back to article The Reg guide to Linux, part 2: Preparing to dual-boot

On Monday, we suggested Ubuntu as a good starting point for experimenting with desktop Linux. If you have the option, dedicate a machine to it – by 2010 standards, even a modest-spec PC will run it fine. You'll be very pleasantly surprised by the transformation from a lumbering old XP box burdened with years of cruft to one with …


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  1. isurrenderall

    32-bit vs 64-bit

    With regards to 32-bit vs 64-bit, I'd recommend the 32-bit version. I've got 4GB of RAM, and Ubuntu with PAE picks up 3.9GB. I'm perfectly happy to have 0.1GB of RAM less for thecompatibility with Flash and some apps etc.

    1. Joseph Haig

      32-bit vs 64-bit ...

      It is possible to get the 32 bit kernel to see more than 4G of memory but it requires a patch to be compiled in. For Ubuntu, this is not in the desktop kernel but it is in the server kernel so

      $ sudo apt-get install linux-image-server

      will allow you to use all your memory.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. It wasnt me


      "you do *not* go dual boot unless you have a very compelling reason for it,"

      I think the 'very compelling reason' the author may have had could be something along the lines of "lets get people to try linux, but still let them go back if they're more comfortable with it".

      If the article said:

      1. Delete the OS you paid good money for.

      2. Delete all your data.

      3. Install blah blah blah

      then it wouldn't be the linux evangelical piece he was aiming for, would it ?

      Oh, I see, youre a troll.

      Sorry, Im moving along.

    2. James Hughes 1

      @AC. What..

      Are you talking about? Of course you can use an old PC, of course you can dual boot. Our fortunate AC obviously has plenty of cash to go and splash on a new box, but for people who just want to try it out, there is nothing wrong with the processes suggested.

      Kit with Linux preinstalled tends not to use Ubuntu, (in fact the distros used are a bit flakey and not representative), so the second idea isnt particularly good.

      I would add however, the booting the OS from a stick/CD is a good way of trying this stuff out.

      I ran for years using a 2000XP system - eventually it died so I bought a £230 Acer desktop - it's great, but I also got on fine with the previous machine

    3. Chemist

      Re : What? →

      " involves staring at a progress bar for a couple of hours"

      Last clean install I did, including most of the applications, took 19 mins. admittedly from a DVD

      That was with OpenSUSE 11.2 - updates took longer but that depends on broadband speed and how busy the servers are and in any case the system can be left to get on with it

    4. Anonymous Coward


      @What? I am tempted to say "piffle" as you give no reasons for your sneering and bold assertions.

      Linux dual -boots fine for me on my various laptops and desktop machines. And why not bring an old PC back into service with Linux, it has worked fine for me when I set up a machine abroad in a Berlin flat that I haven't had to touch in two years. Try that with XP.

    5. Bruno Girin

      @AC 11:39

      Would you care to explain why you "do *not* go dual boot unless you have a very compelling reason for it, and you do *not* try and rescue and old computer unless you have a very compelling reason too"? Surely, if it's that clear-cut, there must be sensible reasons that you could share with the rest of us.

      I find the reasons detailed in the article for dual-booting to be fairly sensible: if you want a real feel for Linux, dual-booting is still the best option. A VM doesn't give you a real feel for it and Wubi means you have to do a full re-install if you want to go fully with Linux.

      As for buying a new computer rather than using an old one, I completely disagree with you. If you have an old machine that works well, just use it, especially to do experimental stuff like installing an OS you've never used. Or are you saying that you should just buy a new computer and if you realise that you don't like Linux after all, put that computer in a cupboard somewhere never to be seen again?

      Thanks El Reg for a great article!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC 11:39

        > Would you care to explain why you "do *not* go dual boot

        Sure. Because "trying out" Linux to me means getting a feel for how to *use* the system, at least initially. In order for you to start by installing an unfamiliar OS on a possibly dated, dual-boot machine you would need to be a) technically competent enough b) motivated enough, c) aware and accepting of the fact that your first encounter with Linux is going to consist of carrying out a fairly major administrative task (not necessarily complicated, granted, but nevertheless), and d) be willing to piss off the few hours that's going to take you (and it will take you at least a couple of hours to make sure that everything works as intended, both on the Linux and on the other OS side).

        So basically, you need to meet all the necessary pre-requisites as outlined above and your time has to be cheaper than the say £200-£400 that would get you a small but brand new machine with Linux pre-installed.

        You will not see an article suggesting that you try and dual-boot install Windows whichever-the-latest-version-is or OSX on an old machine, and then proceed to explain in more or less painstaking detail how to go about the process... just how many people would you manage to put off Windows/OSX if you did that? Sorry, but that's just not the way it's done anymore with Linux either... this is not the 90s. The fact that Linux installation wizards tend to make it easier to do that compared to other operating systems is not an excuse to inflict that sort of pain on a newbie (which presumably is the intended audience of this article).

