Ultimate Guide To Running Multiple Operating Systems On Your Laptop

One of the most important decisions when choosing a new laptop is what operating system (OS) it will run on.

The majority of new laptops come with only one OS installed and when it comes to the operating systems used worldwide Windows is way out in front with an over 88% share of the market.

Apple OS only accounts for a paltry 8.9% and with Linux or Chrome the figures drop even lower.

When you bought a new laptop in the past you were stuck with the operating system it came installed with.

If you bought a Windows laptop you were stuck with the version of Windows it shipped with (the option to upgrade became available when a newer version was released) or with a Mac laptop you were tied to Apple OS.

Nowadays things have changed and it’s now possible to run whatever OS you like on your laptop and even have multiple operating systems on your laptop. It’s almost like buying a blank canvas with your new laptop.

Today it is easy to run several operating systems on your laptop.

This allows you to gain access to the many advantages and strengths of each operating system.

The choice of how you use your laptop is now yours and not determined by Microsoft or Apple.

Let’s take a look at why you would want to run multiple operating systems on your computer and the different methods of doing it.

The Benefits Of Running Multiple Operating Systems On Your Laptop

Before we start looking at how to run multiple operating systems on your laptop, let’s take a few minutes to look at why you would even want to.

I have discovered there are many benefits to running more than one operating system which hopefully you will enjoy too.

However, there can also be a few drawbacks to using multiple operating systems on the same laptop, so you should be aware of both the pros and the cons before you start tinkering about below your laptop’s hood.

Enhance Your Computer Literacy

Computer Literacy Enhance

We’ve always been taught that learning is a good thing and improving your computer skills certainly won’t hurt in this modern technological age.

By setting up a new operating system and experimenting with how to use it you will learn more about how your computer works and how the different operating systems function in your laptop.

The next time a file goes missing or your system crashes and freezes you may not panic as much with a better understanding of the disc partitions, the BIOS and other internal workings of your laptops architecture.

This knowledge may even help you when in the future you are looking for a new or better job.

More Software

This is certainly a big advantage for the Mac users among you.

Although many developers now release new applications for multiple platforms, there are still certain programs you may have used which are no longer supported by your chosen OS, if they ever were.

The Linux platform in particular has many pieces of open source software that aren’t available on Mac or Windows.

Running multiple operating systems will open up a whole new world of available software and allow you to use the best applications from across all the platforms if you wish.

The Ability to Run an Older Version of Your Operating System

There may be a time when you need to run a much older version of your OS like Windows XP.

Most applications provide backwards compatibility with older files but some applications may have done away with your favorite features or may not be supported at all.

It may simply be a case that you don’t like the newer version (Windows 8 anybody?) and you just want a system you are used to.

Fortunately you can still buy a new laptop without losing access to all your favorite programs or the OS systems of yesteryear that you prefer.

Test Out a Newer Operating System

Fancy the look of Windows 10 but not quite sure whether you are ready to take the jump yet?

Installing multiple operating systems allows you to try out newer versions without changing the whole workings of your laptop. You can even get to try out the betas before all the bugs are sorted out.

Security

Security on OSes

Without wanting to sound like a Windows basher, we all know that its security can be sketchy at the best of times.

Installing a system like Linux alongside Windows can give you access to better security. You could then perform your more sensitive tasks in the more secure environment without the fear of being hacked.

The Disadvantages of Running Multiple Operating Systems

Like everything in life, there are both good points and bad points. It is important to know what these are before embarking on your multiple OS adventure.

It’s very rare to physically damage the hardware of your laptop by installing multiple operating systems but it can affect the overall performance and maybe even corrupt many of your valued files.

Hard Drive Space

Hard Disk Drive

Perhaps the biggest factor when setting up multiple operating systems on your laptop is the hard drive space you have available.

Running multiple operating systems means your computer will have to allocate space to each operating system and each systems file storage.

Depending on what operating systems you have chosen to install this can take up quite a lot of space.

Although most laptops now come with hard drives that are more than capable of running multiple OS, if you are low on space you could struggle to set up the multiple operating systems.

Perhaps the biggest factor when setting up multiple operating systems on your laptop is the hard drive space you have available. Running multiple operating systems means your computer will have to allocate space to each operating system and each systems file storage.

Depending on what operating systems you have chosen to install this can take up quite a lot of space.

Although most laptops now come with hard drives that are more than capable of running multiple OS, if you are low on space you could struggle to set up the multiple operating systems.

Convenience

This mainly comes down to how you set your system up to run. If switching between operating systems means you have to close down all your open programs and reboot the computer it can be time consuming when you just need quick access to something from the other OS.

for time consuming work, if you can afford it, it may be more suitable to have two machines when using multiple operating systems. A solution to this though, is to choose a system where you can install more than one OS and easily switch between them.

Setup Problems

Setting up multiple operating systems is much easier than it used to be but can still be confusing if you’re not sure what you are doing.

There are many online resources that will walk you through the process but not all computers are the same. If an older OS wasn’t designed to run with your machine, then it can be a hassle and if not performed correctly could lead to major laptop issues.

ALWAYS backup your system and files before attempting to install any second operating system on your laptop.

The following YouTube video shows you how you can install both Windows 7 and Windows 10 on the same laptop–let’s try to pretend Windows 8 never happened!

How Do You Run Multiple Operating Systems on Your Laptop?

By now you are hopefully all ready and willing to go with multiple operating systems on your laptop.

With Windows laptops it can be quite easy to install more than one OS on your laptop. Some more common operating systems to install include:

  • Linux
  • Windows XP
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 7
  • Android

There are many others too but Apple OS X tends to be a closed system which allows for other operating systems to be installed but not vice versa.

