Dual booting with Windows 8, not as painful as expected.

Over the last several months I've gone through a few different computers. Some of them had severe hardware flaws, such as the wretched track pad on the HP Envy, or the critically flawed WiFi on an Asus that wouldn't allow me to connect to certain secure networks. The HP Envy came with dual one terabyte hard drives, and my intention was to use one drive for +openSUSE and the other for Windows. I ultimately managed to trash the machine, and sent it back since I was unhappy with the way some of its hardware was anyway (yes, the trackpad was that awful). For many years I've been running openSUSE exclusively, and finally decided on dual boot since I wanted to play some of the amazing games I've seen. At last I settled on an excellent balance of hardware in my +Sony Vaio Fit 15.

After having trashed the HP before, and reading various horror stories I was reluctant to dive right into attempting a dual boot again. This reluctance seems to have been unjustified. Fact of the matter was in my previous attempts I was trying to preempt potential problems, and wound up creating problems I would likely not have had otherwise.

The skinny of the matter is that under the hood, there are massive technical differences when dual booting a system using UEFI and GPT as compared to the familiar BIOS and MBR. However, to the average user the process of installation is about as straightforward as ever. In fact, there are only a few exceptions assuming your UEFI machine isn't buggy.

  • If you are attempting to install to two drives, that is using one for Windows and one for Linux you will have to have the Linux /boot partition on the primary drive where the Windows installation resides.
  • You will almost certainly need to shrink the Windows volume from within Windows in order to create free space for your Linux partitions. To do this effectively you will have to defrag, and then reboot. Once your system has rebooted you can shrink to a respectable size, if you try it before the shrink will be restricted by temporary files. You may like to use Perfectdisk to defrag the volume with it's special 'prep for shrink' algorithm.
  • Everything should go as expected... until you boot into Windows again. Once you do that, Windows will most likely reassert it's own boot loader. The good news with Win 8 is that it does not actually overwrite GRUB as previously would happen (yes, technically this means Win 8 is friendlier for dualboot than previous Windows versions). The following tells Windows to use GRUB as the bootloader instead of it's own.
    • Type 'cmd' to search for the Shell. Right click and launch as administrator.
    • Enter without the quotes "bcdedit /set {bootmgr} path \EFI\opensuse\shim.efi"
Any other problems are going to be specific to your hardware or OEM.

Special thanks to nrickert from the openSUSE forums.


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