Dual Booting For Dummies
November 27, 2009 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Two-part question regarding a potential XP/Ubuntu dual-boot setup: a)Do I still worry about viruses if I'm not accessing the internet from the XP half? b) From reading online it seems that I'll be able to access files from the XP half while in Ubuntu, but will the opposite be true?

I've actually never owned a Windows machine so apologies if I seem over paranoid about viruses. I'm just finally considering this in order to be able to record music and use my computer for djing.

And, in case the second question is confusing, what I mean is that as I understand it, anything I put on the computer in Windows will be accessible on the other operating system. But since I would be using Ubuntu for any downloading I'd like to know if that will be readily accessible in XP or if it would require copying it to an external harddrive, booting into Windows, and recopying it?

thanks everyone.
posted by mannequito to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1) Are you going to execute files from other sources like a thumbdrive? If yes you'll probably need an antivirus.

2) It depends of what you want. You can format your Ubuntu partition as ext2 or ext3 and use something like Linux Reader to access it from XP. You can make a shared FAT32 or even NTFS partition and use it for files that'll be used in both OS. Or you can just download files directly into your Windows partition.
posted by Memo at 9:37 PM on November 27, 2009

a) If you disable the network interfaces, you're pretty safe. Malware can still spread via USB sticks, etc., but it's not that likely.

b) I haven't tried it myself, but http://www.fs-driver.org/ purports to mount Linux ext2 and ext3 partitions on WinXP. So that would let you access the Linux partition from Windows.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:37 PM on November 27, 2009

Best answer: a) Yes.

You will need to have an active antimalware program running on Windows XP even if you're not connecting to the internet with it. I say this for two reasons; first, almost every piece of malware written in the world is written for Windows XP, so no matter what your sources are it's going to be a good idea to use a good antimalware utility (the very best free one I know of is BitDefender). Second - and this is the big one - you're in a sense almost just as exposed as someone who's got an XP machine connected directly to the internet, because you say you'll be downloading things and using them in XP. I heart Ubuntu, and my primary machine runs Ubuntu Studio because it's more stable than Windows XP/Vista/7, because it's got a much better suite of the media programs I rely on every day, and because it's just damned prettier and more functional; however, Linux isn't better at dealing with malware because it kills it faster or something but simply because malware isn't usually written to attack Linux. When you download stuff, it could very easily have malware that Linux doesn't notice or care about; when you transfer that stuff over to XP, the malware can wake up and go on a rampage. So, in short, yes: you do need antimalware for XP.

b) Not really, no, but there are some caveat.

XP won't recognize a standard Linux (ext2, ext3, Reiser, etc) formatted partition. As such, you won't be able to open stuff on your Ubuntu partition from XP. (I haven't tried fs-driver.org, though it sounds interesting, and I wonder if it mounts partitions safely, i.e. without corrupting tons of data, since that's the hard part.) There's an easy solution, thankfully; when you're going through the Ubuntu install, simply create a separate disk partition that's formatted FAT32 (you can even do NTFS, although that will be wonkier in Ubuntu whereas FAT32 will make much more sense back and forth) and use it for storage of files. That partition you will be able to access in XP.
posted by koeselitz at 10:12 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and

c) If you're seeking a breed of Ubuntu that's fantastic for recording and editing music, I highly recommend the aforementioned Ubuntu Studio. I use it, and I really love it; the bundled packages (especially Ardour and JACK) are awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 10:18 PM on November 27, 2009

Best answer: Seconding koeselitz on the antivirus - always better to be safe than sorry when you're running Windows. AVG Free is a good solution too.

I'm running an XP/Ubuntu system too, although I mostly use Windows. The setup I've got is:
  • 50GB Windows partition, formatted NTFS
  • 50GB Linux partition, formatted ext3
  • Couple of gigs for a swap partition, can't remember how big it is right now
  • 100GB FAT32 partition for music, photos and enormous things that won't fit in the OS partition (my Steam games are there, for instance, even though I can't access them from Linux)
  • Best part of 50GB left in reserve in case I need another partition for some reason
That lets me work on Win-specific and Linux-specific stuff without them touching each other, but still gives me a way of sharing files between the two. Obviously those numbers are very tweakable for your own purposes!
posted by ZsigE at 1:41 AM on November 28, 2009

Best answer: ZsigE's setup is exactly the same as the one I settled on (with different numbers): a boot/apps volume for Ubuntu, a boot/apps volume for XP, and a shared Fat32 'data' volume for both.

I have both OS's set up to network-share the data volume, too, so I don't need to remember which one is booted up when I'm elsewhere and wish to connect: same method either way.
posted by rokusan at 5:11 AM on November 28, 2009

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