I started dual booting Windows 10 and Linux Mint back in January. Everything worked fine until a couple of days ago, when Windows decided it no longer wanted to boot up. The auto recovery routine couldn’t fix it. I can only assume the last Microsoft update whacked my system.
If I wanted to spend the time and the money for one third-party utility or another, I probably could have restored Windows 10 enough to boot into it. The standard Windows utilities failed because system files were corrupted or missing. An update probably caused it the last time I let my computer boot into Windows. It couldn’t have been me because I didn’t do anything.
I rarely use Windows and only for something that absolutely won’t work in Linux. That was the original reason for dual booting. In fact, I now use XnView MP on Linux Mint instead of Irfanview on Windows (or using Wine). The last time I used it, last month sometime, it was because a website wouldn’t let me upload credentials using Chrome on Linux. It let me do it using Chrome on Windows. Go figure.
I backed up everything I needed to back up from my Linux partition. There wasn’t anything I needed from the Windows partition. My first attempt was to wipe out everything on the drive and install Linux Mint 19 and then install Windows 10 on a virtual drive. That didn’t work so well. The second and last attempt was to wipe out everything on the drive, reinstall Windows 10 and then reinstall Linux Mint 19 alongside it.
If I rarely use Windows, the best thing would be to install it as a virtual drive. That’s even the advice given in this article at MakeUseOf and I spent considerable time preparing for it. Because I was using Linux, the link to download Windows 10 redirected me to a page to download a full installation image.
As a precaution, I obtained the Windows product key from my system using this command line command:
sudo cat /sys/firmware/acpi/tables/MSDM | tail -c 32 | xargs -0 echo
I installed Virtualbox and then created a Windows 10 virtual drive. Sure enough, it asked for the product key. Everything worked when it was all done, although very sluggishly. When it came time to activate Windows, I couldn’t. Microsoft treats a virtual drive as another installation of the same product key. Oh, well, dual booting was a better idea anyway given my limited memory (4 GB).
Using Rufus on the sluggish virtual Windows drive, I burned the Windows ISO image to a USB flash drive. I opted to create it without the secure boot function. (I also disabled secure boot on my laptop.)
When I installed Windows 10, I removed all the existing partitions. It then created only two MBR partitions (instead of GPT). Using Linux Mint on another USB flash drive, I shrunk the big partition to 100 GB before installing Linux Mint 19. I now have plenty of storage room and everything works right.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time I’ve had to reinstall everything and didn’t lose anything in the process. I keep files I don’t want to lose in my “Google Drive” directory anyway, which gets synced using the overGrive utility. I have Thunderbird pointing to a profile directory there as well.
Installing Windows 10 and Linux Mint 19 this way is very lean. The previous Windows installation contained tons of bloatware and crap I didn’t need or want. The manufacturer is HP, but HP isn’t alone in installing proprietary garbage.
Even the boot loader works right. Previously, I had to press the F9 key while booting up to select Linux Mint. Now “GRUB” pops up without me doing anything. It will automatically load Linux Mint 19 if I don’t touch anything. I have to select Windows 10 from the menu to use Windows. That’s exactly the way I like it.