For those that multi-boot Linux distros......why?

About 6 months ago I came up with a fun idea for a project. I realized it should be possible to multi-boot several distros out of a single zpool using zfs and systemd-boot. So I went about testing it out. Sure enough, I was able to get Manjaro, Arch and Nixos booting out of a single zpool which meant that not only did I not have to carve my disk up but any of the installed OSes could handle snapshot replication for the others. Then recently, I decided an interesting project would be to add Fedora which has noticeably worse zfs support than the others. It was a bit of a challenge, but I was able to get that working too. Now I was quadruple-booting out of a single zpool!

Now that it is all working the way I want, I am left with a question. Other than the fun I had setting it up, what is the benefit? At this point, it feels like more of a pain than a benefit. Not only do I have 4 different OSes to keep updated but I have to shut everything down and reboot every time I want to switch. For testing/playing with different distros, my VMs are vastly easier to deal with. I can spin them up/down whenever I want and run several at the same time.

I am toying with the idea of removing one or more of my installed distros to cut back on the maintenance. Before I did that, I thought I should ask the people who multi-boot many distros, “Why do you do it and what is the benefit?”

Who knows, maybe I will decide to shoehorn a couple of more in there instead. :rofl:

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I could think of a couple of reasons. Say, me wanting a good distro as a daily driver (EOS), a “tinkering” distro (pure Arch), something to experiment on (Nix and/or Cubes), and then me wanting a simple gaming set up (lets face it, POP! is outstanding).

Then if i wanted really hifi audio… and so on. But then i’d put it in something else.

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I simply cannot think of a fun reason to multi-boot. I do have different distros over here, but it is necessity.
I run Ubuntu, because the servers I work with run it and I run Opensuse and Fedora, because at work people see me as a Linux eight ball, which I’m not, so to provide them with solutions, I run these two. (from the two I love Opensuse, but Fedora reminds me too much of Windows, especially how it updates.)

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i dont know why :slight_smile: i single boot :slight_smile: can be fun too… was a time i was curius about fedora’s delta update… but just i didnt do to try…but the fallback kernels of fedora my son had is actually also ok you save up a few if a new kernel fail…but i dont understand because i really never used fedora…You can always use systemd-nspawn and machinectl to run another distro aside :slight_smile:

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I run a single distribution. Was a time when I multi-booted just because, but not any more. It’s no longer any fun. I don’t even install the LTS kernel, too much trouble. If something goes sideways, I can boot with the usb iso and fix it or in worse case reinstall. My /home is on a separate partition. In my old age I’m only burning the candle on one end instead of both ends and the middle too. :grinning:

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Well - I certainly do multi-boot! Hmm - reasons…
Actually things fall naturally into a couple of different categories - reasons and excuses :grin:

Reasons:

  1. Because I can.
  2. For helping in the search for perfection - or at least closer to it. Of course, with EndeavourOS and XFCE I’ve pretty well made it now. Until they break it all again, of course…
  3. For never being caught out without a way to get things done. Means setting up the printer/scanner etc, and loading the basic software set.
  4. If there are similarities between systems, looking at the settings on one can make it easy on another.
  5. Trying out alternative methods of doing things
  6. Can help more people if I can more closely approximate their setup (and understand it!) Perhps even duplicate their problem before solving it (assumes more capability than I have, but never mind…
  7. Allowed a way to set up something I just happened to see in the EndeavourOS pages - 8 DE’s ready to go (with no interference). I include it as a reason, because I made a wiki out of the experience!
  8. Why not?

Excuses:

  1. Because I can.
  2. To enable showing off (well - demonstration of capabilities) things like Compiz to mere Mac and Win people
  3. Under lockdown - a massive time sink.
  4. Worry-free tinkering enabler - always the daily driver to fall back to.
  5. Testing whether I actually learned anything since the last time I installed something!
  6. Somewhere else to fashion a conky environment… there ARE differences in how it works!

I guess that covers it for now - look for edits as I remember things… after all I suffer from C.R.A.F.T. disease… (Can’t Remember A F’ing Thing) :grin:

Edit: I knew there would be one at least…
7. Because it’s so easy now that I don’t have to deal with grub :smile:

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I also run several distros on one machine. Why? Maybe it’s because it has UEFI, which doesn’t limit the number of systems you can install. The other reason for me is also testing.

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I multiboot because of various reasons, like

  • testing the new features from the testing repos of Arch
  • if one of the Arch based distros fail after update, it is so easy to boot on another and fix (e.g. using another kernel or downgrading something) the failing one

Actually I have only EndeavourOS (surprise? :wink: ) and Arch installations. I used to have Manjaro installed too, but dropped that a long time ago.

