Do you want to install Linux? It̵
Choose a Linux distribution and download it
First of all, you need to choose a Linux distribution that you want to use. Linux distributions package the Linux kernel and other software into a complete operating system that you can use. Different Linux distributions have different system tools, desktop environments, contained applications, and visual themes.
Ubuntu and Linux Mint are still some of the most popular Linux distributions. We like Manjaro a lot too. There are many, many other options – there is no wrong answer, although some Linux distributions are intended for the tech-savvy, experienced user.
Once you’ve selected the Linux distribution of your choice, visit the website and download the installer. You will receive an ISO file, a disc image file that contains the Linux distribution installation files.
Sometimes you will be asked to choose between 32-bit and 64-bit distributions. Most modern computers have 64-bit capable CPUs. If your computer was manufactured in the last decade, you should choose the 64-bit system. Linux distributions no longer support 32-bit systems.
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Create bootable installation media
In order to start, try and install the downloaded Linux system, you will need to create bootable installation media from your ISO file.
There are several ways to do this. If you have a writable DVD that you want to use, you can burn the ISO file to disc using the Burn Disc Image feature in Windows. However, you may want to use a USB drive instead. USB drives are faster than DVDs and will work on any computer with a DVD drive.
Here’s what you need to create a Linux bootable USB drive on Windows:
- The ISO file for the Linux distribution of your choice.
- The free Rufus software. Ubuntu’s official instructions also recommend Rufus.
- A USB drive that is at least 4 GB in size. Some Linux distributions may need larger drives if they have larger installers, but 4GB should be fine for most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu. (warning: The contents of the USB drive you are using will be deleted.)
Launch Rufus and insert your USB flash drive into your computer to get started. First select your USB drive in the “Device” field. Then click the Select button and navigate to the downloaded ISO file. Third, click the “Start” button to create the USB drive.
You may see some warnings. Accept the default options: click Yes when prompted to download additional files, and click OK when prompted to write in ISO mode. Finally, you will be warned that Rufus will delete all files on your USB drive. Make sure you have backed up all your important files and click OK to continue.
Rufus creates your USB installation drive and the progress bar at the bottom of the window is filled in. When the green bar says “Ready”, you can click “Close” to complete the process.
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Boot your Linux installation media
If you boot the Linux system on the same computer that you created the installation media on, you don’t even have to unplug the USB drive. All you have to do is restart your PC and boot from the Linux installation media.
To do this, select the “Restart” option in Windows. Your PC may start automatically from the inserted USB drive in Linux.
If your computer just boots back into Windows, you may need to press a specific key to access a boot device menu and select it during the installation process. Common keys you may need to press during the startup process include F12, Escape, F2, and F10. You may see this key on the screen during startup.
You may also need to access the BIOS or UEFI firmware settings screen and change the boot order. The exact process depends on your PC model. Refer to your PC’s instructions for more information. (If you’ve built your own PC, see the motherboard’s instruction manual.)
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What about Secure Boot?
Modern PCs with UEFI firmware – generally PCs with Windows 10 or Windows 8 – have a feature called Secure Boot. They are designed to prevent unauthorized operating systems from starting to protect you from rootkits and other malware.
Some Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, work with Secure Boot and use a special boot loader signed by Microsoft so that they can run on your system. Other Linux distributions may require you to disable Secure Boot before they can start.
However, in many situations your Linux distribution should start normally. Don’t worry about Secure Boot when booting Linux. If you receive a Secure Boot error message and Linux does not start, see the documentation for your Linux distribution for more information. Disable Secure Boot on your PC.
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When Linux boots, you get a “live” Inlux desktop that you can use as if Linux were installed on your PC. It is not yet installed and has not changed your PC in any way. It will run entirely from the USB drive you created (or the disc you burned).
For example, on Ubuntu, click “Try Ubuntu” instead of “Install Ubuntu” to try it out.
You can explore and use the Linux system. Keep in mind that it will likely work faster if it is installed in your PC’s internal storage. If you’ve just played a bit with Linux and don’t want to install it just yet, that’s fine – just restart your PC and remove the USB drive to start Windows again.
If you want to try multiple Linux distributions, you can repeat this process and try a few of them before installing one.
(Not all Linux distributions offer a live environment that you can play with before installing, but the vast majority do.)
Warning: Back up before proceeding
Before you start installing Linux, we recommend that you back up your important files. You should always have up-to-date backups, especially if you are messing around with your system.
It should be possible to install Linux in a dual boot scenario and let the Linux installer resize your Windows partition seamlessly without affecting your files. However, errors can occur when resizing partitions. And it would be possible to accidentally click the wrong option and delete your Windows partition.
Before proceeding any further, we recommend that you back up any important data – just in case.
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When you are happy with your Linux distribution and it works fine on your PC, it’s time to install it. Like Windows, the Linux distribution is installed on an internal system drive.
There are two ways to do this: you can install Linux in a dual-boot configuration, where it’s on your hard drive alongside your Windows operating system, and you can choose which operating system to run each time. You can also install Linux over Windows, remove the Windows operating system and replace it with Linux. If you have two hard drives, you can even install Linux on one of the hard drives and use it in a dual boot scenario.
We recommend installing Linux in a dual-boot configuration in order to be able to use it. If you know that you really don’t want to use Windows and you want to reclaim some hard drive space, remove Windows. Remember, you will lose all installed applications and files that have not been backed up.
Run the installer from the live Linux system to complete the installation process. It should be easy to find – it is generally an icon that is placed on the standard live desktop.
The installation wizard will guide you through the process. Go through the installer and select the options you want to use. Read the options carefully to make sure you install Linux the way you want it. In particular, you should be careful not to erase your Windows system (unless you want to) or install Linux on the wrong drive.
When the installation process is complete, you will be prompted to restart your PC. Reboot and remove the USB drive or DVD you installed Linux from. Your computer starts up Linux instead of Windows. If you’re installing Linux in a dual-boot scenario, you’ll see a menu that lets you choose between Linux and Windows each time you start up.
If you need to reinstall Windows later, you can always download Windows installation media from Microsoft and use it to reinstall Windows.