Wibbly Stuff

Dual Booting: Part 1 (Basics)

I often come across people who don't know anything about dual booting. Of course, I didn't know it at first. But now I'm often having more than one OS in my laptop. So here is an effort to describe it, and how it is done.

What is Dual Booting?

Dual-booting means having two operating systems on a computer at the same time. You can call it multi-booting if you have more than two operating systems. For example, I've Windows 7, Kubuntu and Fedora installed in 3 different partitions in my laptop. When you dual-boot, you can choose what operating system to choose when you start your computer.

How it works?

Dual booting requires a program called bootloader. Most operating systems include a bootloader. Windows uses its "Windows Bootloader" while many Linux distros use "GRUB" and "GRUB 2". There exist many other bootloaders such as Lilo etc. When you start your PC, bootloader is the first program that runs. It then displays the list of operating systems installed to choose from. Some bootloaders also have advanced features like terminal access and recovery tools.

What is the need?

Well, it depends upon your needs. Some like to use Linux, but there might not be a Linux alternative of their favorite Windows software and vice-versa. Some cannot leave Windows due to the fact that his office website or banking websites require Internet Explorer. Some also do it just for fun. There are many reasons, different for different persons.

What are the differences from Virtual Machine?

Using a virtual machine can be helpful as you can install another operating system within your current operating system without changing your partition structure. But it limits the power of both the systems as the resources are divided. A dual-boot ensures that the operating system can get the most of your hardware.

What are the disadvantages?

Particularly, I don't see any disadvantage of dual booting. One disadvantage may be that dual-booting takes more space on your hard drive. Also you are changing the bootloader configuration, so any errors might make the system unusable. But that's unlikely to happen as most systems handle the dual-boot efficiently and you don't have anything to do manually that would cause error.

What are the advantages?

  • Your operating system can use all your hardware unlike virtualization, so no performance loss.
  • Even if one operating system fails, you have the other system for recovery purposes and data backup.
  • You can enjoy the operating system you like without having to completely uninstall the system you need.

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