        > If you have an old machine that works well, just use it

        I totally agree with that. This is in fact something I do a lot in my professional life.

        > especially to do experimental stuff like installing an OS you've never used

        Ok, I've got a Pentium III PC somewhere that I might try and install Windows Vista on, just to get a feeling for the OS. I'm sure the compositing will work beautifully on my i810. I'll let you know what my first impression of Windows is after I've done that.

        Or I might try and install OSX on it... oh, hang on, you can't (unless you really know what you're doing and even then). Ah well then, so maybe all these people telling me how great OSX is ("it just works") are not really talking about the OS, but rather the whole carefully spec'd system... but of course a self-made Linux installation by a newbie on some banged up PC will match that no problems, will it?

        Basically, what you want to be reading is not some retro "let's try Linux" (well, Ubuntu really) article. I'd rather have one telling me how to *move* to Linux: what hardware options should I go with, and which are the best suppliers for different use cases. On the other hand if you just want to see what a command line and some KDE widgetry look like you might as well just start up a virtual machine--I don't agree that it doesn't give you a real feeling. I have rolled out Windows VMs and the users are none the wiser to the fact they're not running on the actual hardware. It's also arguably easier to set up than a dual boot system and you have the advantage of being able to switch between the real and the virtual system(s) in an instant.

        > [....] buy a new computer and if you realise that you don't like Linux after all, put that computer in a cupboard somewhere never to be seen again?

        Don't know. Say you buy a Mac and realise you don't like it, what would you do? Flog it? Give it away? Install another OS? Put it in the cupboard? Presumably that'd be the same (as for me, I would give the machine to the local school or youth centre).

        Hope this answers your questions. The fact stands that the author of this article is not near knowledgeable enough in the subject matter to write an authoritative piece. It might have flown if he had used a different tone, perhaps a "this is my personal experience" kind of story, but as it stands it's just embarrassing. Ah well, another El Reg author I'll have to give a miss in the future.

        1. Displacement Activity

          Dual-boot alternatives

          I agree with your premise that dual-boot is Not A Good Thing, but that's no reason to slag off the author. If anyone asked me, I certainly wouldn't recommend that they try out Linux by dual-booting, for lots of reasons:

          1 - the setup is difficult; if you screw up, you may lose your Windoze machine

          2 - It's a real PITA having to shut down one OS before starting the other. It's time-consuming, and you can't have both running simultaneously. You have to plan in advance what you'll be doing.

          3 - In practice, you'll almost always want to share data between the two OSes. This is very hard work if one of the OSes isn't running.

          I did try dual-boot briefly in the early 90's with, I think, SCO. It was so impractical I gave up quickly.

          If you really just want to try out Linux quickly, then it's much easier to use a Live CD, or a USB stick. If you want a more permanent machine, then surely anyone reading this article is going to have an unused 5, 6, or 10-year old computer hanging around doing nothing? Wipe it, start from scratch; it's not going to matter in the slightest that it's a quarter the speed of your current machine. Your real problem will be finding anything to do with your new machine, not how fast it is.

          If you haven't got an old machine, there are two other things you can try, both of which are infinitely preferable to, easier than, and more professional than dual-boot:

          1 - buy a bare box with no monitor, k/b, mouse, and no fancy graphics (motherboard, case, PSU, £200 max). Attach your existing monitor, k/b, and mouse to install Linux. Now install the RealVNC viewer on your Windoze box, and access the Linux box via VNC. This is (almost) how I do all my Linux work and it works incredibly well. Not the right answer for games-playing on Linux, but that's presumably what your Windows box is for.

          2 - If you haven't got £200, virtualise. Get something like VMware Player and install Linux inside it (I haven't tried this, but I'm pretty sure it's free and works fine).

          Both these solutions let you run Windows and Linux simultaneously, and you get both machines on your network. Enable the Samba server on Linux and transferring files between the two is trivial.

        2. Dave Rickmers

          As long as I'm having fun

          I enjoy building/rebuilding computers. I do not consider the time spent wasted.

          I am not surprised that no one noticed that you were running Windows in a VM; it is extremely klunky to begin with. If you're afraid to partition, run Puppy Linux 5.0 "Lupu" Lucid Puppy off a live CD or thumb drive. All you do to your regular system is add a half-gig save file. The OS runs completely in RAM. Lightning fast.

          In fact, Puppy on a live CD is a great way for the technically brave to get their feet wet in Linux. The entire distribution, including media players, graphics editors and word/excel type programs, is under 200 MB.

          I have a $250 Asus 10" XP machine I use to update my ham radio transceiver and to manage my Ipod. I'd like to use Windows to run an IQ demodulator DSP routine that requires DirectX 10 or better. I am not going to pay another $250 for that privilege.

          And then there's Wine...

    6. bertino

      @AC What?

