Only 24.7% of Users are Afraid to Dual Boot
I feel there was a good response for the poll, resulting in around 1000 votes at the time of closing, 160 comments against the submission on Digg (thus far) and around 67 comments on this site (although only the latest 20 are visible - I'll fix this shortly). One of my key concerns however is how the results changed...
Clearly having the majority of the traffic to the article from Digg and LinuxToday results in a slightly biased result - both sites are populated by fairly tech-savvy users who are less likely to be phased by the notion of dual booting, because most are likely to have attempted this before. One of my key points wasn't whether I was having problems dual booting (although I have done in the past) but more whether the average user is afraid of the very notion of doing so.
"Despite the strong number of users who participated, I'm not sure the results are accurate"
I feel that the result is destined to be inaccurate due to the nature of the majority of the voters, but with this concept comes a strong sense of ambiguity. While I may feel that more tech-savvy users are likely to remain un-phased by dual booting, the real target audience of the vote will have missed the target entirely - and here are my reasons for this:
- This website is read by fairly tech savvy people to begin with
- The truly "average" user will be confused by the phrase "dual boot", assuming it is an unstable way of kicking something
- "Average" users use their machines for email, MS Office and maybe some light browsing/eBay
Therefore, I assume that not one single "average" user took part in the vote.
"The only conclusion that can be made is that only 24.7% of the more advanced users are scared of dual booting"
While this is not the result I was hoping for when creating the poll, it has unearthed an interesting statistic - that even amongst advanced users, almost a quarter of us are scared to dual boot - which is madness if it really is the walk in the park some claim. But, it enables me to list some of the good suggestions made by users who got in contact with me, telling their story and what saved their "ass". The best tips are:
Basically make sure that whatever infantile accidents happen, everything that is important to you is secured safely so that should the worst case scenario actually occur, you can restore your machine to it's previous glory time and time again - until you grow tired of breaking things.
2. Make a Master Boot CD
Using something like UltimateBOOTCD can help you get back into your corrupted machine and fix whatever it is you've done.
Something I neglected to do once and I paid big time... Make sure you Read the F*cking Manual. Just go and hit Google and there are numerous tutorials (even a good video tutorial) on how to dual boot, they're informative and a great starting point.
4. Know how to fix your MBR
If you don't know how to fix your MBR (or even what an MBR is), then you need to refer to item #3. Do NOT attempt to dual boot without an understanding of what this is, because if your luck is anything like mine - you'll corrupt yours and you'll need to use the Windows recovery console to fix it.
5. Get a Super Grub Disk
I hear these are great, much better than the regular GRUB. I believe it is less likely to cause you headaches during the dual boot process.
6. Try using a Virtual Machine first
Try using the new operating system in a virtual environment first (VMWare being my choice) to test that you actually do like the piece of software you're trying to install. There's nothing more annoying than making a balls-up of your computer installing something you don't really want anyway.
7. Consider buying a separate machine
Although this sounds like a concession, it really is the best option. It saves you sharing hard drive space, risking your primary machine installing it etc. If you can afford a spare machine, it may be the best option. It means you don't need to restart to get in and out of operating systems (Linux is so stable that restarting it feels like a crime).
8. Make time for it
Don't attempt to dual boot things when you only have an hour spare, you'll need time and a fresh head on you. It *should* go fine but you need to be able to spare the time to fix it should the worst happen. None of us want our machines to be out of action for long, do we?
9. Use a GOOD Partition Manager
Something like PartitionMagic should give you the stability to resize your partitions without the risk of software related crashes.
10. Only do it on stable hardware/software configurations
You don't want your machine to crash during this process because it will do some serious harm to your current install. It won't destroy it - it's almost always saveable but it's a major inconvenience.
So, while most users have no idea what "dual booting" is, or indeed what Linux is - hopefully the nervous 24% will at least try dual booting once
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