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Windows on Linux (Ubuntu) or Linux on Windows

Posted on 2014-03-26
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I am trying to decide whether to have Ubuntu as my main operating system and then create virtual machines for my other Windows OSes (XP, Win7 & 8). Or whether I should run Windows as my main OS and then the others, including Ubuntu as a VM. I need all these OSes so I troubleshoot problems for clients. What are the pros and cons of each approach? And if it were you what would you do, and the main reason(s) why? Thanks you for your input.
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Question by:lionelmm
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39955938
Rather than Pros and Cons, you should do what fits you the best. Both approaches work.

I use a Windows 8 Pro 64-bit Host machine with VMware Workstation V10. Guest machines of all kinds work fine this way.

Should you desire to use Linux more, then you can get VMware Workstation V10 for Linux and build the Windows machines you need.

Both ways work just fine.
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lionelmm earned 0 total points
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John--thank you for your time and your comments. I asked the question the way I did because that is what I wanted to know, having others weigh in on their experiences with either approach. If I already knew the best way I would not have asked the question. I am a big believer in learning but even more so in learning from others. I can easily try both ways and in some was I am, but the reason for this question is to benefit from others experiences and get their input rather than me re-inventing the wheel for myself.
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by:John Hurst
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I use Windows more than Linux, so having Windows as my host system is the best way for me.

I was not suggesting you use both ways, but rather choose the host you use the most and then make guests of the other operating systems.

I can easily load up a guest (I have one running right now) and use both.

So a Windows host is best for me and I learn well from using the other guests.
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by:arnold
ID: 39955998
Comparatively, the HOST OS resource overhead is greater with windows versus Linux based versions.
However, your system usage pattern will more closely dictate which should be the host and which guests.


Using vsphere hypervisor might be a different alternative.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39956003
Assuming you have an adequately fast machine (I do), resource overhead on my Windows 8 machine is not high. It works just fine with any guest running.
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by:Sikhumbuzo Ntsada
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I would suggest you use Windows 7 / 8 as your host and install something like VirtualBox to host both Linux and XP.
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by:Seth Simmons
Seth Simmons earned 100 total points
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Comparatively, the HOST OS resource overhead is greater with windows versus Linux based versions.

very true
this is why i switched to CentOS 6.4 and run vmware workstation 10 on top of that
had windows 8 before but found that just windows startup was using nearly 1gb of memory.  linux has a much lower memory footprint.  i only have vmware workstation installed and running in a vnc session.  also more stable than windows and don't have to reboot the host as often (though that may or may not be an issue for you). my linux system hasn't been rebooted in over 3 months and is quite stable.  i can easily start larger windows test environments nicely (running on a couple ssd).  not to say windows is bad because vmware workstation 10 runs just fine on it, people are different and sometimes like more control over their environment like that.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39956240
I have to restart Linux after some updates just like I have to restart Windows after some updates.

Windows 7 is very stable and runs on my desktop 24x7 without crashing. Windows 8 on my laptop does not crash, but I do shut it off each evening.
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by:arnold
ID: 39956277
The only time linux has to actually be restarted following an update is when the kernel is updated. When application/services are updated and you want the change to take effect, all you need to do is restart the service, mysql, apache (php changes, openssl changes, mod_* whatever changes)

If your VM use is to learn the underlying platform, linux, etc. while primarily using windows for your normal day to day, Then I too would install windows as the host.
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by:gheist
ID: 39957009
Virtualbox:
Windows performs quite poorly with direct3d-via-opengl on linux host
It is much better other way around.
Vmware player has no 3d
All passthrough device options work equally on both ways.

Or ask yourself a question:
Can I live comfortablt without access to wordpad and internet explorer?
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by:serialband
ID: 39957120
Which OS do you need the most?  Run that as the main system and run everything else in a VM.  If you're using linux and want free open source, don't use Virtualbox, it's slow, use Xen instead.  It has VGA passthrough ( http://wiki.xen.org/wiki/Xen_VGA_Passthrough ) which also allows full 3D.   OpenSuse includes it during the install.  You can also easily add that through YAST2 or zypper.

I have a MacBook Pro Retina to support Mac users, so that's my current main OS.  I run Windows (my preferred) in BootCamp and Parallels, so much nicer than either VirtualBox or VMWare on OSX.

___________

Windows actually doesn't need a reboot for all its patches either if you know which service to restart.  Just don't use the GUI.  Download the patches manually and run them via command line, and you won't be prompted for reboots.  You can restart the services manually or just reboot later, if you're so inclined.  If you have lots of systems, the command line way is good too, since you can script the patches and service restarts, just like linux.  WSUS is limited in some ways.

Up until about 2 years ago, the Mac Software Updates via GUI required a reboot for every patch too.  I bypassed that by going command line.  It was easy to script patches too, also just like linux.

