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I'm looking for a distribution of Linux (hopefully similar to or based upon Ubuntu) which satisfies the following criteria:

  • Installs from and runs within Windows;
  • Doesn't need to partition or dual-boot;
  • Boots to a shell within Windows.

Ideally I'd like to click a shortcut on the Windows desktop and have a Linux shell appear in a command-prompt-style window. Obviously performance is unimportant since I assume a filesystem-within-a-filesystem is going to be slow.

I've found distros like PortableUbuntu and PenDriveLinux, but they all seem to be either out-of-date, minimally-supported, or too large.

Is there anything like that out there?

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You need to run server in a virtual box. –  Jane Aug 27 at 20:55

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You might find that something like coLinux or andLinux might be slightly lighter but personally, I'd choose a VirtualPC/VirtualBox/VMWare virtual machine every time.

The problem with the xming-style native builds of Linux distributions is they're very non-standard. They're hacks to serve a purpose. They might fit your purpose but I prefer to have standard things available. With a VM you can port to a proper bare-metal install if the need ever arises.

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Sounds to me like you should look into VMWare - as for a "minimal, command-line-only distribution", take a look at Ubuntu Server.

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VMWare is an option certainly, and a server version is exactly what I had in mind... just wondered whether there was a hybrid system out there. –  stusmith Aug 9 '11 at 14:06
    
As for interfacing with it, Ubuntu server will present a command line through VMWare/Virtualbox's interface or you can install a SSH server on Ubuntu and use Putty –  Oli Aug 9 '11 at 14:07

If you are only looking to run some Linux commands, you may want to try Cygwin . Cygwin, it is a Unix/Linux environment for Windows that can be used to have all that tools that windows lacks: bash, sed, awk, grep, vi, tail, ps, and many more. Once installed it will provide a shortcut that opens a terminal with a bash prompt. It also has an X-server environment if you need it. I've been using it for a few years now and it makes my live easier in Windows.

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If you want a full environment, use the Ubuntu MinimalCD (which weighs in at < 40MB).

If you just want the basics of a Bash Shell without the rest of the environment, Git Bash should get you most of the way there.

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