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I have a machine running Windows, where the disk has two partitions C (50 GB) and D (250GB). I do research in Information Retrieval and need to work with a large corpus (more than 50 GB) and in Linux.

So if I want to install Linux on the existing system, keeping the Windows installation intact, will it be fine to run it in a virtual box? (say, QEMU, VMWare, etc.)

An alternative is using Wubi. In that case the Linux installation has to be on drive C. Then, if I keep a small Linux installation (say 5GB) on C, and my corpus on D (mounted in Linux), how will it affect the performance of my programs which would be accessing the mounted Windows drive D.

Is it feasible to use Linux this way? Which of the above is better if at all they are a way out?


Note :

Since my post in July 2010, I have been using and have tried several ways of maintaining a disk-image that I can mount in Linux. I had a 100GB qcow2 disk and a 100GB raw disk, both formatted to an EXT3 file system.

I was mounting and connecting to the qcow2 disk using qemu-nbd. The problem was that every now and then, the connection to the disk would get lost and the running programs would throw disk I/O errors.

The raw disk would mount and work fine as a loop mounted device, but when writing data to it, the mount.ntfs program would hog the CPU and the process would take an enormous amount of time. I was in fact running make on a piece of software located on this raw disk, and after a point of time make was waiting while mount.ntfs would show 100% CPU usage.

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Seems this fits better in Super User –  Kensai Jul 24 '10 at 20:53
    
Small point; the "c drive" & "d drive" nomenclature is windows terminology. It makes no sense to say "install linux on C". Also, windows letters by partition not drive, so you could have C, D, and E all on one physical drive. –  Sirex Jan 6 '11 at 7:47

5 Answers 5

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Accessing the NTFS (Windows) partition from linux is fast. You can't see the difference between accessing NTFS or ext (linux) partition. I think the VM option is good if you have sufficient RAM available (1GB free while using Windows to allocate 1GB to Ubuntu VM). Ubuntu runs not bad with 512MB too. If you have not enough RAM, you will need the dual boot option but that's not as flexible. Your ubuntu will still use the NTFS partion without problem (with regular install or wubi) but you'll have to choose at startup and reboot to change... Going this way, I would install a regular Ubuntu, not wubi but that's only because I think better to have a standard install so you find more community help, how to's, etc... mainly with a dual boot machine.

Anyways, the good point of the VM is that you can try without any risk. If it is too slow, you can delete it and go for the dual boot system. That's one of the good points of VM.

And... you can do both options... :) so if in windows and need a quick look at linux you start the VM and if you plan all the day on linux, boot on linux

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i would do VMs if your machine can handle it. I run Linux and Windows VMs on my Mac; needs about 6gb of memory (total including other stuff)

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I would personally use virtualbox. It's free, mostly opensource, and extremely easy to use. It works great on Windows with every linux distribution guest OS I've tried, including:

  • ubuntu
  • linux-mint
  • debian
  • archlinux
  • gentoo
  • systemrescuecd (gentoo based)

A novice can have a linux virtual machine up and running within a half hour. I've run it on Mac OS X, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008, all flawlessly. I have 3 linux VM's and 2 Windows VM's running (not all at the same time) on my dell notebook with 4GB of RAM. You can choose how much RAM to allocate to a virtual machine and I've found that linux distributions run extremely well and responsively with only 1GB of RAM allocated on my notebook Windows 7 host.

The Wubi installation I think would be more of a hassle. You'd be dual booting for one, which tends to slow down your work. Then you're also dealing with bootloaders and partition tables and all kinds of crap that really is just unnecessary if you can avoid it.

If your system has a reasonable amount of ram (4GB or more, although I'd speculate that even 2GB would be doable on XP), I'd go with the virtual solution. It allows you to pop open your linux install at any time and let your research tools run in the background while you continue to use your windows programs.

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I second the virtualbox suggestion, especially if you don't need to use Linux that often. Starting a VM is a lot faster than rebooting every time you need to switch operating systems. –  Velociraptors Jul 25 '10 at 2:28
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Or use Linux primarily and run windows as a GuestOS. That way, if windows bites the big one you can just copy a backup of the disk image and have a fresh copy. If the OP didn't already have windows installed this would by my preferable solution. –  Evan Plaice Jul 29 '10 at 10:37

Depending on your hardware, it won't. I have 4 GB of RAM and run Gentoo in VirtualBox. I set it to use 1 GB in VirtualBox, and I don't notice any performance hit unless I'm compiling something. Also if the files you're working with are already on your Windows partition, you can share it with the guest OS so you don't have to copy it over.

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Wubi is quite easy to use. For me, it was a simple few clicks and a total 30 minute wait, and I had a dual booting Linux system. If you need performance in the linux system, or just need to run it with full access to your real hardware, use Wubi. Also, Wubi doesn't involve partitions at all. It handles everything for you. None of the hassle of other dual boot systems.

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