Alright. You’ve decided that Linux is worth a go. First thing that you have to decide is what Linux distribution you want to install on your computer. A distribution, or “distro” as they’re more commonly called, is a collection of programs that make up a full operating system. Each distribution has a different collection of programs associated with it, but all of Linux distributions are very similar at their core. My last entry touched on some of the different variations of Linux. Examples of Linux distributions are Fedora Linux (based on Red Hat Linux), Debian, Slackware, openSUSE, Gentoo, Sabayon, Ubuntu, Mint, and the list goes on and on. (Including the soon to be finished Kevix 😉 ) A good place to compare distributions is distrowatch.com All of these are high quality distributions and share the qualities that were detailed in my previous post. I recommend for beginners to Linux to use Ubuntu. It is aimed at introducing people to Linux operating systems, and has a much lower learning curve than a distribution like Gentoo (which is aimed more for seasoned linux users) does. Ubuntu also have a thriving community that offers much support and help to new people. . Linux is about choice though, so choose whatever system tickles your fancy. Installation instructions are common to most distributions, so my instructions concerning Ubuntu installation can be transferred to most other distributions too.
So you have a specific distribution in mind. You need to download it (Ubuntu can be downloaded here), and burn it to a DVD or a CD (whichever is appropriate for what you downloaded). After it has been burned, turn your computer off and back on again. Your computer will boot up into a fully functional linux environment. Don’t worry though! Your windows partition is safe and sound. These CD’s , also called “live” cd’s, allow you to try out the linux environment without writing anything to your harddrive. The way this works is that the live CD functions entirely within the computer’s RAM, and does not touch the hard drive at all. If you decide not to install linux, you can power off your PC and turn it on again to have your system just like it was.
Hopefully though, you decide that you still want to install Linux to your computer. You can install linux without deleting windows! This is called dual-booting. At power-on, you’re given an option of whether you want to run windows or linux for that session. This is always good for new users, and it is not hard to do. In order to do this, you will need to have a spare partition on your computer. If you don’t know what a partition is, definitely read this article about it. If you don’t have a spare partion thats at least 2GB, you will need to create one with a tool like GParted or Windows tools like PartitionMagic. Details ensue in the linked guide further down in the article.
Before installing back up your data!!! Installing operating systems always have the potential to accidentally erase data, and I wouldn’t want someone to lose valuable data in a mistake.
Installation of Ubuntu on to your computer is rather straight forward. On the desktop, there is an icon that you click to begin the installation process. It is entirely graphical, and easy to understand. You basically select things like user names, world locations, and timezones. The trickiest part is setting up the hard drive. You need to select the space you’ve set aside as the root ( a.k.a. ‘/’ ) parition by using the manual hard drive configuration. The Ubuntu installation will even look into your windows partition to see if it can import as much of your personal settings as it can. After waiting through the installation progress bar, Ubuntu will be installed on your system. Turn off your computer, and take the CD out in order to run your fresh system!
Alternate and more thorough instructions for Dual Booting can be found here : Dual booting Ubuntu and Windows These instructions are very thorough and can walk you through any parts that my simple guide has overlooked. If you decide to run Ubuntu as your primary operating system from now on, my hat’s off to you, and more detailed instructions are here here. I recommend using these Ubuntu-endoresed guides as your primary resources.
Alright, so after following the guides have a brand new linux installation next to your Windows distribution! You’re now part of a thriving community dedicated to fair and high quality computing! Next article, I’ll describe some of the ways that you can adapt to the new system, and some helpful pointers for linux users. Of course, explore the system on your own, and if you run into trouble there are always friendly folks to help you on Ubuntu Forums or on #ubuntu on irc.freenode.net. Congratulations and happy hacking!