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Dual Booting & Virtualization

Virtualization and dual booting refer to two different ways to run two or more different operating systems on the same hardware.This can be very convenient but introduces some issues that necessitates policy to ensure support issues related to these practices are kept to a minimum.

Dual Booting
Dual booting refers to when 2 or more operating systems are loaded onto the same computer (commonly Mac OSX and Windows) and is highly discouraged. Dual booting will not be supported in our environment unless there is no other alternative. Final discretion for this decision rests with the manager of LSA IT - Randall.

This is for several technical and non-technical reasons.Dual boot machines are often booted into one of the operating systems as much as 95% of the time. As a result, the other operating system often does not receive needed updates which can result in the following problems during the 5% of the time the machine is used:
  • Security compromises because of missing patches
  • Long delays to use the alternative operating system because it is receiving patches/fixes/software pushes
  • Issues authenticating because of expired credentials
  • Problems with one of the operating systems may corrupt/destroy data for all of the operating systems loaded on the computer.
In addition, there are often legal issues in regards to licensing when running multiple operating systems on a computer. For example, when running Windows 7 on Apple hardware it is necessary to purchase a full Windows 7 license from Microsoft (the University license does not cover this scenario) which may cost in excess of $300 depending on the license.

Virtualization
Visualization refers to technology that allows for the creation of a virtual computer running "on top" of an existing operating system as if it was just another (albeit resource intensive) program. While some of the concerns listed above still exist (security concerns, delays, and license issues) with virtualization, it does compartmentalize the alternative operating system so that any problems that arise as a result of one or more of these things wont typically affect the rest of the computer.

In addition, virtualization systems often have the capacity for virtual systems to be periodically started, run for a period of time then shutdown. This allows time for the virtual machines to receive required patches and updates without the need for a long delay when you may want to use them. As a result, when possible, it is standard practice to configure the virtual machine(s) in that fashion a minimum of every week. We will work with the primary user of the machine to set a convenient time for this to occur.