Dual-Booting XP and Kubuntu on a Sony Vaio

So it turns out the Holy Grail, Promised Land, or whatever you want to call it, does exist after all. After a number of different approaches and attempts, I finally got my Sony Vaio VGN-NR298E dual-booting Kubuntu and Windows XP. The solution turned out to be a well-known one: nLite.

With it, I was able to not only roll the drivers for my SATA drive into a custom XP CD, but also SP2 as well. It also offers options to include other drivers as well as post-SP2 Windows hotfixes and custom configuration options. I have to give major kudos to the nLite folks, as I imagine I would have given up at attempting to do this had it not worked as splendidly as it did.

So, without further ado, here’s the final recipe for succes in this endeavor. Obligatory disclaimer: I take no responsibility should you not have the same success or suffer damages by following these instructions. Other obligatory disclaimer: The only reason I went to this much trouble to dual-boot to XP is because I can’t find another solution that allows me to play my games.

  1. Download nLite. Use it to make a local copy your Windows XP CD.
  2. Download the standalone Service Pack 2 installer. Point nLite to it as a service pack to include.
  3. Download the Intel 82801HEM/HBM SATA AHCI Controller driversExtract them for unattended installation and point nLite to them.
  4. At this point, you can choose other drivers to include on the CD. Below is a list of those that are relevant to the Vaio. Be sure to have either Ethernet or Wifi drivers included in the CD or on a storage medium that Windows can recognize natively without external drivers.
  5. I ran into a small issue at this point that may or may not be pertinent to your case: the only machine on which I had a CD burner available was a Linux server machine. nLite was helpful in this regard, though, and offered an option to make the ISO file it created mkisofs-compatible. Using this, I was able to copy the ISO over the network to the Linux server, use mkisofs to test it and cdrecord (man page examples on this utility are helpful) to burn it.
  6. Boot the custom CD. Note that you no longer have to hit F6 at the point where you normally would to install custom drivers; the installer will simply detect that they’re available on the CD and load them from there. Installation should be pretty normal after this point. Partition your drive however you like, being sure to leave enough room for Kubuntu to load. You’ll probably notice the installer forces you to leave 8 MB free, presumably for the NT boot loader. Once you’re in Windows, you can reset your screen resolution and manually install any drivers you didn’t roll into the CD. Once you’re connected, install any further Windows updates that might be necessary.
  7. Once XP is set up to your liking, pop the Kubuntu CD in, boot from it, and access the installer on the desktop once KDE has loaded. In order to not have Kubuntu overwrite your XP installation, you’ll have to opt to partition manually. You’ll notice that the installer sees the 8 MB that XP made you reserve earlier. I’m not sure why, but the installer sees this as free space. At any rate, I just consolidated that space into the Kubuntu partition and let it set aside its 3 MB to load GRUB. I’m not sure how to keep the NT boot loader and not load GRUB, so if you prefer that route, you’ll have to dig around on your own to find out how. Set up your root and swap partitions and continue.
  8. Installation should again proceed fairly normally. Once you’ve loaded your installation for the first time, connect your machine to an ethernet cable and launch Adept, the package manager GUI for Kubuntu. Do a search for Windows and you should find a package called Windows Wireless Drivers. Install this for wireless if you need it. Beyond that, install updates and you should be good to go.

And that’s all there is to it, folks. It was a wild ride to figuring out the process, so I hope my efforts help someone else looking to do the same thing. Cheers!

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