Lucky you; you just received a brand new shiny PC for your [fill in the occasion: birthday, anniversary, graduation, holiday]. Unfortunately, your new rig almost certainly came preinstalled with Windows Vista, and you've got a ton of legacy software that require an older 32-bit Windows OS for operation. What's a poor Vista PC to do?
Simple: simply install Windows XP which, with a little love, can coexist peacefully with your Vista install. Plus, while you're at it, why not install one of the many Linux distros that are available for Intel-based PCs for added compatibility and power. In other words, mod your PC into a triple boot super PC. Before we begin, however, this important word of caution:
WARNING: Most of these new PCs that are pre-installed with Windows Vista Home x (e.g., Basic and Premium) do not come with Windows Vista installation discs. Therefore, if you make a mistake during this triple boot procedure, you could lose your Windows Vista installation.
Time: 4 hours
PC Used: Sony VGN-NR160E Vaio Notebook
1. Make recovery disc(s).
Before you begin this project, follow the PC manufacturer's instructions for making a set of recovery discs. Please note, these recovery discs are not Windows Vista installation discs. They only enable you to boot/recover a PC that will not boot.
2. Make new partitions.
Launch "Computer Management"" inside Vista's "Administrative Tools" control panel. Start "Disk Management," located under the "Storage" component of the management console. Right-click on the Vista (C:) drive and select the "Shrink volume..." option.
You will need to repeat this volume shrinkage three times and make three new partitions: the Linux boot partition, the Linux "swap" partition, and the Windows XP partition. For example, select 6-10Gb for your Linux boot partition, 1-4Gb for your Linux swap partition, and 32Gb for your Windows XP partition.
Oops, "I'm missing approximately 5-10Gb worth of hard disk space. Where did it go?" It's all there, just hidden from your view. Most pre-installed Windows Vista PCs have a hidden "restore" partition built-into the hard drive. If you're an advanced user, you can try to use various partition tools, like ptedit32.exe, for exposing this hidden partition.
De-fragmenting your disk may also help free up some space for shrinking, as certain system files can often be scattered throughout a drive's empty space.
3. Install Linux.
Install Ubuntu in the two Linux partitions that you created in Step 2, and when it's finished, reboot your PC. During boot, the Linux boot loader, Grub, should be launched. Grub displays a menu for selecting which OS to boot (you may have to hit the escape key right after your computer restarts to access this menu). Grub's list should contain both Ubuntu and Windows Vista/Longhorn. Select both options and make sure that both OSes boot properly. Note that your new Linux partitions will not be visible in Windows Vista.
As you'll see later on, we'll have to install Linux again after Windows XP. This initial install is to make sure the Grub bootloader is there pre-XP, and to insure that your Linux partitions are correctly formatted.
4. Install Windows XP/locate SATA drivers if necessary.
Most new computers ship with serial ATA (SATA) hard drives, the current standard for maximum speed and efficiency. Being an older OS, Windows XP does not recognize these newer SATA drives by default. In this case, we must locate and install XP-compatible SATA drivers.
Upon installing from your XP CD, if you receive a blue screen during setup with the warning: "Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer," then you must manually load SATA drivers for your computer.
Some computers might have a BIOS setting that can be toggled for configuring your SATA ports. Lacking a BIOS setting, however, the best and easiest method for loading SATA drivers is via a good old fashioned floppy disk drive setup.
While some have managed to install SATA drivers via CD, the methods for doing so are far more complicated than simply biting the bullet and buying (or borrowing) a cheap external floppy drive. One suitable low-cost option is the external USB LaCie Pocket Floppy Disk Drive, which will run you $25 and will install Windows XP drivers on a Sony Vaio.
Using our Vaio PC example, search for your SATA driver at Intel. Our Sony Vaio uses the Intel ICH8M SATA AHCI Controller. These links will help you find the correct driver for your particular machine, if necessary:
- Which ATA/SATA drivers work with my chipset?
- Mobile Intel PM965 Express Chipset uses Intel Matrix Storage Manager
- Intel Chipset Installation Utility - Using Windows Device Manager to identify chipset
- Intel IMSM drivers for Windows XP
- Make sure that you download the 32-bit Floppy Configuration Utility for Intel Matrix Storage Manager named f6flpy32.zip.
