Linux for n00bs: Prepare Your Hard Drive

 In Linux, Linux for n00bs, software, Ubuntu

ubuntulogoFor the next part of our “Linux for n00bs” series, you’re going to be preparing your hard drive to install Linux. I may be taking a big leap here, but if you’ve been successful so far with burning the Ubuntu Install CD, you’re probably also familiar with the term “hard drive.”

Usually, on any given computer hard drive, the data is divided up into one or more sections, called partitions. Windows usually assigns these partitions their own drive letter. So, if you had two partitions, it might look like you have two drives, when physically, you only have one. It’s important to know your computer’s drive configuration and number of drives.

Continue reading the Linux for n00bs Prepare Your Hard Drive guide (click the “More” link to make the jump to the full post)…

If you’re in Windows, right-click on “My Computer” (“Computer” for Vista users) and choose “Manage.” When the Management Console comes up, on the left, choose “Disk Management.” You’ll see a screen like this one below, possibly a little variance depending on whether you’re in Vista or XP.


You’ll notice I only have two drives, one is my CD-ROM drive and the other is my primary hard drive. It has 40 gigabytes of space, but I only want to use about 10 gigabytes of that for installing Linux.

If this screen shows you have two hard drives in the lower section, you may not even need to partition your hard drive. However, you may want to move any files off your secondary drive to your Windows drive if you intend to install Linux to it. If you don’t care about ever using Windows again (this is a permanent change!) you want to make sure your important documents and files are all backed up to a CD or a usb flash drive or external hard drive. Otherwise, continue on to learn how to re-size your existing Windows install to make room for Linux.

In the lower section of this screen, find your hard drive to which you’d like to install linux. XP no longer seems to have a partition resize function (although I could swear their used to be one) but if you’re on Vista, you can right-click on that drive and choose “Shrink Volume.”


Windows should query the disk management service to see how much room is available for shrinking. Windows is actually smart enough to know you might need more space than what is in use to continue running Windows smoothly, so this estimate should not match the entirety of your free space. For example, this is what mine says:


So I have almost 10 gigabytes available for installing Linux, which should be fine. The Ubuntu System Requirements read as follows:

“Ubuntu is available for PC, 64-Bit PC and Intel based Mac architectures. At least 256 MB of RAM is required to run the alternate install CD (384MB of RAM is required to use the live CD based installer). Install requires at least 4 GB of disk space.”

Set “Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB” to the amount you’d like to set. It’s in megabytes, so to set 10 gigs you’d put 10000, to set 40 gigs you’d put 40000 and so on and so forth. When you’ve settled on the amount, click “Shrink.” This process can take a very long time, so you may want to go get a sandwich, a beer, or watch a movie.


With any luck, you should now have one partition and some space marked “Unallocated.”

For XP users or Vista users who don’t want to use the built-in manager you can check out gParted, a bootable linux-CD that lets you manage partitions. You’ll have to download the ISO file (just like you did with your Ubuntu CD), and then burn it to a blank CD. Put it in your CD drive, reboot, and if your computer has a boot menu option (usually a function key like F9 or F12) press that and boot from CD.

There’s a good guide to using Gparted here. Follow those directions to resize your Windows partition to make room for a new Linux installation.

And finally, if you have any question on how to do any of the above, leave a comment and I’ll try to offer help as much as I can!

Linux for n00bs: Part 1 – Prerequisites | Linux for n00bs: Part 3 – Installing Ubuntu

Hi, I'm Zöe. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, please feel free to leave a comment below.
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