Can Windows Install after Linux

A friend has asked me a question:

I’ve just bought a new computer. I can use my university’s site licence for Windows, so I bought a computer that didn’t have Windows pre-installed. It has Linux. The computer shop have told me that to have both OS’s, I needed to have installed Windows first, so I now need to re-format the hard drive and install Windows, then install Linux. Is this definitely correct, or is it possible to install Windows after Linux?

The following is my answer. If any techie people have a better answer that is not techie to do I would be interested, so would my friend.

Your chap is almost correct. He is if you do not want to get complicated. The reason is that if you install Linux first, Windows will then write over the Linux boot loader (the bit that loads the operating system, the OS). It is designed to do this as it always wants to wipe out any competing OS.

One solution that some people use is to install a third party boot loader then it is possible to install many different operating systems on the machine. It is not complicated but you will have to Google for the how-to. Might not be easy after the Linux install. It is a long time since I mucked about with boot loaders.

The simple and usual way is to install Windows first then Linux. This is what your chap will have been thinking about. You do not need to reformat if the Windows installation disk sees all of your hard drive (Windows can often NOT see the file format used by Linux so it may think most of your disk has disappeared), try it and see. Be warned, Windows has now started to put too many partitions on computers to hinder easy installation of Linux alongside (I heard the CEO threw a chair through a window at the mention of Linux before W7 came out). This may become a problem after you install Windows. See for instructions on dealing with the extra partitions.

If the above does not work, do the following (this will wipe you existing Linux system for now – yes there are other techie ways of doing it that are tidier, but they can be complicated):

Put in a live Linux cd and boot from that. Use the partition manager (Gparted) to divide the HDD, and make a space big enough for Windows. Make the file system in that partition NTFS.

Close the machine down and boot up with the Windows installation disk in. Install Windows – it will put itself on the NTFS partition you created. It will create the boot system it needs.

When Windows installation is all finished you can install the Linux of your choice using an installation cd that you can download and burn. You could put the original Linux brand back on, or another (as you know I use Ubuntu, but Fedora is very good too). This Linux installation will install the boot loader that will give you an option of Windows or Linux when you start up.

A duel-boot system is ideal. The Windows side for using specialist software, the Linux side for a clean, secure (no viruses) and fast every day use.

4 thoughts on “Can Windows Install after Linux

  1. Unfortunately my “everyday use” is using “specialist software”. Linux will be reserved for chatting on Skype in the evening and browsing, though if I discover the right software I may use it for memory-heavy tasks like performing regex find/replace operations on large files.

    The Linux installation after Windows even easier than what you say here. I went to the Linux website, and they have a Windows Installer for Linux! You just run the installer and it installs it all for you. I tried it on my netbook, which already had Windows on it. I don’t think it actually partitions your drive: I just have a folder on my D drive called “Ubuntu”.

    • Yes you are right Tim you can use Linux inside Windows with a utility called Wubi. I have used it before but it runs slower and on a laptop I found that it did not discover all the hardware in the machine such as wireless, Bluetooth, etc. I don’t think of Wubi as a proper install, but it is good for trying out Linux.

  2. Or you can install Windows after Linux, then boot from a Linux livecd and run grub-install in a terminal, it will reinstall the boot-loader without going through the hassle of installing a whole Linux from scratch again (and loosing all your stuffs from your previous install). Is that what you refer as techie?? đŸ™‚

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