Dual Booting Ubuntu and Windows With a SSD and a HDD

Some computers come with a small SSD and a large HDD. Learn what strategy you can use to dual boot Ubuntu and Windows on such systems.
Warp Terminal

Dual booting Ubuntu and Windows is not that complicated and I have covered it in detailed tutorial in the past. Recently, I also wrote about dual booting on a Bitlocker encrypted Windows system.

And yet here I am talking about it again. Why? Because the scenario is slightly different and several It’s FOSS readers have asked questions about this particular scenario.

Here’s the scenario: you got a new computer. It comes with a SSD with limited disk space like 120 GB and an additional HDD with 500 GB or 1 TB disk space. This is usually the scene with gaming laptops where large disk space matters for storing game files but SSD is required for faster boot and computing experience. 1 TB SSD would increase the system price a lot and hence this particular combination of SSD and HDD.

Now, if you want to dual boot on a system with two disks, you may get confused about where should you be installing Linux.

You have three options:

  1. Install Linux completely on the SSD. You’ll get full advantage of SSD speed, but then you will have only a limited disk space. This could work if you have 180 GB or 200 GB or more on SSD but won’t work with 120 GB SSD.
  2. Install Linux completely on the HDD. You’ll have plenty of disk space, but Linux will boot slower, and you won’t get the SSD advantage.
  3. A compromise between SSD and HDD. You keep the root (and thus swap and boot) on SSD and you put your Home directory on HDD. This way, you boot faster into Linux and you have plenty of disk space for your personal documents and downloads.

There is also a fourth option here. You keep root as well as home on SSD. And you make a partition on the HDD and then soft link it to your Music, Videos and Downloads folder. This way, application-specific files like browser caching utilize the SSD and other big files stay on HDD. But this could be complicated to set specially with fast boot enabled on Windows which would mean special efforts to auto-mount the partitions.

I recommend going with the third option for dual booting on separate hard drives and this is what I am going to show you in this tutorial.

Dual boot Ubuntu and Windows on a system with SSD and HDD

dual booting system hdd ssd

I have used an Acer Predator gaming laptop in this tutorial to install Ubuntu alongside Windows. The tutorial should work for other hardware manufacturers and Linux distributions.

I advise reading through all the steps first and then follow the tutorial on your system.


Here are the things you need in this tutorial:

  • A computer that comes preinstalled with Windows 10 and has both an SSD and an HDD.
  • A USB key (pen drive or USB drive) of at least 4 GB in size and no data on it.
  • Internet connection (for downloading Ubuntu ISO image and live USB creating tool).
  • Optional: External USB disk for making back up of your data.
  • Optional: Windows recovery disk (if you encounter any major boot issues, it could be fixed).

Step 1: Make backup of your data

Since you’ll be dealing with disk partitions, it will be wise to make a copy of your important files on an external disk. This is optional but having a backup is always a good idea.

You can use an external HDD (slower but cheaper) or SSD (faster but expensive) and copy the important files and folders on it.

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Step 2: Make disk partition for Ubuntu installation

In the Windows menu, search for disk and go to ‘Create and format hard disk partitions’.

disc management windows

You’ll see both SSD and HDD here. You have to shrink both SSD and HDD one by one and make some free space that will be utilized later for installing Ubuntu Linux.

Right click on the SSD and choose Shrink Volume option.

shrink volume for ubuntu install ssd

It will give you the largest possible disk partition you can make here. Don’t use it all. Leave some extra space for Windows. I have given it 30 GB which is a decent disk space for the root partition. Anything between 20 and 40 GB is a fair choice.

shrink volume for ubuntu install ssd 1

Repeat the process with the HDD as well. I made around 200 GB of free space for Linux. You are free to decide how much space you want to allocate to Ubuntu.

