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The process of running Linux and Windows 11 in parallel on a computer


If you want to use Windows 11 and Linux on the same computer, the best option may be to dual boot. Here's how to set up your PC for it.

Dual boot Windows 11 and Linux

Windows 11 is widely available to all kinds of PCs, and it packs a lot of improvements from previous releases. There's a new design language that looks a lot prettier, a new Settings app, and many more goodies that came with updates like version 22H2 and version 23H2. But as good as it may be, Windows 11 isn't for everyone. What if you prefer Linux or need it for certain tasks? In this guide, we'll show how you to set up your PC so you can dual-boot into either Linux or Windows 11 whenever you want.

For this guide, we're assuming you already have Windows installed on your PC since that's the case for most people. We'll go through the necessary steps to create a partition and install Linux on it to dual-boot. So to follow along, you'll need a Windows 11 PC (though the same steps will work on Windows 10), a USB flash drive (8GB or more) for installation media, and another external storage method to back up your data in case anything goes wrong.

If you haven't yet upgraded to Windows 11, we highly recommend doing that. You can follow our guide on installing Windows 11. You can follow either of those, although a straight upgrade should be a lot easier. Once that's done, we can focus on installing Linux for dual-booting.

Preparing to dual-boot Linux

Before you do anything else, there's something you need to be aware of. Modern Windows computers come with a feature called Secure Boot, which is meant to enhance the security of your device by preventing malicious software from loading with your PC. Some Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, support Secure Boot, but many of them won't. That means you have to disable Secure Boot if you want to use Linux on your PC, and that can be a significant security risk.

To disable Secure Boot, you'll need to follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu and open the power menu in the bottom right corner. Then, hold Shift on your keyboard and click Restart. You'll be taken to a blue screen that looks somewhat like this.
    Screenshot of Windows Recovery Environment with the Troubleshoot option highlighted
  2. Here, choose Troubleshoot, followed by Advanced options.
  3. Select UEFI Firmware Settings.
    Screenshot of Advanced options in Windows Recovery Environment with UEFI Firmware Settings highlighted
  4. This will take you to your PC's BIOS settings, where you can turn off Secure Boot. Every BIOS is a little different, so you may have to look around. In the HP laptop we're using here, you can navigate to the System Configuration tab at the top and you'll find the Secure Boot option. It's set to Enabled by default, and you want to change it to Disabled.
    Screenshot of HP BIOS with Secure Boot disabled

Save the changes and restart the computer to follow the rest of the process. If you ever stop using Linux, you can enable Secure Boot again by following the same steps.

If your PC is ready to boot Linux, you'll need to have a USB drive that you can install Linux from. To turn your flash drive into installation media, everything on it will be erased, so make sure you've backed up anything you might need.

  1. Find and download the Linux distribution (distro) you want to use. There are a lot of them out there, but for this guide, we'll be using Ubuntu. Once you've completed the download, you should have a file with the ISO file extension.
  2. Next, you'll need a tool that creates bootable USB drives from ISO files. You can download Rufus for this purpose.
  3. Run Rufus and insert the flash drive you want to use as installation media. Then, click Select and choose the ISO file you downloaded. All the options will be filled in automatically.
    Screenshot of Rufus using the default settings for creating an Ubuntu ISO
  4. Click Start, then click OK in the prompt that shows up. Let the process run its course and you'll have created installation media for Linux.

Creating a partition to dual-boot Linux

Next, you'll need to create a second partition on your drive for Linux. Partitions are like virtual divisions of a hard drive that are marked as different disks. For general use, partitions don't have much of a purpose, but you do need them for dual-booting. Here's how to create one.

  1. Right-click your Start menu icon (or press Windows key + X on your keyboard) and choose Disk Management. You'll see a list of your drives and partitions that should look something like this.
    Screenshot of disk management in Windows 11
  2. Right-click your primary partition (it should be the one labeled as C:) and choose Shrink Volume...
  3. Specify the amount of space you want to remove from the partition. This will be limited by the files you already have stored on it, and the amount you enter will be the space you have for your Linux installation.

