This article is to provide information for those who are installing the Ubuntu distribution of Linux and using BootIt BM as their boot manager.
Latest version tested: Ubuntu 15.04 Desktop Edition (April 2015 release)
Overall Summary: Ubuntu is derived from Debian, and features the Unity desktop environment. Since Ubuntu 9.10 (October 2009), the Ubuntu distribution supports the ext4 file system as an option during installation, and uses the Grub2 boot loader. As of version 11.10, the Grub2 problems found in the 3 previous Ubuntu versions (see below) have been fixed. However, if you have problems getting Ubuntu to boot in step 23 of the procedure below, please refer to item 3 in the Additional Information section at the end of this article. It covers an issue that has been encountered by some users when installing Ubuntu 13.04, 12.10, and possibly other recent versions.
Installing Ubuntu is reasonably straight forward, but please note the following 3 items. While these are also covered in the recommended installation procedure further down in the article, they are listed here at the beginning to help ensure that they are noticed:
1. Create the Ubuntu partitions and the Ubuntu boot item before starting the installation. Also attempt to boot from the Ubuntu boot item before starting the installation. This is covered in steps 3 through 6 in the procedure.
2. On the first "Installation type" screen, select the Something else option. This allows you to choose the partitions you created in BootIt BM. This is covered in step 9 in the procedure below.
3. On the "Installation type" screen, specify that the Grub2 boot loader be installed to the Linux root partition (or /boot partition if you have one). The MBR (i.e. /dev/sda) is the default location, and installing Grub2 there will completely overwrite BootIt BM. This is covered in steps 19 through 21 in the procedure below.
For item 3 above, also be aware that installing the Grub2 boot loader to the MBR (the default) can lead to data loss if BootIt BM is configured to NOT limit primary partitions. For more information on this issue, and how to recover from it, please see Item 1 in the Additional Information section at the end of this article.
Grub2 Problems in Ubuntu 11.10 and newer: None noted. The problems found in previous versions (see below) have been fixed.
Grub2 Problems found in Ubuntu 11.04, 10.10, and 10.04: In these versions, the Grub2 boot loader will not install to either a volume in an extended partition, or to a primary partition, if there is an unoccupied primary partition slot before the partition that Grub2 is being installed to. There is no failure message during the installation. The end result will be that BootIt BM will show "Bootable: No" on the Properties screen for the volume or partition from which it is trying to boot. Attempting to boot Ubuntu from the boot menu will fail with the error message "The Partition is not bootable". Attempting to correct this by installing Grub2 manually after the installation with 'grub-install' will also fail, even though there is no failure message.
If you are affected by this problem, a known workaround is to ensure that all primary partition slots that come before the partition that Grub2 is installed to (typically this is your root partition) are filled. To help clarify the point, here are 2 examples:
Example 1. The root partition is /dev/sda2, and there is is no partition in /dev/sda1. The result will be that Grub2 will not get installed to /dev/sda2 during installation, and Ubuntu will not boot from the BootIt BM menu. There will be no failure message during installation. To correct, make the root partition /dev/sda1, or fill /dev/sda1 with another partition.
Example 2. The extended partition is /dev/sda3, and the root partition is /dev/sda5 in the extended partition. Partition slot /dev/sda1 contains BootIt BM, but partition slot /dev/sda2 is empty. The result will be that Grub2 will not get installed to /dev/sda5 during installation, and Ubuntu will not boot from the BootIt BM menu. There will be no failure message during installation. To correct, make the extended partition /dev/sda2, or fill /dev/sda2 with another partition.
Warning: Working with partitions and boot loaders while installing any operating system can lead to data loss if mistakes are made. It is therefore highly recommended that all data be backed up before starting an installation.
Recommended installation steps for BootIt BM users:
1. This procedure was tested using the standard Ubuntu 15.04 ISO file (ubuntu-15.04-desktop-amd64.iso).
2. Before the Ubuntu install, install BootIt BM first (if not already installed).
3. Important: Before the Ubuntu install, create the partitions for Ubuntu with BootIt BM. Ubuntu requires a root partition and a swap partition at a minimum. All Linux partitions except the swap partition should be created as Linux Native (type 131/83h). The swap partition should be created as Linux Swap (type 130/82h). If you are considering using the btrfs file system for one or more partitions, please see item 4 in the Additional Information section at the end of this article before creating your partitions. Do not be concerned with formatting the partitions at this time. This will be done by the Ubuntu installer during the installation.
4. Important: Before the Ubuntu install, use the Boot Edit dialog in BootIt BM to create a boot menu item for Ubuntu. Be sure to specify the partition to boot from (typically the root partition). This will be the partition to install Grub2 to in a later step. Also be sure that all partitions created for Ubuntu are included in the MBR Details section of Boot Edit.
5. Important: Before the Ubuntu install, attempt to boot from the Ubuntu boot menu item created in Step 4. This boot attempt will fail, but it will load the Ubuntu partitions in the MBR partition table so that the Ubuntu installer will see them as you specified in the Boot Edit dialog. Skipping this step may result in one or more of your Ubuntu partitions not being visible to the Ubuntu installer in later steps.
6. Important: After step 5, reboot the system from the Ubuntu installation CD, without booting any other boot items in between.
7. The Ubuntu installation CD will offer to "Install Ubuntu" or to "Try Ubuntu". Start the install by choosing "Install Ubuntu". Note that the "Try Ubuntu" choice will take you to the Live CD desktop, from where you can run Ubuntu in the Live CD mode. On the Live CD desktop, there will be an "Install Ubuntu" icon that you use to start the install from there, if desired.