If you're a linux beginner, you should try OpenSUSE.  Starting from version 12, they've included zypper ps to easily list all the services that need a restart after you patched through yast2 or with zypper update.  That way, you can have a junior admin or a novice do the patches and more easily figure out what services need a restart, without a reboot the entire linux box.  That's one feature I'd like to see in yum and aptitude/apt-get.
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by:gheist
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Sadly windows programs "movefiles" with new versions so you have unpatched system until reboot...
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by:serialband
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To avoid that, you just have to figure out which services you're patching, then stop them.  For example, if you're patching explorer.exe, you can open up task manager to kill the explorer.exe process, then start a new task of either command prompt or powershell to manually install the patch.  Once patched, you can then start explorer.exe as a new task.  You still have to reboot with the kernel level services, since you can't stop any of those.  You only have those "movefiles", as you call them, if the service is still running and locking the files they are replacing.
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by:gheist
ID: 39957757
how do you patch ntdll.dll or anything opened by lsass.exe ? It is monthly reboot now matter how you push it around...
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by:serialband
ID: 39958004
Are they doing that every patch cycle now?  Then that's the fundamental flaw in the design of their system.  Those are kernel level files required by the system and attached to the kernel.  If you're not patching those, then you don't need a reboot.  If you were patching the linux kernel files, you'd need a reboot too.  They aren't patched every single month of every year.

I haven't done critical back end Windows servers as my main focus in quite a few years, but back when I did, I rebooted only when the kernel level files needed patching.  Some of those dlls will cause a reboot if you kill it, and some just won't reattach to the kernel.  I patched the test machine first and experimented with the patch order before I patched the production servers.

I also removed a lot of unnecessary services off the dedicated systems so I didn't have to reboot as frequently as a desktop workstation.  I remember having to reboot them about a quarter as much as the workstations that had so much more software and services installed.   Why would you reboot if you're just patching IIS or MSSQL or Explorer?  If you are rebooting when you patch those, then you're doing it wrong.  That would be like rebooting linux because you patched apache, mysql, gnome or kde.  Windows or Linux, they're the same if you're an experienced admin.
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by:gheist
ID: 39958108
ksplice ;)
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by:John Hurst
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@lionelmm - To get back on track to the original question, I think you are still best advised to use the system you use most as your host system. That will work for sure.
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by:lionelmm
ID: 39958656
Thanks for all the comments but please can we stick to my original question--thank you. I don't care so much about how often windows or linux has to be rebooted. I shutdown my Ubuntu every day as I do with my PCs with Windows. I leave my servers running but turn off all my other OSes. So that is not the issue. I was more curious about what others had experienced if Linux was the host and Windows was the VM, and then if Windows was the host and linux was the VM. I love how quickly linux (Ubuntu) starts up. It takes a bit more thought and planning to install stuff and I have to use Wine to run some Windows software but I like it a lot but not sure if I want to commit to it as my primary OS thus my question.
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by:serialband
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It seems that you're fond of linux, so stick with linux and install Xen to run your VMs.
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by:skullnobrains
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many people will probably argue against this approach, but i'm using a multi-boot system and use virtualbox to virtualize both ways.

how to implement
- install a dual-boot, triple, or whatever
- install virtualbox in all OSes
- create a VM in all OSes and give it the raw disk as a disk

pros
- you can run either system and virtualise the other and make the choice later

cons
- you will destroy your filesystem if you boot one OS inside itself or mount the same partition in several systems at the same time (except if it is read-only)
- windows does not like hardware changes. XP is likely a no-go in this respect, the same windows 8 install provably works well as a host and as a guest (don't forget to do proper shutdowns or disable the silly functionnality that turns shutdowns into pseudo-hibernations if you don't want to damage the filesystem), seven should work acceptably, possibly after a sysprep at some point. better to install in a vm rather than directly (upgrades are better handled than downgrades)

i usually notice that virtualisiing windows 8 inside linux produces very little difference in performance (if not speedup in some cases), while the contrary is definitely false.

you can use other virtualisation tools, but i'm only covering virtualbox since this is not the main topic of this thread.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39966360
The reason I use virtualization is that I can use whatever systems simultaneously. Given the need to use something like Samba for Linux for networking, one can learn more with simultaneous systems than one at a time multi-boot.

Again, it comes down to preference. @lionelmm - There is no right or wrong answer. I do what suits me best and I suggest you do the same.
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by:lionelmm
ID: 39966369
I am not asking anyone to tell me the right or wrong thing. I though my question was a simple one -- for people to give me THEIR experience and why THEY choose one way of the other.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39966373
We have done that all the way along here.
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by:lionelmm
ID: 39966455
Actually John you haven't, your first comment was "Rather than Pros and Cons, you should do what fits you the best. Both approaches work " and your last comment @lionelmm - There is no right or wrong answer. I do what suits me best and I suggest you do the same.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39966486
There are essentially no Pros or Cons technically for virtualization for Windows on Linux or Linux on Windows.

