7 Risks of Dual Booting Windows and Linux Operating Systems
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Considering installing a second operating system, and want to be aware of the risks? Having Windows and Linux installed on your PC can increase productivity and give you the option of trying out a new OS. But it isn’t always smooth sailing. While most of these issues can be avoided, there are easy problems to fall into.

Here are seven dangers of dual booting that you should be aware of before installing a second operating system on your PC or laptop.

1. Accidental Overwriting of Data/Operating System

If this isn’t the most important, it’s certainly the risk that can scupper you before you even get started. After all, overwriting your existing data — or even the primary operating system — is going to lead to considerable problems. Sure, you can use recovery tools, but the chances of recovering all your data are minimal.

risks dual booting windows linux

Fortunately, most operating system installation wizards are capable of detecting primary partitions. This means that if you’re installing Windows alongside a Linux distribution, the wizard should highlight the existing partition and give you a choice of what to do next. Linux operating systems, meanwhile, are similarly smart.

But accidents do happen, so take care when installing. Make sure you’re installing the new operating system onto the intended device, and the right partition, without accidentally losing your data!

2. Productivity Can Take a Hit

Running multiple operating systems on your PC is a great way to maximize productivity. But sometimes it can be counter-productive. If you have a particular need to use, say, Windows 10 alongside Ubuntu 16.04, then it’s great to be able to switch into that operating system.

But do you really need to? Making sure you have alternative applications in Linux Some Great Linux Alternatives For 4 Tasks Normally Requiring Windows Some Great Linux Alternatives For 4 Tasks Normally Requiring Windows Linux has been receiving plenty of attention lately and none of that is going away anytime soon. You can now do things with Linux that you might’ve thought would only work in Windows. Here are... Read More if you have switched from Windows is important. Similarly, you should ensure suitable options are available if switching the other way. Dual booting should really be for experiencing — and enjoying — the whole alternative operating system environment.

risks dual booting windows linux

Then again, you might not even need to switch. Running Windows in a virtual machine on Linux 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 is a great solution. Naturally, you can also install Linux in a virtual machine on Windows How to Install Linux in Windows With a VMware Virtual Machine How to Install Linux in Windows With a VMware Virtual Machine Do you want to install Linux, but can't leave Windows? Try a virtual machine to run your favorite version of Linux inside Windows. We show you how to set up VMware Workstation Player. Read More .

Ultimately, it’s important to make sure you’re using the best operating system for the task at hand. Check our guide to sharing data between dual-booting operating systems 5 Ways to Share Personal Data on Linux-Windows Dual Boot PCs 5 Ways to Share Personal Data on Linux-Windows Dual Boot PCs You want ability to access data between operating systems so you can use Linux easily. Let's see how we can work around this problem, and get your data where you want it. Read More to minimize disruption when switching.

3. Locked Partitions

Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of dual booting is being unable to access your data. Most of the time, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you have organized things effectively (perhaps you sync data via the cloud, or use a dedicated HDD for personal files), then you’ll find your vital personal files are available via whatever operating systems you have installed.

However, problems can occur. If you’re using Windows and the system shuts down unexpectedly, any dedicated HDD or partition used for personal files will be locked. This means that trying to access the drive from your Linux partition will fail. You’ll see a message like this:

Error mounting /dev/sda5 at /media/karma/data: 
Command-line `mount -t "ntfs" -o "uhelper=udisks2,nodev,nosuid,uid=1000,gid=1000,dmask=0077,fmask=0177" 
"/dev/sda5" "/media/karma/data"' exited with non-zero exit status 14: The disk contains an unclean file system (0, 0). 
Metadata kept in Windows cache, refused to mount. Failed to mount '/dev/sda5': 
Operation not permitted The NTFS partition is in an unsafe state. 
Please resume and shutdown Windows fully (no hibernation or fast restarting), or mount the volume read-only with the 'ro' mount option.

As it goes, this is perhaps the most frustrating risk of dual booting. Fortunately it can be fixed, but it might take a few minutes (depending on how quickly your Windows installation boots). One option is to follow the instructions in the error and boot the device as read only. Or you can simply reboot into Windows, and the files will be accessible again. Follow this with an ordered restart to boot back into Linux, and again, the files are available to use.

4. Windows Update

Updating your OS is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure a robust and secure computer. Unfortunately, it can lead to problems in dual booting scenarios.

risks dual booting windows linux

Whereas a system update from your Linux distribution of choice should result in few (if any) issues, a Windows Update can prove devastating. Even if it installs successfully, Windows Update can lead to a rewriting of the Master Boot Record (MBR), leaving you with a missing Linux partition. But failed updates, or even simple driver updates, can result in trouble on a dual boot PC. While Linux can be the victim of problems with a standard Windows Update, a failure will more often than not leave you with a copy of Windows that fails to start.

