I'm planning to install Windows 7 x64 soon. I'm planning also run Ubuntu. I wish to use Ubuntu for developing, and for doing live music.

I'd like to be able boot directly into Ubuntu for live performance, as processor speed and low latency is key. However I'd like to be able to use the same installation of Ubuntu within Windows, so I don't have to reboot to develop within Ubuntu.

As far as I can tell my options are:

  • Windows Virtual PC. This doesn't support using a physical disk as far as I can see, so I'd have to use a shared Linux data drive, with separate Ubuntu installations for the vm and for "real" use. Maintaining two installations seems a pain.
  • Virtualbox, Windows host OS. Looks good, but the free version doesn't support USB.
  • Virtualbox, Ubuntu host OS. Looks good, except for the USB restriction. Also Windows is my primary operating system currently, so this option makes less sense. Apparently you can turn USB on, but those instructions are old.

Any thoughts? Anyone have experience at trying to do something similar?

  • When I get around to this (it'll be a wee while), I'll start with playing around with coLinux, and then if I don't get good results with that, will go with VirtualBox. I didn't realise the non-OSE edition was also free-as-in-beer, thanks. The idea of having separate installs so one is performance tweaked is interesting - I'd prefer to have a single install, which I'll have set up somehow to have different sets of daemons for normal and performance use, and two different window managers. You've all given me great pointers, cheers. Oct 10, 2010 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


You might look at coLinux. It supports running linux inside of Windows in a way that is much closer to 2 host operating systems (hardware peripherals are emulated for the linux kernel, but the CPU and RAm are not emulated. The kernel runs at nearly full speed). Not only can you specify a harddrive partition as the virtual disk instead of a file, I doubt you'll need to boot linux natively to get smooth audio playback. Grab Xming and Cygwin's ESD or PulseAudio daemons to run on windows, and you can have the best of both worlds without all the slowness and overhead of a VM.

andLinux has a slightly more friendly installer for those unfamiliar with linux, though I've always preferred to do things myself with coLinux.


If what you are doing when you are using the "physical" and "virtual" Ubuntus is different, then two completely separate installs may be the easiest solution.

One possibility that I would consider is having two separate installations of Ubuntu (one physical and one virtual), but with a separate /home (and perhaps a shared swap space? Not if you want to pause/ hibernate your virtual machine though) that is common to both machines. I'm thinking that for your live music system, you may want fewer daemons running, a lighter desktop or other maybe some other tweaks to increase performance.

If Windows is your main operating system, then use that as the host for your virtual Ubuntu. I would use Virtualbox.

Regarding USB support, there are two versions of Virtualbox, one with USB support and one without. Both are free as in cost no money (except for certain restrictions which are unlikely to apply to you), but the USB support is not included in the version which is open source. If you were that bothered about freedom as is in liberty, you wouldn't be using Windows would you.


You can boot a Linux installation on any hardware, physical or virtual. The one issue you might run into is a proprietary video card driver that must only be loaded when running on the physical hardware, but I think Ubuntu will take care of that automatically (and if it doesn't it's only a matter of editing a configuration file or running a few commands once).

Virtualbox supports USB with any combination of Windows and Linux hosts and guests. You just need to get the non-OSE edition, which is free of charge for personal or academic use.

Virtualbox supports connecting a physical disk, though the option is not accessible through the GUI. You need to use VBoxManage createhd on the command line.

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