Help, My Floppy Drive is a B not an A: Using an external USB floppy disk drive and sometimes result in a disk drive being labeled B instead of A, which can throw off some BIOS software. If this happens to you, try remapping a floppy disk drive letter assignment with this simple Windows Registry modification:
Start Regedit and find:
Inside that entry look for: \DosDevices\A. Right-click this entry and select the rename option. Change the "A" to a much higher letter, like "Z." Now locate the \DosDevices\B entry. Once again, select the rename option, but this time change the "B" to "A." Save, exit Regedit, and reboot your PC. The B drive has now become the A drive.
5. Install Windows XP.
Load the Windows XP installation disc, connect the USB floppy disk drive, restart your PC, and boot from the installation disc. At the opening Setup "blue screen," press F6. This will enable you to manually load the Intel drivers from your floppy disk later in the setup process.
Setup will pause and prompt you to install extra drivers. Load the Intel driver diskette into the floppy disk drive and select the name of your PC SATA controller. Beware that Setup might try to guess which driver to load. Go ahead and try this suggestion. If it doesn't work, just restart your PC and try another driver.
Also, watch for partition names and not drive letters during the installation of Windows XP. For example, Windows Vista labeled our future Windows XP partition with the drive letter G:. The Windows XP installer named this same partition with the drive letter D:.
6. Rebuild Windows Vista BCD.
Selfishly, Windows XP will overwrite your Vista Boot Configuration Data (BCD) and Grub. Drat!
Inside VistaBootPRO, select "Manage OS Entries" and add Windows XP. Then select "Uninstall Legacy Bootloader" to add support for Windows Vista and specify the C: drive as an install option. Finally, click "Install Bootloader" and restart your PC.
The Windows Bootloader selection screen should appear with choices for Windows Vista and Windows XP. Be forewarned, Windows XP will not boot, yet. We will have to fix it in Step 8. Now it's time to recover your Ubuntu installation.
7. Edit Grub.
Insert the Ubuntu bootable CD or DVD and restart your PC. Press F4 and select your video option, then select the option "Start or install Ubuntu." Be very patient with this step. It could take several minutes before the Linux desktop appears on the screen.
Double-click the Install drive icon. Following the instructions for re-installing Ubuntu over the exact same two partitions that you created in Step 3. Reboot your PC and select the Unbuntu OS from Grub for booting.
Inside Ubuntu, launch Terminal (goto the Applications menu, under Accessories, and select Terminal) and type:
sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst
Now edit the bottom entry that reads "Windows Vista/Longhorn." Change it to read something like: Windows OSes. Save the menu.lst file. Then type this command inside Terminal:
Press Enter, exit Unbuntu and restart your PC. Grub should now allow you to jump to the Windows boot menu where Windows Vista and Windows XP are available for launching. Try the Windows XP option.
8. Recover NTLDR.
More than likely, the Windows XP bootloader has become corrupt or missing. This AWOL feature can be easily corrected by booting with Windows Vista. In Vista, insert the Windows XP installation disc and copy the files: NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM from inside the i386 folder on this disc to the root folder of your Windows XP partition. Remove the disc and reboot your PC.
Ta-da. Now upon starting your PC, you should see Grub with Ubuntu listed and an entry for Windows OSes. Select the Windows OSes entry and you are whisked to another boot menu that lists Windows Vista and Windows XP. Go ahead, punk, make your day; select an OS, any OS. You now have three to choose from—all on the same PC. Ain't choices wonderful?
Wow. Thanks for the info, but I have a question. What's so great about Vista that you can't just nuke it and install XP?
Nothing...it just looks cooler (and actually you can make XP look like Vista with some software) so it's almost useless, although I admit there are a few new features with Vista that are kindof cool.......
I would delete it off the drive and save a backup on a disk just in case Vista actually gets better.
Well, being able to use more than 4 GB of ram is nice.
And as for all you people putting off upgrading because there wasn't a service pack, you'll all have to find a new excuse. Service pack 1 came out in the last few days.
