Linux is a popular choice these days due to the increasing frustration around the current Windows platforms. Being fed up with the latest Windows 10 release I decided to install Linux on my second computer and it was fairly easy process to get started.
We’ll go through the steps needed to get Linux installed on your computer, the types of Linux distributions and how to install your favorite programs.
Choose a Linux Distribution
Linux comes in a variety of different distributions and many have pre-installed software to get you started. Some of the most popular are Linux Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, Arch Linux and Fedora. You can see more about them in this post, Top Linux Distributions.
Each Linux distribution will take the core Linux kernel and add there own desktop and utilities such as web browsing. The good thing about Linux is that you can always add your own programs and customize to your heart’s content. You can see a more in depth analysis of the various Linux distributions here.
Once you’ve decided on a distribution, you can always change it later, go to the associated website to download the iso image. The iso image can be burned to a CD and used to boot the computer, or alternatively you can copy the iso image to a USB drive and with the Universal USB Installer boot the computer from the USB drive. This essentially creates a bootable USB disk that you can use to install Linux.
Booting Up Linux
Restart your computer and boot it up from either the CD or bootable USB. Most versions of Linux will allow you to boot a live version of Linux meaning that you don’t actually need to install it on your hard disk. It will run straight from the USB or CD. If you take this path that it’s worthwhile having it boot from a USB drive because it will run faster than a CD.
Even if you are using Windows on a day-to-day basis it’s still worthwhile having a version of Linux that you can boot up at any time just in case you run in to problems with Windows. This will allow you to get access to your computer and troubleshoot any Windows issues. If you have Windows installed just remove the USB drive and restart your computer to get back to your Windows desktop.
All of the major Linux distributions have a fairly comprehensive user guide that you can read through or just have a look around the desktop to become familiar with Linux. There is a bit of a learning curve and some basic functions are handled quite differently. We’ll get to those in another post but for now most of the programs that you want to use should be fairly easy to find. Some kind of web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox should already be installed.
To Install or not to Install
When you run Linux you have the option to install it on your computer or just boot it up from your CD or USB drive. While you might like the flexibility of running from a USB drive there are some benefits to having it permanently installed on your computer.
A permanent installation of Linux will remember all of your setting between reboots. It will keep track of your installed software and keep copies of your files.
If you’re running Linux more than just every now and again installing it on your hard disk is probably the preferred option. If you’re not ready to get rid of Windows then use a dual-boot system, such as the one that comes with the Ubuntu installer which will re-partition the Windows space and install Ubuntu in a new partition. Each time you restart the computer you can choose which operating system to run.
Installing More Software
So now you’ve got Linux up and running how do you find your favorite programs? Installing new software works a bit differently than on Windows. Basically each Linux distribution has its own repository of applications. You’ll need to find the software center on your desktop and search for the software you want. The software center is called different things for different distributions. For Ubuntu it’s the Software Center, Fedora is just Software and Linux Mint has the Software Manager.
If you’re looking for software that isn’t in the repository than you’ll have to visit the website just like you would for Windows and download the software. Just make sure you download the Linux version of the program. Unfortunately not all programs are compatible with Linux so if you can’t find what you’re looking for do a search on the forums as there’s probably a good Linux alternative.
So that’s all for getting started with Linux. These days the Linux distributions are not too far away from what you would expect form a Windows desktop. The great thing is you can always test it out first by running from a USB drive before installing on your hard disk.