I was a Windows user. Then I switched to Ubuntu at work for (web) development and never looked back. Now that I upgraded my home system, the question came to my mind: Windows / linux.

Why Linux:

  • I like the general look / feel / rendering of Ubuntu (Maverick Meerkat)
  • APT = heaven
  • Fast
  • Feels more secure compared to Windows

In favor of Windows:

  • Photoshop
  • Lightroom

You guessed it - I'm a developer / amateur photographer. But I wonder which option is 'best':

  • Ubuntu as host; Windows virtualized (Virtualbox) for photo editing
  • Windows as host; Ubuntu virtualized (Virtualbox) for development
  • Dual boot - downside is reboot needed if I want to go from development to photography.

System is core i5, SSD 120 GB and 500 GB data disk, 16 GB DDR3. From time to time I like to play a game as well, will VirtualBox be good enough so I can play games as I was in native Windows?

  • Playing games over VirtualBox is certainly possible, but probably not what you want.
    – slhck
    Dec 1, 2011 at 12:51
  • If you're talking AAA titles, then no, VirtualBox probably won't handle your games.
    – MBraedley
    Dec 1, 2011 at 12:54
  • The maximum graphics memory that can be assigned to a VirtualBox VM is 128MB so anything that needs more than that the VM would struggle. I woudln't want to use graphics software in a VM...but it's a decent machine you're running on, so if it's given enough resources and 4GB of RAM it should be fine.
    – tombull89
    Dec 1, 2011 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


Go with Windows 7 64 bit as the host and Ubuntu in the VR. The primary reason is the same as the comments. Games will not work, especially if they use DirectX or OpenGL (which almost any game worth playing does). But there are other reasons as well. Windows sometimes seems to have problems working with peripherals when it's running in a VM, especially ones that attach via USB. While more recent versions of VirtualBox seem to have helped Windows interface better.

In my home set up I have an Ubuntu box and a couple of Win 7 machines. I also run Ubuntu in a VM on my main Win7 box. I tried getting Win7 running in a VM on my Ubuntu box to try a few things out, but I had a USB keyboard and a multifunction printer/scanner that I could never get the Windows VM to work with properly. The printer would print, but it wouldn't scan.

On the other hand, Ubuntu works great in a VM. I have never had any problems getting it to work with any peripheral, at least those for which there is a linux driver out there. It's snappy and it just works great in my VirtualBox setup.

I would probably recommend, however, for someone that does photography and wants a dual environment setup, you're going to want to invest in a lot more drive space as soon as you can. My other half does a lot of photography and that 500GB can fill up pretty fast.

  • Agreed on the bigger HDD. Unfortunately, now is not a good time to upgrade as $/GB has been going up.
    – MBraedley
    Dec 1, 2011 at 13:31
  • Yea, flooding in Thailand has killed the HDD industry. I was pretty lucky. I saw the news about prices going up and ran out to the MicroCenter nearby. They hadn't raised their prices yet, but they were limiting sales to 2 HDD per customer, so I grabbed a 2TB drive for a pretty good steal. Same drive now is about 50 bucks more than when I bought it a month ago..
    – BBlake
    Dec 1, 2011 at 13:37

Don't discount the dual boot, it takes less than a minute to switch (Esp w/ your SSD) and there is no performance loss for your photo/games/development due to a VM. A reboot is not needed, btw, you can hibernate and switch much faster.

Also consider giving Ubuntu Studio a try (http://ubuntustudio.org/) since it is a distro geared towards multimedia, though you would have to learn new programs. Still, worth a try if you can integrate the OS for your hobby and work.

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