Easy Way To Use Linux In Windows

During my time at University, I have come across many useful tools available in Linux that are not available in Windows. I know what some of you are thinking.  I could simply switch to Linux, as it is more-or-less as easy to use as Windows.  But I require some programming tools in Windows that make the switch impossible.  I really did not want to reboot every time I required a Linux-only program.  For a long time I would use a VNC client to remotely log into a Linux PC to use the tools I needed, but that left me with two locations with current files.  Not ideal.

I first started to use Cygwin to make the tools I needed available, while I was running the Windows programs I liked, or needed.  This worked well, but it is a little tricky to set up and it frustrated me that I was limited to the programs that Cygwin supported (these were often not the latest versions).

After trying virtual machines and a brief stint with andLinux (also quite nice), I have now found an easy way of using Linux programs in Windows.  Portable Ubuntu is a distribution that, like andLinux, is based on the coLinux kernel.  It allows you to use Ubuntu 8.04LTS while you are booted into Windows.  Another major advantage is that, like the name suggests, the folder created by the installation file is portable.  You can simply copy it to a flash disk or another PC and have the same functionality where ever you go.  You can easily reach your files on the C drive via /mnt/C/.  When you run the program, you end up with a small task bar that you can move as you wish.  If you somehow manage to break it, you simply delete the folder and start from scratch.  It is really easy and does not leave any traces on your Windows drive.

Draptik has written a easy-to-follow articles on how to upgrade Portable Ubuntu to v8.10 and how to access other partitions.  I suggest you read them.  Increasing the size of the default disk image is almost a must.


Update: The project is now called Portable Ubuntu Remix and is in version DOS (as in Spanish for 2, not the Microsoft product).  It is currently in Release 4 and runs Ubuntu 9.04 with updated Colinux and Cygwin.  There is a lite version available (now in Release 2) which creates with a smaller disk image (2GB vs 3.7GB) without the office, media, graphics and Gnome themes.

I have not tried it yet as my version UNO with a larger partition and upgraded to 9.04 is working smoothly and I cannot afford to have problems with a new install at the moment.

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by Martin Baselier (not verified) on 7. October 2010 - 13:22  (59145)

Thanks for the advice, I'm going to try this and then see if I can use it with arch, my favourite distribution so far. So I can take it with me on a usb-stick.

I personally believe the best way to try Linux is to first try a live usb-stick, easily made with unetbootin within windows. I'd advice Mint (based on Ubuntu) since it's one of the easiest distributions I've tried.

Then if it works, just install it, you can install it next to Windows on a different partition and it will automatically detect your windows system and make the windows partition smaller. If you don't like it, you can use the live usb-stick to remove the partition and resize the Windows partition to it's original size.

Don't use Wubi, it will install Linux on the Windows partition, which will usually give fragmentation problems after it has been used for a longer time, which will make both Linux and Windows quite slow. The FAT/NTFS file system is also not well suited for Linux, since it does not allow to properly set the rights/permissions because of the file system.

Virtual machines are nice if you want to try a lot of different distributions for testing purposes. You would do better using an external hard drive, as another commenter already reported. A VM-solution will never give you the full experience, because it's always slower than running a system stand alone.

by Umberto on 16. July 2009 - 0:05  (25165)

Alternatively, you can use the LiveCD virtual appliance with the VMware player and mount any Linux live CD/DVD. The disadvantage of this, vis a vis Portable Ubuntu, is that Linux won't have access to files on any volume that is already mounted by Windows (though a 2GB virtual drive can be formatted and mounted should you need persistent storage). The advantage is, Linux won't have access to any volumes mounted by Windows. So, this is either a nuisance or a security feature - you choose.

1) Download and install the VMware Player
2) Download and unzip the LiveCD virtual appliance
3) Download any Linux live CD (or DVD).
www.puppylinux.org , e.g.

