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Multibooting for the Masses (Tutorial) – Part 1

If there’s any skill I strongly feel every serious computer user should have in their arsenal, it is the ability to install multiple operating systems on one PC. Though there was a time when I myself was wary of attempting such a feat, after having set up dozens of dual and triple boot environments, I have personally become convinced that every computer should have at least two OS’s on it at all times. Find out why and how you can do it yourself after the jump.

3 Reasons why to Multiboot…

Security:

Nothing says ‘trump card’ quite like booting up into a secondary, isolated environment to correct errors or erase viruses in another OS. With more than one operating system, you are pretty much guaranteed to have access to your files at any time, no matter what happens to your computer. Nothing in life is perfect, but multibooting sure stands a better chance than running only one OS.

Compatibility:

I debated between using ‘compatibility’ and ‘freedom’ here, because both are really true. Ironically, the biggest limitation to hardware is software–the very thing that enables the hardware to function as desired in the first place. To get the most out of what hardware you have, there is really no other option besides multibooting. Having more than one OS means you can run the software of multiple generations of computing at your fingertips; no emulating, no third-party patching, no compatibility mode required.

Usability:

Let’s face it: no one OS out there gets everything right. It’s fine for you to like how one OS does something more than how another OS does the same thing. Nearly everyone does. Multibooting allows all these preferences to be satisfied; while booting up, just think what you want to do, which OS does it best, and go for it in the way that is most usable to you.

“Sounds Great! What are my options?”

If you are a PC user (and you are a PC user, right? RIGHT?!?) then you have three basic options that branch out into literally hundreds of others.

Option 1: Windows with Windows

Technically this is achievable with a wide range of editions of Windows, but expect problems if you attempt anything older than Windows 2000 on a modern machine. In general, Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 can all play together nicely, so take your pick of any of these editions and you can feel safe. One thing to remember though, is that just because you own one edition of Windows does not mean you own all the editions that came before it. You will need to own a unique license for every installation of Windows you create–duplicate OS’s included.

Option 2: Windows with Linux

Perhaps the most common dual-boot situation, going this route you will get two very different worlds packed into one. Compared to Windows, Linux is a whole new approach to software, and though it has a steep learning curve, any user who sticks with it and learns the ins and outs of any given Linux distro will be significantly rewarded. Oh, and did I mention all Linux distributions are free? Take your pick and have at it!*

*(Don’t have a DVD burner? Premade DVDs of Linux distributions are available at very low cost here.)

Option 3: Windows with Mac OSX

Yes, you can also run Mac OSX side by side with Windows on a PC. To do this you will need to step into the shady, morally-gray corner of the tech world known as OSx86, a project that aims to enable Apple’s famous OS to run on standard PC hardware. While it is quite possible to get OSX fully operational on certain configurations, chances are your hardware doesn’t support every feature, and it will be a pain to install. To make matters worse, OSx86 will create a hybrid partition system on your hard drive, fusing together MBR and GPT into one confused mess that can be a real bugger to fix should you decide OSX ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I know that personally I found the OS itself to be atrocious, and within 6 months went back to the above option instead. Due to the questionable legality of installing OSX on non-Apple hardware, I will not be creating a tutorial for how to do it…but in the interest of covering all the major available options, I will go ahead and say that the info is out there.

Making the Choice…

Obviously there are far more combinations than just the three listed above. For one thing, you don’t have to use Windows at all, even though all three listed options do, and for another thing, you aren’t limited to just two choices; the only real limitation is hard drive space. If you’ve got a 500GB internal HDD, three can fit pretty comfortably. Buy a few external hard drives and run four or five operating systems on your PC if you like. Once you have the multibooting process down, the sky is the limit and you’ll be able to add a new OS to your existing configuration with ease.

In the coming days/weeks we’ll take an in-depth look at how to do just that, so start making your OS selection now and keep your eyes open for Part 2, where we’ll take a look at Option 1 using only a single internal hard drive. After that, Part 3 will examine Option 2 and throw an external hard drive into the mix as well. A PDF document covering all three parts will be released for free download at the end. When all is said and done, you should be well equipped to go on your own multibooting journey. Good luck!

Check out all the other parts of this series of important posts!

2 responses to “Multibooting for the Masses (Tutorial) – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Multibooting for the Masses (Tutorial) – Part 2b « thinkboxly

  2. Pingback: Multibooting for the Masses (Tutorial) – Part 2b - ThinkBoxly

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