Dual booting two Linux distros


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Apr 2, 2019
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Is it very complicated installing Manjaro(or anything else) to dual boot with my current Lubuntu installation?

There is a lot of information about dual booting Windows and Linux, but not two Linux distros.

Will I have to manually partition the hard drive or is there a option in, for example Manjaro or Solus that will allow me to easily install it alongside Lubuntu?

The answer depends on how you setup your current OS. Most likely you chose the 'let the installer do all the configuring for me' option. It's the default for most of the distros I've seen. If so, when you boot up your new installation media, start out by going to Gparted, if it's not there install it. Then modify the current drive partition by shrinking it so that you have enough space for your new OS. Then go back and install. When you get to the partition selection section you'll have to do a manual setup. I suggest you read my post @ https://www.linux.org/threads/how-t...distro-like-the-old-complete-with-apps.23139/. If you chose to allow your current OS to partition automatically, you will have 2 /boot partitions, the new one will be the one that is used for grub at boot up time, so if you need to make changes in the future, you'll have to make them to that partition. I'm not sure what would happen if you made them to the original OS's grub, I assume no changes will be noticed. I haven't tried it myself.
Thanks for the feedback, TechnoJunky. I think I'll try to use a separate hard drive from a old PC and try to install the OS I want to test on that and leave the main hard drive with the sure fire, Lubuntu installed on it.

I'll just have to do some reading up about how a PC with two hard drives and two versions of Linux on each one works.
It's really not that different than sharing a hard drive. During your installation, you're going to have to pick which hard drive to install on, and in that screen, you're going to have to pick what device to install the boot loader. Pick /dev/sda, your original hard drive, because that's the one the Bios is going to boot to, unless you change that in the bios. If you didn't already, manually setup a /boot partition on your original hard drive, the new installation on the second hard drive will contain the Grub that the boot loader will point to. You can allow the installation to take the whole drive with the automatic setup, if you want.
There is a lot of information about dual booting Windows and Linux, but not two Linux distros.
Our resident Wizard, @wizardfromoz, can set you straight about multi-booting Linux, and there are some other threads here on the forums that cover this. He runs somewhere around 40 distros on a single hard drive, and does this on a couple of computers. It's pretty intense, but you aren't likely to try to go that far! :eek::D

If my memory serves me (a 50/50 chance)... you would be okay by adding Manjaro and stopping there. But some special tricks are needed to add anything after Manjaro as it is kind of a special case (and possibly one or more other Arch-based distros).

As you add each new Linux, it becomes the default distro that boots from GRUB. With just a couple of distros, you don't need much planning. But if you want to go for multi-multi-booting it is good to make a number of preparations, like ensuring your hard drive is using GPT (GUID Partition Table) instead of MBR (Master Boot Record). Wizard will strongly encourage you to use Timeshift to help bring things back more easily if/when you crash it all.

Thanks for the feedback everyone. At first I wanted fix a PC from 2001 with a single core processor(just needed a fan for the motherboard) and then thought just use the hard drive and pop it in my 4 core processor box and use the older hard rive to test drive Manjaro or Solus.

I will just have to figure out how to make the two hard drives on the same PC work independently and not mess each other up. Like when booting up I want to choose one and leave the other unchanged.

So it's about dual booting two drives that will remain separate and then I don't have to plug in all the peripherals into separate PC's every time I'm using the production box and switching to the testing box.
I don't understand the need to figure it out or look it up. We've told you everything you need to do. With the exception of updating the boot record, no changes will occur on your primary hard drive. That change will only tell it where to go to get the grub menu. Then after that, all you do is choose which distro you want at boot up. Other options would be to go into your Bios everytime you want to switch and change which drive is the primary. That will work but is a bit of a hassle. If you want a real hassle, you could unplug your primary and plug in your secondary, to switch to the second, then reverse to go back to the primary. But those 3 are your options, easy - less easy - most difficult.

I suppose there is a forth option and that's to run a VM of the Manjaro from within Lubuntu. You could put that VM on the second drive after mounting it somewhere within Lubuntu.
Other options would be to go into your Bios everytime you want to switch and change which drive is the primary.

Well, it's a bit easier than that, I think. You should be able to install Linux on each drive and during the install be sure to install GRUB on the same drive as the Linux install. So, leave Lubuntu as you have it, and install Manjaro and it's GRUB to the new drive. When booting the computer you should have a option to hit ESC or some F-key for Boot Menu (not needing to go into Setup to change primary Boot Order). The BIOS should detect both bootloaders and give you the option on which to boot. This is not much more involved than choosing from a GRUB menu, except you have to remember to call for the BIOS Boot Menu or else it will go to the primary drive.

But, you cannot mix and match UEFI/GPT with BIOS/MBR systems, or else you will be going into the BIOS setup every time to switch back and forth. If the computer is very old, then UEFI may not even be an option for you. With GRUB installed on each drive independently, you can even switch the drives out and put them into different computers, but again you have to be aware of the UEFI versus BIOS restrictions and possibly make BIOS changes in the different computer so that it will see your drives.

Thank you very much everyone for the advice and sorry if I'm a bit slow to understand.

I have only one PC(2013), but I can pop up the old hard drive into the newer PC and see if I can use them independently of each other, because like I said I want to use the primary one for general use and the second one for experimental use. The older one has Windows XP on it, but I will be trying out some rolling release Linux on that one.

Thanks for the tip, Atanere, that's just what I wanted to do. Choose to boot into either of the two hard drives on start up, without worrying about boot loaders.

I it doesn't work out like that I will just unplug the one I'm not using.
I am getting here, but might be another 24 hours.


I tried to plug in the spare hard drive into my current PC, but the power cable fit, but not the data cable.

My best bet would be to try to get a motherboard fan for the older PC and get it going that way. It's a single processor Athlon with 256 MB RAM. Everything works except the fan on the motherboard.

I'll just try Sparky Linux or something very light and use the older PC for Testing purposes.

Thanks for all the advice everyone.