The author's instructions are fine. Instead of overwriting the dummy virtual CD with your Linux .iso file, though, I suggest that instead you
4) start the LiveCD virtual appliance,
5) eject livecd.iso from the virtual CD (See the icons at the bottom of the window? Click the one that looks like a CD.)
6) mount your Linux .iso as the new virtual CD and
7) reboot the virtual machine: VMware Player > Troubleshoot > Reset (an odd place to keep it, don't you think)

The LiveCD appliance starts with 256MB of virtual memory, which can be changed from the VMware Player menu.

If you want to run a Linux live CD from within Windows, then the LiveCD virtual appliance is the way to go. If you'd like to install Linux Ubuntu but want it to run as a Windows application, then Portable Ubuntu is your ticket.

by Anonymous on 13. July 2009 - 7:18  (25001)

Your completely barking up the wrong tree here. You don't need to run one OS inside another to get the tools you need. Just mention a Windows programming tool or environment and we will give you a list of alternatives. Makes the whole article as pointless as running one OS inside another.

by t (not verified) on 15. March 2011 - 0:27  (67930)

unbelievable, there so many practical cases I dont know where to start
of cause if you are narrow minded developer/fanboy that can not develop for more then one OS then all you can do is post comments like above

by MidnightCowboy on 13. July 2009 - 10:47  (25012)

Please consider supporting the efforts made by all the voluntary editors here by offering to contribute yourself. If you're able to spare a little time for this please drop me a PM via the forum

by Anonymous on 12. May 2009 - 7:41  (21407)

Good Way - "My Way" - I use Live-CD Images and MobaLiveCD - and newly the "jack of all trades"
Gizmo Central (Drive);) http://arainia.com with more Image formats (incl. VHD !)

salü @thehop

by Anonymous on 12. May 2009 - 8:52  (21416)

"jack of all trades" ... master of none then? That Gizmo site looks better than that.

by rikmayell (not verified) on 3. May 2009 - 22:31  (21018)

Sadly, Vista 64 users will have to wait for a portable 64 bit version that includes signed 64 bit Vista kernel mode drivers, as this version will not work.

Still, Jaunty runs a treat under VMWare and browsing with Firefox is faster inside the VM than out of it!

Rik Mayell

by Anonymous on 24. April 2009 - 23:14  (20476)

Running Firefox under Portable Ubuntu uses a mere FRACTION of the system resources that it does under Windows. That's why I use it.

A neat little trick I discovered if you're running Portable Ubuntu: if you open a command line in your Ubuntu root directory and link your Windows font directory as ".fonts" you will have access to all of your compatible Windows fonts in Ubuntu. Just type "ln -s /mnt/C/Windows/Fonts .fonts"

by Anonymous on 24. April 2009 - 19:58  (20460)

Consider this:

Last week my wife's windows xp laptop got hit by a virus. I'm pretty good with computers and keep up with anti-virus and spyware protection faithfully. The virus was a pain to remove and I didn't want to go through that again. Here's where portable-ubuntu is perfect: it doesn't take over the windows xp desktop but only adds a little toolbar at the top. I was able to show my wife how to use this in about a minute, so when she's randomly poking around the web her 'real' machine is safe.

Thanks for putting this up!

by Anonymous on 24. April 2009 - 15:38  (20450)

I don't understand why is everyone is afraid of changing, I first tried linux two years ago when my hard drive let me down and without me to know my son had damaged my cd rom so I couldn't reinstall XP. I followed the instructions from the pendrivelinux website and I created usb stick with PCLINUXOS 2007 on it and from that time never looked back to windows. I replaced my hard drive and cdrom later on and I tried all major Linux distribution, I now use XUBUNTU and run XP on virtual box to run my mobile's applications (back up)once a month.

Give it a try it looks great, it feels great, it's the same feeling I had when i got my first pc 15 years ago.

As for the dual boot you can easyly set it up to boot authomaticaly in windows or Linux.

by Umberto on 25. August 2009 - 20:37  (31506)

"it's the same feeling I had when i got my first pc 15 years ago."