      I have no other windows machines at home. I need XP, a) for iTunes to activate iPhone, b) To flash non jailbroken HTC Hero so that I *MIGHT* have a chance of getting an OTA pre-update to android 2.1, and then android 2.1. How else am I supposed to do this without dual boot, or buy another PC just for windows, which I will only use for the above?

      HID laptop now has Ubuntu on it since XP died, so I have done my bit!

      1. JEDIDIAH

        vmware and virtualbox support USB.

        > I have no other windows machines at home. I need XP, a) for iTunes to activate iPhone,

        > b) To flash non jailbroken HTC Hero so that I *MIGHT* have a chance of getting an OTA

        > pre-update to android 2.1, and then android 2.1. How else am I supposed to do this without

        > dual boot, or buy another PC just for windows, which I will only use for the above?

        Virtual machine software includes USB support. So you can manage USB based devices from a copy of Windows-in-a-box if you need to.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Congratulations on your lottery win

      That is all.

    8. heyrick Silver badge


      Your shiny new computer must be cocked up if you stare at a progress bar for a couple of hours. My God, I just dropped a persistance LiveCD of Ubuntu 10.whatever onto an SD card and it took, like, 15-odd minutes. This with an Atom N270 processor.

      Oh, wait, maybe you're including the time taken to fetch the .iso on a single megabit connection? Didn't take any time at all. I read several El Reg articles, checked my email, ordered some Japanese nicities from (sorry, blatant promotion of a company I like <g>) and before I knew it, the file was on my machine. Clicky-clicky-clicky, wandered off and brewed up some pasta, and when I returned with a big bowl of tagliatelle it was done.

      You, of course, might prefer to waste time watching progress meters tick up...à chacun son goût.

    9. elderlybloke
      Dead Vulture

      To Anon Coward -Re What - 23 june

      deep stall ??.

      You are either stalled or not stalled.

      If you stall on take-off you are in the deep poo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Deep Stall

        > deep stall ??.

        The standard stall recovery consists of pitching the aircraft down in order to reduce alpha (the angle of relative airflow over the wings) to less than alpha-crit (the stalling angle), thereby regaining lift.

        A deep stall is one that cannot be recovered from by normal means, and usually by no means whatsoever under pilot control. The typical case is on designs where the wake from the turbulent flow separating from the wings causes a loss of elevator authority, although it can happen in other ways too. Civil aircraft liable to suffering deep stalls must have certain protections (e.g., stick pusher) in order to be certifiable.

        > You are either stalled or not stalled.

        Not correct, by design in most aircraft the wing root will stall first, thereby preserving aileron authority and thus roll control well into the stall. You will also note that part or all of some control surfaces might be stalled while not others (which is why a normal stall is recoverable in the way it is).

        > If you stall on take-off you are in the deep poo.

        Don't say.

    10. Geoff Campbell

      What? Indeed....

      "Just buy another PC" - there speaks a man who doesn't have to provide for a family. This is not the standard whine about how exepensive a family is, as such, it's just that providing technology to feed my own habit, plus that of a wife and two children, is only actually made possible by using hand-me-down old junk. And that's before we start on the subject of firewalls, mail servers, and the like.

      Oh, and when it comes to re-purposing obsolete old crap, Mr. Proven is your man. rust me on this....


    11. John Sanders
      IT Angle

      You sir...

      Do not deserve IT.

  3. bertino

    Dual boot with WinXP and Ubuntu 10.04

    Have an HP desktop, with 2x500GB drives in. 1 had Ubuntu 9.10, the other 10.04.

    Need XP for the bread knifes iPhone/iTunes (tried with XP on virtualbox, borked iPhone)

    So, back up home partition and started again.

    Installed XP on primary master (did not work 1st time, need to delete all partitions on drive, then format again with NTFS, then install). After much pain and many reboots, had it working.

    In the morning, would not boot. Fixed by going back to last known good.

    All was OK

    installed Ubuntu 10.04 from a USB stick onto 2nd drive, no problems. Installed all updates (inc. new kernel). Pretty sure I rebooted.

    Now I can not boot anything. Will try to fix the MBR on the primary tonight. Machine will boot from USB still though.

    So, be careful out there kids, it is not all plain sailing....

    Never had a problem with just linux's on both drives.

  4. Barry Tabrah

    Disaster waiting to happen

    "del *.* /s /q" is your friend...

    Not if you're in the wrong directory it ain't. Reminds me of the BOFH remark command, or rm for short.

    Still, if you do run it in the wrong spot you're ripe for a fresh Linux build.

  5. JDX Gold badge

    Dual-booting is still the best approach in my view

    Why spend even £300 on a new PC to try a new OS? Maybe you're loaded but £300 is significant for most people when the whole point of these articles is to let people TRY linux, not to convince them to switch to it.

    Plus, it's easier to share files when you dual boot... sure you can use a network but why bother.

    Finally, why would someone want another PC cluttering up their house? Assuming this is aimed at regular IT folk, not nerds with houses full of PCs, they don't want it.

