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Using your VCS in PC Mode: Installing an operating system

Posted byLuis Vera on 07 December 2020 11:39 AM

One of the more anticipated features of the Atari VCS is PC Mode, which allows you to install an operating system onto an external drive and boot your VCS as a PC. Our goal is to make the Atari VCS as open and flexible as possible while maintaining the best possible user experience across both PC Mode and Atari Mode.

We have prepared a number of how-to documents and videos that walk you through installing a second operating system. Those can be accessed at shop.atarivcs.com/support.

Boot Order

Installing an OS on an Internal vs External Hard Drive -- the boot order for the Atari VCS is:

1) external USB drive

2) internal M.2 SSD drive

3) Atari native OS 

If you install an OS on an external drive, you simply connect the drive to a USB port and power it on in order to boot to it. In order to boot to the native Atari OS, just disconnect the drive.

If you install an OS on an internal SSD selecting which OS to boot from is more complicated. In this scenario, the VCS will always boot to the OS on the SSD unless you intervene. In order to boot to the native Atari OS you need to access the UEFI menu, and then select the Atari native OS from the list of drives under Boot Manager. 

 

Notes on Installing Windows

* You need to use a 64-bit version of Windows with the Atari VCS. We have tested Windows 10 Home Edition, but you should have no problem using other versions as long as they meet the 64-bit requirement. 

 

* Selecting external hard drives -- Windows is a large and complex OS that is prone to frequent, and fairly large updates. For optimal performance, we recommend that you use an external SSD drive that leaves a minimum of 30GB for Windows. Our minimum recommended SSD size is 64GB, leaving half the storage space for Windows and the other half for files and apps. If you plan on using PC Mode for additional PC Game libraries, you will want significantly more storage than that.

 

* Installation time -- installing windows takes a long time. Between downloading the files, writing the installation, and then going through the multiple updates Windows will execute, expect to spend several hours watching the progress bar depending upon the speed of your computer. 

How-To Create a Windows Boot Flash Drive 

Notes on Linux

* External Hard Drive(s) -- Linux can run from a traditional USB flash drive. We have tested both Unbuntu and Debian from flash drives. You can get by with a 32GB drive, but we recommend a minimum of 64GB so you have room to add applications and files. For optimal performance, we recommend that you use an external SSD drive instead of a flash drive. The installation will be a bit quicker, boot time will be faster, and performance will be better. 

 

* Installation time -- while Linux will install much more quickly than Windows, expect to spend at least an hour creating an external Linux boot drive, especially if you have never done it before.

 

* Pre-installed Linux Flash Drive --  if you don’t want to take the time to create your own Linux boot drive, you can order a -preinstalled version from our online store. We expect to have 64GB and possibly 124GB drives in stock before the end of December.