Let's see, 1994, that would have been a 100MHz Pentium 3 running Windows 3.1 (or maybe a beta copy of Windows 95 if you were a developer). Yeah, I guess it can feel like that at times.

by brunetu on 4. October 2010 - 8:17  (59006)

right :))

by Anonymous on 23. April 2009 - 20:23  (20394)

I signed up on the Portable Ubuntu forum at portableubuntu.demonccc.com.ar. When I tried to make my first post, Firefox NoScript popped up a clickjacking alert when I clicked on the [Post] button. Doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about the whole ting.

by Anonymous on 23. April 2009 - 19:10  (20390)

Don't overlook Wubi as a way of trying out Ubuntu.
This from the website:
Wubi is an officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows users that can bring you to the Linux world with a single click. Wubi allows you to install and uninstall Ubuntu as any other Windows application, in a simple and safe way.
No need to burn a CD. Just run the installer, enter a password for the new account, and click "Install", go grab a coffee, and when you are back, Ubuntu will be ready for you.


by FrankO on 23. April 2009 - 19:21  (20391)

Thanks Richard, I have tried this and it works very well, but it still leaves you with the dual-boot problem. What I like about Portable Ubuntu is that I can use Linux IN Windows.

I have now upgraded my Portable Ubuntu from v8.10 to v9.04. No problems yet.

by Anonymous on 23. April 2009 - 3:03  (20357)

How to you use VMware ? The vmware player is free but the other bits to create a virtual system aren't.

by Anonymous on 22. June 2009 - 12:11  (24234)

I'm using Windows XP SP3. Last week I downloaded the latest VMWare player (v2.5.2) and found a ready made virtual machine image in VMWare's appliances section for Ubuntu 9.04:

The download in the above section points to a torrent file here:

So I downloaded Ubuntu 9.04 desktop. I'm using FreeDownloadManager on Windows which asked me if I wanted to turn on BitTorrent when I'd downloaded the .torrent file. Neat. I left BitTorrent turned on for a few hours to help seed others' downloads.

I unzipped the 1GB file using 7zip. This resulted in a 3GB tar file that I then untarred with 7zip (under Windows). That resulted in a 3GB vmdk VMWare virtual machine image file plus a few other small files. I had to delete/move the zip and tar files due to lack of space.

Ubuntu 9.04 ran as advertised. The VMWare player has been improved since I last used it - very nice handling of USBs now (networking is also painless). It doesn't seem to use a lot of Windows resources but Ubuntu is a little sluggish inside the VM, not bad though. The nice thing about a VM is you can leave Ubuntu running when you exit the VM. Next time, once state is restored (relatively quick) you're in: don't have to wait for Ubuntu to boot.

I installed KeePassX and Launchy, applied all the latest updates and added some of my favourite Firefox addons. It's taking a total of about 4GB of Windows filespace now.

My other Ubuntu 9.04 is on a USB which was easy to install by following:

The USB Ubuntu feels slower than the VMWare version due to slower "disk" access. The USB version was faster than a LiveCD and you can save state: ie install apps and add ons and have it remember your preferences.

What I'd really like is a lightweight Linux running under VMWare: with just a (standard) Firefox and KeePassX installed. I tried Damn Small Linux (DSL) but it has a non standard browser - it is Firefox-based but v2 and it's not called Firefox. In DSL's favour, it only takes 200MB total for the VM and ancillary files.

by AnonymousClint (not verified) on 10. January 2012 - 19:23  (86955)

Try PUPPY LINUX Wary is the ongoing one.Excellent results It works for me.MOBAL is useful for running virtualisation

by AnonymousClint (not verified) on 10. January 2012 - 19:26  (86956)

Forgot to mention TINY CORE around 50mb is a quick lightweight distro.

by Anonymous on 24. April 2009 - 20:25  (20462)

