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I am planning on getting an extra hard drive for my Windows tower, and am thinking about trying out Linux again as a dual-boot.

However, I can't really think of any pros to this, only cons:

  • More complicated to switch OSes. (Edit: because I have to shut down every time!)
  • Less storage space. (Edit: because the Linux partition will take up space)
  • I can already run Unix programs on Windows via Cygwin.
  • I have to store data on FAT32 instead of NTFS. (Edit: FAT32 is the only platform supported enough by Windows and Linux, yet is less reliable then NTFS.)

Is there any practical reason to do this, or should I just format the hard drive as 100% non-bootable NTFS for storage?

Now a community wiki.

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closed as not constructive by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, TFM, Scott, terdon, Mokubai Mar 30 '13 at 9:38

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Why do you have to store data on FAT32? Linux has very little problem accessing an NTFS partition these days; the ability to do so will be in almost any modern distribution. – ChrisInEdmonton Sep 27 '09 at 19:03
yes, this should be CW – Molly7244 Sep 27 '09 at 19:19
It sounds as if you're looking for a reason to run Linux and you've convinced yourself you don't have one. Stick with Windows. – EmmEff Sep 27 '09 at 22:33
You probably want to read: Why switch to Linux? and Why not switch to Linux? – nagul Sep 27 '09 at 23:43

12 Answers 12

When you want to try out Linux but aren't really sure, just consider using a Virtual Machine, such as VirtualBox. You can install Linux in that VM without having to bother about partitioning, dual booting and all the other stuff.

Using a VM is easy and can't really mess up your existing configuration. When you're done with it you can just delete it. Also, one other great advantage of VMs is the ability to easily switch between the 2 operating systems, including dragging and dropping of files from one OS to the other.

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Thank you for this tip, I shall give VirtualBox a try. – MiffTheFox Sep 27 '09 at 22:20
The VM approach is the way to go in this day and age of abundant RAM and harddrive space. – Svend Sep 28 '09 at 8:12
It sure is. In my opinion VMs are the way of the future. – alex Sep 28 '09 at 8:56
+1 for VirtualBox. It's amazing for trying out new distributions, building one of web servers for small projects, etc. – Nick Stinemates Sep 28 '09 at 21:03
  • More complicated to switch OSes.

Not hugely. Pick one at boot time via a menu.

  • I can already run Unix programs on Windows via Cygwin.

Running natively is always better. As any who plays games on Wine will tell you.

  • I have to store data on FAT32 instead of NTFS

Wrong (depending on your distro). All distros I have used have had no problems reading NTFS.

Reasons to have Linux

  • Programming apps. Might not apply before you, but apart from Visual Studio, all the best tools are Linux first, Windows second.
  • Virtual Desktops. You can have multiple (usually 4, but you can change it) screens of apps at once. It's like having 4 monitors without the expense and space problems of having 4 screens.
  • Money. Most Linux programs are free. A lot of the best free server and programming software doesn't even have Windows versions. Linux itself is also free, which is an obvious plus.

Reasons not to have Linux

  • As you can see, most of the reasons people like Linux (apart from being free) are for advanced users, and nerds. If you feel Windows does all you need, and you've already paid for it, and you're not interested in broadening your skills, there isn't a huge need to install Linux.
  • Learning. Some people (myself for one) are good at picking up new things, and get the basics of Linux in a day or so. Others have more difficulty.
  • Command Line. The Linux command line isn't the object of abject horror some Windows fanboys make it out to be (mainly because cmd.exe (Windows command line) is an object of horror). Neither is it nessecary for day to day use. But you will find loads of Linux users/tutorials will assume you are able to use the command line.
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RE: "Not hugely. Pick one at boot time via a menu." - Yes, but the main problem involves shutting down the computer to get to boot time. ---- RE: "Virtual Desktops" - Yes, but support for real multiple monitors is terrible compared to the Windows support. ---- RE: "Money" - I already have my Windows copy. ---- RE: "Command line" - The main reason I have Cygwin on my Windows machine is so I can use a Linux-style command line on Windows. – MiffTheFox Sep 27 '09 at 22:20
@Macha: Imho, a main reason to have linux is so you have an alternative for the things Windows does terribly, mainly online security. My main reason not to have Linux? The none too stellar support for peripherals. – nagul Sep 27 '09 at 23:40
@MiffTheFox My distro did everything by itself when i plugged in a second monitor. – Flame Sep 28 '09 at 5:51
Virtual desktops isn't even remotely like having 4 monitors. – Svend Sep 28 '09 at 8:11

There are hundreds of practical reasons to use Linux and hundreds of practical reasons not to run it.

Your real question, I think, is "Do I have any particular reason to install Linux?" Based on what you wrote above, the answer seems to be "No."

It's hard to say much more unless you give more information. What sorts of things do you use your computer for? Why did your previous experiment with Linux end?

Ultimately, nobody else can tell you what's good for you. I suppose they can (and often do) but it rarely does either side any good.

