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Cooperative Linux

Cooperative Linux

Cooperative Linux (also known as coLinux), is software which allows Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista and the Linux kernel to run simultaneously in parallel on the same machine. A number of other systems have been built wth the coLinux kernel including Portable Ubuntu for Windows.

Cooperative Linux uses the concept of a Cooperative Virtual Machine (CVM). Unlike traditional Virtual Machines (used for example by VMware), the CVM shares resources that already exist in the host operating system. The coLinux kernel is executed in a privileged mode, and able to act just like a native kernel. This effectively makes Windows and Linux two coroutines. In this type of relationship coLinux can then run at a comparable performance to a native Linux distribution.

Unlike User Mode Linux, coLinux only ever uses one process of the host OS for all its Linux processes, privately managing their scheduling, resources, and faults in a manner which is contained and entirely independent of the way the host OS is implemented.

Unfortunately, installing Linux distributions is rather complicated under coLinux. The easiest way to try out coLinux is to use one of the images that are made available by the coLinux community. We recommend trying the Fedora 10 image in the first instance, which can be downloaded from the coLinux's SourceForge project page. As coLinux does not have access to native graphical hardware, it is not possible to use the X server that comes supplied with a Linux distro. Instead, to run a graphical user interface, it is also necessary to install an X Server under Windows. Xming is perfect for this job (another possibility is to use the VNC server). It is left to the user to install the X Server, which adds an unnecessary complication to the installation procedure.

To start coLinux it is recommended to create a short batch file, an example is shown below.

colinux-daemon.exe kernel=vmlinux initrd=initrd.gz ^
cobd0="Fedora-10.img" ^
cobd1="fs_768Mb" ^
mem=512 ^
eth0=pcap-bridge,"Local Area Connection" ^
eth1=tuntap ^

Given the complexity of the installation (and the fact that networking can be tricky to set up), coLinux is probably best suited for experienced open source users who want to use their familiar Linux tooks within Windows. coLinux is still in its early stages of development, but already represents a good environment to learn how to use a Linux system.

Given that the guest operating system runs in a privileged mode in the host, the coLinux kernel can potentially cause system instability.

The first screenshot is the default FLTK console running Fedora 10. The second is the Audacity audio application running under Xming.

 coLinux 0.7.3

Free to download



Cooperative developers


Support Sites:
Getting Started, FAQ, Wiki, SourceForge Project Page, Forums, Mailing List, Snapshots for Testing

Selected Reviews:,

Features include:

  • Run Linux applications without rebuilding
  • Fast, essentially as it is running on the native hardware
  • Achieves near-native performance for applications which do not use graphical or sound subsystems. coLinux is therefore well suited for running:
    • Office applications such as KOffice,
    • Web browsers such as Konqueror, Firefox
    • Web servers such as Apache
    • Terminal emulators such as kconsole, xterm
    • Standard utilities
    • Compilers including gcc
    • Databases such as MySQL
    • Programming languages
  • X server is optional; it is perfectly possible to run coLinux solely from the FLTK console
Next Page: VMware Player

Read ahead:

Last Updated Sunday, April 19 2009 @ 03:57 PM EDT

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