After hearing so much about it from your most “geek” friends, you finally decided to try something different and install Linux on your computer.
Linux, as you know, is an alternative operating system to Windows and macOS that is based on the open source philosophy. Its source code can be viewed, modified and redistributed by everyone freely. There are various versions, called “distributions” or “distros”, most of which are 100% free. Among these, one of the best known is Ubuntu that in recent years has managed to win many supporters thanks to its ease of use and good compatibility with the hardware currently in circulation.
Another very important thing to emphasize is that Ubuntu includes famous applications such as LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox and is compatible with other software that you will surely have learned to know about Windows such as Chrome, GIMP, JDownloader and many others. In short: if you want to find out how to install Linux try Ubuntu and I assure you that you will not regret. There is no easier and more comfortable way to approach the operating system of the “penguin”. What do you say then? Are you ready to start? If your answer is yes, take some free time and read on: you will find all the instructions you need right below.
Minimum Requirements and Preliminary Operations
Before you get to work and try to install Linux on your PC, make sure you have everything you need to do this.
As mentioned above, Ubuntu is compatible with most computers currently in circulation. However, it is better not to take unnecessary risks and carefully check the compatibility of your hardware with the operating system distributed by Canonical.
The minimum requirements to run Ubuntu are: a 700 MHz or higher processor, at least 512MB of RAM, 5GB of disk space and a graphics card with support for a resolution of at least 1024×768 pixels. These are the recommended requirements to get the most out of the Ubuntu experience: a dual-core CPU at 2 GHz or higher, 2GB of RAM, 25GB of free disk space.
As for support for graphics cards, sound cards, network cards, printers and other hardware components, I recommend that you check component by component by performing quick searches on Google (eg. “ Ubuntu”). If you don’t know the internal components of your computer, use software like Speccy for Windows that can identify them all very quickly.
A good Internet connection
Ubuntu ISO image weighs approximately 1.5GB. In addition, during the installation process of the distro you will be offered the possibility to download from the Internet the latest available updates and third party software that are not included by default in the operating system, such as MP3 codecs. In short: to download Ubuntu and everything you need for its operation you need a good Internet connection.
A DVD or USB stick to copy Ubuntu to
Depending on your preferences – and on your PC’s hardware – you can choose to install Ubuntu via a DVD or USB stick. In the first case you can use any empty floppy disk. In the second case, you need a stick with at least 2GB of free space. The stick is formatted, so it doesn’t have to contain any important files.
A correctly configured BIOS/UEFI
To boot the DVD or USB stick with Ubuntu, you may need to enter the BIOS or UEFI configuration panel on your computer and change some parameters on your computer. The UEFI, if you don’t know, is an evolution of the traditional BIOS found on most PCs sold with Windows 10 or Windows 8.x pre installed. It is easier to use than the old BIOS, but includes security measures that can prevent the Ubuntu installer from booting.
If you are using a rather recent PC, go to the UEFI configuration panel and disable the secure boot function, which prevents the boot of operating systems that do not have a proper digital signature (almost all operating systems other than the latest versions of Windows).
In some cases, you may also need to activate the Legacy BIOS function, which allows you to emulate the operation of the old BIOS on UEFI-based PCs. Be careful, however, when activating Legacy BIOS mode you will lose the ability to create a dual-boot system with Windows (you will have to switch continuously from Legacy BIOS mode to UEFI mode depending on the operating system to boot). You can find more details about these features and the procedures needed to modify them in my tutorial on how to enter the BIOS/UEFI and on the Ubuntu website.
A backup of the data on your PC
Installing Linux does not automatically delete the files on the disk (it does so when you choose to format the target disk), but before proceeding you should always backup your files. Get a large external hard disk or USB flash drives and make a backup copy of your documents, photos, videos and other files.
Now you can take action and download Ubuntu to your PC. Before proceeding, however, know that there are two versions of this distro: the standard one and the LTS one (abbreviation of Long Term Support). Long Term Support versions have extended support of 5 years and are released every 2 years, standard versions are released every 6 months and have support of 9 months. Personally I recommend the LTS, even if they have some functions less than the standard versions (or better, they acquire later the functions introduced in the standard releases of Ubuntu).
When you’re ready to get started, connect to the Ubuntu website and click the Download it now button! On the page that opens, select the version of Ubuntu you want to download from the first drop-down menu, the 32-bit or 64-bit option from the central drop-down menu (depending on whether you want to install the 32-bit or 64-bit operating system version) and click the orange Start Download button to download the ISO image of the operating system to your PC.
