For most people, there is no such thing as the “best” operating system. You can use the operating system you are most familiar with.
That said, every operating system is different, and sometimes using multiple operating systems is the most practical approach. A programmer might code with Linux and test with Windows, or an artist might do Photoshop with Windows and do home casual with Linux.
But what if you only have one machine? This is not a problem. You can run multiple operating systems with the dual boot or by using virtual machines. Next, let’s take a look at which way works best for you.
Advantages and disadvantages of dual start
Dual boot, sometimes called multiple boots, means you install two or more operating systems side by side so that you can choose which operating system you want to use each time you restart or restart your PC.
Dual boot is popular these days, especially since many Linux distributions can automatically configure dual boot settings at installation time.
The biggest benefit of using a virtual machine is that you can use all of the computer’s running resources (memory, CPU, GPU, etc.) for the operating system that you start. Even if you have more than one operating system installed, you can only run one at a time. This means that you don’t assign half of the CPU to one and half the CPU to another. This is important for resource-intensive activities, such as games.
Not only do you run an operating system at a given time, but you also assign each operating system the part of the hard drive they can use. So if you have a 500GB hard drive, maybe Windows gets 200GB and Linux gets 300GB. If you have two separate hard drives, you can dedicate each drive to a specific operating system. It’s up to you.
The codenames of these hard disks are called partitions. In most cases, the operating system will not be able to operate outside of its partition, although you can sometimes view and edit files in other partitions. Different operating systems store their data in different ways. For example, Windows typically uses the NTFS file system, while Linux uses EXT4 or BTRFS. Moving files between file systems sometimes requires third-party software, and it can take longer due to the conversion process.
So, what happens when you want to switch from Windows to Linux? As mentioned earlier, you have to restart the computer because the operating system is selected at startup.
This can be a rather inconvenient problem, depending on how often you need to switch between operating systems. There are a few things you can do to make your operating system boot up faster, like installing an NVMe drive. But even so, restarting to switch operating systems is still a hassle.
If you decide to take a dual-boot approach, then we strongly recommend that you start installing Linux from a Windows computer instead of starting with a Linux computer. To make a long story short, it’s less frustrating to do so.
Advantages and disadvantages of virtual machines
Virtual machines aren’t as scary as they sound. Even if you don’t have much technical experience, they are surprisingly simple and convenient to use. That is, using a virtual machine is neither better nor worse than dual boot. It’s just different.
In short, a virtual machine is an emulator that runs a “guest operating system” (such as Linux) in your “host operating system” (such as Windows). Once you have installed the guest operating system, you can run it like any other program, it’s basically just another window on your desktop.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? For the most part, it’s pretty awesome. Switching between operating systems doesn’t require a restart, and you can even run several different operating systems at the same time, each with its own window. Try doing this with dual startup. (Hint: you can’t.) )
Not only is this approach more convenient, but virtual machines are also more secure because each guest operating system runs in a sandbox environment. No matter what happens inside the guest operating system, your host operating system will remain safe and unaffected – even if it crashes or you are infected with a virus This is one reason why virtual machines are best suited to testing a new operating system.
Another beautiful feature that virtual machines offer is the ability to transfer your guest operating system from one host to another. The guest operating system is usually saved on the hard disk as a file, so as long as both hosts use the same emulator, such as VirtualBox, this file can be transferred and loaded without too much trouble. In some cases, you can even clone a host operating system into a guest operating system for use elsewhere.
However, all of this comes at a cost.
The disadvantage is that your computer’s running resources—memory, CPU, GPU, and so on—are shared between all running virtual machines and your host. This means that if you decide to run Linux in Windows, Linux won’t run at 100% speed and may lag or experience some other performance shock. The more memory you have, the smoother it will run.
On older computers, or on computers that aren’t very powerful in the first place, virtualization is not advisable unless you’re prepared to endure very slow runs. And, since the guest operating system is stored as a single file, it is possible to accidentally erase one file and lose the entire guest operating system.
Finally, you might want to know which operating system to host and which operating system to use as guest. Technically, this doesn’t really matter. VirtualBox, for example, is cross-platform and works well in almost all areas.
Therefore, we recommend choosing the operating system that you use most often as your console. If you spend most of your time using Linux and only need Windows in Photoshop, use Linux as your host. If you only do an hour of programming with Linux every day, use Windows as your host. Quite simply, right?
The only thing to note is if you need 100% of your computer’s resources in the guest operating system, for example for video editing, gaming, or other resource-intensive activities. In this case, you might be more suitable for dual startup.
Dual Boot vs. Virtual Machine: Which One Is Best for You?
If you want to switch frequently between many operating systems in real time, opt for virtual. If you just need to test in another operating system for a few minutes, go virtual. If you want a secure sandbox to experiment with, go virtual. If you have a very powerful computer, go virtual. If you think rebooting is a huge pain, go virtual.
Otherwise, you might want to take a dual-boot approach. This is especially true if you want to put every operating system on an equal footing.
If you prefer, you can also choose to install multiple operating systems on a single USB stick. This saves you the trouble of sharing storage space on your computer and allows you to easily boot an operating system from a USB stick anytime, anywhere.