Is dual-booting more secure than having a single operating system installed?

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QUESTION :

I need some advice. I’ve recently become wary about using one computer for everything I do, from a security perspective. I have antimalware installed, but I also download and run a lot of stuff I find on the internet.

So, I was considering setting up a dual-boot or getting a second PC, and organising them like this:

  • Windows install for Games/Media/Downloads and other things that don’t require much security.

  • Ubuntu install for Work/Web/Photos/Personal use and for secure files. Possibly encrypted.

As a web programmer I am familiar with Linux, but mostly just as a server. I’ve never really used it as a desktop replacement for Windows. But, I am keen to give it a try.

I was hoping for some advice and feedback on this idea? In particular:

  • Is it fundametally flawed and pointless? Am I just naively assuming that linux is “more secure” than windows?
  • Is there any software that could assist me in proceeding with this. (I’ve dual booted before but I can’t remember how and I don’t know the best way.)
  • Any particular *nix distro that would suit me more than Ubuntu? (as a programmer)

Note I have read these threads and find them interesting, but I was wanting some more specific feedback:
security concerns in dual-boot Linux, Windows system?
,
How is Linux not prone to viruses, malware and those kinds of things?
,
https://superuser.com/questions/198427/virtualization-for-your-girlfriend

ANSWER :

Well the problem here from a paranoid person’s perspective (say that three times fast) is that more systems available means you have more possible vulnerabilities.

If you run one system, it’s a heck-of-a lot easier to secure because it’s just one system. But it also means that if it is breached you lose all of your data. This arguably isn’t likely; unless a hacker is specifically targeting you, nobody would put in the effort to crack a reasonably secure system.

You can mitigate this particular problem by running Windows in a virtual machine, as you have suggested. This isn’t very hard, just install linux over your whole drive and grab a copy of Virtualbox or VMWare Player. There are a lot of tutorials ranging in scope, Google with their tracking will probably pick out one that suits you well.

Personally, I would separate my data from the OS by keeping it encrypted on an external drive. Both systems, paired with decent common sense, are secure enough to thwart 95% of attacks.

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