    You've totally missed the point who these articles are FOR. In other words, people who don't already know how to do this stuff, are exactly the ones who don't have a room full of PCs.

  6. spegru

    Why the heck

    did you have to make this so complicated?

    It should be this simple:

    1. Back up your important files

    2. Throw away as much rubbish as possible

    3. reboot from ubuntu live cd

    4. play around a bit to see if it works with your hardware (consider a LAN cable if your wifi doesnt work - to enable the system to get the drivers)

    5. select install ubuntu

    6. follow the guide and choose side by side if dual booting and almost certainly accept the recommended settings for partitioning

    7. install (should take about 30mins)

    8. Use!

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    @ Does. Not. Fly.

    Um, what flew up your posterior?

    I don't think there's any doubt that the cleanest solution is a single OS installation, but the article is predicated on people who want to try Linux and already have Windows of some flavour on a machine they want to use. There are plenty of reasons to dual boot - and don't mention the (excellent) virtual machines available; if a tyro is following these instructions, he probably isn't going to install a VM to run Windows. If he already has a windows installation full of useful work, or applications that have no Linux equivalent, then it's stupid not to maintain the original OS.

    <--- because not all Linux users are zealots.

    1. Neil Lewis
      Thumb Up

      Thoroughly agree

      ...and the same would apply to an OpenSUSE live CD install, too, in either KDE or Gnome flavour.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't Forget...

        Linux Mint, which is Ubuntu with all the restricted drivers already installed

  8. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Forgot to..

    ...switch off the pagefile.sys?

    Or at least I think its called that, anyway it is a file that defrag cannot move.

    IIRC you just double click on My Computer and its under the hardware tab. Or is that indexing? Whatever :-)

  9. purplefloyd


    Can't stand Windo$e and kudos to those experimenting with dual boot. Just remember to blow away the NTFS partition when you're finished ;-)

    However I do remember back in the day I used %TEMP% to locate the temp directory. That would simplify the instructions on page #1 somewhat, don't you think El Reg?

  10. rahul

    Wubi installs can be made native

    "The second option, Wubi, works fine, but it's a bit slower and less flexible than a native install, and if you decided to “go native” and switch to Ubuntu full-time, you can't get rid of Windows later – you're lumbered with the virtual-hard-disk-in-a-file arrangement."

    Sorry, that's just plain wrong. A wubi install can be transferred to a "native" (partitioned) install using LVPM, a point-and-click Ubuntu (Linux) program. More details at under the section "Using LVPM to Transfer an Install to a Dedicated Partition"

  11. Andrew Yeomans
    Thumb Up

    Ccleaner is your friend

    Ccleaner from makes the housekeeping cleanup much easier and safer. Free download, then run it under each user account.

  12. markfiend

    Dual- or multi-boot... also an ideal setup for a dedicated distro-hopper.

    My partition layout has swap first, then three partitions for the / (root) of three different distros (currently Mint, Arch, Debian sid), then a /home partition shared between all three, then a big f***-off data partition filling the rest of the drive.

  13. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    Just in time!

    This series hit the wires at just the right time! Thanks Register for these articles.

    I receive container loads of used computers rolled over from Canadian companies originally donated to children's organisations, whose member children seemingly disparage 3-year old machines, rather than have them become landfill.

    The government here (VietNam) is a Linux/Open Systems proponent and they have been developing school software for all ages K through 18. All we lack is sufficient hardware.

    Recently, the police have been checking software licences, which has necessitated running two OS - Linux for police inspections on one and *hot) Windows for working! Now we can really start switching to Linux.

    My only complaint is the word 'tomorrow' is 48 hours between sections!

  14. DarkStranger

    "Option 3 is for weenies"

    You must be kidding right? I really like Ubuntu. I have three Ubuntu flavors; Netbook Remix, Desktop and Server installed. With the both of the 32-bit and 64-bit variations of the Desktop and Server versions installed. For a total of 5 Ubuntu installations.

    I also have Debian, Fedora, OpenSolaris, Windows XP Pro, Windows 7 and NetBSD installed on my Vista x64 workstation and having a VM manager has been a marvelous solution. I’ll admit that most setups like mine are for a specific purpose but the comfort afforded by isolating a Windows host machine from unintended OS corruption is invaluable.

    It is not a “Weenies” way out….

    1. Mr Brush
      Thumb Up

      +1 for VMs

      I often tinker with various *nix flavours and the process goes something like:

      1. Install

      2. Tinker

      3. Break

      4. Re-Install

      5. Bork boot loader

      6. Etc

      With a VM the process is:

      1. Install

      2. Tinker

      3. Break

      4. Rewind to snapshot at step 2.

      Much more tinkering fun, much less swearing at broken boot loaders and orphaned OS installs.

      Turnkey Linux's fantastic ready rolled appliances come in VBox format for even easier setup.

      I had a Samba based domain with XP clients up and running on VMs from scatch in under 20 minutes.

      VM FTW!

    2. Zimmer

      Why wait...

      and lots more info out there, too..

