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I used Ubuntu since it came out - now got a new laptop with Win7 preinstalled on a (relatively small) SSD and do not want to repartition or double install anything.

On the other hand it's very likely that I cannot live without all the tools I used over years.

What is the recommendation to use Linux under Windows with smallest footprint?

  • Live-CDs? How to keep configs etc?
  • Cygwin?
  • install the windows versions of the cool big tools (like gimp) and live without a full linux distro?

(I wonder if such recommendations are valid here ...)

closed as primarily opinion-based by Christopher, thrig, HalosGhost, GAD3R, Jeff Schaller Nov 2 '16 at 20:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • howtogeek.com/249966/… If you upgrade (or downgrade, depending on your point of view) to windows 10, you can now run an ubuntu bash shell natively on windows 10. Includes apt functionality. These are command line tools, but there's not that many gui programs that you can't find equivalents for on windows anyway, but command line stuff, that's another story. Since your question is about win 7, I'm not posting this as an answer, just a comment. – Lizardx Nov 2 '16 at 18:31
  • some distor's can be rather small, Damn Small Linux occupies 50MB of space when installed. – Centimane Nov 2 '16 at 18:37
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There's a few options you missed (I'm posting this as an answer for most future users, who will be running current windows, 10):

  1. http://www.howtogeek.com/249966/how-to-install-and-use-the-linux-bash-shell-on-windows-10/ - native bash shell, ubuntu, complete with apt. Will run all cli stuff, well ok, not all, some stuff, like things that require /sys etc, won't run, but most other cli tools will. This is a windows 10 only install, but since windows 7 is going to eventually drop security updates and support, at some point you have to go to win 10 anyway. The command line tools is what windows really lacks, and with this native bash shell, most of them will work.

  2. live usb stick, with sticky settings. However, I believe you'll soon tire of multibooting, that gets really old really fast.

  3. a light virtualbox gnu/linux installation, pick a very small footprint iso like xubuntu or lubuntu, if you use ubuntu, for the install. Max it should require is about 5 gB disk space, and the initial install will be significantly less, until you install programs. Hint: always install programs with: apt-get install --no-install-recommends [package] to keep bloat down. You can create vm gui software links that open like a regular program window in the host, if you have a specific piece of software you can't find or match in windows. Since you'd be accessing your windows file system for file storage, you only need space for the OS/software, plus a tiny bit for /home files, but that's not much.

  4. Most gnu/linux gui programs have either windows ports or windows equivalents, for example, I think kde plasma stuff actually runs on windows natively, unless they gave up on that. http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/how-to-run-kde-on-windows-611178

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Gimp has a Windows release, it would be unnecessary to run Linux under Windows just for Gimp, but if you're looking to use tools that were only built for Linux you might want to look into Cygwin/X which will allow you to run Linux applications using the X11 display server.

Here's a guide on setting that up: https://x.cygwin.com/docs/ug/setup.html

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Ubuntu user space now runs natively in Windows. It's a beta add-on for Windows 10 - and has already been referenced.

Another safe way to run Linux "in" or next to Windows is a software called Wubi which installs Ubuntu as a Windows program. You can then boot into Ubuntu using the Windows Kernel. https://sourceforge.net/projects/wubi/ It's well supported for Windows 7 and below.

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