The Dual Boot Deception

The Dual Boot Deception

Traditionally, Linux developers have had a major obstacle to overcome to get folks to try Linux – the fact that the prospective user will have to install it.

These days, most computers come pre-loaded with an operating system like Windows or Apple’s OS X. All you have to do is take the computer out of the box, plug a few things in and boot it up to get started. While nerds may enjoy the challenge of installing and setting up a new OS, the vast majority of users don’t and would only do so if they absolutely had to. Linux developers have responded to this by streamlining the installation process.

The fact that you can boot a functioning Linux desktop from a DVD without installing anything is a good example of how ingenious the Linux folks have been in dealing with this issue. Another is the fact that most graphic installers will offer to configure a dual boot environment with your existing system, usually Microsoft Windows. Just select the “Install alongside” option and it’s automatic.

Cool, huh? Well, yes and no… I say that maybe this might be making things a bit too easy. Dual booting is a complex proposition with many perils. It is quite possible to trash both the existing OS and the one you’re trying to install; thusly, ending up with a big paperweight instead of a working computer.

In this video, I’ll go through many of the perils of dual booting and I’ll also explain why I don’t usually support systems that are configured in a dual boot environment. It’s not just Linux that has problems in a dual boot setup; Windows seems to come up with strange issues when paired with Linux as well. There is also a psychological factor to consider. Constantly comparing and keeping up with two operating systems on the same machine can trigger all kinds of OCD behavior.

I am not saying that dual booting should be outlawed, but I think it might be time to take a closer look at the consequences. It may be hurting Linux more than helping. What do you think?

Joe Collins
Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and repair for over a decade.

Joe is a fan of Ubuntu Linux and Open Source software and recently started offering Ubuntu installation and support for those just starting out with Linux through The goal of EzeeLinux is to make Linux easy and start them on the right foot so they can have the best experience possible.

Joe lives in historic Portsmouth, VA in a hundred year old house with three cats, three kids and a network of computers built from scrounged parts, all happily running Linux.

8 thoughts on “The Dual Boot Deception”

  1. I dual boot or run from persistent live USB (runs far better than from live DVD) on two W7 machines: a travel laptop and my main desktop. Linux is great for everyday browsing, correspondence and photo editing, and left to myself I use it most of the time. But I would not do without Windows either on the road or ready to interact with the world of other people using Windows exclusive software and file formats without buggering them up. Desktop Linux is not religion, it’s a way to get the most out of a PC for the things it does best, but not to try to foist on or foul up work with Windows users. The writer is right to note that dual boot / live set ups do require some workarounds, mainly having to do with accessing data on Windows partitions, that might be bigger headaches for some than for me.

  2. Dual booting is how I became a Linux user, first Ubuntu and now LinuxMint. I must agree that most people have neither the desire nor the tech savvy to mess with installing an OS – remember the average IQ is 100. Preloaded is the only way a wider acceptance of Linux on desktops will happen, which means affordable, not just highend geek machines. My most recent laptop is a Dell preloaded with Ubuntu (which I replaced with Mint). Although Dell offers preloaded Ubuntu it still is not easy to find for a neophyte on their website, with even the Ubuntu laptop pages headed by ‘Dell Recommends Windows’. Still I have installed Mint on old pcs in my family and the kids couldn’t care less as long as it works, which it does superbly, unlike the ever buggy bloated Windows installations.

  3. I did pay attention to all, text, video and comments, but I still feel a bit awkward: I work with a pair of laptops – an MU109 with peppermint 6 OS single installation & a DELL Inspiron 17 3737 that came preloaded with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, but now is a dual-boot win7 PRO and Linux Mint 17.2 Cinnamon – AND NO PROBLEM WORTH MENTIONING has occurred!
    Taken into account that my use of them is classroom-support and math-teaching and -design, I take it for granted that it ain’t a matter of “going soft on the hardware”, no?
    So, what is the point of the article?…

    • The point is to show that dual booting is a mystery to new users. It’s not about you or your use case at all. Dual booting gets novice users into more trouble than anything else. I work with many and that’s my experience and that is what I was talking about in the video. 🙂

  4. I used to dual boot and it’s probably, in a large way, responsible for me using Linux as my daily driver today. I had installed and tried out various Linux distributions off and on. Mandrake, Mandriva, Suse, always next to Windows. I never expected to jump ship cold turkey. I was open to new ideas and trying new things but like most sensible people I wanted something to fall back on in case things didn’t work out.