I like the response posted here, but the other option is to look for vmware server 1.08 or older. It's still on the vmware archives and runs like vmware player. The newer 2.0 version doesn't run on xp an is a pain to work with.

by Anonymous on 23. April 2009 - 19:25  (20392)

See TechWandering: How to Create Your Own Virtual Machine Using VMWare Player

by Anonymous on 22. April 2009 - 23:50  (20352)

Another Option is to use a 'Live Distribution CD' Like Fedora, Ubuntu, Vector etc, It won't be as fast as a fresh installation but it will give an idea of what you'll get. Try Puppy or Tiny linux, either of which will load to ram and on a new system will run relatively fast. I have an old Thinkpad 700 running Tiny much faster than it ever ran Windows (ME). I was once a real Windows fan, but became disenchanted about 2 yrs ago, so switched to Fedora and have loved every minute, the only issue I ever had was printer drivers for Canon Printers, but that was solved with the purchase of Turboprint.

by Anonymous on 22. April 2009 - 7:30  (20300)

The best way to test Linux, is to INSTALL it. Not on virtual machine, and not with coLinux kernel. There are many disadvantages when using such installations, the MOST important - performance.
You can't get the real feel of Linux in this way, and you will be forced stick with windows, thinking it works "faster".

Ubuntu (as well as every major Linux distribution) works perfectly when you install it alongside Windows on a separate partition (it can even import some of your user preferences from windows - browser bookmarks, wallpapers etc.). It's not so hard or scary to simply create one 5-6GB partition. And it's enough for Ubuntu. The installer can do it for you, if you read the instructions carefully.
If you just click next, next, next without reading what you are doing... (in the windows style...) you may end up with you hard drive wiped out (and it will be entirely your fault) :) So - don't be ignorant.

Did I mention that the installation takes ~8 minutes (without a single restart)? And when it's ready, you will have fully working desktop environment, with all the software you need. No need to go to different web sites to download programs and drivers (and spyware, of course). Just use the Synaptic Package Manager.

And remember - Linux is not Windows. Don't expect everything to be the same as in Windows and to work in the same way. If you want this, just use Windows.

by Jojo Yee on 28. November 2009 - 16:45  (37472)

Good comments. Either way it has some advantages and disadvantages, can't have the best of two worlds.

by Bob on 22. April 2009 - 18:44  (20345)

"...you may end up with you hard drive wiped out (and it will be entirely your fault) :) So - don't be ignorant."

Thanks for the warning, but I'm not sure the fact that the disaster is entirely my fault will be much consolation. Especially since I haven't found a reliable cure for my ignorance yet.

by Anonymous on 26. May 2009 - 15:30  (22360)

Been there, done that. The DH was furious that his network copnnection disappeared - again....I can't figure out how to dual boot and lost everything. (Yeah, I'm one of those who tries things out on my "main" machine- sigh. )

by Anonymous on 22. April 2009 - 19:17  (20349)

"Thanks for the warning, but I'm not sure the fact that the disaster is entirely my fault will be much consolation. Especially since I haven't found a reliable cure for my ignorance yet."

heheh amen to that!

by Anonymous on 21. April 2009 - 19:37  (20273)


Can you list the Linux programs that you cannot run under Windows?

I would like to know what I am missing!

by FrankO on 21. April 2009 - 20:34  (20283)

I like to use XFig to draw vector diagrams for my dissertation. I do not know of any other free software that integrates so well with LaTeX and GnuPlot. Inkscape is probably the next step in vector graphics, but it does not integrate with LaTeX as well as XFig does. And I am simply more comfortable with XFig. I suppose that if there were a free Windows version of XFig, I would not need to do this.

That are my main reasons for using this. It lets me produce the best quality output I can get for free. Kile is also a great LaTeX editor. There are also other command line converters (ps2eps, ps2pdf, etc.) that I occasionally make use of.

I am certain other readers could point out other software that they use in Linux that does not have a free equivalent in Windows. But, I would guess these are getting fewer as more developers produce multi-platform software.

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