    3. Ian McNee
      Thumb Up

      Yeah VMs...they'll never catch on...

      Kudos to DarkStranger and Mr Brush.

      Products like Oracle's VirtualBox (free for personal use) make it so straightforward to play with guest OSs it's hard to argue with this option. As Mr Brush suggests, play around with dual-booting for any length of time and you will bork your boot loader - something that will make most people feel like they are a weenie first time around.

      And once you're happy with your fave Linux distro do a native install and run your old copy of Windows as a VM for your legacy requirements that can't be satisfied by Wine.

      Finally, if you're trying Ubuntu/Linux Mint for the first time I suggest Ubuntu and one of the "Perfect Desktop" guides at - for an extra hour of effort you will end up with Mint-like functionality and you'll have learned a few Linux essentials about configuring your system and installing packages.

      1. Displacement Activity

        @Yeah VMs

        > And once you're happy with your fave Linux distro do a native install and run your old copy

        > of Windows as a VM for your legacy requirements that can't be satisfied by Wine.

        My Windows VMs under Linux/Xen run like a dog, so I'm not sure that this is realistic. I have to keep real physical machines for XP and Win7. Wine is klunky, but it has got me out of a mess for one important program, although I have to put up with continual warning output.

        Having said that, I agree that the only smart way to try out Linux if you've only got one machine, and you're not willing to spend one or two hundred quid on a boxed motherboard, is as a VM under Windows. Someone up above says that this is slow, but I don't think that's the case. I haven't tried it, but running a Linux domain on something like VMware Player should be close to full speed.

  15. Yesnomaybe

    Made me feel good

    I put Ubuntu on our "Media" PC at home, some 6 months ago. It had XP, but was running slower and slower, probably riddled with stuff... And I kinda wanted to show the kids (3 boys) that Windows isn't the ONLy solution. Anyway, the kids weren't keen at first, but now haven't fired up XP for at least 3 months. And it HAS brought new life to an ageing PC. Was easy though: Stick the disc in, follow the guide, reboot and wahey, off you go.

  16. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Make sure you properly check the disk!

    I have found a few older PCs with a couple of bad sectors on the HDD, so my advice is to always run chkdsk to do a full surface test as well. Yes, that is tedious, typically in the couple of hours range, but it can save hassle later! In fact, I would suggest a total scan once a year anyway.

    If the NTFS drive has bad sectors, typically the Gparted tool will refuse to re-size as it a more dangerous thing to do.

    With the Ubuntu live CD you can (usually) check the HDD SMART status using the System -> Administration -> Disk Utility but some older PCs can't report it, and quite a few have this feature disabled in BIOS (so go in and enable it if you can). The SMART results for a checked but bad sector disk will give you a hint as to whether the disk is truly dying (e.g. sector reallocation count over threshold) or if it was just a couple of bad sectors for whatever reason.

    You can force ntfsresize to do it from the command line, but in this case you have better have a good backup anyway!

    If you don't trust the HDD, then a new one is a very good idea, but if it is Windows' own files that are borked (see the Event Log in Windows after it reboots from running chkdsk), or if you have any suspicion that its malware infected, then a total wipe and complete Windows re-install is a good idea before attempting to dual boot once more.

    If you/then have lost their Windows install/recover CD and don't care to fork out another £50 or so to Billy's empire,, then I guess it was time to go LINUX anyway...

  17. G R Goslin

    And the easy way....

    Why not just bung another HDD in and install Linux on that? Leave your Windows drive to stagger along, cruft and all, and have yourself a nice big drive with a proper OS on it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was just thinking the same thing myself

      it's scarcely any more technical an operation than all this mucking about with partitioning and rummaging about in bits of Windows where there's potential to do harm, and you have the advantage that your existing Windows installation is always there to go back to as necessary. If you want to get fancy, you can even change the boot order in the BIOS and not even take the Windows drive out of the machine.

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        Re: New disk

        Because opening the case is the most terrifying thing you can tell a non Geek to do.

  18. Gene Cash Silver badge

    What's this dual boot nonsense?

    I just use an XP image on VMware for the rare times I actually need Windows, which is maybe about twice a month. That way I have only 12G or so devoted to crapware instead of some fixed proportion of my disk, and it's easily backed up with "cp -a" before I try anything iffy. Fixing malware is then just using "rm -rf" and "cp -a" again. Dual boot is so '90s.

  19. get off

    Until somebody gets a webcam to work - Netbook

    I'm exactly the target reader for this. Increasingly interested to the point of trying. Two probs though.

    Okay I can go for a dual boot, What if it doesn't work. Haven't a clue how to get rid and get XP back on the whole thing.

    Wubi Ubuntu and Jolicloud plus VM options - I've tried MInt ;like the look of that one and I really loke the Chinese version of it (same boot.install as Mint) Ylmf [looks even more like XP, Ubuntu 10 under the hood], Ubuntu netbook remix, Mobilin (wouldn't load), Meego (wouldn't load) and Easypeasy.

