What is the correct way to partition a drive for dualbooting Ubuntu and Windows on a 64bit BIOS-based machine?

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I have a 64bit BIOS-based laptop, it does not have any form of EFI/UEFI or secure boot. I’m trying to dualboot Ubuntu 20.04 LTS 64bit and Windows 7 64bit. I tried installing Windows normally then using the Ubuntu installer with the option “Install Ubuntu alongside Windows” but I’m not sure it worked quite right. Both OSs seem to boot normally, but the Ubuntu installer seems to have created some kind of dummy partition, about 500mb large formatted as fat32, but there’s nothing on it (both OSs verify this). Windows auto mounts it as the E drive, and Ubuntu says it’s mounted as /boot/efi.
I’m not sure if this is actually some kind of EFI partition or what happened. I don’t understand why the installer created an EFI partition when the machine doesn’t support EFI, and I’m not sure why this partition is both mountable and writable on the Windows side, and why it’s empty. I’ve spent several hours searching the web for answers to this but all I can find are lots of talk and tutorials about special EFI and grub stuff when booting on a UEFI system. I can’t find anything that talks about BIOS booting, what this partition was supposed to be for, and if it’s actually necessary.
For the heck of it I booted into Windows and nuked both the mystery fat32 partition and the ext4 partition. I then reinstalled Ubuntu but used the “something else” method and created a new single partition and installed onto that. Both OSs appear to boot fine without the mystery partition but I’m not sure if this the right way to do things.
I’m trying to arrange the drive with a simple setup with one partition for Windows and one partition for Ubuntu (no separate home or swap), with a minimum of other hidden partitions for bootloaders and such. What’s the correct way to do this on the machine I have? Does it matter which installer/LiveCD/tool I use to do this? Does it matter which OS I install first?

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Marisa

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