Dual booting Windows 8 Consumer Preview with ArchBang Linux.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview?

I may have prematurely dissed the idea of installing the recently released Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I’ve had the Win 8 Developer Preview running on our Linux distro/”other OS” -testbed (it once even ran Android) Acer Aspire One netbook, and in fact it has been a decent user experience so far — yes, first thing I tweaked on the developer version was to rid the Metro UI and revert to the basic Win 7 start menu. On the netbook, Windows 8 Developer actually felt light and agile, with boot times of ~30-40 sec, i.e. close to your generic Linux distro, and application load times were relatively quick. But I really wasn’t a fan of Metro UI.

So, the Aspire One didn’t really need a new(er) version of Windows 8, the wife was happy with it as is. And as the saying goes, happy wife, happy life. So why mess with it?

Yet, what the Acer really needed was to get back to the Linux-way. Since I have veered off the path of Arch Linux’s KISS-principle (shame on me!) and used Linux Mint 12 as the primary Linux distro, it was time to get back to the very basics, but with a twist of minor convenience.

In the past, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Arch Linux. It can be an extremely stable and the fastest, leanest and meanest distro you’ll ever come across. Yet it can also be quite the opposite, all dependent on how much work and effort you are willing to put in setup, maintenance and upkeep.

Enter ArchBang.

ArchBang is the sort of meet-me-half-way option. It is still lightning fast, but from the get-go, it’s designed to be noob(ish) friendly. It is still all Arch Linux, don’t get me wrong, but more like Arch on a sunny morning, with a good cup of joe in hand, wearing those fuzzy bunny flip flops; not the hungover, bat-sh!t-crazy-Arch. What you give up on ArchBang is the ultimate build-your-box-from ground-up customization of base-Arch Linux, but what you gain is a few less gray hairs and few less hours reading the Arch wiki — which I might add, is by far the best and most comprehensive Linux wiki ever put together in the history of, well, Linux.

So how to put these two OS’s from the opposite ends of the OS spectrum on a poor, old, innocent first generation netbook?

Here’s how.

This all assumes you are coming from a Windows 7; in case you are already Linux-ing, you probably know already all this. Mac OS X? I’m sorry ūüôā

1. To install Windows 8 and ArchBang on USB-drives, first download ‘Unetbootin’ for Windows. It is — naturally — available on Ubuntu/Debian with a terminal command ¬†‘sudo apt-get install unetbootin’, or on Arch, ‘sudo pacman -S unet…’ ah, nevermind…

2. Partition your hard drive for the dual OS installation. ¬†Give ArchBang at least 5-7GB of space (don’t forget to leave enough for swap memory), that way you’re not running into a full partition right away. You can also use ‘Gparted‘ from a live CD/USB, or even a light Linux distro on a USB-drive, such as Puppy Linux, to do the drive partitioning. I can vouch for Puppy, it probably is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Every time I use Puppy, I wonder why don’t I just dump all the rest and use it as my main distro… hmmm….

3. Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO

4. Download ArchBang ISO. The ‘i686’ ISO is for 32-bit CPU architecture I have on my netbook; if you have a 64-bit system, by all means get the x86_64.

5. Install Windows 8. Have your USB-drive connected, and power up your computer. While the BIOS is loading, change the boot device order (by pressing F2, F8, F12 etc, depending on your particular system), and choose USB flash drive. From there on the installation should be self-explanatory. You may opt for a clean installation, where all your Windows 7 data will be erased (back up all important files!), or you can “upgrade” to Windows 8, where all your data will be saved for your Windows 8 experience.

[If you happen to have an Acer Aspire One like me, or a similar Atom-powered notebook with an integrated video accelerator, you’ll probably need a graphics driver for it. Otherwise you’ll be stuck on 800×600 screen resolution.]

6. Install ArchBang. The installer is pretty much self explanatory, except for a few points:

  • Since you will be dual-booting with Windows, it is advisable to set your system clock to “local time”. Otherwise you may experience glitches along the way.
  • Your Windows 8 will occupy sda1 and -2 partitions of your hard drive (assuming you don’t have something in addition to Windows and Arch). Use the manual partitioning tool on the installer to create a ‘primary’ partition for Arch, preferably at least 5GB, ¬†but hopefully you’ll have more, maybe 10-15GB available. Leave 2-3GB for Linux ‘swap’. Swap partition will allow you to suspend operations and resume them quickly, instead of having to shutdown the computer. Swap is also used for giving RAM some extra space to work with when having multiple applications running simultaneously, thus maintaining adequate performance even on a old and feeble Linux box.
  • Set your root (‘ / ‘) directory for sda3 (this is where the OS resides) ¬†and ‘swap’ for sda4. You can do your own research on the different filesystems, but to keep things simple choose ext3 or ext4 for the root directory. You could choose to partition your hard drive so that you can have ‘root’, ‘boot’, ‘home’, ‘var’ etc directories on separate partitions (resulting in sda1,-2,-3,-4,-5,-6 etc) — this gives you redundancy for example if you have one partition corrupted, or you need to reinstall the OS — but I’m keeping this simple today and slapping all the directories on sda3.
  • You can skip the “configure system” part on the installer, which makes ArchBang more noob friendly; though this part is really key to learning how Arch, and Linux in general, works. But again, we’re trying to make life easy for our ArchBang installation.
  • Now to the really important part:
    • install bootloader
    • configure the menu.lst file (found in ‘/boot/grub/menu.lst’). Find the section with ‘ # (2) Optional entry for system on sda1’; edit the section so it’ll read
      • title Windows 8 ¬† — (can be whatever you like); note, no ‘ # ‘ in front of the entry
      • rootnoverify ¬† –note,¬†no ‘ # ‘ in front of the entry
      • makeactive¬†¬† –note,¬†no ‘ # ‘ in front of the entry
      • chainloader +1¬†¬† –note,¬†no ‘ # ‘ in front of the entry
    • install GRUB on to sda partition (this overwrites Windows’ boot manager, and allows GRUB to handle the boot process)
7. Reboot and enjoy.

 

 

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