    All on netbook. Will any of them load basic functionality such as the webcam? No they will not and have you seen the hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, eye of bat etc instructions for the workaround to this "known issue"?

    Not for me yet, me thinks.... deinstall drivers, find new hardware, download drivers, XP it is for this newbie, still..........

    I do love some of the new layouts though. Ylmf, Easy Peasy and Ubuntu netbook. Not sure I want to be part of the Jolicloud.... cloud

    1. Andus McCoatover


      I dunno why you're having probs, unless possibly you haven't enabled the webcam in the BIOS* - it's off by default.

      Mine's running eeebuntu.

      I can't remember if that's all I had to do - think it was - but Skype's fine on my Asus eee701.

      *(F2 on startup, then fuc*k about wi' the settings. To test, you might wanna download "cheese" from synaptic. Sorry if this might be a repeat of what you've already found.)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      It;s fine for me

      eeePC 900

      Linux Mint 10.04

      Webcam and Orange 3G dongle all work fine despite protests from shop people that they wouldn't


      Webcam hysteria

      > All on netbook. Will any of them load basic functionality such as the webcam?

      I dunno. I just bought the cheapest webcam I could find at the local department store and it all worked easy peasy (on Ubuntu). YMMV of course. It always helps to mention the specific hardware you have trouble with. Vague hysterics are neither informative nor productive.

  20. Tom 7 Silver badge

    @ac what

    I recently had to reinstall a windows machine (1250Mhz) three days to get the windows re-installed - absolute nightmare . And everytime I use windows it seems to take twenty minutes to get the AV up to date

    Stuck a ubuntu mini.iso into it and (I have a local apt-cacher-ng 'server') had a full up to date version of Ubuntu in less than an hour set up to dual boot with barely any input from myself.

    Your right - avoid dual booting - just overwrite with linux and stuff windows.

  21. Johnny Canuck

    @get off

    I've got PCLinux2010 on an Acer Aspire One and the camera works fine after installing "cheese".

  22. Richard Lloyd

    Watch out for some dual boot snags

    It should be noted that the Windows OS installers are quite "Linux hostile":

    * They don't know about GRUB boot loaders and will wipe off any GRUB loader installed on the MBR of a drive (which is where most Linux distros put it by default). This will happen if you need to re-install Windows on the same drive that you installed Linux on. You're then going to have to hack your way through re-installing grub via the live Ubuntu CD and some estoric command-line work (believe you, I've had to do it more than once).

    * Bizarrely, although XP and Vista beta/RC's Windows installers are happy to format any existing partition on a drive, Vista final and *all* Windows 7 (including RC's) releases will *not* format a partition unless it's unformatted or has FAT32 or NTFS on it. So don't use the Windows installer to re-install Windows (Vista or 7) on an ext3 or ext4 partition if you give up on Ubuntu.

    * I've found that some Windows installers insist that the first partition of the drive you'll be installing Windows on has to be NTFS. Very stupid behaviour - especially if you've already put Linux on the first partition! - and may be fixed by the Windows 7 installer though.

    Also, be careful about mixing the latest Ubuntu (10.04 - uses GRUB 2) with another distro (e.g. Fedora 13 - uses GRUB 1) on the same drive - it'll make juggling menu.lst (aka grub.conf) entries "interesting"! I solved it by using Fedora's GRUB 1 as my preferred grub and cutting/pasting lines from Ubuntu's GRUB 2 entries into the Fedora grub.conf (yes, I have to do this every time I update Ubuntu's kernel).

    If you do dual boot, *always* keep a live Linux CD handy for fixing grub issues (or for just re-partitioning via something like gparted) - get used to typing "grub" in a console, then "root" and "setup" commands inside grub.

    BTW, the advice about not burning a CD image onto a DVD isn't great - that probably applies to ancient BIOS'es and CD/DVD drives. Where possible, burn a CD image onto a blank DVD because a) it's faster to burn, b) it's faster to load and c) blank DVDs cost the same as blank CDs, so you do *not* save money by using a CD. In fact, anyone burning data CDs nowadays should go out and buy a DVD burner and some blank DVDs right now, because you'll not twiddle your thumbs waiting for CDs to burn or load.

    Oh and if you have a 64-bit CPU and 4GB+ RAM, as the article says, you should install the 64-bit version of a Linux distro. It can give you a 5-10% performance improvement and you can install 32-bit libraries easily should you need to run any 32-bit apps. There was a 64-bit version of Flash, but the morons at Adobe have abandoned development of it, just as Mozilla announce that they will be doing official 64-bit builds of Firefox in the future (and 64-bit distros already ship 64-bit Firefox anyway!).

  23. Joe Zeff
    Thumb Up

    @Get Off

    I don't know about Ubuntu, but I can tell you that when I installed Fedora on my laptop the built-in webcam Just Worked. There was an application called "cheese" under Graphics, and it picked everything right up and worked without the slightest bit of effort on my part. Maybe your netbook just has the wrong model built into it.

