Now before you mark this as a duplicate or jump to answer "Just use VirtualBox", this is a different use case.

I am looking to simultaneously run two operating systems on my hardware, so that the booting and shutting down of one does not affect the other. I intend to have the Linux OS running headless and to only access it through SSH, but have Windows be the OS that appears to be running on the computer and using the display etc.

I have 16GB of memory and a 6 core CPU, so I could reasonably donate a few GB of memory and 2 cores to Linux.

I'm figuring it would work with both operating systems being virtualised and just giving Windows access to the GPU to which my monitor is connected. However, I have no idea how to do that. I figure it would require a special OS to handle running it, but I don't know of anything like that off of the top of my head.

Ideally a free solution is best, but if there are any relatively cheap solutions available, I wouldn't be against paying.

  • 1
    Try using vSphere Hypervisor. – TheKB May 26 '16 at 17:30
  • Either you are asking for the impossible, I don't understand the question, or you are looking at a high-end virtualization environment like VMware vSphere... EDIT: I was unaware of the free Hypervisor noted above, it should work according to the overview page – acejavelin May 26 '16 at 17:32
  • See coLinux & andLinux that might do the trick. Personally I don't think running two of them is possible. Read this one superuser.com/questions/333297/… – Sudipta Biswas May 26 '16 at 17:45
  • Unless you have VT-d and a GPU supporting it, this isn’t going to work. Also, on a bare-metal hypervisor, nobody has direct access to the hardware (except the hypervisor, of course). – Daniel B May 26 '16 at 17:50
  • Well, I've got VT-d support on my CPU (i7 5820K), but I'm not sure about my GPU. It's a GTX 980Ti, but I'm not really sure if that'll work. – JamEngulfer May 26 '16 at 18:02

Sounds like you need a bare-metal hypervisor.

As opposed to hosted hypervisors (such as VirtualBox), with bare-metal hypervisors there is no OS that the hypervisor runs in. Instead, it runs directly on hardware consuming minimal amount of resources and only lets you run virtual machines. This image (from Wikipedia) shows the difference:

Hypervisor type differences

These types of hypervisors aren't that common in consumer applications. To name just two of possible options, take a look at VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V.

  • @TheKB That’s not entirely correct. vSphere Hypervisor is ESXi’s new name. It is not to be confused with ESX. – Daniel B May 26 '16 at 17:51
  • Oops my mistake. – TheKB May 26 '16 at 17:52
  • What would be the performance hit with using a Hypervisor and would it be possible to directly boot into an OS that is normally booted through Hypervisor? – JamEngulfer May 26 '16 at 17:55
  • @JamEngulfer With a CPU that supports virtualization and raw partitions assigned to OSes, overhead should be negligible. See this question on ServerFault: Is virtual machine slower than the underlying physical machine?. As to booting guest OS natively, I'm not sure. It is possible with a hosted hypervisor and a Linux guest. I suspect Windows would be fussy about hardware changes and it may be actually forbidden by its license. You'd also have to dual boot guest OS and hypervisor, but that should be possible (although possibly tricky). – gronostaj May 26 '16 at 18:13

You're looking for a bare metal hypervisor like gronostaj said, but instead of ESXi, i would recommend you Unraid. The main difference is probably that you have to buy a somewhat expencive license for gpu forwarding with ESXi whereas a 59$ unraid license includes pretty much all features but is limited to 6 hard drives.

Although one thing has to be said, both solutions are relatively difficult to configure when it comes to PCIe forwarding.


I chose to run Linux primarily and dedicate a VGA connector to it, while passing through the additional graphics card to the VM. Described here (superuser.SE) and here (Multiheaded NVIDIA Gaming). It should work but I haven't worked on it enough to say for sure.

  • Although you refer to another Super User Q/A, please quote the relevant details. – Daniel B May 26 '16 at 18:09

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