Windows and Linux on separate drives

I have Zorin OS 16 Core with XFCE on an old iMac and have it running nicely, thanks to a lot of assistance on this Forum. I have been able to get the built in DVD drive and built in webcam working well, which was pleasing. I will probably replace it with Zorin OS16 Lite when it comes out to try and lighten the load on an old CPU.
I would like to experiment with different Linux distros so plan to use my Lenovo Tiny PC for this. On it, I have Windows 10 installed on an NVME drive and a spare 240GB SSD Sata that I would like to use for a Linux distro. I need to keep the two drives totally separate as I use the Windows drive for work. My plan is to install a Linux Distro on the spare Sata drive and then enter the BIOS when I boot up in order to select whichever operating system I want to use. I think I would leave the Windows drive as the default and just choose the Linux when I want to experiment and learn.
I have some questions that I could use some advice on please:

  1. Once I have both operating systems installed and have reconnected the Windows drive, should the Bios still be set to boot up in Windows Boot Manager by default as it is now.

  2. Should I disconnect the Windows drive while I install Zorin / Pop OS or whatever I go for on the spare SATA drive?

  3. Will this layout keep my Windows drive totally separate? I do not really need to access files from Windows on the Linux or vice versa as one is Business and one is leisure but had wondered about using an external USB hard drive as storage and just plugging it in when I need it. Would that work? Would I be able to access the external USB storage in either Windows or Linux?

Sorry if these are basic questions but I just want to be sure I do not compromise the Windows partition. On the plus side it would be good to get Linux on an SSD so I can see it work quicker and more smoothly.

Any advice would be appreciated.

I have done a Win 10 /Zorin dual boot like this on an MSI mother board in legacy mode.

  1. Depends on on the bios, I was able to set the boot priority in the bios , but I still had to select the first option from the bios boot menu not the Windows boot manager. You have hold the assigned Fkey during boot.

  2. Yes, this will ensure they are separate.

  3. I move files from Windows to Zorin using a USB and backup to external drives.

Note: Dual booting Win 11 on different drives with UEFI and secure boot poses a different challenge, but can be done .

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Thank you for the prompt response. My PC is only 4 years old so the Bios is UEFI.

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There should be no problem using UEFI. I used UEFI and secure boot for Win 11 on My months old desktop build. The only down side was holding the fkey every time the system booted. I now use the grub boot-loader to select the OS , but Win 11 is default.

Thank you. Will leave it open a little longer in case of any more input from others.

Defiantly leave it open , there is no one size fits all roadmap to dual booting though there are common elements. Each system is slightly different.

I used Rufus to create UEFI usb . Rufus - Create bootable USB drives the easy way

You will have the option of which to boot into by pressing F8, F10 or F12. You can set which order in the bios to start with. The only reason to have windows drive in when installing or booting linux is to have the grub provide the option, which will only happen if the efi is written to the windows drive. By keeping them separate, you will have to change the boot device to boot into the other. This is where the boot order can choose one to be the default and then later press the escape sequence on boot to choose a different OS.


Thank you both for your input. I really appreciate it and you have reassured me that this should be Ok to go ahead with.

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