Switching to Linux

Get free computing for life with this Windows alternative
Learn more

03.How to install Ubuntu

Ubuntu: the first-time user's friend

Although there are hundreds of distributions available, we reckon Ubuntu is the best distribution for first-time Linux users, and it's also the easiest to install. Why do we think it's a first-time user's friend? 

Six reasons to start with Ubuntu

  1. Easy to navigate.

  2. An intuitive desktop environment similar to OS X.

  3. No terminal commands (technical mumbo jumbo) required for installing software.

  4. Support by an actual company, as well as a base of volunteers and enthusiasts - this means users have a much better chance of getting technical support, and more importantly, technical support they can understand.

  5. Ubuntu has very little assumed knowledge. You can dive in without knowing a thing about Linux and be up and running within a day.

  6. Downloadable software that's easy to locate in the Ubuntu software centre (a software shop that automatically lists most known Linux software so you don't have to dig through the net to find it all).

Here we show you how to install Ubuntu via USB, but you can also install from a DVD. The installation process varies between distros, but YouTube has plenty of step-by-step videos to guide you through installing your distro of choice if you want to try something other than Ubuntu.

Create a bootable USB stick

1. Go to ubuntu.com/download/desktop, scroll down and click on Create a bootable USB stick. Next, click Download Pen Drive Linux’s USB Installer and download the installer from the external page. This installer will automatically link you to the latest build of Ubuntu. Alternatively, click here to go directly to the Pen Drive download page.

2. Run Universal USB Installer and pick the latest desktop release of Ubuntu. i386 is the 32-bit version and amd64 is the 64-bit release. The 64-bit will only work on certain computers, so check your system compatibility before proceeding.

3. Tick the box adjacent to the dropdown menu that says Download the iso (Optional) and click Yes. This will automatically download the Ubuntu disk image to your allocated download folder.The file is about 800MB.

4. When the download is complete, click Browse and locate the ISO file on your PC. Insert a 2GB thumb drive, open My Computer and note the drive name (e.g., I:). Go back to the USB Installer and pick that drive from the Step 3 dropdown menu. When you install the ISO it will erase the contents of the drive, so make sure you picked the correct one. If your drive doesn’t appear in the list, tick Show all Drives (note – use with caution).

5. Click Create to mount Ubuntu on your thumb drive. When it’s complete, eject the drive and label it, so you don’t accidentally overwrite your installer.

Install Ubuntu

The safest approach is to install Ubuntu alongside Windows to create a dual-boot system, so you can easily switch between Windows and Linux. The Ubuntu installer will automatically partition your system and create a dedicated zone for Linux. Before you begin, back up your Windows data and create an image of your system to protect your documents in case something goes wrong.

1. Shut down your system, insert the bootable Ubuntu USB, turn on your computer and open the boot menu. On most computers, the boot menu can be accessed by pressing F12. If this doesn’t work, look towards the bottom of the screen when you boot Windows. You will see a set of instructions, one will read Boot menu ‹F12› or similar. Press the F key that corresponds.

2. Scroll through the boot menu and select USB-HDD. If this is the bootable drive, your computer will load a purple screen with the word Ubuntu in the centre. If it loads Windows, it means you have selected the wrong drive. Reboot your system, open the boot menu again, and pick different options from the list until Ubuntu loads.

3. You can browse Ubuntu before you install it by clicking Try Ubuntu, or you can get straight to the installation by clicking Install Ubuntu. On the next screen, make sure all the criteria have a green tick. If not, don’t install. Tick Download updates while installing and Install this third-party software. The third-party software will let you watch MPG movies and listen to MP3 files. Click continue.

4. Next, select your installation type. Ubuntu should automatically detect if you have Windows installed. Click Install Ubuntu alongside Windows to keep Windows installed, or Replace Windows with Ubuntu to completely erase Windows. Click Continue.

5. Pick your timezone and keyboard layout and enter your name, username and password. The computer name will default to match your name, but you can change this if you wish. Select Log in automatically if you don’t want Ubuntu to ask for a password each time you boot up, or Require my password to log in if you do. Encrypt my home folder will add an additional layer of protection to your documents. The home folder is where Ubuntu saves your files by default. Encrypting it means you’ll have to enter a password whenever you want to access the contents. Encrypting your home folder is optional.

06. Finally, pick an image for your account or take one with a webcam. Click Continue to start the installation process. When it’s complete, your computer will load the Ubuntu desktop. 

Dual booting

If you installed Ubuntu alongside Windows, your computer will open the purple dual-boot menu when you power it up. Ubuntu should appear at the top of the list, and Windows should appear at the bottom. Memory test and advanced options may also be in the list - these are only used for troubleshooting. Use the arrow keys to select the operating system you want to load and press Enter.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments