We covered some of the reasons for switching to Linux from Windows or OSX in our last article in the ‘Set your computing free’ series, in this article we will cover the basics of getting Linux up and running on your computer. Firstly, a word of causion; following this article will alter the filesystems on your harddrive, and could potentially damage any operating systems which you currently have installed on your computer. Personally, I run only Linux on my computer, but it is possible to install it alongside Windows or OSX. Just back stuff up – just in case. Okay, disclaimer over – on with the show.
This article covers the basics of getting Linux installed on your computer, either as the primary operating system or ‘dual boot’ with either Windows or Mac OSX. Linux comes in a variety of ‘flavours’ known as distributions (or ‘distros’) – most of these are available for free, but some are available for purchace with a variety of additions or support. For this particular installation guide we will be working with the Ubuntu distribution of Linux – I have selected this version for the guide as it is freely available, community driven, and has good, free, online support available. Before we get started, you will need to have the following available:
- Broadband internet (to download Ubuntu)
- A backup of anything you do not wish to lose! (just in case)
- A blank CD and CD Writer (or a USB stick and a computer which can boot from USB)
- At least 2GB harddrive space free (for dual boot, installing Ubuntu as your only operating system will wipe the whole harddrive)
Have all that? Okay, we’re ready to go – below is a quick overview of the installation process just so you know what to expect; we will then cover each section in more detail.
- Download latest Ubuntu installation image
- Create a bootable CD or USB drive
- Boot up computer from CD or USB
- Select Language for installation
- Check Ubuntu is able to install
- Make space on your Harddrive for Ubuntu
- Select your location
- Select your keyboard layout
- Create a User
- Reboot into Ubuntu!
That may seem a lot, but it isn’t too bad – i’ve just broken it down into a lot of steps to make it easy!
First thing we need is to get the latest Ubuntu release to install. Go to http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download and click the ‘Start Download’ button. As of writing (and for the rest of this guide) we will be using Ubuntu 11.04). Wait for the file to download – Step one complete (told you i’d made this easy!).
Create CD or USB
This is the most difficult part of the whole process, it varies slightly between Windows and OSX so I shall outline the processes seperately.
If you’re using Windows 7 this is fairly easy; Right-click on the file you downloaded and select ‘Burn disc image’. This will open the ‘Windows Disc Image Burner’ window – put a blank CD in the CDWriter and click ‘Burn’ and you’re done! In older versions of Windows you will not have this option. If you have Nero or another CD Writing software you can use that, if not follow the steps below:
- Download and install Infra Recorder, a free and open-source image-burning program.
- Insert a blank CD in the drive and select Do nothing or Cancel if an autorun dialog box pops up.
- Open Infra Recorder and click the ‘Write Image’ button in the main screen.
- Select the Ubuntu file you downloaded, then click ‘Open’.
- In the dialog box, click ‘OK’.
Below are the steps to create a bootable CD on OSX:
- Launch Disk Utility (Applications ? Utilities ? Disk Utility).
- Insert your blank CD/DVD.
- Drag and drop the file you downloaded to the left pane in Disk Utility. Now both the blank disc and the .iso should be listed.
- Select the file you downloaded, and click on the ‘Burn’ button in the toolbar.
- Click ‘Burn’. The data will be burned. Done!
Create a bootable USB
This process is a little more involved and I won’t cover it here (unless there is an overwhelming demand in the comments). The best place to look is at http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download in the section labled ‘2. Burn your CD or create a USB drive’.
Boot up computer from CD or USB
If you’re still with us after that it should be plain sailing from here on out! The next thing you need to do is to boot your computer from the CD you just created. For most people, that will require you to reboot your computer with the CD still in the drive. If after a reboot it boots back into Windows or OSX you will need to change your computer BIOS to boot from the CD – for a simple guide on how to do this please see https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BootFromCD in the section ‘BIOS is not set to boot from CD or DVD drive’.
Select Language for installation
After the CD boots you will be prompted to select the language for installation. Most people will select ‘English’ here, but feel free to change it if English is not your primary language.
Check Ubuntu is able to install
Next Ubuntu will do some primary checks to see if it is able to install, if your network is not available (i.e. you use a secured wifi network) you can set that up using the icon in the top left of the screen – or install without a network, it isn’t a requirement. As long as the checks tell you you have power and harddrive space you’re good to go! Click ‘Forward’ here.
Make space on your Harddrive for Ubuntu
This screen will present you with a few options; if you want to install along-side your current operating system select the top option ‘Install Ubuntu 11.04 alongside …’. If you wish to have Ubuntu as your only operating system select the ‘Erase … and install’ NOTE: this will delete EVERYTHING on your computer! When you have selected your desired option click ‘Forward’.
Select your location
Another fairly simple choice here, select where you are on the map – this will sort out your timezone and regional setting for you. Again, click ‘Forward’ when complete.
Select your keyboard layout
Ubuntu should automatically select the correct keyboard layout for you here, if it doesn’t you can change it. Once you’re happy with your selection, click ‘Forward’.
Create a User
Fill in all the details here of the primary user you wish to use on the system. Again fairly simple, once complete click ‘Forward’.
Install, reboot, and you’re done!
I hope this guide was of some use to people hoping to switch from either Windows or Mac OSX to a more secure, and free operating system.