer has a 1 Tbyte SSD with three partitions, two small for UEFI firmware and recovery, and all the rest in a primary partition “C” occupied with the installation of Windows 10, which is what we will have to reduce to achieve space. To do this, right-click on it and click on “reduce volume”.
The tool will analyze the “C” partition and will show the maximum size in which we can reduce it, which will correspond to the empty space. In our case we have enough and we set the size to be reduced to 99999 Mbytes. That will be the size of the SSD partition that the Ubuntu installation will occupy.
We will see how quickly an additional empty disk space will have been created. Don’t touch anything elseDo not create new partitions or format them. The Ubuntu installer will already be in charge of creating the necessary partitions in the free space that we have created.
The partition size is indicative. A user who works daily with Ubuntu will need to free up more capacity but in our case, for tests, we have plenty. As we have said, in a production team you will need more space. And if your computer has a second storage unit (either SSD or hard drive), remember that you can dedicate one of them for Linux. Once the free disk space is created, follow the step by step that we saw above for the installation of Ubuntu 20.
We conclude by insisting that this type of facility is an excellent combination to take advantage of the most advanced version of the leading desktop operating system and the latest version of the most popular GNU / Linux distribution on the market. Together in the same team, but not scrambled and with a dual boot that allows you to start one or the other in seconds.
You can choose other distributions other than Ubuntu, use Windows 7 and even a macOS under hackintosh. You just have to have free storage space, take care of the installation order, deal with the partition types, cancel Secure Boot in your case and have time and desire to carry out the whole process.