Why it's worth dual booting (even if all you'll use is Windows)

The problem

My girlfriend's Dell is a mess. It's about a year old and runs WinXP. Despite her due diligence of running AVG Antivirus, Kerio Firewall, and Spybot, the crud on her system can't be removed. She's downloaded too much, err, "questionable" content and who knows what it's done to her system. The registry is a nightmare. I could boot into a Knoppix Live CD and see what I can do, but unless it's some sort of production server at work, it's not worth it. I have to keep her on Windows. Mostly because she has an iPod and uses Photoshop CS2 a lot for work. I know you can sync an iPod with Linux and run Windows apps on Wine, but I'm skeptical about the iPod support and as much as I love using Wine, it's just not mature enough. That's why I'll be going the standard route of reformatting the system.

Typical Solution

Here's what I'm doing. It's standard operating procedure:

  • Backup the application data and settings
  • Reformat the hard drive
  • Install Windows XP and all the applications
  • Load back the data and settings

    Where Linux Factors In

    This time I'm installing Linux too. Eventually she'll be at the same point she's at now. Her computer will be infested and running to a crawl. Most of what she does is pretty basic anyways. Since IMHO, Linux does a better job at this than Windows, she'll have an alternative to boot into come the inevitable.

    She'll always have to option to boot into Linux. From there she can do all her basic computing tasks: surfing the web, email, editing office documents, some graphic editing, music, etc.

    Of course, keeping Linux in sync with Windows is an issue. What I mean is having Firefox for example use the same profile that the Windows install is using. This is a simple hack, just create a soft link to the Windows profile directory in the ~/.mozilla/firefox directory and point to it in the profiles.ini file.

    So depending on the severity of the Windows problem, if you can mount that partition under Linux then you can access all your files. That means her music collection is still accessible. Also, her email is web based which solves that problem.

    There's No Excuse

    Ubuntu Linux is free. There's no reason why you can't spare even 5 gigs to partition the root partition and swap space. I was able to get it installed and configured all while I at my dinner. We're not talking anything fancy here, just the basics. If you want to install all the standard goodies like Flash support in Firefox, playback of commercial DVDs, etc. then there are scripts to install all those. That adds another 5 minutes to your install time. Go grab some desert and it's done.