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Boot up Windows by default in Linux

Although some people have Linux as the sole operating system on their computer, a lot of people find it difficult to completely switch from Windows and dual booting configurations are quite common. Linux can be installed on a Windows PC quite easily and it creates a new partition in the empty space at the end of the disk and adds a boot loader to the start of the disk. The boot loader displays a list of operating systems (and sometimes utilities too), and you can choose the one you want.

The boot loader that Ubuntu and some other Linux operating systems install is Grub and you'll see a text menu displayed on the screen when you switch on the computer. If you do nothing then Linux is automatically started after a few seconds, but you can manually select Windows and boot that instead.

If you are happy with this arrangement then you don't need to do anything, but if you want to change the default so that Windows starts automatically if no keys are pressed when the Grub menu appears or if you want less or more time to decide which OS you want, you need to edit the Grub configuration file.

To do this, open a Terminal Window (on the Applications, Accessories menu in Ubuntu 9.10), and enter sudo gedit /etc/default/grub. Gedit opens and displays the Grub boot configuration file.

Right near the top of the file is GRUB_DEFAULT=0. When you start the PC, Grub displays a list of startup options and the GRUB_DEFAULT is the default one that is selected if you don't press any keys. Counting starts at zero for the item that is at the top of the list, 1 for the next one down, then 2 and so on. If Windows is the fourth startup option in the list you need to set GRUB_DEFAULT=3 because the first item is 0, the second is 1, third is 2 and the fourth is 3.

A couple of lines down in the Grub file is GRUB_TIMEOUT="10" or something similar. This is the number of seconds the Grub menu is displayed for. Increase the number to give you more time or decrease it to reduce it. Now save the file.

Switch back to the terminal window and type sudo update-grub. That's it. Restart Linux to see the effect - you'll find that it now defaults to booting Windows. If it doesn't, then you've counted wrong, so set GRUB_DEFAULT to the right number.

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