How to install Linux

When it comes to using Linux there are a couple of options:

  1. Using a VM (virtual machine) on top of another operating system like Windows/OSX using virtualization software like Virtualbox, VMWare Workstation, or parallels on Mac. In this post we will show you how to use Virtualbox to create a VM to use. This option is the safest and will never lead to the accidental loss of your files. This option starts here
  2. Wipe your computer and delete any other operating system and only use Linux. This option is not for the faint of heart. It is usually not the best option but some really want to only use Linux. This would mean that you would loose any files or programs that you currently have on your computer, so be sure to back anything up that you care about. This option is hard to reverse but is possible if you have a free afternoon and you know how to reinstall your previous operating system (you have a Windows 10 iso and a microsoft account that has ownership of a Windows 10 license). This option starts here
  3. Install Linux alongside your host OS. This means you will resize your current operating system, and install Linux on a new partition. When you boot your computer you will then have the option to pick Linux or Windows or OSX. While on Linux you may have access to files on your other operating system, but other operating systems may not see files on Linux. So far this post only supports dual booting alongside Windows. This option is recommended to get some help from someone rather than following this guide. But here is how you do it if you want to. This option starts here

How to create a VM (Virtual Machine)

  1. Go to virtualbox.org and download the virtual box installer for your host operating system
  2. Install and open virtualboxYou can click next/accept/yes/install for all of the popups that you see

  3. From the virtualbox manager, click the ‘New’ button in the top left corner of the window with the big blue circle on it.
  4. Give the VM a name and specify what OS (Operating System) you will be installing (i.e. Linux) and then pick the distribution you intend to installThe name doesn’t matter, it just give you a way to differentiate between multiple virtual machines you have.

    WARNING: If you do not see a 64-bit version for the operating system you are installing, you may have to enable virtualization in your bios. We will not cover this on this page, so you may have to do some googling on how to do this with your specific model of computer. This is different for almost everyone so it may take some trial and error. Don’t be afraid to ask for help since this may not be an easy thing to get around.
  5. Choose how much memory (RAM) you want the VM to have access to.Notice the green bar under the slider. You can give your VM as much memory as you want, but if you give it more than the green bar indicates, you may end up taking away too much memory from your host OS. It is recommended that you stay under or up to the edge of this green bar. 2-4 GB is a good starting point. If your VM seems slow to respond, you can change this later to improve performance
  6. Create a virtual hard disk. (This is just a file that virtualbox treats like a hard drive inside your hard drive). These are the settings that suggested unless you have a strong reason to do otherwise.   
  7. Choose how big to make the virtual hard disk and click ‘create’8 GB is the default, which is big enough to install Linux on, but you may find yourself encountering space restrictions very quickly. 25-50 GB will give you a good amount of breathing room.

Setting up the Linux installer for a VM

  1. Download an iso file from the Linux Club website or any other place you can find oneIf you don’t know or don’t care about the OS, typically people pick Ubuntu as a first operating system because of the amount of information and guides online about it.

    amd64 is the type of OS for 64 bit CPUs and i386 is for 32 bit CPUs.  Typically most new computers are 64 bit while netbooks and older computers are 32 bit. This does matter so be sure to look up your CPU if you are unsure and pick the right iso for your hardware.

  2. Back in the virtualbox manager, click on the VM you just created and hit the big green arrow ‘Start’
  3. Choose the file explorer icon and navigate to the .iso file containing your favorite flavor of Linux.
  4. Skip to the section ‘Installing Ubuntu’ below to walk through the Ubuntu installer.

Setting up Linux installer for a dual boot setup or clean installation

  1. Does someone else have a flash drive with the Linux distribution I want? Ask around! You can skip to step 5 if you have found one that was already made and save some time. Otherwise continue below to create your own installer.
  2. Download an iso file from the Linux Club website or any other place you can find oneIf you don’t know or don’t care about the OS, typically people pick Ubuntu as a first operating system because of the amount of information and guides online about it.

    amd64 is the type of OS for 64 bit CPUs and i386 is for 32 bit CPUs.  Typically most new computers are 64 bit while netbooks and older computers are 32 bit. This does matter so be sure to look up your CPU if you are unsure and pick the right iso for your hardware.

