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!