Windows and Linux are the two main platforms to choose when we want to install several operating systems on the same personal computer, on a very interesting multiboot setup to get the best of both worlds. We left out macOS because Apple does not license the system to third-party providers and -except for special installations using Hackingtosh- forces you to buy a Mac if you want to use it.
It must be said that the bulk of consumers only use one operating system on their PC. And surely Windows, since Microsoft has a total dominance of the OEM channel and the vast majority of new computers are delivered with Windows pre-installed.
Users who want to try other things beyond Windows or those who already use Linux, but need Windows to run some applications or games (or simply for fun) have several possibilities, from the always interesting virtual machines to the use of “Live” formats. capable of running operating systems from optical media or a USB flash drive.
Both methods are easy to implement and use, but have trade-offs, especially in terms of performance. Those looking for the best experience should bet on multiple facilities that we are going to talk about today and that have compelling advantages: you get the maximum performance from the hardware, the different systems occupy their own space without interfering with the rest and the boot menu allows you to start them and switch between them in seconds in a comfortable and easy way.
Windows and Linux on the same PC, from scratch
In recent years we have been offering you guides to carry out several of these configurations, such as Windows 11 and Ubuntu 21 or Windows 10 and Windows 11. But its possibilities go much further, since practically all you have to do is have enough storage space internally and carry out the process in a specific order to install what you want. You can choose other versions of Windows, combine them with Linux and even install macOS under hackintosh in the same process, although the latter is much more complicated to do.
On this occasion and as an example, we are going to use the latest versions of Windows 10 and Linux Mint 21, with installations from scratch (clean). If your computer already has Windows and you want to keep it, we’ll also go over how to install Linux alongside. Of course, you can use other versions of Windows or any other GNU/Linux distributionsince the process to be carried out is identical.
Until Windows 10, the hardware requirements to install Windows and Linux together on the same computer were virtually identical, and according to Microsoft officials summarized in:
- 1 GHz or faster processor or a system on a single chip (SoC)
- RAM: 1 GB for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
- Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS or 32 GB for 64-bit OS
- Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with a WDDM 1.0 driver (Windows)
Clarify that these requirements are absolute minimums that will give you to install and little else. You’ll need a better processor, more RAM, storage, and more advanced graphics if you want to get a good experience on both Windows and Linux. If you decide to install Windows 11, you already know that the minimum requirements have changed and you will have to add a DirectX 12-compatible graphics chip; a UEFI firmware that supports the ‘Secure Boot’ feature and a TPM version 2.0 Trusted Platform Module.
To give you an idea, we have used a 2022 ASUS TUF Dash laptop, with 11th generation Intel CPU, RTX 3060 GPU, 16 GB of RAM and a single 500 GB PCIe SSD. You are not required to use current equipment. You can use PCs with older hardware than the one indicated and as we said above, use other versions of both Windows and Linux.
Windows 10 installation
If you follow us regularly you will know the memory process. We start from scratch, with the laptop’s SSD completely empty, to perform a clean installation. In these types of configurations You always have to install Windows first and then Linux, so that it is the bootloader of this (GRUB) the one used to boot one or the other. We leave you a step by step of the whole process:
ISO image download
- Access the official Windows 10 portal and click on “Download the tool now”.
- Run the downloaded file that will correspond to the latest stable version: “MediaCreationTool22H2.exe”.
- Accept the license terms and select to create installation media.
- Select language, Windows edition and architecture.
- You will arrive at a screen to choose between “USB flash drive” where the same tool will create the installation medium at the moment or “ISO file” to create it later with your favorite application. We select the second option to download the “Windows.iso” image.
Creating the installation media
- Download the Rufus application or another of your choice to “burn” the image downloaded in the previous point.
- Preferably, use an empty USB flash drive with at least 8 GB capacity. (You can also do it on a DVD)
- For a Windows 10 installation on a modern computer, set up the software as in the image and create the bootable USB drive. (If your computer is older you can choose to change the partition scheme to MBR and the target system to BIOS).
Installation is very simple. You just have to be careful when creating the partitions, leaving free space for the subsequent installation of the Linux distribution. Thus:
- Insert the created media into a USB port and access the UEFI-BIOS to select it as the first boot device. (If you don’t remember the access key to UEFI you can review this practical where you have all the brands of laptops)
- Start the installation by selecting the language and version of Windows for which we have a license.
- In this step you can complete the license section or skip it to do it later.