In this situation, it’s time to resort to the tried and tested Windows 10 recovery tools How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data Using this option allows you to reinstall Windows without losing the files, personal data and programs you already have on the system. Read More . Although time consuming, if you really need to run Windows, this is the way get it working again. For the best results, ensure that your computer’s boot order defaults to Windows, rather than your Linux OS.

5. Viruses Remain a Risk

Linux is famously virus-proof (even if this isn’t quite the truth 4 Surprising Linux Security Issues You Should Be Aware Of 4 Surprising Linux Security Issues You Should Be Aware Of They say you should use Linux if you want security. That might be true, but you still need to be on your toes! Read More ). Although Linux-based operating systems are pretty robust, they remain largely untroubled by viruses and other malware thanks to the relatively small userbase. The many Linux operating systems collectively command only a fraction of the operating system market. Clearly, scammers target Windows computers because it’s more efficient for them to get results. However, many websites are attacked or even taken offline due to viruses and malware, and most web servers run on Linux.

risks dual booting windows linux

If you’re running a dual boot computer, therefore, the likelihood of malware affecting the Linux environment increases.

As such, it is wise to maintain an internet security suite when running Windows. In your Linux operating system, running ClamAV (or an alternative 5 Security Tools You Should Have on Linux 5 Security Tools You Should Have on Linux From the start, Linux is quite secure, especially when compared to other operating systems such as macOS or Windows. Even so, it's good to build on that, starting with these tools. Read More ) daily should also put your mind at rest. Don’t just focus on the operating system when scanning for viruses; take the time to scan your personal data files too.

6. Driver Bugs Can Be Exposed

From time to time, some hardware issues can occur when dual booting. These are typically linked to Windows device drivers, however, and are becoming increasingly rare.

Perhaps the most common hardware issue when dual booting comes in the shape of built-in wireless network cards. These switchable devices can end up being disabled in Windows, and therefore unable to initialize in Linux.

risks dual booting windows linux
Image Credit: Long Zheng via Flickr

Why? Aren’t these operating systems completely independent of each other? Well yes, but the wireless card is hardware, and can be controlled via the system BIOS. In some ways, the disabled Wi-Fi card recalls the issues with a locked partition discussed in #3, above.

The solution is to research support for the wireless card before installing your operating systems. You should also ensure the drivers are up to date on both operating systems.

7. Dual Booting Can Impact Disk Swap Space

In most cases there shouldn’t be too much impact on your hardware from dual booting. One issue you should be aware of, however, is the impact on swap space. Both Linux and Windows use chunks of the hard disk drive to improve performance while the computer is running. However, by installing a second (or third) operating system on the drive, you reduce the amount of space available for this.

risks dual booting windows linux

The solution here is obvious: don’t install additional operating systems if there is not enough space to do so. If you’re desperate to dual boot on your PC, then you can simply buy a new HDD or SSD. Once installed, you’ll have the space to more operating systems.

As for laptops, you could try what I did: remove the optical drive and replace it with a 3.5-inch HDD or SSD How to Upgrade Your Laptop DVD Drive for a HDD or SSD How to Upgrade Your Laptop DVD Drive for a HDD or SSD DVD drives are becoming more and more useless. We show you how to upgrade your laptop DVD drive with a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD. Read More .

Do You Have Dual Booting Issues?

It’s extremely unlikely that you would be impacted by ALL of these risks. However, at least one, perhaps two, are likely to occur at some point. But nothing here should put you off dual booting. Ensuring your system is set up correctly is important, and can help to mitigate or even avoid these issues.

Do you dual boot? What problems have you faced, and did you overcome them? Tell us more in the comments.

Image Credit: ollikainen/Depositphotos

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  1. Dawson
    November 14, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Seriously? Try again Make Use Of. I thought this site was better than this.

    • Davis
      November 15, 2017 at 7:47 am

      Exactly.
      People who even thinks of installing an OS on their own will have enough technical knowledge not to run into most of the **risks** listed here.

  2. Paul Homer
    November 14, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    The way I dual boot in my laptop without having the space issues is that I installed Ubuntu on the main hard drive then put that drive in a external drive case and installed windows on a new drive in the laptop, I can run the external drive with Ubuntu on it as a USB drive and amazing enough it is still faster than the installed windows.

  3. Linus
    November 14, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I've had to dual boot Linux and Windows since the turn of the century. Its the only way I can keep Windows functional. The laptop i use now has had the same Arch Linux I put on it since i got it 3 years ago, while it has seen 4 versions of barely working Windows.

  4. Tim
    November 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    What a bunch of misinformation. I don't even have time to list all the inaccuracies.

  5. virus
    November 14, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Nice one ill face 3 problem of them

  6. Sam
    November 14, 2017 at 2:05 am

    These types of Articles crack me up I've been running dual boot quad boot 10 boot for probably 20 years now and yes you can mess up your system if you personally screw something up but in most cases if you know what you're doing, it comes out fine. Besides that it should be noted that it wouldn't matter what the two operating systems are if you flaw it up you flaw it up.

