This Windows Installer Installs Linux

It may be a very long time since some readers have installed a copy of Windows, but it appears at one point during the installation there’s a step that asks you which OS version you would like to install. Normally this is populated by whichever Windows flavours come on the install medium, but [Naman Sood] has other ideas. How about a Windows installer with Alpine Linux as one of the choices? Sounds good to us.

You can see it in action in the video below the break. Indeed Alpine Linux appears as one of the choices, followed by the normal Windows licence accept screen featuring the GPL instead of any MS text. The rest of the installer talks about installing Windows, but we can forgive it not expecting a Linux install instead.

So, the question we’re all asking is: how is it done? The answer lies in a WIM file, a stock Windows image which the installer unpacks onto your hard drive. The Linux distro needs to be installable onto an NTFS root partition, and to make it installable there’s a trick involving the Windows pre-installation environment.

This is an amusing hack, but the guide admits it’s fragile and perhaps not the most useful. Even so, the sight of Linux in a Windows installer has to be worth it.

14 thoughts on “This Windows Installer Installs Linux

  1. I’m surprised – AFAIK [Naman Sood] didn’t enable case sensitivity for filenames on the NTFS partition…

    Does this mean I can finally install any Linux distro on a partition with disabled case sensitivity?

    I mean I *totally* love the fact one can create N! files with the “same” name in the same folder on any Linux (with N=number of (latin?) characters)… /s

        1. It is a feature. I deal with data from a third party which uses mixed-case IDs to reduce their length. A mixed-case file system means I don’t have to jump through hoops to store this data on disk, with each record in a file named for its ID.

      1. Showing case sensitive names to users is a feature.
        Enabling them (or the system/tools/anything) to have dozens of files with practically the same name is a “bug”.

        Yes, properly implementing sth. like this is a pain – I don’t even want to think of Unicode/UTF* support here – but you wouldn’t even need to keep track of two filenames, just a stored lower-case name with an additional bit per character indicating which should be capitalized when displayed.

        And if resources are limited just ignore those additional bits (eg. embedded systems like OpenWrt).

  2. Nice tail twisting hackery, it’ll be fun to mess about with a Win install USB stick and leave it in mixed in with the vanilla install sticks.

    An aside, I think Windows 7 and above supported ‘In-place upgrades’ so the install media contain all the files needed for whichever version you want, you just validate the install and ‘unlock’ features with a licence key, digital or physical.

  3. Cool. I totally would have not told anyone I did this and instead “leaked” it as the aborted beginnings of a canceled Microsoft project to give up on NT and release a Linux-based Windows as it’s next version.

  4. slackware back in the day had a windows installer and a special kernel which would add a menu item to your win9x install and call a program that closed out of windows and started up linux that was installed in a directory on your fat32 disk

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.