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I have a Vaio notebook with Windows 7 64 bit. I want to dual boot it with Arch Linux. I have three primary partitions: Recovery, System reserved (Active and Boot) and the Windows C: drive. I have resized the large partition with the the Windows C: drive. Now I have an empty space where I could create the Linux partition, but I am lost as concerns the boot loader.

According to Arch documentation, using Windows 7/8 boot loader restricts me to a Fat32 Linux partition, really a no go. So I can use GRUB or SysLinux. As for Syslinux, I have read that using chain.c32 can prevent Windows 7 hibernation. As for GRUB, the new version is very complex, do I really need it for such a simple task? Secondly, Arch Docs say that a post-MBR gap of about 1 to 2 MiB is recommended to provide sufficient room for embedding GRUB's core.img. How do I check if I have it and what to do if I don't have it?

Before choosing and studying any strategy I'd like to hear from your expert advice.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I use ArchLinux on all my machines.

Unfortunately, the ArchLinux installer is no longer as beginner friendly as it once was but installing Arch or Gentoo is a good learning experience.

Linux doesn't name partitions in terms of C:\, D:\, E:\ instead it will be /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2, /dev/sdb1. Note that *nix differentiates between partitions on the same drive vs physically separate drives. The letter X in /dev/sdX specifies the drive and the number # /dev/sda# specifies the partition.

Furthermore, the raw /dev/sdX# device nodes are separate from their mountpoints (traditionally /media/<label>, with SystemD now /run/media/<user>/<label>). However, for the current ArchLinux installer you will manually mount / (root partition; equivalent to Windows C:\) to /mnt for the purposes of the installation.

My recommendation is to first download the GParted LiveCD. This will help you make sense of your partitions and allow you to prepare them for the installer via a graphical (GUI) means.

You can only have 4 primary partitions using a traditional DOS/MBR partition table, so you may choose to make the 4th partition extended and inside that create logical partitions. Choose EXT4 for your ArchLinux partition. You should also create a SWAP partition (2GB recommended; equivalent to Windows pagefile or hiberfil.sys) for hibernation and virtual/overflow RAM support. I don't think you'll need a separate /boot partition.

Additionally, I strongly recommend that you choose the GRUB2 bootloader. It offers a lot of features (such as ISO booting) and works basically "out of the box" with ArchLinux. You can generate a config file using os-prober and grub-mkconfig that will create a boot entry for Windows. Some of that stuff on wiki is regarding UEFI or alternative boot methods which shouldn't concern you.

Best of luck!

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+1 One question still unclear. When I run # modprobe dm-mod and # grub-install --recheck /dev/sda, will the post-MBR gap be sufficient to accommodate GRUB core.img? –  antonio Aug 12 '13 at 0:34
    
The MBR is the first 512 bytes (440 of which is reserved for the bootloader) and I've never had an issue with that. Just use this guide pacman -S grub os-prober && grub-install --recheck /dev/sdX && grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg Oh and FYI no need to load the dm-mod module, it's for reading encrypted drives. –  justbrowsing Aug 12 '13 at 0:46

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