So, for me (at least for now) multibooting is not distro hopping but simply learning and keeping my systems in good order. :smile:

And TBH, I sometimes try (only in a VM) some “popular” distros to see how they are doing. :mask:

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Because I like to say

Me too :slight_smile:

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One way to fix a non-booting system is to use the ISO file for “multibooting” (and no additional distro). So the system boots directly from the ISO. This can be done in many ways, but one simple way it to write (as root) a new file /boot/custom.cfg with the following contents:

menuentry 'Boot endeavouros-2020.05.08-x86_64.iso' {
    set isofile=/endeavouros-2020.05.08-x86_64.iso
    search --no-floppy --set=root --file $isofile
    probe -u $root --set=uuid
    loopback loop $isofile
    linux (loop)/arch/boot/x86_64/vmlinuz img_dev=/dev/disk/by-uuid/$uuid img_loop=$isofile
    initrd  (loop)/arch/boot/intel_ucode.img (loop)/arch/boot/x86_64/archiso.img
}

This assumes (via variable isofile above) that the EndeavourOS ISO file is located in the root folder of a readable partition, e.g. root partition. Note that there are many places you can put the ISO file, e.g. in the /ISO folder in the root partition; then the above isofile variable must be adjusted accordingly.

Note: this works with grub.

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Yes, yes :slight_smile: reminds me of good old gohlip :smiley: :slight_smile:

Who does it all without grub2.

I use this under btrfs to start all “my” distro’s, slightly shorter
~ >>> cat /boot/grub/custom.cfg                                                                                                              
menuentry "Garuda Linux i3wm sda2" {
   insmod ext2
   search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root d6458fc5-cf8f-417a-8479-e8f6169c3604
   configfile /@/boot/grub/grub.cfg
   }
menuentry "Garuda Linux KDE sdb2" {
   insmod ext2
   search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 28c5dd33-35ef-4a4b-92c5-5e31e4891947
   configfile /@/boot/grub/grub.cfg
   }
menuentry "Garuda Linux-i3wm sdc2" {
   insmod ext2
   search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 300b8d98-4592-4bf5-9cf5-a97bac0e38ae
   configfile /@/boot/grub/grub.cfg
   }
menuentry "Garuda Linux KDE sdc3" {
   insmod ext2
   search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 4b3003fd-5ffc-4f2e-9284-a081cd8a512a
   configfile /@/boot/grub/grub.cfg
  }
menuentry "Garuda Linux GNOME sdc4" {
    insmod ext2
    search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 6f6d23c0-d212-473a-b074-8c52ded7464c
    configfile /@/boot/grub/grub.cfg
}
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I remember gohlip from Manjaro’s forum. He is a knowledgeable guy and a grub expert!

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freebird54:
Because it’s so easy now that I don’t have to deal with grub

cannot say grub and grub-customizer is fun

rEFInd is better

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I love the simplicity and effectiveness of systemd-boot. Nothing has to be rebuilt, everything more or less just works and it adds little to no overhead. I convert just about every Linux install to it.

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That’s exactly why I’m keeping a well-customized Debian Sid on another drive, which is also included in Grub. :slight_smile:

I even use Manjaro. While I’m increasingly seeing that it’s already EOS fresher than the Manjaro, it’s still as stable as the Manjaro.

Good thing you mentioned it, for me, Linux is an eternal learning. Maybe it’s already distro hopping? :slight_smile:

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I’ve had systemd boot on my desktop in the past and it is very simple and easy to maintain.
Is there a manual around that learns me to convert grub to gummiboot?

Maybe this will work better on my laptop since I can’t change kernels without digging in my grub.cfg first.

Ow, forget what I said, it is an UEFI boot manager and I have uefi disabled…

Grub is fine but i use my self systemd-boot, my wife grub, and my laptop also got grub , but thinking to convert to systemd-boot and remove grub. But also on my wife pc if i select lts kernel it stays on lts also on next boot:)

There is no downside to having the LTS Kernel installed. :slight_smile: Anyway, what is the advantage of systemd-boot over grub?

both are good… but i use it also to have a graphical bootscreen, otherwise thats grub-quiet… but systemd-boot is integrated in systemd also, also only for uefi… there is no best or worse… but with systemd i find it personal simpel to add stuf, i dont see it on a boot, only comes when push on space…

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Thanks for the reply, you are always learning something new on this forum. :slight_smile: