Recently I had to format my entire hard disk and re-install Microsoft Windows XP and Ubuntu once again. Despite the usual headaches of such a painful procedure, I feel that it was kind of a good learning experience. First of all I had to backup all my important data. Since I try to save all my work on web based services such as Google Docs, so there was not much to backup. After that I inserted Windows XP professional’s CD, formatted my hard disk and installed Windows.
If you are going to install Windows and a Linux based operating system on the same computer then you better install Windows first. Because if you first install Linux then the chances are that windows will remove your boot loader (Grub in most cases) and you will have to reinstall boot loader with your live cd once again.
After the successful Windows installation, I rebooted with Ubuntu 7.10 Live+Install CD. During the installation I created a FAT partition, an ext3 partition and a swap portion. Now I have heard people complaining that they do not really understand the partition process during Ubuntu Installation. I feel that it is just their fear of losing their data accidentally. Otherwise the partition process during Windows Installation is a little more complicated than the Ubuntu One. Ubuntu’s partition manager Gparted recognizes all your partitions and provides you a GUI to perform the actions. You can even undo partitioning before applying your changes.
The interesting part comes after the installation. I am using a computer with Intel G965 Express chipset. After the installation Windows didn’t recognize my audio hardware, my built in LAN card and didn’t have suitable drivers for graphics. So I had a Windows XP with no internet and no sound. On the other hand Ubuntu recognized and provided drivers for all my hardware. So I had to install drivers from Intel’s website, save them on Windows Partition, reboot and install these drivers. Even after the installation of drivers Windows didn’t have any sound. I found out that I need some kb888111 update installed on my computer before I could use Intel’s drivers. I downloaded and installed this update and even then the sound didn’t work. However after installing this update Windows realized that I have audio hardware with no drivers. But was unable to provide a suitable driver.
Then I suddenly realized that there is an Intel disc that came with my computer and had drivers for my chipset utility. I had to dig out this CD from a huge pile of discs. Now this CD had an installation process that required me to reboot my computer more than five times. It took nearly 20 minutes to finish and when done I finally had volume icon available in the taskbar.
What I am really trying to say is that installing Ubuntu on a computer is not more difficult than installing Windows. Depending on your hardware, sometimes it is much easier than Windows. It is just that people have gone through Windows installation and have more knowledge of the procedure which makes them feel a little more confident. Otherwise installing Windows XP is quite complicated and sometimes it doesn’t even recognize hardware that is originally built to be used with Windows.
If you don’t believe me then have a look at Radagast’s comparison of Ubuntu and Windows XP installtion. He has a very detailed account of installing both operating systems. He also had trouble finding drivers for network and sound on Windows and then he had to go through lengthy process of installing different software using 6 different CDs.