How can I find out if I have enough ram to dual boot or boot from a usb? I have a windows xp sp3 laptop with 2gb of total ram and I'm interested in trying out linux (maybe ubuntu or mint), for fun. Windows xp recommends at least 128mb (0.125gb) of memory, and ubuntu's desktop edition requires at least 512mb (0.5gb), although the netbook edition's a little lighter at at only 386mb (about 0.377gb).

I'm not exactly sure how I should calculate how much memory I have available. Should I just add up both operating systems and make sure they're less than 2gb? Or should I consider how much physical memory is available according to my windows task manager? And if that's the case, my available memory varies depending on how many programs I'm running, how should I decide if I have enough space for linux?

Also, a friend of mine told me that if one os is booted, the inactive one won't use up memory. If that's the case, I won't have to add both operating systems to find out total memory consumption. However, my parents said that the inactive one will still use some memory, just not as much, and then they mentioned something about memory being allocated to paging or something. Who's right?

I'm finding this all a little confusing, so as I research how it all works, I'd love it if I could get some help. Linux would be fun to have, but if it adding it might cause a loss in performance it's not worth it and I'd rather just get a job and buy another laptop for it. But that would take time....

  • Paging? Your parents seem to have mixed up physical memory with virtual memory, although I'm impressed they even know about the latter (albeit vaguely). :)
    – Karan
    Apr 24, 2013 at 2:21
  • Lol well they used to work in computers, although that was like 10 years ago.
    – user219048
    Apr 26, 2013 at 3:38

2 Answers 2


Dualbooting is having two OSes installed on separate parts of your hard drive, and picking one of them to run from the bootloader. Only one of those OS runs at any time, with the other simply sitting there like any other data. You do not need the sum the memory requirements of both OSes. You simply need enough ram to run the OS you're using now.

The inactive OS will use space on your hard drive rather than your memory. If you were running one os inside the other on a virtual machine, you need enough ram for both. You just need enough hard disk space to run both, and to paritition the drive appropriately. The ubuntu installer would take care of it.

I have run VMs in a very similar configuration (512 mb for the VM, on 2gb, on a core2duo..) so, in any case this should handle things decently as long as you don't expect too much.

  • I want to add, if you do run Ubuntu in a virtual machine, you can dedicate most of your memory (say 1.5GB) to the VM and that would be more than sufficient to try it out.
    – Keltari
    Apr 24, 2013 at 2:22
  • "Dualbooting is just running two OSes on separate parts of your hard drive" -- Wrong, it does not involve running, but merely storage of two OSes and a choice of booting either OS.
    – sawdust
    Apr 24, 2013 at 4:55
  • for the purposes of the answer, I figured it was close enough. I'll adjust my answer to be more accurate
    – Journeyman Geek
    Apr 24, 2013 at 6:04
  • Thanks, I've managed to boot both ubuntu and mint via usb and haven't noticed any problems!
    – user219048
    Apr 26, 2013 at 3:37

Dual booting means configuring your computer to boot to either one or the other operating system, not to both at the same time. In this case, each time you boot either OS, it gets all the available memory until you reboot.

Sharing the memory would only be necessary if you were trying to run one OS as a virtual machine within the other OS.

Linux is worth trying out, but before you start configuring your computer for true dual booting you should probably try it out using a LiveCD or making a bootable Linux USB drive. These will let you play with Linux without any changes to your existing OS. If you decide that you want to use both operating systems regularly, then you would want to actually set up the dual boot scenario (which involves a boot loader that lets you select which OS to load, and partitioning your hard drive for both operating systems).

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