  24. Blubster

    @Andrew yeomans

    "CCleaner is your friend". Agreed.

    Use that to clean out all the rubbish then create 3 x new partitions on your hard drive for root, home and swap using the free Easeaus Partition Manager 4.

    Boot from Ubuntu Live CD and then install from that.

    @get off

    It wouldn't hurt to have a spare XP CD kicking around if you chicken out at a later date and want to go back wholly to Windoze (and why would you?). You'd boot into Windoze and use the partition manager to restore your partitions then boot from the XP CD and choose the repair option with prompt. Type fixmbr followed by enter. Simples.

    Surprised you can't get your webcam working on your netbook - had Mint on my eeePC 901 for a long time with no problems whatsoever. Just changed from Mint to Ubuntu netbook remix (battery life didn't seem to be as long) and everything works fine.

  25. Graham Marsden

    Reboot to make sure everything still works...

    ... of course the instructions do say "BACK UP YOUR SYSTEM FIRST!", don't they...???

  26. Peter X

    Is a swap partition necessary?

    I'm using one myself, but I believe the 2.6 Kernel allows a swap file to be just as fast as a swap partition according to this:

  27. Anonymous Coward

    cut to thje chase

    The last article in this series should discuss WHY you might still need windows. Such as:

    1) You are hopelessly stupid, it took you so long to learn how to use windows software, you will not live long enough to learn anything new and different.

    2) You are a bureaucrat, and cannot lie properly without excel and Powerpoint. (perhaps you are in the new coalition government)

    3) You are a child, and you need directX to play all the good games.

    4) You "need" proprietary software like AutoCad and PhotoShop that only run on windows (really a combination of 1) and 2) above)

    5) "THEY"won't let you. Never mind who "THEY" are, you are deluded. Get your medication adjusted.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      re: "3) You are a child, and you need directX to play all the good games"

      How patronising and blinkered to suggest that games are only for children. I am a Linux user in my mid-thirties and I keep a fairly powerful Windows box around for, that's right, games. Sneer all you like from your ivory tower, but I am going to enjoy my down time as I see fit - not as some arsehole desperate to prove his maturity thinks I should spend it.

      As a penguin-lover myself I would love to see a greater uptake of my preferred OS (and maybe some of the games developers writing for it) but attitudes like yours will do nothing more than drive away people who might otherwise be interested in switching and ensure Linux will remain a niche market.

    2. Displacement Activity

      @cut to the chase

      6) You need a spreadsheet program to do something useful and complicated, like a pivot table, which isn't supported in OpenOffice

      7) Your kids want to run MSN, *with* a webcam

      8) You have a real job that requires you to use software that is either only available on Windows, or is better on Windows

      9) You occasionally need to produce presentations for people with short attention spans

      10) You write software, and want to reach the the 95% of your target market that uses Windows

  28. Anonymous Coward

    dont break what is not broken

    put a try-out on a *proper* USB stick. so thats not a give away 2 $ pos but a proper one, like kingston datatraveller or one of those portable USB harddisks.

    8 GB is enough, 16 GB is very nice.

    install with CD/DVD, boot from it, (usually takes hitting F8 or F12 or something like that)

    if you dont like it, reboot and pull the stick and you're back in windoze.... as if nothing happened.

    this is true for opensuse. assume it 's the same for others, but have no experience.

    have fun.


  29. da_fish27


    Finally something to link to when people ask me millions of questions about Linux that I've answered way too many times.

  30. K.o.R
    Paris Hilton

    A title is required

    Question: Why have a separate swap partition? On Windows (at least in my experience), if you put the paging file on another partition of the same disk that your OS is on, you just end up thrashing the disk constantly as it ends up having to constantly switch between reading and writing two separate (and relatively distant) areas of the same disk. Works a lot better if the page file is on another disk on another channel.

    But yes, I'm slightly confused there.

    Paris, because <insert clever euphemism relating to the topic of the article>.

    1. ARC

      pagefile trap

      be careful moving the pagefile to a drive/partition other than the windows drive/partition. In backup/restore situations failing to keep the windows backup and the pagefile in sync will result in windows not booting after a restore of the windows partition.

      To be clear - when windows boots, it expects to find the pagefile as it was on the last shutdown. In my experience, if anything about the pagefile has changed windows will not boot.

      Moving the pagefile means that to backup windows you must back up both the windows partition and the entire partition where the pagefile is located - not just the pagefile itself.

    2. Grifter

      bloody title required

      >Question: Why have a separate swap partition?

      Honestly, it's just tradition, how we've done it for ages. Could simply make an iso image file and turn that into a swap. Or not use a swap at all, in today's multi-gig ram environments.

      1. adnim Silver badge

        XP or Win 7

        XP has no problem moving the swap file providing it is done through system properties >> advanced.

        If the a pagefile is not found during boot on XP, XP creates a new one.

