Assuming that I need both operating systems running at the same time with different GUI applications, what would be the most efficient way to do this?

Should I run Windows with a Linux virtual machine, Linux with a Windows virtual machine or follow a totally different approach?


I often use Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro for documentation and develop Ruby on Rails with Emacs on Linux. On Linux I use many tools on an irregular basis, like burning tools, partitioning tools etc as they are good (enough) and free.

  • If you have a prebuilt PC and an OEM Windows license, then Windows will probably have to be the host OS. – sawdust Sep 3 '11 at 0:56
  • I agree with C0D3M0NK3Y's answer. How you access your hardware should also influence your decision. Which OS do you want to run faster? Whichever is the host OS, will have direct access to the hardware and therefore will be faster. – Keltari Sep 3 '11 at 1:24
  • This is a great question and I don't see a good answer yet- as I say in a comment below, for non-trivial rails dev you need a Unixy environment and knowing how to organise that when one also needs Windows for office stuff ( unless there is a full on Outlook-for-Linux alternative ) is a bit of a challenge. – glenatron Apr 15 '14 at 10:14
  • Question about Windows on Linux VM or vice versa from unix.se: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/38379/… – glenatron Apr 15 '14 at 15:25

It would certainly depend on what *nix applications you are referring to. The majority of open source software can easily exist in a Windows environment. Short story, you may not need to run a full stack of Linux to get the outcome you are desiring. If you mention the applications you need to run on the Linux side, most people on here will be able to help you better.

From a purely multiple OS view though, I personally would run Windows inside Virtualbox while having Linux as the resident OS. That of course is my preference though. We would need to know what your primary choice of OS is before we can make the call on what is the best route.

Info added after OP answered the intended use of the environment:

You can run Emacs on Windows http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/. As for burning and partitioning, since they are relatively simple processes I would strongly urge you to install Linux on a USB flash drive or small external HDD and make it a persistent environment.

See here: http://www.pendrivelinux.com/

And here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent

Going this route you keep your Windows environment (and Ruby dev) having direct access to the hardware with no abstraction layer involved. When you need to use the open source tools you mention simply fire up Linux from the USB drive and do what you need to. No virtualizing necessary in my opinion. But again, that is my opinion. I'm sure others will give you additional course of action to look into as well.

If you need further help with the above, let us know.

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  • The point about not needing Linux is good. Quite a few tools work directly on Windows, or with cygwin or mingw. As for a VM, if you want to actually use your hardware, VMWare can be faster and more compatible/feature-rich than Virtualbox. – ssube Sep 3 '11 at 1:04
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    The reverse may be true as well -- if you only need a few Windows apps, running them in wine is probably better than firing up a VM. – frabjous Sep 3 '11 at 1:08
  • Having just tried to set up development of a reasonable size Rails application on Windows, I would say that using Windows for Rails development is a no-go. Many gems are simply too dependent on a Unixy environment. Also nobody will be deploying to a Windows server, so why risk having such divergent systems? – glenatron Apr 15 '14 at 9:47

I have always found AndLinux to be a good option. It allows you to run both Linux and Windows together without the need to keep the Linux portion confined to a VM window. Here is a brief intro from their page:

andLinux is a complete Ubuntu Linux system running seamlessly in Windows 2000 based systems (2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 7; 32-bit versions only). This project was started for Dynamism for the GP2X community, but its userbase far exceeds its original design. andLinux is free and will remain so, but donations are greatly needed.

andLinux uses coLinux as its core which is confusing for many people. coLinux is a port of the Linux kernel to Windows. Although this technology is a bit like running Linux in a virtual machine, coLinux differs itself by being more of a merger of Windows and the Linux kernel and not an emulated PC, making it more efficient. Xming is used as X server and PulseAudio as sound server.

andLinux is not just for development and runs almost all Linux applications without modification.

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  • Definitely sounds like an interesting project. Unfortunate that they only support 32 bit though. – Matthew Scharley Sep 3 '11 at 6:03
  • Unfortunately, it seems that andLinux and coLinux haven't been updated since 2011. So this is probably not a viable solution any more. – LordOfThePigs Jan 16 '14 at 9:38

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