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Installing and using multiple operating systems on your computer

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Installing any OS over another can potentially erase all data, programs, and other operating systems on that system if installed incorrectly. Be sure to have all important documents and files backed up somewhere other than the local hard drive before attempting any kind of installation.

What Is Dual Booting?

Dual booting is a way of using two or more different operating systems (OS) on a single computer. Typically each operating system is installed on a separate "partition" on the main hard drive. When a hard drive is "partitioned" in this manner, it means that the drive is divided up into different segments of structure and file types that allow the different operating systems to run on it. 

Typically when a dual boot computer starts up the user can select which operating system to start into, if you need to change operating systems you will have to reboot the computer and switch to the desired system. Some methods of dual booting utilize a process of "virtualization" in order to allow you to run two systems simultaneously, one operating system inside of another. These options will be outlined below. 

Also, some operating systems offer alternatives to partitioning and are described below.

Why Would I Want To Dual Boot?

There are many reasons people choose to dual boot between two or more systems. You may prefer to use the Mac operating system but need a specific Windows-only program for a course you are taking. You may want to use Windows for access to Office 365 but need to install Linux in order to gain experience using a Unix-like system without having to purchase a second computer. Maybe you are using Linux but there is a particular game you want to play that requires Windows to run. These are only a few examples of the many reasons that you may want or need to dual boot your machine. 

How can I set up my computer for Dual Booting?

Depending on your computer and the operating systems you wish to use there are different approaches for setting up a computer with multiple operating systems.

Be Careful

It is important to note that things like changing the format (reformatting) of a drive or partition will erase all data, programs, and operating systems. It is always a good idea to have a backup of your data someplace other than your main hard drive. (such as an external hard drive, backup CD/DVDs, or USB flash memory devices.)

Options For Mac


Bootcamp has come preinstalled on Macs since Mac OS 10.5 Leopard was released in 2007. It works on most late model Macs and is the simplest way to get started with Dual Booting multiple operating systems. Bootcamp is designed for use with Windows in particular, although it is possible to use a Bootcamp partition for Linux it is not supported. The link below outlines the process for installing Windows using the Boot Camp method. 

Boot Camp Assistant User Guide

Virtual Machine Options

Virtual machines allow you to run one operating system "inside of" another. The major advantage to using this method is that it does not require the user to reboot when they want to change the operating system they are using . The disadvantage is that since you are running two operating systems simultaneously your computer's resources are split, there is also an extra piece of software to buy so it is more expensive as well. Below are links to two popular virtualization programs. An important thing to know about these programs is that they require a separate purchase of Windows in addition to your purchase of their software. Neither piece of software will work unless you have a license to install Windows. 

VMware Fusion


Manually Partition and Install Multiple Operating Systems

For advanced users, you can boot to the recovery partition of your Mac, erase and repartion your drive, and install whatever operating systems you would like onto the partitions. As this is a procedure that should only be attempted by someone familiar with installing an OS and comfortable using a computer, we have only outlined the process here. 

Crossover and Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows software within a UNIX system, e.g. MacOS, Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distributions. Wine is a free open source program that can be installed and run a large and ever growing amount of Windows software. It requires a good degree of technical knowledge but is 100% free.


  Crossover is a commercial application of Wine made by a company called Codeweavers designed to simplify the process of using Wine. It runs like an application and in the event you need help offers support for a fee if you need help. Of the paid options, Crossover is the least expensive. Additionally they also offer versions specifically designed for use on Linux in the event you would like to run Windows programs on your Linux machine. 


Wubi (Ubuntu on a Windows Computer)

Wubi is a program to install Ubuntu that doesn't require you to make any new partitions on your hard drive. It installs just like any other Windows program and can be uninstalled just as easily. When starting up your computer Wubi will give you the option to boot into Ubuntu and doesn't change any settings of your local Windows operating system.

Handy Hint

Wubi is a great place to start for Windows users who want to try out Ubuntu/Linux.Sources and Relevant Links

Link to Ubunui Download

VMware Website Link
Install Linux from a USB drive
Link to DistroWatch
Linux Distributions
Live (bootable) Linux CDs