    You'll want at least a couple dozen gigabytes (multiply by 1024 for MB) for it to function properly, but you can go as high as you see fit. Just make sure you have enough space on both Windows and Linux partitions.

  4. The space you chose will be deducted from your partition, and it will be listed as unallocated space in the Disk Management window. You can leave it as is and close the window.

Installing Linux to dual-boot with Windows 11

Now you have the two main pieces of the puzzle, you're ready to install Linux on your empty partition. If you removed the USB installation media from your PC, insert it again (remove other flash drives), then follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu and then click the power button and — while holding Shift on your keyboard — click Restart.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 Start menu with the Restart option highlighted
  2. You'll be given a series of boot options. Click Use a device, then choose the USB flash drive you have inserted and your PC will boot from it.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 recovery environment showing the option to use a USB device for startup
  3. You'll now be in the Ubuntu boot menu. Press Enter to boot into Ubuntu.
  4. Ubuntu and other Linux operating systems let you try it out by booting from the USB drive without installing it. To install Linux on your empty partition, click Install Ubuntu.
    Screenshot of the Ubuntu installer with the option to install Ubuntu highlighted
  5. Follow the setup experience by choosing your keyboard layout and connecting to Wi-Fi (optional). Choose your preferred options until you get to this page.
    Screenshot of Ubuntu installer with the option to install Ubuntu alongside Windows highlighted
  6. Here, you'll want to choose the first option that's chosen by default, at least if you want the easiest way to do things. This will install Ubuntu on the unallocated space you created before, leaving your Windows installation intact.
  7. From here, it's mostly trivial stuff. Choose your region and set up your Ubuntu profile and the installation will begin. Once it's done, you'll be able to boot into Ubuntu without your USB flash drive.

Switching between Windows 11 and Linux

Once Linux is installed on your PC, you should be given the option to boot into it right away, but that might not happen. If your Windows partition is set as the priority in your BIOS settings, you may constantly boot into Windows instead. The behavior will vary depending on your computer, so you may not need to do anything.

If you do find yourself stuck in Windows 11 though, here's what you can do:

  1. Open the Start menu and hold Shift on your keyboard as you click Restart.
  2. Click Troubleshoot and then Advanced options.
    Screenshot of Windows Recovery Environment with the Troubleshoot option highlighted
  3. Here, choose UEFI Firmware settings.
    Screenshot of Advanced options in Windows Recovery Environment with UEFI Firmware Settings highlighted
  4. You may need to press one of the function keys to open the BIOS setup. Once you're there, the process will vary depending on what PC you have. We're looking for options related to booting. On the HP laptop we're using here, you can find Boot options in the System Configuration tab.
  5. Find an option related to boot order (UEFI Boot Order, in our example) and make sure the Linux drive is on top of the Windows drive. In our example, we have to select the OS Boot Manager option, then use the F5/F6 keys to move Ubuntu to the top. Again, the process may vary by laptop, but the same principle should apply to any device.
    Screenshot of BIOS settings showing Ubuntu as the first option in the OS Boot Manager
  6. Exit and save the changes. After a restart, you should see the Linux boot menu, which lets you continue into your Linux distribution or boot into Windows. You'll see this menu every time you restart your computer so you can always choose your preferred boot option.
    Screenshot of Ubuntu Boot Manager with options to boot into Ubuntu or Windows

That's how you can dual-boot Windows 11 and Linux side-by-side. Dual-booting isn't a perfectly elegant solution, but it's the most viable way to have two operating systems that you plan on using regularly. Keep in mind you may need to find a way to transfer files between the two operating systems, such as by using a flash drive or cloud storage. It's not always possible to access the files on another operating system's boot drive, so it might require a workaround.

If you ever want to go back to using just Windows 11, you can always use Disk Management to delete the partition you created and expand your main partition to take up the whole space. Otherwise, you can use GParted on Linux to delete the Windows partition instead. Either way, make sure to back up your data before doing that.

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