Installing to specified drive without modifying others?


I would like to install Zorin to one of my M.2 drives. However, the installer is making heavy weather of this.

I have three M.2 drives with OSs on two of them. One is completely empty and I would like to install Zorin to this (without touching my other drives), and change over the boot in the BIOS. I cannot be alone in this "use case" as modern PCs can easily have multiple drives.

By default, the installer wants to either erase one of my OS, or install Zorin "alongside" it. Why it picks one to erase and not the other, I'm not sure.

So I click "Something Else". Now it gets complicated when it shouldn't be. However, I follow the instructions given here:

No matter what I do, I cannot seem to configure it so that it won't write to another drive. In the screenshot below, the drive I want to use is mvne1n1, but it wants to format the swap on another drive (and I don't really want swap anyway but it seems I have no choice).

All I really want to do is select a drive and click "install to that and no other". Any way to make this work?


PS. Zorin looks great in trial mode. I love the attention to detail and how you guys have organised the options, including theming and options normally found in Gnome Tweaks such as font size. All my devices work out of the box. It seems to working OK on a 4K monitor. It's just a pity about the Ubuntu installer (Fedora/Anaconda is easier).

This is very odd. Because as I understand it, the Ubiquity installer will automatically create a swap file not a swap partition. In fact, for users that want to create a swap partition, they must install, then manually go back in afterward and create the swap partition.
I honestly have no idea why your build is trying to do something else.

Also, is your BIOS set to AHCI or to RAID?

Thanks for replying.

BIOS is set to AHCI.

Initially, I tried the above without creating a swap or specifying a swap partition but, on confirmation, it showed that it would format the swap on drive 0. So I tried it again, but this time I created a swap partition on drive 1. But it still shows that it will format swap on 0, as in the screenshot.

And thinking about it, I guess one possible solution is to try cloning the OS (POP) on drive 0 and copying it to drive 1. And then install Zorin and select the default option, i.e. let erase and install to drive 0. I shouldn't have to do this though.

I am No Expert on installing on nvme. In the few cases I dealt with it, Zorin OS often wanted to install only when it was set to RAID.

I am no longer certain if it is required to be set to RAID or if it is one of those variables that tilts one way or the other depending on a variety of factors.
I pointed to your thread in the direction of 337harvey to see if he can take a look.
I agree with you, you should not have to clone the other partition. I use several partitions, with different OS's on them - and I have never once had Zorin OS installer try to create a swap partition on any of them.
Something is odd.

If you use the something else method, you can choose the drive, create the partitions and set it up the way you want. I haven't read through everything....More to come

Ok...something else, can you see the other drive in there?

If so, set up three partitions:
500mb efi format fat32
at least a 50gb, ext4 format mount /
whatever is left, ext4 format mount /home

This will make your home partition usable in other distros and make it so you don't have to back it up if you need to reinstall the system (/).

You will have to choose in the bios the boot device to access this setup

In the top window where you see the partitions, scroll down to see the other drives (scroll bar is hidden).

You may want to set these up in gparted (disks) in the live image prior to installing

It depends on the manufacturer of the nvme drives. Samsung doesn't require anything special. AHCI is fine. I'll check my bios settings, but I think this is what I have set. Back in a sec.

My settings are locked for the nvme configuration. The sata is in ahci, but won't effect the nvme configuration, or shouldn't.

Since you see the partitions, in the top window, remove the swap partition using the gear at the bottom after selecting it. choose do not use where the fs type is (ext4). You can do this for any partitions you don't want to participate in the installation.

Hi Harvey,

Thank you for getting back to me. I'll give it a shot, but I have a couple (as in 3) of questions first.

  1. If I set my root ("/") partition to use whatever is left, where do I put "/home"?

  2. Alternatively, I could put all three on the same drive, but what size should I make root? (My drive is 1TB)?

  3. Alternatively, do I need to create a separate home partition? Can I just install with "/boot" and "/"? If I did this, presumably, my "/home" will be a created as directory on "/"? Will it?

I'm not actually concerned about having home on a separate partition or drive, as all my "home" data go on separate drives anyway which I mount in the OS once I have it installed. I have lots of drives in my machine, not just M.2s.

I put the sizes before the partitions in my previous post. More accurately:

  1. Efi: 500mb fat32
  2. Root: 50+ gb ext4
  3. Home: whatever is left ext4

And it does make it easier to automount if you specify at installation. Otherwise you're editing fstab manually.

Thank you Harvey. I'll give it shot over the next day or two and post an update.

If I'm not available at that time you could always ask for help from @Aravisian or @FrenchPress who can walk you through what I've outlined above should you have issues.

OK. I managed to install it but found it looks like it has written Grub boot to my other drive despite all my efforts to make it leave my other drives alone. But I don't regard this as an issue with Zorin directly, but the Ubuntu installer. In fact all Linux installers seem to play fast and loose with drives when it comes to disk selection when this is the critical aspect of the installation. Anyway...

I was interested in Harvey's suggestion and tried it out in Virtual Box. I set up a machine with two drives and installed Pop OS on sda, and then Zorin on sdb, with the intention of ensuring that both remained intact. However, I couldn't get Zorin to install by manually configuring the drive partitions. The only way I could get the installer to accept and continue under the "Something Else" option was to allow it to format the boot partition as "Ext2". I don't understand this and I am no expert in boot partitions. After installation, however, I found that Zorin would not boot in Virtual Box.

But in the process of doing this, I had found a simple alternative which had escaped me. I purposely bought my machine with the intention of running several Linux installations and, for clarity, here is machine M2 drive layout:

  1. POP OS (2TB)
  2. Target for Zorin (1TB)
  3. Fedora 34

There is no Windows on this machine as I decided to burn my bridges and force myself to use Linux for everything.