How to copy Linux to a DVD or USB stick
When the download is complete, you have to decide whether to copy Ubuntu to a DVD or USB stick. If you want to use a DVD, insert the floppy disk into the burner and burn the Ubuntu ISO image (e.g. ubuntu-16.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso) with any suitable program. I recommend the free program ImgBurn, but there are plenty more you can use. To find out how to burn ISO files in detail, you can consult a guide on the subject that I wrote some time ago.
If your computer does not have a DVD player and you want to copy the Ubuntu ISO image to a USB stick, you can use the free Rufus software that supports all major Linux distros, all the latest versions of Windows and also many Live CDs related to antivirus, partitioning software, etc..
To download Rufus to your PC, go to its official website and click on Rufus 2.xx in the middle of the page. Then start the Rufus-xx.exe file, click the Yes button and, in the window that opens, select the drive for the USB stick you want to copy Ubuntu to via the Device/Units drop-down menu.
When finished, click on the floppy disk icon at the bottom right, select the Ubuntu ISO image and make sure that in the Partition Pattern and Destination System Type and File System drop-down menus there are selected, respectively, the items MBR Partition Pattern for BIOS or UEFI and FAT32. Then place a checkmark next to the Quick Format option and click the Start, Write in ISO Image Mode and Yes buttons to start copying the files to the USB stick.
Note: If you have a computer based on a 32-bit UEFI system (like most low to mid-range convertible tablets), you may need to download the bootia32.efi file from this web page to boot the Ubuntu stick and place it in the EFI\BOOT folder on the stick. If you can’t boot with the stick, try inserting the file I just suggested you in the stick and/or create the stick again in Rufus by selecting the GPT Partition Pattern for UEFI option in the Partition Pattern and Destination System Type menu and choosing the dd mode to write the data to the drive.
You are now ready to install Linux on your PC. Remember that installing a Linux distro on your PC does not mean deleting Windows, at least not necessarily, as the new system will create a new partition on the hard disk of the computer where it is going to be placed and every time you turn on the PC you can choose whether to start Windows normally or start Linux. The only thing you need to know is to leave some free space on the hard disk so that Ubuntu can install itself without any problems (20/25 GB should be enough).
At this point, insert the Ubuntu floppy disk or USB stick into the PC and restart the PC to boot from Linux. If your computer does not detect the drive on which Ubuntu was copied and starts Windows normally, you must enter the BIOS/UEFI and set the CD/DVD drive or USB drive as the primary boot drive. The whole procedure is well illustrated in my tutorial on how to get into the BIOS/UEFI.
After booting up, after a short loading you should be in front of a screen with the language selection. Then choose English (using the directional arrows on the keyboard and the Enter key) and select the option to install Ubuntu. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can also choose the option to try Ubuntu without installing it and then proceed with the installation of the operating system on your PC by clicking on the icon on the desktop.
After starting the Ubuntu installation process, select the English entry from the left sidebar and click the Install Ubuntu button. Then check the Download updates during the installation of Ubuntu and Install third party software (…) items so that the system is already complete with all updates and basic multimedia codecs after installation and click the Next button. If you don’t have an active Internet connection, you can also not check and upgrade after installing the operating system.
If everything has gone smoothly, at this point Ubuntu should detect the presence of Windows on your PC and ask you what you want to do: Install Ubuntu alongside Windows, delete the disk and install Ubuntu or Other (to manually manage partitions, only for experts). So put a check mark next to the entry to install Ubuntu while keeping Windows intact and move on.
At this point, use the mouse to move the graph through which you can select the size of the partition to be dedicated to Ubuntu and complete the installation procedure of Linux on your computer indicating your geographical location (serves for the time zone), the layout to be used for the keyboard and setting the combination of username and password to be used to access the system.
Once this step is completed, all you have to do is wait a few minutes. Once the installation is complete, restart the PC, remove the floppy disk or USB stick of Ubuntu and you will have the opportunity to choose which of the two operating systems to start each time the PC is turned on.
If you want to install Linux instead of Windows, select the Delete disk option and install Ubuntu in the initial setup phase or, if you are experienced enough in the field, select the More option to manually manage disk partitions (thus having the ability to create new ones, delete or format existing ones).
If you have any doubts or difficulties, contact the Italian Ubuntu community, which is large and always ready to help new users who want to “dive” into the world of Linux.