Multi-Boot Options for Windows PCs

If you have a Windows-based PC and you would like to boot an alternate operating system (most commonly, Linux), here’s a bit of advice: DON’T SETUP A DUAL BOOT PARTITION!

These setups are messy, complicated, and can cause technical issues down-the-road. I have over the years, had to disentangle and repair such setups for many people who regretted their decision to dual-boot soon after I presented a couple of much more viable options.

What I suggest instead is ether:

1. Use a piece of virtualization software like VirtualBox (free, slightly sucky) or VMWare (not free, much better) to create a VM to run your guest operating system (less preferable)

2. Install an alternate operating system on an external drive and perform a slight modification of your BIOS setup to permit selecting your boot device on startup (more preferable)

With the precipitous drop in price of HDDs, the advent of USB 3.0, and the availability of eSATA connectivity devices, there is NO reason to setup a complicated, problem-prone dual-boot system.

If you really, really can’t afford (or scrounge-up) a decent external drive solution, use the first alternative. The main downside to that option is Windows is a memory hog, and virtualization takes resources, so guest OS performance will take a bit of a hit. On the plus side, it’s FREE, easy to manage your OS’s, and you can pop-in and out without rebooting.

An external drive setup with an alternate OS is ideal for those who want to utilize the full power of their desktop/workstation outside of Windows, and it can be done so that it performs brilliantly, and is quite affordable.

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