Archive for Jun 15, 2011

How to triple-boot Fedora 15, Ubuntu 11.04 and Windows 7


Triple-booting windows 7 and two Linux distributions is a little bit more involved than dual-booting it with a distribution. You have to decide in what order to install the Linux distributions, and sometimes, the order you choose might not work. Such was the case with this attempt to triple boot it with Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04.

Initially, I chose to install Fedora last, but discovered a major weakness in Anaconda, the Fedora system installer: It does not have a flexible means of configuring logical or primary partitions. And when you are using the MBR partitioning scheme, which limits the primary partitions that you can create to four, configuring partitions for a triple-boot operation becomes almost impossible.

So, the order of installation that made this attempt at triple-booting successful was: Windows 7, then Fedora 15, and finally Ubuntu 11.04. A few points to note here: The Desktop installer edition of Ubuntu 11.04 was used, not the Alternate Installer edition. Using the Alternate Installer edition would have resulted in many more steps and way too many screenshots. The Alternate Installer edition has its advantages: support for LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, which is also the default on Fedora 15, and support for disk encryption. If you want the installation of Ubuntu 11.04 for this setup to be based on LVM, this guide should be of help.

When installing Windows and a Linux distribution, or two Linux distributions, on the same computer, you have a choice of making the Linux boot loader or the Windows boot manager be responsible for dual-booting. Each has its pros and cons. If you opt for the Windows 7 boot manager, you give up access to the security features provided by GRUB, the default boot loader on virtually all Linux distributions. If you opt for GRUB, however, Windows could overwrite aspects of the boot program, even during installation of a Service Pack, or during an upgrade or re-installation. That is a major headache.

I consider the option I chose for this tutorial the path of least headache. And that option is to make the Windows 7 boot manager be responsible for handling the dual-boot operation. So that anytime the computer is booted, you will be presented with these options. Keep in mind that if you change your mind about Windows 7 boot manager, you can always log into Ubuntu and install GRUB in the MBR, transfering control of the dual-boot process to it.


The next major decision you will have to make is whether you want to install Windows anew or use an existing installation of Windows. If the latter, which is the method used for this tutorial, boot into Windows 7 and launch the Disk Management tool. One way to access it is to type partitions in the menu’s search field. The objective here is to use this tool to shrink the main Windows 7 partition, the C drive, freeing up space that will be used to install Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04. To start the operation, …


Right-click on the C drive, then select “Shrink Volume.”


Windows will suggest how much to shrink the partition by. If the shrinkable space is less than what you think you need for installing Fedora and Ubuntu, you may consider reinstalling Windows, and assign it a disk space manually. Otherwise, click Shrink.


This is the result of the surgical operation you just performed. The Unallocated space shown here will be used for installing Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04. Exit the Disk Management tool, then boot the computer from the Fedora 15 installation CD or DVD.


When the installer starts, click until you get to the step shown in the image below. Before proceeding with the installation of Fedora, you should be aware, if you did not already, that the installation takes place in two phases. Most of the installation tasks take place in the first phase, while in the second phase, the user account and a few other minor tasks are taken care of. Also, because of the approach used here, the second phase will be possible only after you have added an entry for Fedora 15 in the Windows 7 boot menu.
The Fedora installer is a very advanced system installer. For this installation, you do not need the very advanced features, just the regular advanced ones. That means selecting Basic Storage Devices.


These are the partitions as detected by Anaconda, the Fedora system installer. You can see the two windows 7 partitions. The available disk space will be split between Fedora 15 and Ubuntu 11.04. For Fedora 15, which will be the distribution to be installed first, I chose to use LVM. the Linux Logical Volume Manager, which is the default disk partitioning scheme. That entails creating a non-LVM partition to be mounted at /boot, then a Physical Volume, under which you configure three Logical Volumes. First the boot partition. Select the free space, then click Create.

If LVM is a new concept to you, please read one or two introductory articles about it here.


The boot partition is a Standard partition, so stick with the default, then click Create.


The properties you need to specify for the boot partition are the mount point (/boot), the file system type and the size. Ext4 is the default file system for all Fedora 15 partitions, and the default size is 500 MB. OK.


After the non-LVM boot partition has been configured, the next step is to initialize the disk space to be used for installing Fedora 15 for use by LVM. Initializing a disk or disk partition for use by LVM transforms it into a Physical Volume. To begin this phase, select the free space, then click Create.


Select “LVM Physical Volume,” then click Create.


For the Physical Volume I assigned half of the available disk space to it. The other half will be used for the installation of Ubuntu 11.04. Disk encryption is not configured for this tutorial, but if you want to encrypt the Fedora 15 installation, this is the step to enable it. Encrypting the Physical Volume effectively encrypts the Logical Volumes that will be configured under it. OK.


With the Physical Volume configured, the next phase involves creating a Volume Group and Logical Volumes. In LVM parlance, Logical Volumes are the equivalent of partitions. Select the Physical Volume, then click Create.


Make the right choice. Create.


Creating the Volume Group and the Logical Volumes takes place on the same window. Change the default name of the Volume Group, if you like, to something you can recall easily, then click on Add to start creating Logical Volumes. On a hard drive with a 75 GB capacity or more, Fedora’s installer configures three Logical Volumes by default. These are for /, Swap and /home. We will do the same for this tutorial. You may configure additional Logical Volumes, but for a desktop system, /, Swap and /home is all you need.