What I want to do is install Zorin to drive 1 and absolutely not touch the others and I don't understand why this should be hard or complicated.

Here is the first screenshot from the installer regarding disk selection:

From this, it seems I have three choices:

  1. Trust the installer (which I don't) to re-partition drive 0 and install Zorin alongside POP OS. This is not what I want to do in any case. As a side, several years, I installed Linux alongside Windows 10. It worked for a short while until Windows tried to do a forced update and trashed my whole system. This is why I now have multiple and separate drives.

  2. Erase POP OS and install Zorin to drive 0.

  3. Something else that will be amazingly hard and complicated (unless you are the programmer who wrote the installer).

From my experience with the Fedora installer, it does not (as I recall) ask for any confirmation but just starts writing to disk unexpectedly. Therefore, I did not dream of selecting "Erase" and clicking next to find out what happens.

However, if I do select "Erase disk" I then get an option to select the drive:

Yeah! Great! This what I wanted, but it's more of "a puzzle to solve" than a good UI design. The installer then gives me a confirmation window which likes this:

That's great as well as I do not want to proceed until I've had chance to review. OK, I go with this and the install seems to go well. I do not change my BIOS boot order, so machine should still boot directly into POP OS on drive 0. However, when I boot next I get a grub (is this grub 2.0?) screen:


Checking this BIOS:

... it seems that grub(x) has been installed to drive 0. For the love of God, why?! I want my drives left alone! POP still boots fine and I took a disk image of POP in any case before hand.

x. Is this true? I'm not an expert and installation is something I only do in virtual box on single drive (until recently).

Anyway, I know that Zorin is a distro based on Ubuntu and I imagine that it is no trivial task to bring everything together. This is not a rant against Zorin, but against the Ubuntu installer and Linux installers in general. I feel that default approach in an installer should be to leave drives alone unless the user explicitly selects otherwise. The user should clearly know which disk is being written to and be confident that others will not. There should be a final confirmation (as in Ubuntu) and review before anything gets written. These are my thoughts and I realise that a custom Zorin installer may be out of scope.

I like the attention to detail regarding themes and options in Zorin. I also may want to revert to a "Start Menu" (in Zorin) because my mind is hierarchical and random icons everywhere in Gnome "Applications" just leave me staring blankly at the screen.

Things generally work, however, I seem to have no wifi (which works in both POP and Fedora). Not a big issue for me as I have a hard line.

There are issues concerning font size (4K monitor). For example, the Start menu panel does not seem to respect increasing the Interface Font size and the text on it remains tiny. I expected issues around this and will either live with them or overcome them.

Surprisingly, font scaling is available in Wayland on Zorin, but I see screen artifacts whenever I move a window. I haven't decided whether to use font scaling in X11 as it presents a problem for some of my apps under POP OS.

I like Zorin and may replace my POP distro with it. Both POP OS and Zorin seem good and equally matched. However, I prefer the theming in Zorin and neutral branding (as opposed to POP's "fun" and childish look). I also like the Windows Start Menu alternative. I'm generally impressed.

Q. When is Kernel 5.13 to be available?

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You may want to try Cinnamon DE, which is a desktop based on gnome but more easily configured with less issues concerning scaling and font sizes. It's the default desktop environment of Linux mint i believe. Aravisian turned me onto it and xfce. Both are much friendlier concerning users coming from windows. I believe the Zorin's did a wonderfull job customizing gnome, but there is only so much you can do with it without treating it completely apart and rebuilding. If either of these interest you we can help you install them and switch between them until you find which one is the best for what you want.

5.13 stable lts will probably be close to a year away. Though it will offer more compatibility to today's hardware, there will be bugs to get ironed out before then. You don't want to go to far ahead anyway because it may break the customizations that the Zorin's made. They make changes and insure compatibility each time they release a new kernel to the current version of Zorin os.

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Hi Harvey,

If either of these interest you we can help you install them and switch between them until you find which one is the best for what you want.

Thank you, but no need. I'm actually happy with Zorin or POP and Fedora as a backup/recovery. I think if I had discovered Zorin before POP, I may have opted for that first.

Zorin is great, the only issue is with the install. I'm not clear what has happened during the install and where Grub has been installed?

Presumably, if I were to wipe POP OS, then Zorin would no longer boot also? This is the issue I have installations that try to be clever.

On one hand, I may feel a little frustrated because I want to get on with using the OS but have to spend time with installation instead. But on the other...

You know what? I'm actually OK with it. Moving to Linux for everything is a positive choice and I knew there would be hurdles. Nothing that is easy is worth it anyway.

I may wipe my POP OS and install Zorin to my drive 0. This time, I would like to set up the partitions as per your suggestions. If I do this, would you be willing to help?

Of course. I'm sure we can get you squared away with things as you want them.

If you delete the pop os partition, be sure to edit grub first and comment out (add # to the beginning of that line including pop) to remove it from the options. If this is a direction you want to go we can help you with the commands to get it done.


I tried again. This time I realised I had to set the ESP flag with GParted for the EFI. This allowed me to proceed with the "Something Else" option.

However, there definitely seems to be bug in the installer:

As you can see, even though I have created all the partitions on mvme1n1 (drive 1), the confirmation tells me it is going reformat swap on drive 0. Noooo!

If you wish me to run any commands to provide my hardware layout, let me know.

I am still confused.
I have never had Zorin OS attempt to overwrite another partition to create a Swap Partition. And looking into this, the only time the Ubiquity installer seems to try to do so is if you select to install with the Drive Encrypted Or if you choose a fully automatic installation (Maybe that is why I have never seen it).

But the point is, you can prevent the Swap partition from being created by choosing the "Something Else" option in the installer.

The screenshot above is the "Something else" option.

I'm not using Drive Encrypted.