Do you want to install Linux? It̵7;s an easier process than you might think! You can even try Linux on your computer before installing it. If you do not like it, just restart and you will return to Windows. How to get started with Linux.
Select a Linux Distro and download it
First you need to choose the Linux distribution 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, included applications and visual themes.
Ubuntu and Linux Mint are still some of the most popular Linux distributions. We really like Manjaro too. There are many, many other options – there is no wrong answer, although some Linux distributions are intended for more technical, experienced users.
Once you have selected your Linux distribution, you can visit the website and download the installer. You get an ISO file, which is a disk 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 processors. If your computer was made in the last decade, you should choose 64-bit systems. Linux distributions are losing support for 32-bit systems.
RELATED: The best Linux distributions for beginners
Create bootable installation media
To boot, try, and install the Linux system you downloaded, you must create bootable installation media from your ISO file.
There are several ways you can do this. If you have a recordable DVD that you want to use, you can burn the ISO file to a disc using the “Burn Disc Image” feature in Windows. However, you will probably want to use a USB drive instead – USB drives are faster than DVDs and work on any computer with a DVD drive.
Here’s what you need to create a bootable Linux USB device on Windows:
- The ISO file for your Linux distribution.
- The free Rufus software. Ubuntu’s official instructions also recommend Rufus.
- A USB device at least 4 GB in size. Some Linux distributions may need larger devices if they have larger installers, but 4 GB should be fine for most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu. (Warning: The contents of the USB device you are using are deleted.)
Start Rufus and insert your USB flash drive into your computer to get started. First select your USB device in the “Device” box. Then click the “Select” button and browse to the ISO file you downloaded. Third, click the “Start” button to create the USB device.
You may see some warnings. Accept the default options: Click “Yes” if prompted to download additional files and click “OK” if prompted to write in ISO mode. Finally, you will be warned that Rufus will delete all files on your USB device – make sure you have backed up important files and click “OK” to continue.
Rufus creates your USB installation device and you see the progress bar at the bottom of the window fill up. When it is a completely green bar that reads “Done”, you can click “Close” to end the process.
RELATED: How to create a bootable Linux USB flash drive, the easy way
Launch your Linux installation media
If you start the Linux system on the same computer on which you created the installation media, you do not even need to disconnect the USB device. All you have to do is restart your computer and boot it from the Linux installation media.
To do so, select the “Restart” option in Windows. Your computer can boot automatically from the inserted USB device and to Linux.
If your computer just restarts to Windows, you may need to press a certain button to access a boot 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 appear on the screen during the startup process.
You may also need to access your firmware BIOS or UEFI settings screen and change the boot order. The exact process depends on your PC model. Check your computer’s instructions for more information. (If you built your own computer, check the motherboard user manual.)
RELATED: To boot your computer from a disk or USB device
How about Secure Boot?
Modern computers with UEFI firmware – generally computers that came with either Windows 10 or Windows 8 – have a feature called Secure Boot. They are designed not to boot unauthorized operating systems, which should help protect you from rootkits and other malicious code.
Some Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, are designed to work with Secure Boot and use a special Microsoft-signed bootloader, so that they can run on your system. Other Linux distributions may require you to disable Secure Boot before they can start.
But in many situations, your Linux distribution should just start normally. If Linux starts, do not worry about Secure Boot. If a Secure Boot error message appears and Linux does not start, check your Linux distribution documentation for more information – and consider disabling Secure Boot on your computer.
RELATED: To boot and install Linux on a secure boot UEFI computer
When Linux starts, you get a “live” Linux desktop that you can use just as if Linux was installed on your computer. It is actually not installed yet and has not modified your computer in any way. It is run entirely by the USB device you created (or the disc you burned.)
For example, on Ubuntu, click “Try Ubuntu” instead of “Install Ubuntu” to try it.
You can explore the Linux system and use it. Keep in mind that it will probably work faster once it has been installed on your computer’s internal storage. If you just want to play with Linux a bit and do not want to install it yet, it’s good – restart your computer and remove the USB device to boot back to Windows.
If you want to try several Linux distributions, you can repeat this process and try a lot of them before choosing to install one.
(Not all Linux distributions offer a live environment to play with before you install them, but most do.)
Warning: Back up before proceeding
Before you actually go through the installation of Linux, we recommend that you back up your important files. You should always have the latest backups, especially when moving your system like this.
It should be possible to install Linux in a dual-boot scenario and have the Linux installer resize your Windows partition without affecting your files. However, errors can occur when resizing partitions. And it would be possible to accidentally click on the wrong option and wipe your Windows partition.
So before you continue, we encourage you to back up all your important information – at least.
RELATED: What is the best way to back up my computer?
If you are happy with your Linux distribution and it works well on your computer, you can choose to install it. The Linux distribution will be installed on an internal system disk, just like Windows.
There are two ways to do this: You can install Linux in a “dual-boot” configuration, where it sits next to your Windows operating system on your hard drive and lets you choose which operating system you want to run each time. Or you can 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 them in a dual-boot scenario.
We recommend that you install Linux in a dual-boot configuration to allow yourself to use it. However, if you know that you really do not want to use Windows and you want to recover some hard disk space, go ahead and remove Windows. Just remember that you will lose all your installed applications and any files that you have not backed up.
To perform the installation process, run the installer from the live Linux system. It should be easy to find – it’s usually an icon placed on the standard live desktop.
The installation guide guides you through the process. Go through the installer and select the options you want to use. Read the options carefully to ensure that you install Linux the way you want. In particular, you should be careful not to delete your Windows system (if you do not want to) or install Linux on the wrong device.
When the installation is complete, you will be prompted to restart your computer. Restart and remove the USB device or DVD from which you installed Linux. Your computer starts Linux instead of Windows – or, if you choose to install Linux in a dual-boot scenario, you will see a menu that allows you to choose between Linux and Windows each time you start.
If you want to reinstall Windows later, you can always download Windows installation media from Microsoft and use it to reinstall Windows.