8. Proceed through the subsequent installation screens until you get to the first Installation type screen.
9. Important: On the first Installation type screen, select the Something else option, and then select Continue. The Something else option is similar to the "manual" partitioning choice offered in previous Ubuntu versions, and will allow you to choose the partitions created in BootIt BM to install Ubuntu to. Note that if not limiting partitions in BootIt BM, using any of the Ubuntu installer's automatic partitioning methods, or using it to create, move, or resize partitions can cause it to overwrite existing partitions that it is not aware of. Doing this can cause data loss.
10. On the next Installation type screen, you should be able to see the drive that you created your Linux partitions on, as well as the partitions you created. If you do not see one or more of your Linux partitions at this point, you will need to go back and ensure that you followed Steps 3 through 6 correctly.
11. On the Installation type screen, identify and highlight your Ubuntu root partition, and then press <Enter> or double-click it. This will bring up the Edit partition dialog.
12. In the Edit partition dialog, set the "Use as" value to the file system of your choice. This will typically be ext4, although ext3, reiserfs, and others can also be selected from the list if desired. If you intend to use the btrfs file system for the root partition, please see item 4 in the Additional Information section at the end of this article before proceeding.
13. In the Edit partition dialog, ensure that the "Format the partition" check box is checked.
14. In the Edit partition dialog, set the "Mount point" value to "/". This tells the installer to use this partition as the root partition.
15. In the Edit partition dialog, choose OK. This will take you back to the Installation type screen.
16. On the Installation type screen, identify and highlight your Ubuntu swap partition, and then press <Enter> or double-click it. This will again bring up the Edit partition dialog.
17. In the Edit partition dialog, set the "Use as" value to "swap area" and choose OK. This will take you back to the Installation type screen.
18. If you are using any additional partitions, such as for /boot or /home, repeat the steps above to configure those partitions. Be especially sure to choose the correct mount points. For example, always choose /home as the mount point for the home partition, or /boot as the mount point for the /boot partition if you choose to have one.
19. Important: On the Installation type screen, note the "Device for boot loader installation" item near the bottom of the dialog box. This is where you specify where to install the Grub2 boot loader. By default, it will be set to be installed to the MBR (typically /dev/sda). Change this item to specify installing Grub2 to your root partition instead. For example, if your Ubuntu root partition is /dev/sda2, then choose /dev/sda2 from the drop down list.
20. Important: In step 19, if you have a /boot partition (optional), you should specify to install Grub2 there instead of to the root partition. The important thing is that you don't install Grub2 to the MBR, and that you do install Grub2 to the partition that you selected as the one to boot from in the BootIt BM boot menu item.
21. On the Installation type screen, review all of the information carefully to ensure that you have your partitions and the Grub2 boot loader configured as you want them to be. When ready to start the actual install to the hard drive, select the Install Now button.
21a. After selecting Install Now, a "Write the changes to disks?" window should come up, listing the partitions that will now be formatted for the install. Review the list carefully, and then press Continue if all looks correct, or press Go Back to make changes.
22. When installation completes, you will be prompted to restart the system. Note that as long as Grub2 got installed to a partition (not the MBR) as described in steps 19 and 20 above, BootIt BM should appear normally on reboot, without any need to reactivate or reinstall it. Choosing the Ubuntu boot item (created in step 4) from the menu should start Ubuntu.
23. If Ubuntu does not boot from the BootIt BM menu as expected, recheck that the boot item is correctly configured in Boot Edit. Another item to check is whether or not the partition you are booting from (usually the root partition) is considered to be bootable by BootIt BM. To determine this, go to Partition Work, highlight the partition, and select Properties. It should say "Bootable: Yes" in the Additional Information section. If not, one possibility would be that Grub2 did not get installed to the correct partition, as should have been specified in step 19. If you are sure you did step 19 correctly, but the Ubuntu partition still ends up not being bootable after the install, please see item 3 in the Additional Information section below.
1. If you configure the Ubuntu installer to install Grub2 to the MBR by mistake, it will completely overwrite BootIt BM, including the EMBR area on HD0. This will require that BootIt BM be reinstalled from scratch. If you are NOT limiting primaries in BootIt BM, this situation can also cause some partitions on HD0 to disappear (get deleted), although in most cases, they will be recoverable by using the BootIt BM undelete feature. For more information on this situation, and how to recover from it, please refer to the following KB article:
2. There is a significant chance of data loss if you are not limiting primaries in BootIt BM and you use the Ubuntu installer to make any partitioning changes, such as creating, moving, or resizing them. The reason for this is that, with primaries not limited, the installer can overwrite partitions that it is not aware of because they are not present in the MBR during the installation. As recommended above, the safest choice is to create the partitions you need ahead of time in BootIt BM, and then choose them during installation.
3. If you follow all steps correctly, but the Ubuntu partition is still not considered bootable by BootIt BM (see step 23 above), this could be due to an issue with the Ubuntu installer that has been experienced by some users. It is known to have occurred with Ubuntu versions 12.10 and 13.04, and possibly other recent versions. To correct this, you can use the procedure outlined in the KB article linked to below, which describes how to manually reinstall Grub2. In step 6 of that KB article, please note the information about the "source_dir doesn't exist" error message, which is a symptom of the Ubuntu installer issue referred to above.
4. The btrfs file system: Recent versions of Ubuntu support the btrfs file system. However, because booting Ubuntu from BootIt BM requires installing Grub2 to a partition, you will need to have a separate /boot partition formatted as ext2/3/4, and then install Grub2 to the /boot partition during the installation. With that configuration, then the root partition and other partitions (if any) can use btrfs. If you don't want to have a separate /boot partition, then you will need to use something other than btrfs for the root partition. The ext4 file system is recommended.