Dual boot

Story: Customizing UbuntuTotal Replies: 2
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Mar 31, 2006
8:37 AM EDT
There's no reason the "other OS" in a dual-boot configuration has to be non-Linux, or non-[insert favorite OS or distribution here]. By setting up 2 systems, each with their own partition space, you can easily switch back and forth between them. What that gives you is the ability to do a fresh new install instead of an upgrade. In all systems I've ever worked on (even all the way back to IBM System/370 Mainframes), I've found that wiping things off and starting over from scratch keeps things clean, consistent, and more stable. On mainframes I did have virtualization (it was called VM/370) so it wasn't that hard to have a 2nd system ready to roll on a 2nd hard drive (the drives were not all that big back then, say around 340 MB, so a 2nd drive was about the only way to do it). I've also practiced "wipe off and do new install" on BSDi, OpenBSD, SunOS, Solaris, and Windows, all with great success (I even had Windows 98 stay running for weeks that way ... an accomplishment that had my boss scared, since I was the Solaris admin, not the Windows admin ... who was rebooting at least every 2 days). Of course it's easy on Linux of you can do a little partitioning.

The key to success with dual-booting between 2 versions of the same Linux distribution is to have at least 4 partitions. Two of them will be each large enough to how the installed system files. That can vary from 2 GB to 10 GB depending on your distribution choice and selected packages. The other partitions will be a swap partition, and a home partition that has all the files you want to keep across systems (user home directories, database areas, web content, mail spool, etc). Or you can be like me and really separate things into as many as a dozen partitions (I had as many as 27 partitions on one machine I was doing a few years ago).

A more expensive alternative is to have a redundant machine. It makes a great quick backup of the first machine has a major hardware failure. That's how I upgraded to Slackware 10.2 recently. I didn't really "upgrade" ... I installed Slackware 10.2 from scratch on the system partition. The home partitions was a replica from the first machine which did double duty as a backup for those 100 GB of important files (something my DDS tape just couldn't do so well).

If you do decide on the approach to using 2 partitions on one machine (because you need an excuse to fill up that new 500 GB disk), you might consider virtualization so you can run at least some of the new system you are installing. Viable choices include User Mode Linux, VMware, and Xen (as discussed recently on LXer).

Mar 31, 2006
1:34 PM EDT
While I'm not sure I want to run 27 Distros, I do keep 2 viable Debian desktop builds going at one time. If you play with mixed distros, and flirt with experimental, sooner or latter 'you will' get burnt, A dual boot, and frequent backups assures that you have a working build at all times, and no data loss.

Mar 31, 2006
6:15 PM EDT
It wasn't 27 distros. It was about 8 (counting a couple BSDs on there). Just a lot of partitions.

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