Running Linux In Windows
So you're ready to explore Linux, an operating system alternative to Windows or Mac. But you don't have an extra computer laying around. No problem... you can run Linux on your existing computer, without messing up your Windows system. Here's how...
How to Run Linux Under Windows
Linux is noted for it’s stability, security from spyware and viruses, and as the emblem of affordable computing. And if you thought you might need to buy a second computer to install and run Linux, I've got good news. You can run Linux right alongside Windows on the computer you already have.
Even better, there are three ways to run Linux on a Windows computer, depending on your needs and your level of tech savvy.
- Option 1: Use a virtualization or emulator program, which lets you run Linux in a window on your Windows desktop.
- Option 2: Load Linux as a secondary operating system on your computer, creating a dual-boot system.
- Option 3: Run Linux from a "Live CD" that you can download.
Running Linux in a Windows Virtual Machine
There are several programs available that allow for running Linux in a "virtual machine" on your Windows desktop. Two of the more popular emulation programs are Parallels Workstation ($49 after 15-day free trial) and VMWare Workstation ($189 after 30-day free trial). If you already have Windows XP on your PC and you want to install Linux, Parallels or VMWare will let you install Linux as a "Guest" operating system in a virtual machine created by software.
In either case, the install is user-friendly and takes just a few minutes. Once installed, you'll need to follow the prompts to set up the Linux virtual machine, then install the version of Linux that you either downloaded or have on a CD. Parallels and VMWare both support the more popular versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu, Red Hat and SuSE.
Running Linux in its own window on your Windows desktop lets you compare the two systems, and you can even share files or cut and paste text from one to the other.
Running Linux and Windows via Dual Boot
You can also choose to set up a dual-boot configuration, so you can boot either operating system, when you start up your computer. If you want the best performance from your Linux system, running it natively on the hardware is preferable to running in a virtual machine.
You can use disk-partitioning software like Acronis Disk Director or Norton Commander to set up partitions on your hard drive to enable dual booting, or use the disk-partitioning utility bundled with your version of Linux. Typically, the Linux installer will guide you through the process of splitting your hard drive into two or more partitions, so that one partition contains your Windows installation and the other is dedicated to Linux. A boot loader, such as LILO or GRUB will also be installed to help you select which system you want to boot at power-on time.
Just to be clear, running both Windows and Linux on a dual-boot system does NOT allow you to run both operating systems simultaneously, as with the emulators mentioned above. You'll have to boot up one system, shut down, and then boot up the other to switch between the two.
Running Linux From a Live CD
The live CD option lets you pop a CD containing a complete Linux system into your Windows computer, and boot up Linux from the CD. This is arguably the easiest way to check out Linux on a Windows machine for a new Linux user. The drawback to running with a live CD is that it's much slower than running from a hard drive. But you will be able to take the graphical user interface for a nice test drive, fire up a web browser, check out some Linux games, and try out the office applications.
There are several companies that offer free live CDs, including Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Knoppix, and (pardon the French) Damn Small Linux. In each case, you'll download a HUGE file which is an "image" of the Linux install disk. You'll then burn that image to a CDROM disk, and use it to boot up your system. Damn Small Linux (a bare-bones Linux) is only 50MB (compared to about 700MB for the others) and will boot up either from the CD, or directly from the image on your Windows desktop. But if you want to see a slick graphical version of Linux, I'd recommend you go with Ubuntu.
Choose the option that meets your needs and give Linux a try. Your Windows installation will be waiting for you when you come back. Unless you decide to decide to switch to Linux for good!
Posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Nov 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Running Linux In Windows (Posted: 15 Nov 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved