Setting up a multi-boot of 5 Linux distributions

This article is aimed at distro hoppers who like to install multiple Linux distributions to their system drive and to be able to replace them with minimal effort when new ones come along. This is written especially digital artists and Blender users in mind. However, this article is only about the modern motherboards that have a UEFI BIOS. Required skill level: pretty much a beginner.

Why a multi-boot of 5?

NVIDIA drivers

Wacom tablets

Wacom Tablet control panel in Elementary OS

Other things

The Plan

The Plan: the Refind boot manager and some easily switchable distros.

1. Preparation

The “dev” in /dev/sda means the devices directory. “Sda” means SCSI disk A.

Upper image: SATA port number one in motherboard’s manual. Lower image: in UEFI BIOS
Bootable distro USB sticks

2. Installing the first OS and the Refind boot manager

2.1 Create a new GPT partition table for the whole physical system disk

UEFI BIOS boot menu, by pressing F8 during boot. Selecting the USB stick.
Ctrl + Esc opens up the Whisker menu in Xubuntu
Wiping the whole system disk and creating a new GPT partition table for it.
The whole slate is clean!

2.2 Partitioning

Deepin needed more than 100MB for the EFI System Partition
Partitioning done, ready to apply all operations
Fedora required the biosboot type of partition. Swap also seemed to be mandatory.
Installation failed because of not putting the boot flag for the first EFI BOOT partition
Adding the boot flag and bios_grub flag to the partitions #1 and #2
Applying all operations and starting the installing of Xubuntu

2.3 Installing Xubuntu

2.3.1 Temporary boot loader

2.4 User rights to write to the Work and Storage partitions

# See what's your user ID (for me it's mj):
id -u -n
# Give write rights for the user:sudo chown mj /storage/sudo chown mj /work/# A single chained command might work also to do the same thing: sudo chown mj /storage/ /work/

2.5 Installing the Refind boot manager

”Refind is a boot manager, meaning that it presents a menu of options to the user when the computer first starts up, as shown below. Refind is not a boot loader, which is a program that loads an OS kernel and hands off control to it.”

“Since version 3.3.0, the Linux kernel has included a built-in boot loader and that the older GRUB that many of us are used to use is both a boot manager and a boot loader.”

# Downloading refind_0.10.4-1_amd64.deb to the Downloads folder in Home (~/Downloads):wget -P ~/Downloads/
Triple-clicking to select a command, Ctrl+C to copy it to the clipboard and then Ctrl+Shift+V to paste it into the Terminal
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/refind_0.10.4-1_amd64.deb
Installing Refind

2.6 Finding a theme for the Refind boot manager

2.7 Installing the theme Regular for the Refind boot manager

# Install git:sudo apt install git# Get rights to enter the EFI folder (because some distros prevent you going there 
(Note, also could work: sudo bash or su or sudo -s)):
sudo -i# check if sda1 is mounted to /boot/efilsblk
# make an efi folder (if it isn't already there)mkdir /boot/efi/# Mount /dev/sda1 to /boot/efimount /dev/sda1 /boot/efi/
# Delete possible older installed versions of this theme (always be extra careful when using the rm (remove files) command with Root rights, accidental deleting of important stuff is not fun):rm -rf /boot/efi/EFI/refind/{regular-theme,refind-theme-regular}# Fetch the Regular theme:git clone /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular# Remove unused stuff:rm -rf /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/{src,.git}
# Use the command line interface (CLI) text editor Nano to edit the Refind's configure file:nano /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind.conf# Use Ctrl+W to search for this sentence:resolution 3# Under that line, write:resolution 1600 1200# (For me, 1600 1200 was the maximum. You can try larger resolutions if you wish. When you boot, it will tell you the accepted choices for your system. After that you can come back to edit this file again.)# Hit Page Down until you reach the end of the document.
# Paste (Ctrl+Shift+V) the following line there:
include refind-theme-regular/theme.conf# Quit Nano with Ctrl+X.
# Save the current document by pressing Y and Enter.
# If you made any mistakes for some reason (there's no undo as far as I know), it's recommendable to quit Nano with Ctrl+X and answering no and starting from the beginning.# To adjust icon size and font size edit theme.conf (however, the default size is quite nice already):
nano /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/theme.conf
# Exit the Root session:exit
Refind boot menu with annoying extra ‘ubuntu’ choice and some pink firmware update icon
# Open the Thunar file manager with Root rights:sudo thunar
Moving ‘ubuntu’ folder into IGNORE folder in /boot/efi/EFI/
# Reboot the computer (It’s instant, make sure you don’t have anything important or unsaved open):sudo reboot
Refind boot manager installed.