    Think about this. I had things setup just the way I wanted on XP. I had files I cared about organized in this directory and that. I had spent money on software and that whole sunk cost thing is more powerful than most would like to admit. Of course Linux was a bit rougher back then too. OpenOffice was meh. (LibreOffice is freaking amazing in comparison and if you don’t agree, I will fight you–much more serious than a Ron Burgundy fight.) Video drivers were harsh, configs needed editing. Flash was more horrible than today. There were a LOT of things that were just down right rough back then. (You damned kids have no respect for how hard I worked on my lawn. *shakes cane*)

    If it weren’t for one defining moment I’d probably still be on Windows. So what happened? One day I turned my computer on and Windows just didn’t boot. I’d been there before. I’d reinstalled all my software before, ran updates, defragged my drives, tweaked my registry… I don’t know how many times I’d been through the process. What a pain in the ass. I was ready to do it again too. I grimaced, dug out my Windows disk, popped it in the drive, and hit ctrl+alt+del. I forgot to tell BIOS to boot from CD. So, I ended up looking at grub. Down arrow, enter. Bob’s your uncle. Linux ever since.

    You do not realize how close that was.

    The fact that Linux booted turned out to be the hook. What set it was that I was able to launch Firefox and do the thing that I’d turned the computer on for in the first place.

    So from my perspective dual booting works because eventually Windows will not boot.

  5. Creating a bootable USB Flash drive for Puppy Linux or Linux Mint: 10 minutes, 2 downloads, 1 USB Flash Drive.
    Test a Live Linux distro on your existing MS Windows PC with no changes to your hardware. Any PC manufactured after 2004 will automatically boot from USB Flash first before a hard drive installed O/S.
    Puppy Linux Tahrpup 6.0.2 file Rufus.exe

    Rufus USB installer writes a .ISO linux image file to a USB Flash drive.
    Insert USB Flash drive to usb socket. Note which drive letter is that USB flash drive. Execute file Rufus.exe Select the right USB Flash socket drive letter. Select the PuppyLinux or Slacko PuppyLinux .ISO file. Execute to write the .ISO file to the USB Flash drive. When finished writing, exit the Rufus.exe application program. Reboot the PC and watch your PC boot up Linux from that USB Flash drive. Enjoy your new adventure in Freedom and learning! Tahrpup 6.0.2 .ISO image file download and write to a USB FLash drive. directory of Tahrpup files to download

    Slacko 6.3.0 is a well polished version of PuppyLinux that uses Slackware 14 repositories
    I highly suggest using Slacko 6.3.0 and am presently entering this comment from a laptop booted from a USB Flash Drive with Slacko 6.3.0 installed Current version: slacko-6.3.0 and slacko64-6.3.0

    Linux Mint, is also a very good choice when testing Linux from a USB Flash drive. I used 17.2 Rafeala and had two monitors connected when booting up and a 2 monitor setup was automatically created. The mouse cursor just moved cleanly from 1st screen to the 2nd screen. Wow! So much screen space. is another Linux .ISO to USB flash drive installer. Will also ftp download the linux .ISO file to your computer and write/program/burn the same .ISO file to the usb flash drive and make the flash drive bootable.

    Hope, I did not scare you off with TOO MUCH DETAIL. Hope you enjoy what you find out about using linux or pcbsd day to day. That your windows problems disappear as you experience Linux Freedom. Fred Finster ps. Do you find many problems booting a live linux distro from a USB Flash Drive. PuppyLinux specifically supports this boot mode with its own persistence save file. Nothing you have to do or setup.

    My own small blog. I like and use both and PCBSD needs its very own primary partition (not logical partition. won’t work/install) for installation. Use PuppyLinux’s gparted tool to resize your largest window partition into two primary partitions before trying to install PCBSD. It only takes about 24 minutes for the full installation.

    James, thanks for sharing your story about dual booting. Glad to hear the aha moment, too.
    We can learn from others, like your experiences, to help us down the road.

  6. I’ve dual booted every machine for years and rarely had a problem, and that was in the time settings. So it was worth the half hour of watching your video (well, I FF’d through it….) All on low memory machines which would suffer greatly from VM. It gets people over the insane fear of not being able to drop back to their precious, precious Windows. After a few months of Linux-only, going back to Windows and getting a ton of updates will usually push them off the edge for good.

    Some people are just stuck on Windows because of that one app or gadget. You can put Linux on a dual boot just to show them how it runs, and get them interested, whereas otherwise they would never try it. It’s handy to have another OS ready to go anyhow. “Another virus? Well, just boot Linux and get back to work until it can get fixed.”

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