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One of the most essential components of a computer is its operating system. The almighty OS is the lifeblood of a rig, determining software compatibility, and interacting with both hardware and software. For many, it’s either Linux vs. Windows or Linux vs. Mac.

Enter dual booting How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer It's like having two computers in one - start your system up and choose between Windows and Linux. It's called dual-booting, and it gives you access to two of the best operating systems on the... Read More .

Essentially, this is having two operating systems available from boot. Windows has its pros, Linux has its pluses 6 Things That Ubuntu Does Better Than Windows 6 Things That Ubuntu Does Better Than Windows Some think that Ubuntu is for nerds - but the truth is that Ubuntu is just as easy to use as Windows. In fact, there are several things Ubuntu does better than Windows 10. Read More . Linux draws include its customization, security, dedicated open source community, and that distributions are (usually) free. Windows or Mac of course have their devout followers, and certain situations, like native apps and less complexity, call for a non-Linux distro.

But why not opt for both? Here are five reasons to dual boot and two reasons you shouldn’t.

Reasons You Should Dual Boot

Dual Boot Linux Windows
Image Credit: tmlee9 via Flickr

1. Gaming: Old and New

Play On Linux

Face it, there are pros and cons of both operating systems. Native gaming on Windows is better, while programming on Linux is much improved over Windows. Sure, thanks to Steam OS there’s been a push to optimize games for cross-compatibility. Such titles as Alien: Isolation and Half-Life 2 saw Linux versions alongside Windows and Mac iterations, and there are some fantastic gems hiding right there in the software center, but gaming is unarguably stronger on Windows.

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Want to play those old games How to Play Retro Windows Games on Linux How to Play Retro Windows Games on Linux There's something so satisfying about revisiting a retro PC game, like catching up with an old friend after many years apart. But how can you play classic Windows games on Linux? Read More (think 16-bit)? Well, modern (64-bit) Windows architecture can’t handle them. Linux gracefully offers support of 16-bit programs via both 32- and 64-bit operating systems. Thanks to WINE How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux? One answer is to use Wine, but while it can be very useful, it probably should only be your last resort. Here's why. Read More , many Windows apps run like a champ. Want the best of gaming, both old and new? Dual boot.

2. The Host

When running an operating system natively on a system (as opposed in a virtual machine Migrate to Linux without Leaving Windows Behind with a Virtual Machine Conversion Migrate to Linux without Leaving Windows Behind with a Virtual Machine Conversion You can have the best of both worlds: Merge Linux with your Windows setup. We show you how to import your complete Windows system into a virtual machine running in Linux. Read More , or VM), that operating system has full access to the host machine. Thus, dual booting means more access to hardware components, and in general it’s faster than utilizing a VM. Virtual machines typically are more system-intensive, so running Linux or Windows inside a VM How to Set Up a Windows Virtual Machine in Linux How to Set Up a Windows Virtual Machine in Linux Many home users prefer to run a dual-boot setup when both Windows and Linux are needed, but if you'd rather run Windows inside Linux, here's how to set that up. Read More requires pretty beefy specs for decent performance.

3. Compatibility

Netflix on Linux

You may find that many of your favorite programs don’t function quite as well in one operating system versus the other. Until recently, a case in point was Netflix How to Watch Netflix Natively on Linux - the Easy Way How to Watch Netflix Natively on Linux - the Easy Way Using Netflix on Linux has been simplified considerably in the past few months. With the right browser, you can enjoy your favorite shows and movies from the popular streaming subscription service on your Linux device. Read More  (but this has since been overcome). However, regular use of Adobe applications and/or particular video games may compel you to dual boot. Having two operating systems installed ensures surefire access to all your programs and services.

4. Programming Is (Sometimes) Better on Linux

Want to get into programming? Linux has many advantages. It’s free, which is always a plus. Then there’s the bevy of languages including Java, PHP, Ruby, Perl, Python, and C/C++, loads of coding apps, and bash support. Oh, and knowledge of Linux looks fantastic on a resume. So familiarity with the ecosystem is in-demand.

Want to develop for Windows or Mac? Sure, you can totally use Linux, but it’s typically preferable to code apps for an operating system natively. Windows, for example, has the ultra-powerful Visual Studio and it’s the go-to for Windows apps. Consider dual booting for programming, and use Linux as a development environment.

5. It’s Really, Really Easy

There’s a misconception How You Can Explain Linux to Anyone (So They'll Get It) How You Can Explain Linux to Anyone (So They'll Get It) How do you evangelize Linux to someone who doesn't share your enthusiasm? How can you persuade your mom to switch from Windows? These tips will help you build an army of Linux newbies. Read More that Linux is ridiculously complex. Sure, the command line can be a bit daunting to the first-time user, and yes more tweaking is occasionally required when compared to using Windows or Mac. Ultimately Linux is merely an operating system, and may be used as simply that.

Similarly, dual booting is a cinch. There are guidelines that ensure a smooth install. For instance, always make sure to install Linux second, after the primary operating system (failing to do so may result in problems booting). Sharing files is totally feasible as well, as Linux allows access to many Windows files.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Dual Boot

As with any installation scenario, there are some downsides that you should also consider.

1. Increased Complexity

While installation is not terribly difficult, sharing files across the two operating systems can be a challenge. Linux usually provides ease of access to Windows files, but accessing the Linux file system via Windows is a bit trickier. Linux mostly uses the EXT4 file system, and Windows requires a third party app for EXT4 compatibility. Although installation might be fairly simple, uninstalling can create a mess.

Overall, a dual boot set up is nowhere near as challenging as many tech tasks, but it will require a dash of patience and a side of ingenuity. If you’re not up to some mild troubleshooting, maybe skip the dual boot setup.

