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Dual boot of two linux distributions


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Once you're done installing the second OS, you'll see that it has its own /boot partition that contains its own boot loader on the root partition, not MBR. In other words, the second (and subsequent) operating systems will only have their boot loader in their own /boot partitions. Use the UID and GUID for the users on both Linux distros

they'll all depend on the first operating system's boot loader in the MBR to get things started.

Popular distributions of Linux will see that there is already a version of Linux installed, and will use the existing swap
partition instead of creating a second one.

Dual boot with two Linux distributions

Written by Guillermo Garron
Date: 2012-12-29 12:52:35 00:00

I am re-writing this how-to, as the original written back in 2007 still gets some visits. People come here looking how to install two Linux distributions on a PC and dual boot them.

That is really easy, the added bonus on this post is that I will also show you, how to share the /home partition so that the user may have access to its documents on both distributions.

Originally this posts was using Debian Etch and Mandriva as examples. I will try to make it more a general tutorial, so it can be used to dual boot, Debian and Ubuntu, Debian and Arch, Ubuntu and Arch or any combinations you may like.

Here are the main considerations you have to take into account:

You can also have a Dual boot PC with the same Distro, just to have one for experimenting and the second for your stable work.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Have both Linux distributions share /home partition
  2. Have each distribution with its own /home, and have a third partition to share documents.

The former may have problems with Gnome, KDE or any DE you are using, as they save its configurations files in your home folder. And that may lead to problems. I recommend the latter, but the former may work, specially if you are dual booting two Linux which are very similar, like two Debian versions, or if the two Linux distribution are using different DEs. Test them at your own risk.

Dual boot with two Linux distribution

1. Install the first distribution

When installing the first distribution take care of these points.

Create partition scheme for dual boot Linux

You can use GParted

First create an extended partition in the whole disk, then create four logical partitions, using this scheme.

Install both Linux distributions

Install the first Linux distribution and let it install grub2 on Mater boot record (MBR), be sure to choose manual creation of partitions when asked, and mount / (root), swap, and /sharing partitions. When asked to create the user create a temporal user, something like (admin).

Now install the second distribution, this time do not install grub at all, and once again choose manually edit the disk, and be sure to mount / (root), swap and /sharing. /sharing and swap are the same /sharing and swap as with the first distribution, but / (root) should be different for both distributions.

Create the common user

We now will create the user or users who will share data between distributions. First think is to create a group in both distributions.

Choose a GID (group ID that is not in use, you can check that by reading the actual group list)

cat /etc/group

Something like 2000 will be safe.

groupadd sharedusers -g 2000

You will have to be root to run that command. Do the same in both distributions.

To create the users run this, as root:

useradd -m -u 2000 -g sharedusers -s /bin/bash [your_user_here]

Do this also in both distributions, use the same username, and be sure that UID 2000 is not used by doing cat /etc/passwd, if used, choose another number.

You can then add the group sharedusers to sudo.

Create the shared folder

Now with one of the distributions and as root run this:

mkdir /sharing/documents
chown [your_user_name]:sharedusers -R /sharing/documents

That is it. You can now save files in /sharing/documents/ and they will be accessible by your user on both distributions.

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Dual boot 2 or 3 different Linux distributions on a laptop

A. Yes you can dual boot 2-3 distribution on a Laptop. You don't need a special program. Linux boot loader GRUB can be used for the same. However you need to create more partitions to store data for each distro. I recommend a special software program such as VMWARE workstation which can be downloaded (a trial version) and used to install and boot different Linux distribution without creating and managing hard disk partitions. You need at least 1 GB RAM and 20 GB hard disk space to test different Linux distributions under VMWARE.

5.1 I hit the wrong button. Now my second OS's boot loader is in the MBR. How do I get my first OS's
boot loader back into the MBR?

The short answer is to use GRUB in interactive mode and manually issue commands that will rewrite the MBR the way
you want it. Note that this process is writing to your Master Boot Record. A mistake will likely mean that you won't be able to
boot your machine.
The long answer is as follows:
1. See the "Installation" topic of the GRUB info file. Type "info grub" in a terminal window. Read it. Twice.
2. Back up your MBR
dd if=/dev/hda of=/some/file/name bs=512 count=1
3. Make a boot floppy as well.
4. Log in as root, open a terminal window, and type "GRUB" in that window. You'll get a prompt like so:
5. Enter the commands similar to the following - you'll need to change the values inside the parens according to how your
hard disk is set up.
grub> root (hd0,0)
grub> setup (hd0,0)
grub> quit
A sample display of what you'll see in your terminal window is shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10. Writing to the MBR through the interactive use of GRUB.
6. After the quit command, you'll be back at a regular prompt in the terminal window. Next time you reboot (or restart)
your machine, the MBR should be back where you wanted it.

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