        I don't know about Win7. Maybe I check it out if and when I ever boot into it again.

        Windows page file should be on a separate drive on a different controller, or the same partition on the same disk.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please explain.

    Could you please provide the reasoning behind the following

    portion of the article?

    "The recommended config is a single primary partition on the first

    drive, with all other partitions as logical drives in a single

    extended partition. If you have multiple drives, use only logical

    drives on all the others. You don't have to do this but it makes

    life easier."

    I adhered to the - one primary partition, the rest logical; for

    years but now only use logical partitions where I require more than

    four partitions on a single hard drive. I have however never heard

    of the suggestion that all partitions on secondary hard drives

    should be logical partitions.

    What is the reasoning behind this recommendation?

  32. jake Silver badge

    Swap needs.

    On this 6+ year old bone-stock[1] HP Pavilion laptop, I have a 256Meg swap partition. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of a couple legacy programs with hard-coded swap needs, I have never used the swap space. And then, it has always been under 40 Megs. The Wife's identical machine[2] has NO swap partition, and she has no issues.

    This machine started with Slackware 10.0-current, has always been -current, and is now 13.1-current. The Wife's machine dual boots WinXP and Slackware 13.0 (was 12.x), but she can't remember the last time she booted into Windows.

    [1] Well, almost bone-stock. I swapped out the stock 256Meg stick with a gig[3] ... and then added another gig in the second memory slot.

    [2] I put my old 256Meg stick into her machine, for a total of 512Megs.

    [3] Yes, you can. The "stock" RAM is under the keyboard. It's an easy replacement ... although, I'll admit that the box runs a trifle hotter now. Don't try this at home unless you know what "Torx" bits are, and have in the past successfully used #7 and smaller sizes on screws that have been loctited.

  33. fred #257

    Multi-boot and partitions

    Re dual-boot, I've been dual and multi-booting on my home systems for years, with Grub. Sucessfully with Linuxen, which will happily run from anywhere, only partly with Windows, even when I let it have the first partition available.

    I failed with Win98 on a used Thinkpad A20M, wouldn't resize (so I just hosed it and put Linux on it anyway). Succeeded with current R40 with XP, resized and put Debian Lenny on it. (Would I dual-boot a Windows box that had some vital stuff on it? No, I wouldn't *breathe* near a Windows box that had some vital stuff on it. Not without backing it up twice first.)

    I also often multi-boot several Linux distros - just trying them out.

    Partitions - I use one for Windows (if it's there), one for the OS, a spare or two for the OS, a swap, and one or more for 'data'. And I keep all my stuff in 'data'. That way, if I should screw up the OS, or I want to experiment or upgrade, my data isn't affected. I can just put the 'new' version of Linux in the spare OS partition, give GRUB an entry for it, use it for a few days, if it works OK then I carry on using it. This also makes adding new hard drives or retiring dodgy old ones quite easy. And my networked laptop can share the data very easily.

    Getting Linux - I've never downloaded a distro (on a slow connection? Several GB's worth?) There are a number of excellent sellers on the Internet (maybe not Ebay:) who will supply Linux distros on CD/DVD for very cheap prices. Shop around. If you're cautious, I think it's possible to check the MD5 sums of the disks against the distros' websites (though I've never bothered).

  34. Anonymous Cowherder

    Long overdue article

    Thanks El Reg!

    A large number of us comentards and reg readers are experienced IT geeks but I'm sure a similarly large number of eyeballs hit these pages who couldn't differentiate a scsi cable from a ide cable.

    A home PC is a significant investment for a large number of people and the recent cycle of windows upgrades from XP-Vista-Win7 with associated advertising has firmly planted the idea that PCs can be upgraded. Many people are put off doing this themselves for several reasons, cost, lack of technical skills and fear so any articles that put out a step by step guide that encourage people to get more involved with the gubbins inside their pc is a very welcome step.

    Anything that also removes the mystique of linux is always to be commended. I'm a full on linux evangelist, after solely using windows for over 10 years I was exposed to linux, fought it for a bit but then grew to love it and haven't looked back. I use what ever OS is right for the task I need to do, dual boot at home, have a linux server at home, and my main work pc is linux with XP & Win7 in virtualbox.

    All OSes have their pluses and minuses, there is no wrong or right way of computing (except use linux heh heh!) and everyone is free to try what they like, they might find a combination that is right for them.

    It is time to get the technology to work for us, not for us to be fearful of doing the wrong thing.

  35. RISC OS
    Jobs Horns

    Ok I tried it...

    I'm stuck on point 6... windows doesn't boot anymore. What do I do now?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      what you do now is

      invoice el reg for several hours snafu time

    2. Anonymous Cowherder



  36. Mike Gravgaard

    Option 4 - Two drives and two caddies

    Option 4 - Two drives and two caddies

    Works for me and there is little risk.


  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    options to run ubuntu

    live cd? install on plug-in memory stick?

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