Yeah, I have the software to make XP look like Vista. I like the look, but I couldn't pay that much for it. Also, who uses more than four gigs of ram? All I do on a computer is play the PPX (pathetic, I know).
I recently made the switch to a MAC for this very reason. I currently have XP on mine using Fusion- it runs better on my MAC than it ever did on my DELL. I haven't had to reboot yet (2 months). Bet your PC hasn't done that in a while!
You can run as many virtual machines as you want.
I wish there was a way to document how many hours I have saved in "startups" and "shutdowns" since I made the switch. It takes under a minute to boot and 7 seconds to shut down.
I'll NEVER go back to a PC.
Glad to see PopSci continuing to mention Ubuntu. :)
There are easier and slightly faster ways to do what the article above describes, but they require using another software that can be intimidating to new people. So, I'd say overall, this article is a good guide on how to set up a triple boot configuration.
I left Windows behind about three years ago and haven't looked back. I do heavy editing and recording of video and music, and graphics and website creation, and Linux works for all of it.
My wife and son use Ubuntu too.
Although if you are a PC gamer, it's not for you. ;)
Don't let people tell you the only graphics program for Linux is GIMP, it's not true, there are dozens, and they are free. If you really need Photoshop, then Photoshop 7 can be installed on Linux using a program called WINE and it runs fine. I use it every day. Blender is another amazing program.
If you want something just as good as Photoshop but that costs under 100 bucks, use Pixel Image Editor. It works on all platforms too! (Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD, etc.)
My sons laptop boots Windows XP, Ubuntu and PC-BSD, and he actually installed Ubuntu himself!
For me, it's either Ubuntu or OS X, Windows is junk. But considering the cost of both Windows and Macs, Ubuntu is by far a more affordable solution, and it's very powerful.
Before you install Linux on any computer, check the distributions Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), in this case the distribution is Ubuntu. This alone can save you a lot of time and frustration. Ubuntu will install on most any computer, but there are a few that it won't. So far it has installed on all 9 of mine with varying hardware and ages with no issues.
You don't have to have a "linux horror story" if you just do a quick check to see that you're covered.
With Windows you have to check the System Requirements to make sure your computer can handle it, so doing this for hardware to be used with Linux is no different.
Also, keep in mind, it took a little time to get used to Windows when you first started using it, same with a Mac, so give Linux the same chance you gave them, it is it's own operating system and does things differently, and in my opinion better.
...or you could put that new pc to work with these 4 gig of memory and download the FREE Virtual PC's from VMware or Microsoft.
VMware has even a free converter that allows you to "virtualize" your old pc and then simply just copy the virtual harddisk onto your new pc start it with either the free VMplayer or the VMServer and presto - you can run your old windows xp, linux whatever within Vista or visa versa.
No messing with triple boot - put this new processor to work!
Windows hardrives are automatically formatted as NTFS, I thought Linux had trouble writing to NTFS and you have to format non window partitions and file storage partitions to FAT 32 to be accessible from Windows and Linux OSs. So you would have to tell all windows installs to use a different folder (on the FAT32 partition) as the my docs etc.
or am I wrong?
To answer the question in the top of the comments list:
Vista is good for 2 things.
1. DirectX 10
2. 4 GB of RAM +
(And despite the fact YOU dont use over 4gb of ram, alot of other professionals and enthusiasts do)
Not a really long list of good things when you compare the bad things -- ie pretty much everything else. My soultion: Give Windows XP DirectX 10 and 4 GB of Ram support (on 32bit). Problem solved.
Actually, Vista like XP can enjoy no more than 3.5 gb of ram. That is the limit of all 32 bit operating systems be they windows, linux, mac, or whatever. Go 64 bit and one can load and load ram to their hearts content.
Unfortunate for all those who have installed more than 4 gb.
Thats a lot of work to go through to do a triple-boot! The author of the article said they bought a new computer so I assume that it uses a SATA drive. I have a better solution: Buy a couple more SATA drives and build a low-cost switch to boot three different OS's without all the hassle of boot managers! I assume your new PC has more than two SATA ports because you will need three. Many new PC's have 6 SATA ports. Each drive will be totally independent so changes to one OS will not affect the others. Go to www.thesataswitch.com for directions on how
to build such a switch.