2. A VM Basically Accomplishes the Same Objective

Virtual Machine Linux
Image Credit: langkah-langkah via Flickr

As discussed earlier, a virtual machine is a great solution for running an operating system within an operating system. This method may be used to run Linux on a VM within another operating system, or vice versa. Plus, installation and uninstallation are pretty easy as it’s like removing a program and doesn’t affect anything with boot loaders.

Opting for the VM solution does take up more hard drive space, and resource allocation is much more than running just a Linux distro. Older hardware may not be suited to running a virtual machine, whether from lack of hard drive space or low system specs. Further, an operating system within a VM might not have full access to the host PC. When I first tried Ubuntu in a VM, I encountered problems using my DVD drive to install programs. Running Ubuntu natively on my hard drive (that is, installing it) alleviated this issue.

There’s no shortage of reasons to use Linux and Windows or Mac. Dual booting vs. a singular operating system each have their pros and cons, but ultimately dual booting is a wonderful solution that levels up compatibility, security, and functionality. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding, especially for those making the foray into the Linux ecosystem.

Why are you dual booting or not dual booting? Let us know in the comments section below!

  1. My English is broken.
    October 9, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    I use GNU/Linux for 90% of my time. The experience is very mixed for me. I love the speed and immunity to common malware and viruses. Installing new software is easier in GNU/Linux than it is on Windows, thanks to software center. I really hate the way GNU/Linux works with my trendnet wireless usb adapter: when I booted to GNU/linux it simply wouldn't work. When I put my pc to sleep and then come back it wouldn't work- I have this problem with both Trendnet device and Huawei 3G usb device. Sometimes these issues make computing very difficult for me and sometimes I wish I wouldn't have invested in GNU/Linux hardware. It is really sad to see that my sister doesn't use GNU/Linux because of these issues, it would be very useful for her to Learn UNIX. I tried to install Ubuntu next to Windows 7 on her Compaq laptop computer but Ubuntu only offered me only one choice: Delete Windows 7 and I really didn't want to do that.

  2. Mark
    October 9, 2016 at 4:52 am

    When did you write this, 2014?

    Netflix works fine. Bad example. This used to be a problem, but it has been resolved.

    Pro points 2, 3, and 4 are basically the same argument and are the exact opposite of con 2. Pro 5 and con 1 are also in complete disagreement.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 12, 2016 at 6:44 am

      Hey, Mark, thanks for pointing that out.

      Disagree about your observations, however.

  3. Raga Subekti
    October 8, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    VM will never enough, it's really choppy on my hardware, so no, i would also like to play games on my Windows PC, since my laptop graphic driver isn't work right now.

  4. Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
    October 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    A VM won't allow to utilize GPU, leaving a handicapped system.

  5. Joe P
    October 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I just installed Mint to a Cruzer Fit flash drive and set a few frequently written to directories to a tmpfs. Then set to boot from USB first. As long as the flash drive is in, I boot to Linux. I have been doing this since the day Mint 13 came out and have not had any problems.

    I rarely boot to Windows anymore.

  6. Damien Ahuir
    October 7, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I cannot see why you would need to dual boot. Use whole drive, wipe out and install Linux. Enjoy! (PS: to say that Netflix is hard to get on Linux is a joke, if you don't mind installing Google chrome).

    • zubozrout
      October 8, 2016 at 6:17 am

      Yeah, Netflix works for quite some time now.

    • Lou
      October 9, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Damien Ahuir:
      I dual-boot because of software. I wanted to try Linux, with the intent of eventually moving away from Microsoft where I can. Currently using Linux Mint, and so far am enjoying the experience, doing more and more of my on-line computing in Linux.
      But, I still use Windows 7 regularly. Why: I have a huge time (and significant financial) investment in Windows software that I use on a regular basis. I have neither the time nor the inclination to find, test and learn a Linux alternate to Microsoft Word, Publish, Excel, Powerpoint, Finale Music Notation, to name a few.
      In my world, Operating Systems and programs/applications are simply tools, rather than avocations or religions. I stick with using the tools I know when I need to do the work.
      On the day Microsoft stops supporting my current version of Windows and Office, I'll keep working in the Windows partition, without going online.

    • jymm
      October 10, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Support is one reason. I use Magic Jack. Unfortunately Magic Jack does not support Linux. To install the software and dialer, or to update you need to have Windows. I am sure there are other examples of lack of support. I agree with those that do not like VM. I am no fan of VM.

  7. William
    October 7, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    I just started dual-booting Windows 7 Pro and Ubuntu 16.04. They work wonderfully, but over the years I invested heavily in the Microsoft ecosystem and found that though the LibreOffice does a reasonable job and is FULL OF FEATURES, it's not so easy when the fonts are changed up - en masse - in Word, Excel, etc.

    So, I decided to to install this same distro using Oracle's VirtualBox; it IS NOT a pretty thing! Actually, with my end-of-2012 i3-3217U laptop with 4GB RAM, Ubuntu runs like a very old dog and it's extremely frustrating. I'm going to try another distribution before I delete the Windows partition and re-imaging it. (That'll give me the opportunity to see too if the way I installed it works, i.e., leaving my standalone Ubuntu intact.)

    By the way, I am VERY impressed how the standalone version works: Everything (that I've tested so far) works - even my touchscreen! My 2 printers were found without issue, so too my external monitor, sound, and so on, and so on. Again, very impressive.

    Oh, and one last surprising thing: The standalone sees all my drives, mapped and otherwise. I was yet again surprised that the VM didn't find ANY!

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