Dual Boot with Linux on a Windows Vista laptop

Current versions of Google Chrome and Firefox don’t install on Windows Vista any more, so what can you do?

The answer is to set your machine up as a dual boot with Linux. That way you can install the latest Firefox and Google Chrome!

These instructions will work for any version of Ubuntu or Ubuntu based distro. OS Elementary Luna will still work if you have an old laptop and want to dual boot with Linux. This post is a bit out of date as Luna was based on the now discontinued Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

The version of Linux I am using to update this blog is Ubuntu Mate 18.04 Bionic Beaver. I recommend that for a laptop with 1gig of RAM

Dual Boot OS ELementary Luna  or Ubuntu Mate 18.04 on a Windows Vista laptop.

Before you begin…..

Make a set of “System Restore” CDs if you have not already done so.

Warning: if you purchased a laptop, it will have a pre-installed version of Windows on the HD, which you have to activate using a serial number which is on a sticker on the underside of the machine. This pre-installed version of Windows is known as an “OEM” (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version. The Windows installer CD supplied with the machine, if there is one in the box, cannot re-install this OEM version of Windows: if you wipe out Windows by mistake you can only re-instate Windows using the Restore CDs supplied with the machine, or the Restore CDs you made yourself.

The Windows installer CD can be used to install Windows in an emergency, but you will not be able to activate Windows because the serial number on the bottom of the machine will only work with the OEM version pre-installed on the HD. This CD can however be used to repair your boot block, so don’t throw it away.

If you do not have a set of Windows Restore CDs for your laptop do not proceed any further with this project until you have made them.

So here we go…..

Dual Boot with Linux on a Windows Vista laptop


New installation of OS Elementary on 12gig partition.

This is the Procedure I followed:

On the windows side of the machine:

1. Downloaded and burned CD of iso image of OS Elementary Luna 64bit.
2. Downloaded and installed EASUS partition manager (freeware)
3. Used EASUS partition manager to erase the “D:Data” partition.
4. Used EASUS partition manager to merge the “D” partition with the “C”
partion, making one partition.

5. Re-boot the machine. Used F2 key during POST to enter BIOS, changed boot order to make the CD boot first.
6. Booted from the CD
7. On the top right, connected to WiFi, entering password.
8. Now online. Updates while installing.
9. Clicked “install OS Elementary”
10. Chose “install alongside existing operating system”
11. Used the slider to make the partition for installation 12Gig.
12. Ran the installer.

This went okay, and the CD popped out of the tray when the installer had finished.

13. Reboot. Entered BIOS during POST again and changed boot priority back to the hard drive.
14. Rebooted into OS Elementary.

Alternative method

Download and install Rufus, write the ISO image to the USB stick and boot the machine from that.

Now on the Linux side of the machine.

To avoid crashes do this immediately after installing:

Open a terminal

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

The “Dock” at the bottom of the screen is called the “Plank” in OS Elementary.

Hot tip: you can add applications to the dock by right-clinking on them when they are running and selecting “keep in dock”.

Lion Theme

The “Tweak” application is used to change themes. It will be in the System Settings pane after you enter the following commands in the terminal.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:versable/elementary-update
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install elementary-tweaks
sudo apt-get install elementary-lion-theme

To be installed

Ubuntu One was a facility like dropbox which stored your files onto an internet “cloud”.  It has been discontinued.


This method of installation has to be taken, because WUBI is not available for OS Elementary Luna. Of all the methods, WUBI is the least dangerous to your Windows installation. The method of using EASUS partition manager to erase the partition and have the OS Elementary Luna installer reinstate it is more fool proof than any other method I have tried. If you decide you don’t like OS Elementary, go back to EASUS on the Windows side, and erase the partition in re-format it for NTFS naming it “DATA”.  Your machine will then be back as it was before the operation.

Hot tip:#1 the “EasyBCD” program (freeware) will remove the GRUB menu from your machine. If you cannot boot into Windows, boot from a Windows install CD, and choose “repair”.

Hot tip#2 Install OS Elementary Luna on a 4 gig USB stick and using the Software Centre add Gparted to the installed apps. It is easier to boot the machine from the USB stick and use the Linux Gparted program than freeware Window utilities which do the same thing.

Hot tip#3 Install the “Grub customizer” program, and set Vista as the default operating system in case you delete (or bomb) your Linux partition.

Hot tip#4 If you get a “grub rescue ” prompt after deleting your Linux partition, it is because you failed to observe Hot tip#3 above!

Hot tip#5 If you nevertheless get a “grub rescue” prompt, type CTRL-ALT-DEL, enter the BIOS during POST (Power on self-test), usually by pressing an f2 or f12 key, but it may be something else (see your machine’s instruction book). Set the machine to boot from your windows install CD (if you have one).  Open a command prompt, and type

Bootrec /FixMbr

For more information see Microsoft’s official site How to use Bootrec

Hot tip#6 If your machine has 1 gig of RAM (or less) use Gparted to create a Linux Swap partition which is the same size as the RAM in your machine. Eg 1gig swap file for 1 gig machine. If you have 4 gigs of RAM, you don’t need a swap file, but having one does no harm. A swap file is created automatically if you choose the option “install alongside vista”. However, if you choose “something else”, then no swapfile will be created. This only affects 1gig or smaller machines.

Once you have installed Ubuntu Mate, go to

Menu >System Tools>MATE System Monitor.

This will tell you how much swap space is being used. I think if you set no swap partition at all, you may get a freeze up.