I am trying to decide whether I should run Linux natively or through a VM on MacBook 7,2? How much performance difference would I observe? Is it worth installing Linux natively or is running it through a VM sufficient?

  • The rule of thumb I've seen is that VMs have about 80% of the performance of running natively. Of course it depends on the mix of operations, native code runs natively on the hardware, but I/O, graphics, etc. often have a layer that slows things down. So it really depends on what you want to do on Linux, is it something where every last drop of performance is important? Or can you stand slightly less performance for the convenience of a VM? Also, what do you need Linux for specifically? Mac OS X is very "Unixy".
    – blm
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:13
  • @blm To be honest, currently I am going to learn how to use the command line. Specifically, I will be using the book: "The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction". Would OS X would work just fine to follow the book or do I really need a Linux distro?
    – Utku
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:19
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    OSX uses BSD-derived command line utilities; Linux uses GNU tools. There are differences. You can compare man pages (OSX, Ubuntu). You might want to check out homebrew to add GNU tools to your Mac. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:32
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    I haven't read the book, so I can't say. I'd suggest you install the VM and then do all the exercises on both your Mac and the Linux VM. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:44
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    A couple of things. First, as both Linux and OS X are on the Unix family tree, lots and lots of things are the same, but there are differences (sometimes seemingly for the sake of being different, but I digress...). So if you just wanted to become familiar with Unix, Mac OS X would work fine. However, being you're reading a book targeted to Linux, even though maybe 80% of things would be the same, the 20% would be frustrating and confusing, so I agree, stick to Linux. However, nothing you'll be doing should require maximum performance, so a VM will work fine.
    – blm
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


If you do not need real performance, you should run a VM. It's MUCH easier to install and the support with mac is better. For instance, you won't have any problem with your trackpad under a VM. However, if you need some huge performances or direct hardware access, you should run linux natively, if you want to run Kali Linux and do some pen testing, using a VM would be a pain because it would slow down a lot cryptography and access to the wifi drivers for exemple.

So for what you want to do, I suggest you to install a nice linux distribution on a VM, for instance a Debian based linux like Ubuntu. If you can afford a paid VM software like VMWare it would be much smoother and better integrated with your Mac, but for your purpose, I think VirtualBox would do the job !

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