I'm looking for a way to set up a computer so that the disk is partitioned for multi-booting to two operating systems: Linux and Windows.

Whichever one is booted, I want the other to be accessible as a VM guest, ie when booted into Linux, the Windows partition must be bootable as a VM.

My preferred Virtualization software is VirtualBox but if there is no way I will look at another option. It doesn't even absolutely have to be the same virtualization software under each operating system.

How do I partition the disks? Should I use or should I avoid EFI labels? In what order should I install the operating systems? What boot-loaders should I use and can I get these to be maintained without extra effort. Will the installed virtualization software device drivers and the guest add-on / drivers gracefully step out of the way when the specific operating system is loaded as the host / guest operating system? Is there any specific versions of Windows for which this is impossible/near impossible?

For bonus points I'd like to add Solaris and other Linux distributions.

P.S. The main reason for this requirement is to be able to run virtualization software under each operating system! Occasionally I want to investigate the differences between virtualization under different host operating systems.

  • You wanna boot into one system and fire up another installed on local drive as VM ?? Is that what you are trying to do ?
    – B14D3
    Jul 12, 2013 at 12:51
  • Both operating systems must be bootable as the Host, and whichever one is booted, the other one must then be available as a Guest.
    – Johan
    Jul 12, 2013 at 13:07

2 Answers 2


I virtualize a LOT. This is what I would do with my experience with VBox.

3 partitions:

1 for Windows install NTFS or whatever you like

1 for Linux/Unix, also whatever you like

1 for VM Images, format as NTFS or FAT so both Windows or Linux will be able to read the repository for booting the image in VBox.

I recommend this method because direct access to a partition from VirtualBox can be scary. The only direct access I would ever recommend is VMWares RDM, because the stability is there. I seen stuff go south really fast when booting a real partition in Virtualbox, then later trying to boot the physical system against that same partition.

  • 1
    I don't think you addressed the OP's concern. The OP has two natively-installed systems (Windows and Linux) and they want to be able to boot into one and access the other as a VM from inside it.
    – Joseph R.
    Jul 12, 2013 at 20:41
  • If I wasn't clear I am recommending against it, and offering the method I would use instead.
    – Tim
    Jul 12, 2013 at 20:43
  • @Tim I suspect you are right. I thought about this (and in fact I am doing this already with limited success). I was hoping to save myself from having to have to reserve disk space for two extra OS instances.
    – Johan
    Jul 15, 2013 at 13:36

I'm not sure if I understand correctly but if you wanna boot as VM system that is installed as normal second system then you will be not able to do such thing. It's not possible to make system working as normal and VM at the same time (I mean interchangeable). You can install multiple systems and in them have VM of others same as installed on your disk but booting up once as normal once as VM is not possible.

Best thing is to choise your favorite system install it as normal system and then using VirtualBox install other as VMs.

  • It must be possible using P2V and adding the RAW partition to the VM definition as disk device.
    – Johan
    Jul 12, 2013 at 13:08
  • 1
    This is true as far as I know for Windows, but a Linux doesn't mind running on different hardware (virtual or physical). Jul 12, 2013 at 23:30
  • @Johan P2V is method of converting phisical machine into virtual ...this doesn't gives you ability of booting normaly installed system as vm
    – B14D3
    Jul 14, 2013 at 6:43
  • @B14D3 In this case I would use P2V purely as a tool to prepare the OS for conversion. For example to remove physical HW dependencies.
    – Johan
    Jul 15, 2013 at 13:35

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