Dual booting Guide

Setting up two operating systems on a hard drive is very common. People who want to gain experience with one operating system without sacrificing functionality choose to have both OS and can switch from one to the other as the computer boots up. For example, someone might want to learn how the open-source Linux operating systems work but still want a Windows OS for word processing applications or browsing the web etc. Another good example is the Mac OS not supporting the Adobe software and someone might want to use Linux or Windows OS in conjunction with their Mac OS to make up for this shortcoming. This guide will provide the instructions for setting up two operating systems on one hard drive.

Make Sure You Have Enough Room

Begin by checking the available hard drive space on your current drive. This is accomplished by double clicking the My Computer icon for Windows XP users and click once on the hard drive and at the bottom of the screen, it shows how much space is available on th drive. For Windows Vista or Windows 7 users, click the Windows orb and choose “Computer.” You should see an image similar to the one below. I drew a red box around the area to check for the hard drive size and space still available.

Checking the available hard drive space

I recommend having at least 50 GB of free space if you want to install another operating system on your hard drive. Even though the operating system itself does not require that much space (the 64-bit Windows 7 version requires 20 GB of free space) you’ll want plenty of extra room for saving files and installing programs.

Using Linux with Windows or Mac

If you want to install a Linux OS with either Windows or Mac OS, I recommend installing the Windows or Mac software first, and then proceed with the Linux installation. Linux developers had dual booting in mind when they created the installation software and assumed users already had another primary operating system on their hard drive. For this reason, they simplified the process to enable the Linux system to easily be added with another OS already present. The image below shows the many ways to install Linux with another operating system.

Linux installation options

You can also choose how much hard drive space to allocate for each operating system during the Linux install process. For example, if you have a 500 GB hard drive and want to only allow the Linux OS to use 200 GB, you can set this up during the installation process. However, if you elect to install the Linux OS first before the Windows OS, the process is not as simple. The Windows OS tries to install over the Linux partition and causes problems. In other words, you must manually configure the partition before you install the Windows OS.


Installing multiple operating systems is really a good idea. It provides functionality and access to all the latest features of the operating systems. It is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new system while still maintaining your comfort zone. Enjoy the added benefits of dual booting!

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