It’s time to stop dual booting Linux and Windows
Dual booting is a way to install multiple operating systems on the same computer. Unfortunately, Windows makes the practice harder than ever.
Dual-booting (and triple-booting, etc.) involves dividing a storage drive into multiple partitions, with an operating system on each partition and a boot loader that lets you choose between each operating system on boot . In some cases, each operating system needs other smaller partitions at least one or two other partitions (like a swap area for Linux-based operating systems). The method is commonly used by people who want to use Linux, but still need to keep Windows for software or other Linux-incompatible tasks.
Windows never worked all good with dual start — depending on configuration, it can sometimes to crush a custom bootloader with its own when updating, or cause other problems. More recently, the BitLocker disk encryption scheme in Windows has been a headache for dual booting because the contents of an encrypted disk cannot be accessed unless it is unlocked first, which requires a backup key or starting Windows.
Microsoft says in support pages that “modern Windows devices are increasingly protected with BitLocker Device Encryption out-of-the-box”, and some PCs even store BitLocker keys in the TPM. The developers of Fedora Linux discussed why this is an issue on the project’s mailing list, saying “the Bitlocker encryption key is only unsealed if the TPM’s bootstring metric matches the expected values in a TPM PCR When shim + GRUB are in the boot chain, as it is in our default dual-boot installation, the measurements are wrong, which means the GRUB menu entry to boot Windows won’t work The user is dropped on a Windows Bitlocker recovery page.
Ubuntu, another popular Linux distribution, has also noted issues with BitLocker disk encryption. A support article says: “If you are using BitLocker, the contents of the hard disk will not be accessible and it will appear as random noise. This means that the Ubuntu installer cannot map the data correctly and the additional installation will not cannot be done safely without loss of data.
Even though BitLocker is a great security feature, it’s clear that Microsoft doesn’t make it easy for other operating systems to exist on the same drive. At this point, the easiest solution is to not dual boot at all – consider adding a new drive to your PC and sticking to one OS per drive. This isn’t always an option, as many laptops don’t have room for an extra disk (or even the ability to replace the original disk), but it’s worth considering as long as possible. You can even install operating systems on a fast external SSD. With a USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt connection, you shouldn’t notice much of a speed difference.
The solution to conflicting software should never involve buying more hardware – you own your computer, so you should be able to use whatever operating systems you want. Unfortunately, without more cooperation between Microsoft, PC makers, and Linux developers, it becomes increasingly difficult for Linux (and other systems) to coexist with Windows. Meanwhile, Linux support on Apple’s new ARM-based Mac computers is still in its infancy.
If you plan to use Linux on a PC all the time, instead of constantly switching between Windows, one of the best Linux laptops might be worth considering. Removing Windows completely from a PC that came with Windows also works, but computers built for Linux often has fewer driver issues. The Dell XPS 13 Plus is now certified for Ubuntu 22.04 (and possibly ships with it), and HP just released the “Dev One” in partnership with System76, the developer of Pop!_OS Linux.