We’ve talked a lot about running multiple operating systems on the same computer — whether it’s Windows and Linux, Windows and OS X or something else — but what happens when it’s time to get rid of one? Here’s how to delete Windows or Linux from your system after you’ve dual-booted them.
The process is actually quite simple, but many of you ask us this when you go through your first dual-booting process, so we’ve decided to lay out the instructions here for easy access. All you really need to do is delete the partition on which your unwanted OS is installed. That process will vary a little based on which OS you’re retaining, so here are three sets of instructions.
Note: Before you start, make sure you have an up-to-date backup of the system you want to keep. If you make one tiny mistake in the steps below, you could end up deleting the wrong partition, which would be very, very bad!
Keep Windows and Remove Linux
If you’ve given Linux a shot but you’re ready to stick with Windows as your main OS, you’ll have to go through a few extra steps. This assumes Windows and Linux were on the same drive, and the partitions are located next to each other. Here’s what you need to do:
- Head to the Start menu (or Start screen) and search for “Disk Management.” Open up the Disk Management tool.
- Find your Linux partition. It won’t be labelled since Windows doesn’t understand the Linux file system, so you’ll need to figure out which one it is by size and where it is on your hard drive. Make sure you have the right one before continuing!
- Right-click on the partition and choose “Delete Volume”. This will delete the partition from your hard drive, leaving free space.
- Right-click on your Windows partition and choose “Extend Volume.” Extend it to fill the free space your Linux partition left behind.
- Lastly, insert your Windows recovery disc (or recovery USB drive) and boot from it. Choose “Repair Your Computer”, go to “Troubleshoot” and then enter a Command Prompt. Type the following command:
This will remove Linux’s bootloader and replace it with Windows’.
- Reboot your computer and you should find that it boots directly into Windows, with no Linux partition to be found.
If you set up your dual-booting differently, your instructions may vary slightly — for instance, if you put Linux on a separate hard drive, or if you have other operating systems on the drive. But, for most people, these instructions should suffice.
Keep OS X and Remove Windows or Linux
If you’ve using a Mac, removing another partition is very easy. Again, this assumes that your partitions are on the same drive. Here’s what you need to do:
- Open up “Disk Utility” from /Applications/Utilities.
- Click on your hard drive in the left-hand sidebar (the drive, not the partition) and go to the “Partition” tab. Find the Windows or Linux partition you want to remove (you probably labelled them when you first created them).
- Click on the partition you want to remove, then click the small minus button at the bottom of the window. This will remove the partition from your system.
- Click the corner of your Mac partition and drag it down so it fills up the free space left behind. Click Apply when you’re finished.
You Mac may take a minute to perform the necessary processes, but when it’s done, your system will be back to its original Macintosh self. If you had rEFIt installed on your system, you can leave it there — it isn’t going to hurt anything — but you can also remove it just by deleting a few files.
Keep Linux and Remove Windows
If you’re the adventurous type and you’ve decided to go to Linux full time, then your job is pretty easy. Instructions may vary by distro and your specific setup, but for the traditional Ubuntu setup it should look something like this:
- Insert a live CD or USB for your Linux distribution and start up its partition manager (such as Gparted). Find your Windows partition in Gparted’s menu — it will be listed as an NTFS drive.
- Right-click on that Windows partition and choose “Delete” from the menu. Your machine may have other Windows-related partitions as well, like “System Reserved” and recovery partitions. If you want, you can delete these as well (but make sure you have recovery discs handy if you’re going to delete a recovery partition).
- Right-click on your Linux partition and choose “Resize/Move”. Resize it so it takes up the rest of the now-free space on your drive.
- Click the “Apply All Operations” button in the toolbar to perform the selected tasks. It may give you a warning saying that your computer may not boot, but this shouldn’t be a problem with most Linux installations (although, if it is, check out this article to fix it). This process may take some time, so let it be!
When it finishes, you should have a hard drive with nothing but Linux on it. Your boot menu will still have some Windows entries, and it’ll work fine if you leave them there, but if you want to clean things up, just open up a Terminal in Linux and run:
to remove them.
As we said, every dual-boot setup is a beautiful and unique snowflake, so you may have to adjust some of these instructions as you go to work with your specific settings. Hopefully, this should give you a solid overview. Always remember to back up first, and good luck!