Running Windows on Linux

Category: Linux

You run Linux... Maybe it's because no big company is going to dictate to you which OS you choose. Maybe you like Linux for its reliability, or for the fact it’s less apt to be a target for malware. Or maybe you like the lower cost of ownership compared to running Windows. But what about your favorite Windows programs? Is there any way to run them on your Linux system?

Running Windows on Linux

Linux and Windows on The Same Computer?

But no matter the reason you run Linux, there are still a heck of a lot more programs written for Windows. If you currently run Linux as your OS of choice, you probably already realize this. But you may not know that you can have the best of both worlds by running Windows or Windows programs in Linux. There are several options when it comes to running Windows on a Linux-based computer. Let's examine each...

With dual booting, you can install and run each OS on it’s own hard drive partition. You'll choose at boot time which operating system to start. Setting up a dual boot system is easier with some 3rd party tools such as Symantec’s Partition Magic or Acronis Partition Expert. If you want to go it on your own, most versions of Linux have a graphical partitioning tool that will walk you through setting up disk partitions. Red Hat’s version of Linux comes with a GUI-based partitioning utility called Disk Druid. SuSE Linux comes with YaST. You will also need to do some configuring in the boot loader program. Newer versions of Linux come with a boot loader called Grub. And whenever you're mucking aroung with partitions, boot records or installing an operating system, it's a very good idea to back-up any pre-existing data on the hard drive before you embark.

As mentioned earlier, you will have to reboot your PC to switch between Linux and Windows. If you want to dual boot Windows with Linux, because you are a hard-core Windows gamer, this probably won't bother you much. But if you're running Linux and you rely on certain Windows programs on a regular basis, dual booting may be too much of a hassle. Let's look at some other options.

Windows on Your Linux Desktop

There are quite a few emulator and virtualization programs that will allow you to run Windows (or certain Windows programs) right on your Linux desktop. A virtualizer creates a virtual PC in your computer's memory, then boots up another operating system on the virtual hardware. VMWare Player and Parallels Workstation are two programs that will enable you to do this. You can run a virtual session of Windows on your Linux desktop, using any version from Windows 2000 and up, including 64-bit versions.

running windows on linux desktop The advantage of these virtualization programs? No rebooting to switch between Linux and Windows, plus the ability to share files between the two systems. You can even copy and paste between Linux and Windows applications. You will need a full copy of the version of Windows you want to run with the virtualizer. The above programs only offer the means to run Windows virtually, but do not provide Windows itself.

Linux Does Windows

Don’t want to negotiate between two operating systems or get all geeky with virtualizers? There is a solution for you. You can run utilities that will allow you to run Windows-based applications without having to install and run a copy of the Windows operating system. Wine, available as a free download, lets a Linux user run certain Windows applications under Linux. In technical terms, Wine is an implementation of the Windows application program interface built on top of Unix and the X Window system. In effect it translates the Windows commands to the equivalent Unix and X Window commands. Not all Windows programs run (or run well) with the Wine emulator, but there are many that do. To see if a particular application works with Wine, check out the Applications Database at the Wine website.

One caution about running Windows alongside Linux is that by doing so, you may expose your Linux system to the viruses and spyware to which Windows is famously vulnerable. So my advice is to install the same anti-virus and anti-spyware protection that you normally would.

And there you have it... three alternate ways to run Windows in Linux. With the options available these days to run multiple operating systems on a single machine, users have more choice when it comes to the computing experience. On a related note, you might enjoy my Switching From Windows to Linux, and Switching From Windows to Mac articles. Do you have questions or comments about running Windows (or Windows programs) on a Linux system? Post your thoughts below...

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This article was posted by on 12 Apr 2007

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Most recent comments on "Running Windows on Linux"

Posted by:

23 May 2007

wow linux is really tempting me, everytime i read something about linux i always get the feeling that its better and i should switch to it, but mr.bob when i switch to linux i wont have to setup my internet connection again right? i use wireless

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have a router, it should "just work".

Posted by:

27 May 2007

Sir, when i install linux over windows all my files, programs will not be lost right?

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you install Linux *OVER* Windows, then YES, all your files will be lost. But you can install Linux in a separate partition, and have the ability to boot up into either operating system. That's what I recommend.

Posted by:

John Ramadei
31 Jan 2009

Bob, I'm glad I found your site. I'm a neophyte when it comes to Linux. My PC crashed after one of my family spent all nite browsing and chatting in various chatrooms and online "dating" sites. Lost the boot sector. I put in a new HD, 750 Gb, couldn't istall XP no matter what I tried, couldn't format drive. The new drive came with a CD, Ubuntu 8.10. I was leaning that way when the old drive crashed, so I ran the program from CD to check it out. Bottom line, I installed the program with no reservations. No more hacks, blue screens, etc. Some questions: 1. Aside from your site, what are good resources to learn more about using Linux in '09? I see a lot of old stuff back as far as 2001. I'm not trying to write new stuff. 2. When I installed the program, I chose to make the drive one partition. Is it difficult to make a 200 Gb partition to install XP? The wife and kids like to play games. I am deciding between running VMware vs. making a dual-boot system.

3. With a virtual machine, how would Windows compatible software be run? Installed as usual on the drive, then run in VM/Windows? Is the software installed via the VMware or thru Windows running on VMware? You can tell I really no little about Linux.

EDITOR'S NOTE: John, it might be easier for you to run VMware on your Linux system. Basically, you boot up XP in a window on your Linux desktop, and everything Windows-related runs in that window.

Posted by:

07 Oct 2009

4 hours to download Ubuntu onto a CD. Truckloads of useless information but not a word on how to open it in any format. Most frustrating.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2009

Allen; Sorry you didn't enjoy Ubuntu.
My experience has been good. Yes, 4 hours or so to download (Windows 7 took 24 hrs, and then crashed!). After download, it all worked very nice and still is after 6 months or so, and none of windows problems (like I have on other computer - which so far I need to run my expensive Windows programs). maybe worth another try !!!

Posted by:

21 Sep 2010

Virtualbox from Oracle/Sun is a must try to run any OS from any other OS. It's performance is very much equal to VMWare and it is free. Also, instead of a group of files, there is a single harddisk file representing one OS in virtualbox. Makes deleting an unwanted installation so easy :). A details writeup here-

Posted by:

24 Nov 2010

Sir, I want to mount an Xterm session so that I can run windows in linux using wine. I don't know how to mount Xterm session. Please teach me how to do it.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Running Windows on Linux (Posted: 12 Apr 2007)
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