- Select the custom installation and you will get to the partitioning process. (You’ll see the empty drive because that’s how we’ve set it up to do everything from scratch.)
- Create the partition the size you need for Windows 11, leaving some Unallocated space to install Linux Mint later, as in the example image 86 GB.
- From there install Windows 10 as you normally would.
Installing Linux Mint
Installing a GNU/Linux distribution is today a process as simple as installing Windows and no user with minimal knowledge should have any fear of the free system. The installation is automated as we will see below and on a PC with an SSD it takes a few minutes.
ISO image download
The image download is straightforward and occurs without the cumbersome process that Microsoft imposes for Windows 10.
- Simply access the Linux Mint web portal and click on the Downloads button.
- You will see three editions to choose from: Cinnamon (the most popular and modern); MATE (traditional on GNOME 2) and Xfce (the simplest and lightest).
- We select the Cinnamon Edition with the possibility of downloading via Torrent or choosing one of the servers available for direct download.
- In any case we will get the latest stable version: “linuxmint-21.1-cinnamon-64bit.iso”
Creating the installation media
- Use a USB flash drive preferably. (Alternatively, you could also use a DVD.)
- If we used Rufus to create the media with Windows, here we will use the application recommended by the manufacturer, Balena Etcher.
- We downloaded the application from its website and installed. (It also has a portable option that does not need installation).
- Just load the downloaded ISO image and flash. (Linux Mint 21 works fine in EFI modes used by Windows)
Linux installation has progressed remarkably in an almost automated and very fast process. From a flash drive connected to a USB 3.2 port and installing on an SSD, on this computer it takes just over 5 minutes.
- Insert the created media into a USB port on the machine and make sure that the flash drive is located as the first bootable media in the BIOS/UEFI as we saw in the Windows installation.
- You will enter the self-explanatory graphical installation mode. Click on install and select the language, the keyboard layout and the type of installation. Leave the download of the latest updates for later.
- You will arrive at an important section that shows how easy it is to install Linux. As you will see in the image below, the installer recognizes the installed Windows system and allows you to install Mint next to it without touching the existing partitions at all and creating your own in the empty space.
- Click on “Install Ubuntu along with Windows Boot manager”. The rest of the screens are trivial and the installation will end without further ado. On a computer like the test one, with the NVMe SSD and a fast flash drive, it takes just 5 minutes to complete.
Once the Ubuntu installation is complete, each time you reboot the GRUB bootloader will be available, which will allow you to start Windows 10 or Linux Mint easily and quickly. You can also select the system to boot in the UEFI-BIOS, but it is more cumbersome to access it each time.
In the firmware, if you select Linux as the first boot partition you will have access to its bootloader and can boot either system. If, on the other hand, you only want Windows daily and Linux eventually, you can put Windows Boot Manager first and the system will boot directly into Windows 10 without going through GRUB.
Windows and Linux on the same PC with Windows already installed
If you bought a new laptop, it would surely come with a pre-installed Windows whose installation occupies the entire storage unit. In this case it is also possible to install Linux and get a dual boot setup. If, as is our case, we already had Windows 10 installed, the first step is done and we would only need to create space for the installation of Linux Mint. If you need help, you can review the special on Disk Partitions that we updated this week.
We review the process of partition preparation:
- Right-click on the start button to open the Disk Management tool.
- You will see several partitions, the recovery one or others. We are interested in acting on the main partition, in the example C: called SYSTEM that is completely occupied by Windows.
- Right-click on the main partition and select shrink volume.
- In the dialog that appears, select the amount of space to reduce that will be the size of the partition for Linux Mint. We selected 86 GB for the example.
- Here each user will have to select the space they want to reduce depending on their availability and the focus of use. Or use a second storage drive if you have one on your computer.
You don’t have to do anything else on the issue of partitions except leave a free space as we have seen. Install Linux as we saw in the previous step in the empty space that we have created. The installer will do the rest, it will format the free partition, install Linux next to Windows and create the boot system.
Insisting that this type of multiboot installation on the same computer is ideal for taking advantage of both operating systems. They offer higher performance than a ‘Live’ format or virtual machinesthey do not interfere with each other and the bootloader allows access to each of them in seconds at the click of a button.
The guide that we have offered you is a use case with two specific operating systems, but you can mount a greater number of them, use other versions of Windows, different GNU/Linux distributions and even macOS through techniques hackintosh, although this process is much more complicated than the one described. Do not be afraid. Enjoying Windows and Linux on the same computer, with the maximum level of performance that your hardware allows, is possible with this method.