Years ago, when Linux was new, installing and using the alternative OS was best left to propeller-head nerds with oodles of free time. Indeed, just getting Linux up and running on a machine required several hours, just the right mix of supported hardware, and then several more hours. If you were dealing with cutting-edge hardware, it would take a couple days of tinkering to achieve a working install with a graphical interface and a reliable Internet connection.
These days, installing Linux is a piece of cake.
In addition to the traditional distros that install Linux to your hard drive, there are also several specialized distros that run directly from your optical drive, without making any permanent changes to the Windows install already on your PC. Such LiveCD distros make it really easy to give Linux a test spin and experiment without any real danger to you or your computer.
Here's what you'll need:
A blank CD or DVD
A CD or DVD burner
A Broadband connection
An empty hard drive (or one with at least 10GB of free space)
Linux1.jpgSTEP 1: DOWNLOAD THE RIGHT DISTRO
For a great balance of power and ease-of-use, we recommend Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is a LiveCD version of Debian, which uses the more streamlined Gnome window manager. Though there are some fundamental differences between it and Windowssome things will naturally be in a different placeUbuntu should seem familiar enough that it will be easily navigable by anyone who's used a Windows machine.
To get the latest version of Ubuntu, go to www.ubuntulinux.org/download and select a mirror near you. You'll have to make a couple of choices before you can download an Ubuntu image. You'll want either the 64-bit versionif you have an Athlon 64 or Pentium 4 that supports AMD64 extensionsor the Intel x86 version, for all other PC CPUs.
If you have a DVD burner, we recommend you use the combination install/live DVD images, which allow you to test boot the OS, and then actually install a working copy of Ubuntu to your hard drive. If you don't have a DVD burner, you can alternately download the install CD from your mirror of choice.
Our preferred download method for large filessuch as a 2GB Ubuntu DVD imageis BitTorrent. Once you've installed BitTorrent, you can download the appropriate DVD image (in .iso format) by clicking its .torrent link. Make sure you save the ISO file someplace where you'll be able to find it. Once you've downloaded the ISO, you'll need to burn it to disc using your favorite CD mastering program. With Nero, it's as easy as double-clicking the ISO image, and clicking "Write to disc" once the app loads.
Linux2.jpgSTEP 2: PREPARE YOUR PC
Now, you should prep your rig for the actual install. We recommend installing Ubuntu on a spare hard driveit needn't be a huge-capacity drive; an old 20GB drive will provide more than enough space. Take note of the capacity of your current drive so you won't accidentally overwrite your current Windows partition and all the data on it. (Ubuntu's installer won't overwrite your Windows partition unless you tell it to, but it's better to be safe than formatted.)
If you boot into Windows after you install your new Linux drive, you can delete the current partitions (go to Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, and then select the Disk Management option. Right click the partitions you want to delete, and then select Delete Partition, and go through the dialogs). The Ubuntu installer will install to unpartitioned areas by default.
Now, you're ready to get started. It's as simple as ensuring that your mobo is set to boot from the optical drive and dropping the Ubuntu disc into the drive, then restarting your computer. When the PC boots, you'll be presented with the screen shown on the right. To start the install, just type "install" and press Enter.
Linux3.jpgSTEP 3: START THE INSTALL
Now the Ubuntu installer is going to collect some information about your systemthe...
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