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Dual Booting VS Virtualization

  • By Christopher Kielty, last updated May 8, 2018

So maybe you’re asking yourself, dual boot or virtual machine it. Good thing you found this website.

In 29 words ok here goes: Dual booting is fast, but you only get to run one OS at a time. Virtualization lets you run another OS basically like it’s an app, but it’s slower.


Of course neither of these two statements will always necessarily be true, but this has been my experience. Especially on a laptop, where I do like 92% of computer stuff.

Dual Boot If Performance or Battery Life Are Important

Turn the computer on, select which operating system to boot, use only that operating system. To switch to the other OS, restart, select the other one, boot, and you’re in the other system. Both are available, and neither will slow the other one down, but they can’t run at the same time. A decent SSD can make the restarting process a lot less awful, but there’s still a wait.

On the bright side, it’s possible to set things up so that each OS can access the other system’s files.

operating systems (simultaneous)sluggishness (not desirable)

This graph represents the relationship that I think generally exists between the number of operating systems running at the same time and sluggishness. I’m not entirely sure how anyone could have 1.4 or 1.5 operating systems… Uh… I don’t think that’s how it works.

However, what matters here is that when the line hits two (2) operating systems (concurrent) the sluggishness factor has increased, leaving us with more operating systems (awesome), but also with more sluggishness (not awesome). The more stuff we try to do at the same time the slower each thing tends to be. Just like in real life.

This is why dual booting is so nifty. Turn the computer on, select which operating system to boot, start using all of the awesome apps that are available in that operating system. They’ll all run just as well as they would if there were just one operating system installed on the computer.

Use a Virtual Machine If Both Operating Systems Need to Run at the Same Time

Turn the computer on, the OS starts up. To use the other operating system launch its virtual machine. The virtual machine starts up and the guest operating system behaves a lot like the other apps on the host computer. Typical setups allow files to be shared between the guest and the host. It’s even possible to share the clipboard so that copy/paste works between systems, kinda blurring the line. Pretty neat.

The downside is sluggishness. Remember the graph? The slower your system and/or the more demanding the apps being run, the more sluggishness will take hold. Also, if this is a laptop we’re talking about, battery life is also going to be a consideration. I try not to use virtualization if I’m not going to have access to a power outlet for a while.

On the bright side, if you have a really fast system with lots of RAM, or maybe you’re virtualizing something not very resource intensive, maybe you won’t notice.

If you’re interested in testing out some new software, or maybe a new OS, virtualization can be pretty great.

Combine Dual Booting and Virtual Machines

It’s possible to combine these techniques just about as much as you want. You could have, for example, a dual boot system where each OS can run the other OS in virtualization. Or you could have one very minimal OS run two or three or more other operating systems at once. Or you could triple or quadruple boot (or more).

Just remember, every operating system will inevitably waste some of your time with updates and what have you. So if you have four operating systems, that’s potentially four times as much time wasted. I am a fan of keeping things simple.