  7. Muntazir
    November 14, 2017 at 1:59 am

    I believe "Secure Boot" is not supported by some flavors of linux and hence has to be disabled in BIOS/UEFI thereby opening a security hole

  8. Nazar
    November 13, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Yup almost bricked my motherboard and nearly killed my windows install. I found this supper weird since they where on different drives. Not to go into detail but i did the trouble shooting and that was the actual culprit.

  9. William Vasquez
    November 13, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    I have had almost no issues with dual booting. I have an old computer that has 2 hard drives. On one I have Windows 7 and on the other I have Ubuntu Mate. The only minor annoyance is whenever I go from Linux to Windows, the time and date need to be re-synced with the internet. And NEVER do virtual machine. It uses too much resources in your computer to run 2 operating systems. They run slower; certain things never run correctly; frequent computer freezing and lockups; and a bigger risk if you catch a Windows virus while using Linux. And, yes, you may find yourself using Linux 99% of the time, and almost no time in Windows, so why not use it the best way...a full install.

    • Lisa R
      November 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Think again - a VM *is* a full install. You're much better off creating a VM and suspending it when you don't use it rather than dual boot. Too many things can go wrong with dual boot (hence this article), while VM isolation guarantees no contamination between the two environments (such as OS-specific viruses).

      • dragonmouth
        November 13, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        When dual booting, each O/S gets full access to ALL of the system resources. A VM runs inside an O/S, borrowing resources from the O/S. Whether you suspend it or not, it has to share the resources. No matter how you slice it, dice it and spin it, sharing resources always results in a slowdown.

        • Lisa R
          November 13, 2017 at 7:33 pm

          Dual boot means you lose all access to the OS that's not booted. A suspended VM has almost no performance hit on the running OS, and a powered off VM has none. It's worth the minor trade off knowing that if you need to get to the VM's OS, you just start up the VM and shut it down when you're done. Why would anyone want to have to rebooting the native OS?! Ain't nobody got time for that.

        • Loloy D
          November 15, 2017 at 2:52 am

          It seems like you don't use Hypervisors and Citrix much. VMs are the ways to go with modern infrastructure and multi-core computers having large amounts of RAM.

    • Bruce Epper
      November 13, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Your time issue is a configuration problem. Windows likes the RTC to default to local time while *nix systems like UTC. Setting them so they are both using either UTC or local will eliminate the problem.

    • Jon Jadot
      November 14, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Virtual Machine uses almost no overhead if you do hardware passthrough. I have windows VM that benchmarks within 3% of windows on a bare metal install. This is with 1080ti passed through to windows for gaming. Score 8400 on timespy, 8600 with Windows on bare metal. That is hardly slowing things down.

    • Beast1
      November 15, 2017 at 12:45 am

      Did you ever figure out how to fix the time error? Same issue when going Linux -> Windows, the clock is off and needs to be resynced.

      • sifr
        November 15, 2017 at 3:22 am

        Linux uses UTC and Windows uses localtime. Which is why it breaks the windows clock going from linux to windows. Windows thinks the hardware clock is set to localtime and adjusts accordingly, when it's actually set to UTC. You can fix it with a regedit. Depending on which version of windows you're running. It's usually run regedit, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\TimeZoneInformation\RealTimeIsUniversal then add a dword value of 1.

      • sifr
        November 15, 2017 at 3:37 am

        Okay. So the majority of these are non issues. Most of them would require you to actually be TRYING to break things to acheive.
        More importantly... That first screenshot is the WUBI install on the 2012 Ubuntu... What the heck? No one could find a more recent actual dual boot screenshot instead of the weird hybrid dual boot from inside windows that disappeared almost instantly?

        Send me an email, I'll get you one for free...

    • Loloy D
      November 15, 2017 at 3:00 am

      Actually, it makes more sense to do VMs than doing dual boot based on your reasoning. In my home and personal machines, I have Linux Mint as hosts and Windows as guests only. Only apps that don't run/play well with Wine get to see the light of day in a Windows VM, most of which are in XP.

  10. Lisa R
    November 13, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Dual booting? How 90s. VMs, man, it's all about the virtual! VMware lets you run OS X, Linux, AND Windows on any hardware.

  11. dragonmouth
    November 13, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Another risk of dual booting is that you might get to like Linux so much that you give Windows the boot. :-)

    • Ronald
      November 13, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      :D

    • GhostRider2001
      November 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      I can relate to that comment. The only real reason I have to run windows these days in for the software I use for tax preparation, which can be dual boot or VM. Very little need to ever user windows again.

      • dragonmouth
        November 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm

        Yes. I do wish Intuit and/or TaxAct and/or H&R Block would port their product to Linux.

        BTW - my comment was sort of tongue in cheek.

    • Terrance
      November 15, 2017 at 3:25 am

      Nice!

    • Jim
      November 15, 2017 at 11:51 am

      That is why I quit dual booting. The only time I used Windows was to update it and run virus and adware checks. Took up way to much time for nothing. Now I only use Linux.