You can not legally install Mac OS X on a non-Apple computer.

The two basic methods of installing another operating system on your laptop are Dual Booting operating systems and Virtualisation.

Dual Booting Operating Systems

Three OSes

To dual boot an operating system means installing each operating system on a different partition of your hard drive and selecting which one you want to use every time you start up your laptop.

Put simply you set up a second partition where you install the different operating system and its files.

When you turn on your laptop, you will then be able to choose which OS you want to use.

The advantages of this method include your chosen OS has full access to all the resources of your laptop and you can use each operating system completely independent of the other.

But as we already mentioned it does mean either turning your computer off or rebooting it each time you want to change your chosen OS which can be inconvenient if you ever need access to both systems at the same time.

Other problems can occur when installing older operating systems on your newer laptop which may not run as well on the new hardware.

You may have issues when trying to install an old OS alongside the newer version.

Some operating systems like OS X run a native translator which allows you to run pre-OS X software natively in the new OS

If you want the fastest possible experience of multiple operating systems, dual booting is the way forward with it making full use of all the resources of your laptop.

Setting Up Dual Boot

macBook Windows 10

The most common scenario you see among dual boot operating systems is Windows and Linux. Whichever distribution of Linux you decide to install the process is pretty much the same.

It’s easier to install Windows first if it’s not already on your laptop then use a Linux installation tool which can be found online to boot up the Linux installer which will create a dual boot on your system.

Installing multiple copies of Windows is also a common way of setting up a dual boot system.

With this set up you will first need to shrink the existing partition used by Windows on your hard drive from inside your installed Windows OS before creating a new partition for your other copy of Windows you wish to install.

After creating this partition you can then simply install your alternative version of WIndows on to it.

Dual booting Mac OS X and WIndows was for many years impossible.

Times have changed with Apple now including a Bootcamp utility which allows for creating a partition on your hard disc and installing whichever flavor of Windows you choose, including Windows XP, 7, 8.1 and Windows 10.

Apple’s Boot Camp however doesn’t allow for dual booting into Linux as it was specifically engineered for OS X and Windows.

Using a third party app like rEFInd which you can find at SourceForge will allow you to choose between Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and various other operating systems when you boot up your Mac.

Dual booting two versions of Linux is one of the easiest ways of running multiple operating systems on your laptop.

Simply resize the partition of your existing Linux distribution before choosing one to install beside it.

Bootcamp on macOS

Many distributions now include a tool which will automatically do this as it installs.

We keep calling it dual booting, but in reality you could however have as many operating systems as you like as long as you have the hard drive space available.

You could in theory have a laptop which boots up with the choice of Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and even Android.

Apple’s Boot Camp however doesn’t allow for dual booting into Linux as it was specifically engineered for OS X and Windows. Using a third party app like rEFInd which you can find at SourceForge will allow you to choose between Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and various other operating systems when you boot up your Mac.

Dual booting two versions of Linux is one of the easiest ways of running multiple operating systems on your laptop. Simply resize the partition of your existing Linux distribution before choosing one to install beside it. Many distributions now include a tool which will automatically do this as it installs.

We keep calling it dual booting, but in reality you could however have as many operating systems as you like as long as you have the hard drive space available. You could in theory have a laptop which boots up with the choice of Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and even Android.

Virtualisation or Virtual Machines

Virtualisation can be a little more confusing. Put simply it’s when another operating system is run inside the “host” operating system environment which emulates the hardware used.

When running a virtual machine you always boot into your main operating system, known as the host, and when you want to use the other system, simply open some software or an app to use it.

The main advantage of a virtual machine is the convenience it offers.

You don’t have to worry about switching off your laptop when switching between systems and there are even ways you can share files between the two operating systems.

However when running a virtual machine your laptop’s performance will take a hit and may slow down.

Your laptop has to share its resources between the different operating systems at the same time, which may mean that not all the RAM or your computer’s processor power is available to the virtual operating system.

If you want to use a second operating system for gaming, virtualisation is not the option to choose.

A virtual machine is very limited in the ability to use the 3D technology of your graphics card so dual booting is the better option.

You can find many free or commercial solutions to virtual machines online including VMware, Oracle VM VirtualBox or even Parallels for Mac which allows you to run OS X and Windows side-by-side.

In this age of cloud based technology, companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft now offer the concept of Virtual Machines based in the cloud.

You can now remotely access servers which host virtual machines which may be billed by the minute paying only for the time you use or by subscription,.

This Wiki How to Guide is a good place to start if you want to try installing a Virtual Machine on your laptop and details how to use VMware.

Virtual or Dual Booting: Which is Right for You?

Windows 7 8 10 on macOS

If you need to switch between different operating systems on your laptop in real time, then choose the Virtual Machine option.

For testing another OS or just performing a Sandbox experiment, again the best solution would be virtual.

If you have a super powerful laptop and you find rebooting all the time a pain in the behind, then there’s no choice but virtual for you.

Dual booting tends to be the preferred option by many people including myself.

It allows the operating system to have full access to the resources of your laptop and less potential for compatibility issues.

If you intend to use the different operating systems for gaming then dual booting is the only option which will work with more demanding games.

As long as you don’t mind restarting or rebooting the computer every time you need to switch OS then dual booting is the easiest solution.

Before you start installing multiple operating systems on your laptop, ask yourself if you really need to?

What are the specific extra features the OS will offer you and are you sure it’s not already available in your existing operating system?

That extra space and power needed could possibly be put to a more suitable use with the architecture your laptop already operates on!

This post was last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 06:31 am

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