Here’s what the final disk scenario looks like for my system. 29.3 GB free space on SSD and 195.3 GB free space on HDD.

shrink volume for ubuntu install ssd 2

Step 3: Download Ubuntu

Download Ubuntu Desktop

Go to Ubuntu’s website and download the ISO file. If you need to download Ubuntu via torrents, you can find it under the ‘alternative downloads’.

Download Ubuntu ISO Image

Step 4: Create bootable Ubuntu USB

You can easily create bootable Ubuntu USB in Windows, Linux and macOS. Since the focus here is on Windows, you can use a Windows specific tool like Rufus. Etcher is also a good tool in this regard.

Download Rufus from its website.

Download Rufus

Plug in your USB. Make sure it doesn’t have any important data because it will be formatted.

Run the Rufus tool. It automatically identifies the plugged in USB but double check it anyway. Then browse to the location of the downloaded ISO image and ensure that it uses GPT partitioning scheme and UEFI target system.

Make Live Usb With Rufus

Hit the start button and wait for the process to complete. Once you have the live Ubuntu USB ready, the next step is to boot from it.

Step 5: Boot from the live USB

You may choose to access the UEFI settings when the system starts by pressing F2/F10/F12 button but a more robust way is go through Windows.

In the Windows menu, search for UEFI and then click on ‘Change advanced startup options’:

Accessing Uefi Settings Windows

Under the Advanced startup option, click on Restart now button.

Access Uefi Settings Windows

On the next screen, click on ‘Use a device’:

Access Uefi Settings Windows 1

Recognize the USB disk with its name and size. It may also be displayed as EFI USB Device.

Access Uefi Settings Windows 2

Now it will power off your system and reboot into the disk you chose which should be the live USB disk. You should see a screen like this:

Ubuntu Live Install Screen

Step 6: Installing Ubuntu Linux

Now that you have booted from the live USB, you may start the installation procedure. The first few steps are simple. You choose the language and keyboard.

Install Ubuntu 2
Choose your language / Choose keyboard layout

On the next screen, choose Normal installation. No need to download updates or install third-party software just yet. You may do it after installation completes.

Installing Ubuntu in dual boot

After some time you’ll see the Installation type screen. Here, opt for ‘Something else‘ option:

choose something else installing ubuntu

You should see the free space you had created earlier on the next screen. Select the free space created on SSD (you can guess by its size if nothing else) and click on the + sign to use this free space.

using free space while installing ubuntu

By default, it will take the entire free space which is a good thing. Keep the partition type primary.

What you need to change is the file system type to Ext4 and mount point to / (/ means root in Linux).

creating root while installing ubuntu

Now, select the other free space on the HDD and click the + sign.

using free space while installing ubuntu 1

This time choose Home as the mount point. Partition remains primary and file type ext4.

creating home while installing ubuntu

You don’t need to worry about ‘Device for boot loader installation’. You have a pre-installed Windows UEFI system. You should have an EFI partitioning (ESP) already (for me it’s 100 MB partitioning with type efi). The Ubuntu installer is intelligent and can automatically detect this partition and use it for Grub bootloader.

This is the final partitioning scheme for my system. If everything looks good, hit the Install Now button.

disk partition dual boot dual disk

Things are pretty straightforward from here. Select a timezone.

Installing Ubuntu Timezone Selection

Enter a username, computer’s name, i.e. hostname and an easy to remember password.

Installing Ubuntu Account Setup

Now wait for like 7-8 minutes for the installation to finish.

Installing Ubuntu

Restart the system when the installation finishes.

Restart After Installing Ubuntu
Restart after installation completes

You’ll be asked to remove the USB disk. Remove the disk and press enter.

Ubuntu Finished Installation
Remove USB and press enter

If things go right, you should see the black or purple grub screen with option to boot into Ubuntu and Windows.

Dual Boot Grub Screen
You can choose the operating system from the grub screen

That’s it. You can now enjoy both Windows and Linux on the same system with SSD and HDD. Nice, isn’t it?

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you. If you still have questions or facing any issues, let me know in the comment section, and I’ll try to help you out.

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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