3. Installing the second operating system

Setting up installation mount point for Ubuntu GNOME
Weird USB stick error. It happened after Ubuntu GNOME installation had been successfully finished, but the computer refused to reboot.
Choosing Xubuntu in Grub boot menu. It’s confusingly named as Ubuntu.
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/refind_0.10.4-1_amd64.deb
Refind installer recognizing the customizations and configurations on re-install
sudo reboot
There’s the extra ‘ubuntu’ choice again (left Ubuntu icon) and Refind shows Ubuntu GNOME as normal Ubuntu (right Ubuntu icon)
# Check what the ubuntu gnome´s partition is with GParted, for example. In this case, sda5# Mount Ubuntu GNOME's sda5 partition:sudo mkdir /mnt/ubuntugnomesudo mount /dev/sda5 /mnt/ubuntugnome# Copy the Ubuntu GNOME icon to the root of sda5:sudo cp /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/os_ubuntugnome.png /mnt/ubuntugnome/.VolumeIcon.png# Unmount:sudo umount /mnt/ubuntugnome
# Open the Thunar file manager with Root rights:sudo thunar
Overwriting files in /boot/efi/EFI/IGNORE/
sudo reboot

4. Installing the third operating system

5. Installing the fourth operating system

On my way to the Xubuntu (/dev/sda4) option after installing Lubuntu. It’s still confusingly named as Ubuntu.
sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/refind_0.10.4-1_amd64.debsudo reboot
sudo thunar
sudo reboot

6. Installing the fifth operating system

sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/refind_0.10.4-1_amd64.deb
Going back to Xubuntu (/dev/sda4) after installing Kubuntu

7. Installing Windows 7

The Windows 7 DVD
Installing Windows

Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Security Essentials

Changing boot option number one from Windows to Refind in the UEFI BIOS
Clean boot manager once again!

8. Making a Refind rescue USB stick

# Check what's your USB sticks name (ie. /dev/sdc)
# Writing refind-flashdrive-0.10.4.img to /dev/sdc:sudo dd if=refind-flashdrive-0.10.4.img of=/dev/sdc
Writing Refind USB flash drive image file to a USB stick
Using the Refind USB Rescue from the USB stick

9. Tweaks

# Get the arrow image. Backup the original selection-big.png as selection-big_original.png. Put arrow image in its place:sudo wget -P /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/ && sudo mv /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-big.png /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-big_original.png && sudo mv /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/Kax1bn7.png /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-big.png# Get the small circle image. Backup the original selection-small.png as selection-small_original.png. Put small circle image in its place:sudo wget -P /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/ && sudo mv /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-small.png /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-small_original.png && sudo mv /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/odu8ol2.png /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind-theme-regular/icons/128-48/selection-small.png
sudo reboot
Final 5-way multi-boot achieved! (And Windows)

10. Resizing partitions

Cropped screenshots from GParted
Shrinking and moving a lot of partitions and expanding one in GParted
Applying all operations in GParted

11. Notes after installing different distros

Pressing F2 in Refind in order to get to boot item’s options
Pressing F2 again and typing ‘nomodeset’ to instruct the kernel to not load video drivers
Finding out the .efi files I wanted to sweep away from the Refind boot manager
Cleaner boot manager. (And the disk icon badges that were visible in an earlier Refind version)

12. My current favorite distros

Animator, 3D modeler and illustrator. Likes open-source stuff like Blender, Linux, Gimp & Krita. And Demoscene. Support me on

Animator, 3D modeler and illustrator. Likes open-source stuff like Blender, Linux, Gimp & Krita. And Demoscene. Support me on