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Back in May, we published a step-by-step guide to switching from Windows to Ubuntu Linux. A few weeks ago, in keeping with its regular release schedule, Ubuntu released an update to its popular and friendly Linux distribution. Known as Gutsy Gibbon, Ubuntu Linux 7.10 makes the install process easier and more streamlined than before, and adds some new features that you'll need to know about. So here's our updated guide to installing Ubuntu on your PC.
We’ve written about Linux in Maximum PC quite a bit over the last few years, but it’s only been in the past year that we’ve really seen this open source OS come into its own as a truly desktop-worthy contender. Apart from high-end gaming, there’s little Linux can’t do well. And since most major distributions come preloaded with all the software typical users are likely to need (as well as instant-download repositories to find any extras), getting up and running with Linux can actually take less time than installing all your apps in Windows.
While the number of choices in Linux distributions is staggeringly large—there are nearly 200 English-language distros that we know of—we recommend only one for the new user. Ubuntu is the most user-friendly distribution we've tested, with the most hardware support, the most intuitive menu interface, and the most widespread support from the PC industry of any other free distribution. So popular has it become, that even Dell now offers pre-installed Ubuntu systems to its customers.
Writing a comprehensive Linux guide is a daunting process—and largely unnecessary. The Linux community does a great job of documenting most of its software, whether it’s the developers actually writing docs or the end users figuring things out and sharing the acquired info with their pals. All the information you need to get running is out there, if you know what to search for on Google, that is.
And that’s where we come in. Books have been written with solutions for all the potential pitfalls the Linux-switcher faces. However, those books are outdated the moment a new version of Linux is released. Instead of just telling you what to do, we're going to tell you how to do things and explain why you’re doing them. We're going to focus on the things that are truly a challenge (and poorly documented), but still give you a head start on the easy stuff.
Before you get started, you need to be prepared to be your own support system. While you can usually get help with Linux problems on different message boards on the web, before you do that, you need to make the effort to solve your own problems. Linux DIYers don’t have much sympathy for people who don’t make an effort to help themselves.
With its modern installation tools, getting Linux on your hard drive is simple--at least compared to the bad old days. And Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon's install process is about as streamlined as Linux gets.
Like a lot of people who try switching to Linux, you’ve probably installed a distro or two, mucked around with it for a few hours, changed the theme, and maybe browsed the web a little. Then, when it was time to work, you jumped back to Windows, and all was right with the world.
Things are much easier now than they were in the early days of Debian, Slackware, and Red Hat. Modern distros such as Ubuntu and openSUSE install with crucial applications (web browser, photo editor, email client, word processor, etc.) and support for most hardware out of the box. With Ubuntu, you can boot off the CD to determine whether or not your rig will work with the OS before you make a single change to the hard drive. You can tell if you’re going to have a problem before you hose your system, which is always a good thing.
Before we get started installing Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon, you’ll need to download the appropriate ISO file from the Ubuntu downloads page and burn it to disc. For neophytes, we generally recommend starting with the x86 versions, even if your CPU supports AMD64 extensions. The proper file name for most people will be ubuntu-7.10-desktop-i386.iso.
To burn the disc, you can use commercial burning software (like Nero) or download and install the free ISO Recorder software. It’s also a good idea to run a backup before you get started (or anytime you muck around with your partitions, for that matter).
There are three ways to make space for your Linux install: You can delete an unused partition, install another hard drive, or let the Linux installer resize an existing partition. If you have an unused partition on your hard drive that you want to use for Linux, it’s a good idea to remove that partition before you start the install process, since Linux can’t install to an NTFS partition. We recommend dedicating at least 20GB of space for your Linux install. To get rid of the partition, open the Computer Management tool in Windows and delete that partition. In Linux, you’ll have a tough time telling which partition is which, so to avoid heartbreak, do your deleting in Windows. If you don’t have an unused partition, we’ll talk about resizing your existing partition during the Linux install portion of this story.
We’re trying something new with this story by releasing it to the public using a Creative Commons license (specifically attrib-sharealike), so feel free to download, share, and change it to your hearts content.