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Ubuntu Linux was the worst operating system I have ever used. The UI tried to hide everything from you, switching to KDE mid-install was tedious. My experiment ended permanently when I lost all sound support upgrading from Gutsy to Hardy. (And that was in early 2009, so I was still behind and had to upgrade to Intrepid.) If I want to use Linux this time, I want to use a componentized distro like Arch instead. – MiffTheFox Sep 27 '09 at 22:16
Sounds like you were trying to abuse the system a bit... Ubuntu is supposed to be a more "user-friendly" Linux distro, i.e. it hides things from you to keep less technical users from getting overwhelmed. If you want to do things like switching from Gnome to KDE in mid-installation, Ubuntu isn't for you. – David Z Sep 28 '09 at 6:11
@David: I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. Gnome, which is Ubuntu's default desktop environment, hides things from users, and Ubuntu itself may do so as well (I used it only briefly and years ago). But either way, switching from Gnome to KDE should be trivial: aptitude install kde-core kdm and you're well on your way. (You could do this just as easily in Synaptic, if you prefer a GUI tool.) – Telemachus Sep 28 '09 at 10:14

The only real benefit in dual booting (as opposed to running a virtual machine) is that you have full access to the host machines hardware instead of "virtual" hardware.

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The situation is not so XOR as the OP frames the discussion.

Because Linux can read and write to NTFS perfectly well, Linux can just live on a small partition on your new disk, say 20 GB for Linux, and that will hold all you'll ever need if data is stored on the NTFS partitions.

I did this a year ago but quickly found Linux so convenient that I rarely ever boot into Windows, even when I'm developing apps for Windows. I develop them with cross-platform tools, and boot into Windows every week or so to tweak any OS related problems.

I strongly disagree with the VM crowd of answers here. Before I dual booted I ran Linux in VMs, and it was always just a bit of a hassle. Things were just slightly off enough (a bit slower, USB drives weren't discovered when I wanted or were when I didn't want, etc) that it wasn't a pleasure to use.

And if you don't end up liking Linux, then your costs are very small 20GB and a boot screen that lasts for a few seconds.

While installing a new drive is the perfect time to dedicate a little slice to making a dual boot with Linux.

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Sort of yes with all your points - aprt from the last 2.

  • It isn't really about running UNIX programs, it is about running the whole Linux environment.
  • No need for Fat32, you can just have two seporate partitions. Fat32 is only needed in order to transfer data between both OS's unless you want to install a NTFS addon for Linux or a EXT (?) addon for Windows.

The real reason is people want to use Linux if they want to - May have a program that only works on it, want to do testing or something else. They could use virtualisation, but it is faster just to run.

It is the same reason why people with Macs want to run Windows. It is hard to explain unless you are in the position and need to do it yourself.

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People with macs want to run Windows so they can use Windows software. – MiffTheFox Sep 28 '09 at 2:42

IMHO there isn't any reason today to waste a whole disk on another installation, when you can run both operating systems at the same time with one boot (that of Windows).

See the following two linux distributions: -- Run Linux natively inside Windows
Wubi -- an officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows

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Here's a take on it: if you don't really think you need to run it, it would probably be better not to dual-boot. If you need to do something Linuxy, you could use a LiveCD or stick a tiny distro on a thumb drive.

If you were a Linux user, dual-booting just might be helpful. You could do a lot of stuff in Linux, but you might need to boot into Windows for a few things (like some gaming). And Windows is somewhat harder to use LiveCD style or from a thumb drive (just because it's not really designed for that).

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I don't like LiveCDs, because they're always bundled with "easy-to-use" installers that will wipe the HDD, plus you can't upgrade the software on them. – MiffTheFox Sep 28 '09 at 2:42
@MiffTheFox: most LiveCDs are not meant to be installed at all, so it's true by design that you can't upgrade their software. Beyond that, I have never seen an installer that will wipe your drive unless you tell it to. Of course, you might do so unknowingly, if you don't bother to read the installation instructions or the prompts on the partitioning screen during installation. (What exactly do you think a Windows or OSX installer disc do, by the way?) – Telemachus Sep 28 '09 at 10:18

There is one huge reason to run Linux as well as Windows, you can browse the internet without worrying about viruses. Use Linux for web browsing and Windows for other apps abd you have a secure system which runs whatever software you want to use.

If you choose to dual boot, there are programs like Wubi (used for Ubuntu) which make installation very simple - it creates a virtual "partition" to install Linux into, and if you decide you don't like it, run Wubi a second time and your system is back to normal.

HOWEVER, a better option is tp run Linux in a virtual machine, as it makes switching between OSs much simpler and easier. VirtualBox ( is a free way to do this which works very well.

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  • More complicated to switch OSes.

Actually booting an OS from a different hard drive is less complicated than booting an OS from the same drive (another partition).

  • Less storage space.

A Linux distribution usually takes less space than a modern Windows.

I can already run Unix programs on Windows via Cygwin.

Frankly, doing that is like using a rubber doll instead of a woman :-)

I have to store data on FAT32 instead of NTFS.

While Linux handles NTFS reasonably well with ntfs-3g, it is adviced to avoid using NTFS completely if you can afford that. Say thanks to Microsoft for hiding the specifications of their proprietary filesystem. NTFS is a good, reliable filesystem, but there are tons of open alternatives that are not worse.

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But any alternatives that are not worse and can reliably work in Windows? – Nathaniel Sep 28 '09 at 23:49

Linux saves time. Both the OS and applications from repositories take less time to install and applications are automatically updated.

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Practical? You need a practical reason to run Linux?

Well, fun can be practical, can't it?

That said, unless you like to experiment and explore, or unless you've got apps that really need a native linux environment, Windows should suffice. Basically, if you need to run Linux, you'll know you need to run it, and if you don't...

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