Whether you’re a seasoned Linux user or a fledgling penguin, we all have to admit that there are some things you can’t do without Windows. Redmond’s monopoly and software consumerism have made Windows one of the most indispensable relics in the world of technology. Be it games, office tools, animation software, or drawing suites, Microsoft’s dominating platform offer it all. This dominance has, in turn, restricted the growth of Linux and even Mac OS, thus forcing people from using Windows for one job or the other.

If you too are a Linux user in need of Windows to get some small jobs done, there’s absolutely no need for you to switch over to the dark side. You can, instead, install Windows side-by-side and switch to it whenever needed. Or, if that doesn't suit your needs, you can virtualize Windows right from your Linux desktop and get your job done without making any drastic changes to your system. Now, the question for many users is, which path should he or she choose? Virtualization or Dual boot? To solve that dilemma, we've compiled a list of pros and cons you’ll encounter while switching to either of those options.

Dual boot or Virtualize -- A simple test to choose the best

First of all, before you pick up that rusting copy of Windows, it’s better to know the purpose for using Windows. What do you need it for? -For games, work, or simply to get some small jobs done? A simple way to determine whether to dual boot or to virtualize is to ask yourself this question -- is what I do on Windows really resource-intensive? That is, does it put too much load on the system? If the answer is yes, then by all means go for dual boot. If the answer is no, you’re better off running Windows on a virtual machine.

Dual Booting -- Some tips

To dual boot is to run both Windows and Linux side by side. It is not exactly rocket science and you don’t need any special skills to boot both the operating systems side by side. More user-friendly operating systems like Ubuntu automatically detect the other operating systems that are installed and ask you whether you want to install both of them side by side.

To ensure that things go as smoothly as possible here are some basic tips you need to remember before dual booting:

1. Always ensure that there’s enough hard disk space
2. If you’re dual booting Windows and Linux, always install Windows first then go for Linux. This installs the Linux bootloader (GRUB2) on top of Windows thus letting you switch easily between either of the systems.

Dual booting -- Pros and Cons

1. Both the operating systems coexist in peace. That is, data or resources from one operating system never interfere with the other.
2. Switching between either of the operating systems is as easy as rebooting your computer, a process which almost all Windows users is quite familiar with already. ;-)
3. Dual booting can be done on any computer, even if it has a really low-end processor and limited RAM. All you need is a good amount of hard disk space.

1. When you install Windows, it takes much more space than Linux. Also dividing space between the two operating systems limits the disk space a lot.
2. Although you can access Windows data from Linux without trouble, you can’t access Linux files from Windows easily.
3. Sometimes, if we make some changes to Linux that affects the bootloader, Windows might refuse to boot. Errors like ‘NTLDR missing’ are quite frequent in these cases.

Virtualization -- Some tips

Virtualization is, in simple terms, one operating system running on top of another. We've already talked at great length about the process. In our earlier article, we've covered the best virtualization software for Linux. Also, for Ubuntu users, we've compiled a list of the best virtualization tools compatible with Ubuntu.

Virtualization -- Pros and Cons

1. While virtualizing, unlike dual booting, you don’t end up wasting valuable disk space.
2. If you’re on the more adventurous side of life, feel free to tinker with the virtual OS as any changes you make won’t screw things up as bad as you do while dual booting.

1. While you can dual boot safely on a Pentium-II machine, virtualization does require you to have a computer with a fast processor along with an ample amount of RAM.
2. As easy as virtualization is, some new users might not be that comfortable with the idea of running one OS on top of another. There are many users who find virtualization a tad uncomfortable.
3. You cannot do everything on a virtualized machine. A virtual machine is good enough for MS Office and other less resource-intensive tasks; however, if you want to play video games or edit movies, there’s no substitute for dual booting.

There it is, we've given you a tour of both sides of the game. It’s up to you to choose the path that suits you best. ;-)

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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