If you are a Windows user who want more stability(but unwilling to switch to Linux completely), this post is for you. Basically, you have to create a dual boot system with Linux and Windows – and use Linux for doing the more ‘unsafe’ operations. The end result is windows remains stable – and you will be able to do things that are potentially dangerous.
Dual Boot System
Install a Linux distro on your system. I would recommend Ubuntu if you are a beginner and Fedora if you are not. There are many tutorials on the net that will take you through the process of installing – so I am not going into it. Now boot into Linux when ever you wish to do stuff that might run the risk of infecting your system…
Unfortunately, the net is currently the number one source of virus infection. So, if you want to browse, boot into linux and browse – this will make it impossible for virus to infect the system. But there are some problems with this approach…
- Might be impractical for full time broadband users
- Some special applications might not have linux alternatives(eg. Online games, Yahoo Video Chat software etc.
- Some ISP’s dialup applications might not work on Linux
My brother uses this method – and he swears by it. It will cut down virus infections by about 75%.
Using Pen Drives/External Hard Drives
Another method that virus use to propagate itself is pen drives. Everytime you connect a pen drive to your system, you run the risk of getting a virus infection. Using linux to check out pen drives will make sure you will not get infected this way. Its so effective that my brother prefers to check the pen drive in linux over checking it with a anti-virus.
Another advantage of having Linux in your system is that you can use it to troubleshoot hardware. Say that you mouse stops working – now you have to decide if its a hardware or a software issue. It could be a symptom of a virus – or it could be a problem with the mouse. If you just have windows, the only way to find out is to connect a different mouse – not the most convenient way. But if you have linux, just boot into it. If the mouse is working in Linux, its a software issue. If not, then the hardware is to blame.
When disaster strikes(in case of windows, once every six months) and your windows system is rendered unbootable, you have a bailout mechanism. You can use Linux to work on that urgent presentation, or backup the files, or send that email, etc. Point is, you have a working system – until you re-install Windows – or choose to abandon it for Linux.
Linux Live CD/DVD
If you don’t want to install linux due to some(propably invalid) reason, then your next best bet is to have a Linux Live CD handy. Live CDs enable you to have a complete OS that boots directly from the CD/DVD. I would recommend Knopix for this. Just make sure that it works on your system – and you are able to mount your partitions and do read/write operations using the Live CD.
You can use the live CD to troubleshoot hardware and to backup the files in case your ‘Window is broken’. It might not be practical for the other reasons outlined above – because its slower than a permanent solution.
Ironically, we have reached a point that, if you want a stable Windows system, you need to have Linux installed.