Both work very well. So there is no technical advantage to one over the other.

What else do you need, then.
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by:skullnobrains
skullnobrains earned 200 total points
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try my approach so you can test both
... but don't run several windows at a time unless you made sure they do not mount each-other's filesystem

note that vista and seven are both resource consuming so they will not like to be virtualised unless you give them enough resources

note that you should never give a single processor to a windows guest. i remember times when the windows user's experience was better when windows was a virtualized guest with 2-4 CPUs rather than running natively on the same single-core system (yeah quite a few years ago)

--

then basically, from my experience, you had better use windows as a guest rather than a host.

one reason (if you want to use that feature) is that seamless mode works better with windows guests than linuxes and is quite clearly incompatible with the use of multiple desktops.

another is that running an fsck will not harm vms on a linux filesystem (better use xfs than ext) but a chkdsk will happily break the guest's filesystem (don't ask why)

another is that linux will only use swap when it needs to. windows does so all the time. this impacts both responsivity of your vm and duration of your disk

then obviously that would greatly depend on what you are doing : if your tests require to host a wamp server with a 10Gb database, and use linux to run firefox and test the application, you definitely should do the reverse.

if you just want to use internet, an email client, spreadsheet editor and the likes to do tests, better virtualise windows

if you don't really know about your exact use cases, i'd go for a dual-boot (inter-virtualisable) with whatever windows version your machine came preinstalled with and linux, and add regular VMS for other windows. that way, you both can adapt if needed, and don't have to worry too much about hardware compatibility with XP and similar stuff.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 100 total points
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I have a Windows 8 host and Windows 7, Vista and many more virtual machines. Windows 7 and Vista both run fast and smooth as virtual machines using VMware Workstation V10 and enabling 64-bit processing in the BIOS for virtual machines. I do not see any handicap.
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by:skullnobrains
ID: 39967993
then let's be a little more honest... when virtualising 1 or 2 machines on a system that has lots of ram and doing non resource-intensive operations, you hardly will make the difference

when doing disk intensive operations, such as accessing a mailbox with thousands of messages or running a database server, obviously virtualisation in itself makes things MUCH slower regardless of which way round so better do such operations in your host. having the guest access the physical drive helps a lot.

when virtualising many guests at the same time, forget windows as a host : even if your system has lots of free ram after the vms are launched, none of the vms swap, and the cpu is mostly idle, you'll see responsiveness problems arise, unless you start dedicating cpus to machines.
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by:skullnobrains
ID: 39967996
@john. the previous is not an answer to you. cross posted
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by:skullnobrains
ID: 39968011
@john : since you seem to have experience with windows hosts, can you tell me about windows 8 compared to 2k3 or 2k8 server ? i must admit i never used windows 8 hosts except for personal use and did not do very extensive tests. can you also give information regarding the hardware ?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39968047
I have a ThinkPad X230 Core i5-3320M 2.6 GHz with 8 Gb of memory and a 500 Gb 7200-rpm hard drive. I have Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit.

I have the following Virtual Machines on this box:

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
Vista Business 64-bit
Windows XP Pro 32-bit
Windows 2000
Windows NT4 Workstation
Windows 98
Windows 95
DOS 6.3

On my Windows 7 Desktop, I have a variety of Ubuntu, SuSE and older RedHat machines.

I noticed when moving from my Windows 7 ThinkPad to my Windows 8.1 ThinkPad that Windows 8.1 (or 8) is faster than Windows 7 (both retired ThinkPad and current Desktop).

I frequently use the Windows 7 guest and it starts and runs just fine. I use it for Excel and Word Processing along with Internet and sometimes experimenting with QuickBooks and other browsers.

It all works fine. I would not give up what I have to go dual boot because I want simultaneous operation which is what I have and no handicap for doing so. I am not suggesting people follow me around. I am suggesting that my approach works very well. Conversely, I am certain I could put VMware on a host Ubuntu machine and get comparable results.

Memory limitations (8 Gb) mean at most two machines plus the host. More machines will bog down and that is a memory limitation. Since I rarely need more than two guests, I have not goaded myself into another 8 Gb memory module for my X230 (which has space for one).
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by:skullnobrains
ID: 39968567
thanks for sharing.

regarding dualboot, note that what i'm suggesting allows for parallel use of both systems since they can virtualize each-other. suggesting a dual boot in order to replace vms in this thread's context would be plain dumb.
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by:lionelmm
ID: 39981023
Lots of good info, opinions and advice
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