The first Logical volume configured here will be for /, the root file system directory. Change the name to something easier to handle. I like to use the spelled out name of the mount point. For the file system, use the default, which is ext4. About 6000 MB is sufficient to install the system. OK.


For Swap, about 2000 MB or 2 GB is sufficient. Since this is a Logical volume, it can be resized, if there is a need to. OK.


This Logical Volume will be mounted at /home. The properties shown in the image should be good enough for it. OK.


The Volume Group and Logical volumes have been configured. click OK to return to the main installation window.


With the Fedora 15 partitions and Logical Volumes configured, click Next to continue with the installation. Notice the free space that is unallocated in the Volume Group. That will be used to grow Logical Volumes or configure new ones, if needed.


By default, the installer will want to install GRUB, the boot loader, in the Master Boot Record of the hard disk. The setup for this tutorial calls for its installation in the boot partition of the Fedora 15 installation. To specify the preferred location, Click “Change device.”
The default here is the first option. Select the second one. OK.


This is what the GRUB configuration step should look like before continuing with the installation. Next.


After the first stage of installation has completed, rebooting the computer will, as expected, boot into Windows 7. As stated previously, the second stage will start only after an entry for Fedora 15 has been added to Windows’ boot menu. The program to use for that task is EasyBCD, a free application by NeoSmart Technologies. Download and install it just like you would any other Windows application.
After installation, start it.
This is EasyBCD’s main window, and it shows only one entry, which is for Windows 7. To add an entry for Fedora 15, click on the Add New Entry tab,


Click on the Linux/BSD tab. Fedora 15 uses GRUB Legacy, so the default is good. From the Device dropdown menu, select the entry where GRUB Legacy was installed. For this tutorial, it is /dev/sda3, the third primary partition. Click Add Entry. To view the new settings, click on Edit Boot Menu.


On the Edit Boot Menu tab, you see a preview of Windows’ boot menu. You can change the order or accept the default boot order. Exit EasyBCD, and reboot the computer.


And this is what you see when you boot the computer. boot into Fedora 15 to complete the second phase of the installation. After completing the second stage, insert the Ubuntu 11.04 installation disc and reboot.
The computer should boot into the Ubuntu CD/DVD, and give you the option to boot into a Live desktop or to start the installation, bypassing the Live environment. If you boot into the Live desktop, click on the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop to begin the installation. When the installer starts, click Forward until you get to the “Allocate drive space” step,


The computer should boot into the Ubuntu CD/DVD, and give you the option to boot into a Live desktop or to start the installation, bypassing the Live environment. If you boot into the Live desktop, click on the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop to begin the installation. When the installer starts, click Forward until you get to the “Allocate drive space” step,

On the “Allocate drive space” window, the installer presents several options. Because partitions are going to be configured manually, the option to choose here is “Something else.” That will start Ubuntu’s Advanced partitioning tool.


On the Advanced partitioning tool window, the installer presents the detected partitions. Notice the two ntfs partitions. The third partition is the boot partition of the Fedora 15 installation and /dev/sda5 is the first logical partition on the system configured for use by LVM.
Ubuntu’s desktop installer does not “understand” LVM, so as far as it is concerned, there is nothing on that partition. In other words, it does not “know” that Fedora 15 is installed on the same disk
.For Ubuntu, separate partitions for the following mount points will be configured: /boot, Swap, / and /home. Because the number of primary partitions allowed has been exhausted, they will all be logical partitions. To begin, select the free space, then click Add.


For the boot partition, a disk space of 500 MB should be more than enough. And the mount point is /boot. OK.


With the boot partition configured, select the free space, then click Add to create the next partition. Note that this step will have to be repeated for the other partitions.


Next partition will be for Swap, so select “swap area” from the “Use as” dropdown menu, and allocate a reasonable disk space to it. The default is usually 2 GB. OK.


The third partition will be for /, the root file system. File system type is ext4. It does not have to be ext4. Btrfs is another good option, but to use btrfs, the partiton layout will be slightly different. See how to install Ubuntu 11.04 on a btrfs file system for guidance. Ubuntu 11.04 recommends a minimum of 4.4 GB of disk space for installation, so the space allocated for / in this example should be more than enough. OK.


The last partition will be mounted at /home and like the rest, the file system should be ext4. Unless you have other plans, the rest of the available space should be allocated to it. OK.


All the partitions are configured. Before clicking Install Now, you need to change the location where GRUB will be installed. By default, the installer will install it in the MBR, but we need it in the boot partition of the Ubuntu installation. So, click on the “Device for boot loader installation” menu and select the entry for the boot partition – /dev/sda6.


This just to show what the window should look like before you click on Install Now. Once that is done, continue with the rest of the installation.


After installation, the system will reboot into Wiindows 7. Now, we need to add an entry for Ubuntu to the boot menu by using EasyBCD just like we did for Fedora 15. So, start EasyBCD. This screenshot shows the previous entry. Click on the Add New Entry tab..


Then on the Linux/BSD tab. Select “GRUB 2″ from the Type dropdown menu. Unlike Fedora 15, which uses GRUB Legacy, Ubuntu uses GRUB 2. You may change the name to reflect the distribution being added. Click on Add Entry.


This shows you a preview of Windows 7 boot menu. You may change the order here, and change the default.


And this is the real thing. You see this every time you boot the computer. When you try to boot into Lovelock or Natty Narwhal, you will be presented with GRUB’s menu. Note that you can use any two Linux distributions for this setup. So, you could triple-boot Windows 7, Linux Mint and Ubuntu, Windows 7, Mandriva and Linux Mint. Your choice.