Dual-Boot Windows 7 and Linux Mint 13 on a T61 ThinkPad

I’ve finally joined the ranks of the dual-booters. I use Windows 7 as my primary environment for web-deployed application development (deployed on FreeBSD), but it seems some things are just done more efficiently in a Linux environment (such as converting an svn repo to Git using svn2git).

I had been using separate Linux and Windows laptops due to concerns over the reliability of the Linux NTFS driver, but after months of swapping an external NTFS USB drive back and forth between Windows systems and Linux systems without trouble, I decided to make the plunge (having my HP dv9000 Windows laptop die a premature death was an added incentive).

Here’s the basic procedure I followed:

1. Perform a new Windows 7 install. Windows recognized all the hardware in the T61 out of the box, which was a nice surprise (I had expected I would need to install the Ethernet adapter myself, and had downloaded it from Lenovo’s website in anticipation). I used a Windows 7 upgrade (which required installing WinXP first) which resulted in a single NTFS partition on the drive. After activating Windows, I spent the rest of the night updating Windows.

2. Install the Lenovo ThinkVantage System Update utility and use it to download and install all recommended drivers and utilities. Painless.

4. Install Firefox and configure Sync (to keep Firefox bookmarks/etc synchronized with my work desktop, my PortableApps USB drive, and the home family PC).

5. Compress the drive using Windows (I compressed it by 100G, which will be more than enough for Linux Mint, especially as all my development files will be kept on the NTFS partition).

6. Boot Linux Mint XFCE from the distribution DVD and install “Alongside Windows” (it’s not well documented, but if the Linux Mint installer finds enough unused space on the drive, it will create a new partition for the unused space and then install Linux Mint into it). The installer will also replace the Windows bootloader with GRUB, and although I had read recommendations against this, I haven’t had any problems.

5. Boot into Linux Mint and update the system. Edit /etc/default/grub to make Windows the default OS at boot (and as instructed, run grub-update afterwards to rebuild /etc/grub.cfg). Edit /etc/fstab to mount the Windows partition at boot so KeePassX can access my password database on the Windows partition without me first having to mount the partition (but instead of editing /etc/fstab directly, I used pysmb).

7. Configure Firefox Sync in Linux Mint.

8. Install git, gitk, and svn2git following this Nine Productions post.

The only thing I don’t know is why I didn’t do this sooner!

2 thoughts on “Dual-Boot Windows 7 and Linux Mint 13 on a T61 ThinkPad”

  1. I appreciate this post as I am planning to do this very same thing soon, also on a Lenovo T61. Now that you’ve had this running 10 days, have you run into any additional issues? Have you hardened your system? Any additional tips?
    I fully admit that I am a Linux newb, but please don’t hold this against me.

  2. The only real issue I’ve had since initial setup was finding Windows Backup couldn’t find a couple directories in a new Library I created, and Windows Update stopped working. I found similar problems reported on the web attributed to the hard-drive driver, but I couldn’t find a driver update and solved the issue switching the “SATA drive mode” in the T61′s BIOS from “AHCI” to “Compatibility”.

    Before starting on the dual-boot setup, I replaced the original 80G drive in the T61 with a 500G drive (Hitachi HTS725050A7E630), and noted the “SATA drive mode” in the BIOS was set to “Compatibility”. After installing Win7, I switched the “SATA drive mode” to “AHCI” (it’s “better”, but I don’t remember why), but first had to run a Microsoft FixIt utility so that the Windows AHCI driver is loaded at boot, otherwise the drive wasn’t recognized (another well-reported issue). It took some researching, but I found the Windows Backup and Update issues were caused by the Windows Indexing service not running, which was mostly likely caused by the an issue in the hard drive driver. Windows reported the driver was up to date, and Hitachi didn’t have an updated driver on their website anyway, so I solved the issue by switching the SATA drive mode in the BIOS back to “Compatibility”.

    The only other issue I had, and it’s not really an issue at all, is that I had loaded all available updates through ThinkVantage Update and later regretted it. The Access Manager Toolbar bundles wireless access points into “Locations” (reportedly to simplify moving from one conference room to another within the same “Location”), but I found it too complicated for my needs. Likewise the Battery/Power-Management Toolbar. In hindsight, perhaps I should have loaded just the drivers initially using ThinkVantage and saved ToolBars and other applications for later if needed.

    P.S. If you’re watching for updates, I’d appreciate hearing if you’re a real person (or a nicely crafted spam-bot scraping my post for just enough relevant content to seem real).

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