  3. Download ‘Rufus’ from their website or by using this direct link
  4. Select a flash drive that you plan on using.

    WARNING:
    The flash drive you will using for this will be formatted, which means you will loose any files that are on the flash drive. Make sure you copy the files off the flash drive or be OK with the fact that you will loose them.


    If your machine uses UEFI to boot, then select ‘GPT partition scheme for UEFI’ under the ‘Partition scheme and target system type’ section. If your machine uses BIOS mode, select ‘MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI’. Usually newer machines use UEFI, but if you do not know you may have to enter your BIOS and find out what you are using. You may have to do some googling to figure it out.

    Next select the disk button next to the ‘Create a bootable disk using: ISO Image’ and select the iso file you downloaded earlier.

    Click ‘Start’ and wait for the image to finish copying’

    When a popup asks you what mode to write in, select ‘ISO mode’, it is faster and a more flexible option.

  5. Reboot your computer and boot off of your flash drive. If you do not know how to do that you may have to do some googling to figure out how to do so properly. If you are using UEFI make sure that you boot off the drive in UEFI mode and not ‘legacy’ mode.

Installing Ubuntu

Installers for most Linux distributions are different so we are just going to cover the Ubuntu installation process since it is a very popular choice for those new to Linux.

  1. Click ‘Install Ubuntu’ 
  2. You can optionally choose to install updates during the installation process as well as optional drivers. It is usually a good idea to select both to avoid unseen potential problems.
  3. Select where and how to install. If you are using a VM, select ‘Erase disk and install Ubuntu’. A VM has no concept of your host operating system so the ‘disk’ that it will erase is really an empty .vdi file that you created earlier. It is not going to touch any of your personal files, programs, or documents on your host OS despite the warning. Ubuntu doesn’t know it is a VM so it gives you the warning. Using LVM for your installation is usually a good idea especially if you have a VM. It allows snapshots which gives you the ability to version your VM. If you want to make a change that you are unsure about, you can snapshot your VM and return to that point if you broke something.

    If you are doing a complete wipe of your computer and want to delete everything on it and replace it with Ubuntu, select ‘Erase disk and install Ubuntu’. Once again if you are using a VM don’t panic about that last sentence, it doesn’t apply to you but you still want to click this option as well.


    LVM also allows resizing your partitions on your install much easier which you will do if you decide to increase the disk space that you allocated to the OS earlier. This is a good idea regardless if you are using a VM or dual booting.

    If you are dual booting there may be an option to ‘Install Ubuntu alongside Windows’. This option is really handy and with the slider you can resize your Windows C: partition to allow room for Ubuntu to live. If you do not see this option, you will have to boot back into Windows and resize your Windows C: partition using the ‘Disk Management’ utility. If you resized windows using the ‘Disk Management’ utility select ‘Install Ubuntu alongside Windows’ and the installer will automatically use up the remaining free space on your hard drive.

    WARNING:
    If you are dual booting and see a warning about using UEFI when Windows is using BIOS mode, you should reboot, run the installer from BIOS mode, and restart the installer.

  4. Once you have selected the destination, click ‘Install Now’ and the ‘Continue’ to start installing OS files.

          
  5. The installer will then ask you for a timezone to set the clock to, and then to create a user and password to use. Pretty easy to step through.
  6. You will then see a prompt to remove the install media and hit enter to reboot. For users using a VM you can just hit enter. For those dual booting you can pull out your flash drive so you don’t run the installer again when you reboot.

Start using Linux!

A great resource for those new to Linux is our Linux 101 presentation which we usually give at the beginning of the semester. Come with questions so we can address anything that you want to learn more about. And of course all are welcome to come to our future meetings where we discuss all things Linux.

Contribute: