Welcome to the world of Linux! This tutorial will walk you through the steps of choosing and Linux flavour/distribution, right to the final steps of setting it up. Linux is fast to install, but because this is your first time, you’ll want a few hours handy.
Although rare, sometimes things go wrong during the installation. Always make sure you have backups. Even if you don’t use Linux, it’s good practice to keep copies of files in the cloud or on a USB.
If you have installed Windows or macOS before, this will feel very similar.
It’s a good idea to gloss over the steps before you begin. Are you ready? Let’s get started!
These are roughly the steps will you will take:
- Download Ubuntu
- Download Etcher
- “Flash” the installer onto a USB stick.
- Boot from the USB
- Install Ubuntu
- Do some house keeping and final touches.
Before you begin, make sure to have some free time. Installing Linux is a great weekend project! The only other thing you’ll need is a USB stick, over 4GB.
What is a GNU/Linux Distribution?
Linux and GNU are the two fundamental pieces that make up a distribution, or a “flavour” of Linux. Distributions, commonly shortened to distros, package GNU, Linux, and a handful of extra software to make a complete. functional operating system.
For this tutorial, we will be using Ubuntu. Why? Ubuntu is a very popular, well supported, and highly reliable Linux distro. Once you install Ubuntu, your computer will look a little something like this:
Step 1. Download the Ubuntu installer. (Tip: Right click and open in new tab.)
The button above will bring you to the Ubuntu download page. You should click the download button for “Ubuntu 18.04 LTS”. 18.04 is the latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu. LTS versions of Ubuntu are usually more stable, and supported for longer periods of time.
Windows uses version labels such as XP, Vista, 7, 10. macOS has version numbers (10.13, 10.14) with names (Sierra, Mojave). Ubuntu uses version numbers, in a year.month format and have a codename (Bionic Beaver)
Step 2. Download Etcher.
Etcher is a program we will use to quickly and safely copy the Ubuntu installer “.iso” file we downloaded onto your USB Stick. You should plug in your USB at this time.
Make sure to backup the files on your USB! Etcher will delete all files on the USB to make room for the Ubuntu installer. It’s recommend to have on one USB plugged into your computer, so you don’t accidentally wipe the wrong one.
Etcher will not damage your USB, it can be reused afterwards.
Just press the green download button on the Etcher website, and then run the installer you downloaded. After installing Etcher, you’ll see a window what looks like this:
- The first thing you’ll want to do is press “Select Image”. It will open a file chooser. navigate to the Ubuntu file you downloaded, it’s usually in your downloads folder, and will look like “ubuntu-18.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso”.
- Next, if you haven’t already, plug in your USB. Etcher should automatically detect and select it. If not, press “Select drive” and pick your USB.
- Finally, press “Flash!”. This can take about 5-10 minutes depending on the speed of your USB.
Step 3. Boot your computer using the USB
You will now need to shutdown your computer and open the “boot menu”. This is a screen that let’s you choose to run the Ubuntu installer from the USB.
This involves turning off your computer first. Once you turn on your computer, you’ll need to immediately press some key on your keyboard. This varies depending on your computer/laptop.
- Apple: Press the power button then hold the Option key.
- For all other devices, press the power button to turn on the device, then repeatedly press one of the keys corresponding to your manufacturer below:
- Acer: Esc, F9, or F12
- Asus: Esc, or F8
- Dell: F12
- Fujitsu: Esc, or F12
- HP: Esc, or F9
- Lenovo: F12, Novo, F8, or F10
- Samsung: Esc, F2, or F12
- Sony: Esc, F10, or F11
- Toshiba: F12
- Others: Search Online for “BRAND boot menu”, where BRAND is your computers make/model.
You should then see a screen similar to these:
It didn’t work! That’s ok. There are a few thing you can try:
- On a laptop, try holding the function “Fn” key down while tapping the corresponding key.
- Make sure you tried the different possible keys.
- Search online for your computers model and “boot menu”. You may need to press a different key down.
Once you get to the boot screen, you’ll need to find and choose your USB.
- Look for words like “USB”, “External”, or “Flash Drive”
- Look for the name/brand of your USB, for example “SanDisk” or “Kingston”
- Look for words like “UEFI” or “EFI Boot”
Use your mouse of the arrow keys to navigate to the option for your USB. Once it it highlighted, press the enter key. Ubuntu should start booting! Congrats, you are past the part where a lot of people have trouble with!
Step 4. Install Ubuntu
The first thing you will want to do is double click the “Install Ubuntu 18.04” icon on the desktop. This should launch the installer program:
Depending on where you are you may need to change the keyboard layout. In this case the default US layout is what we selected.
You will want to make sure “Normal” install is selected. It is recommend to select “Download Updates”, so you don’t need to worry about it after that install. Finally, it is not required but will make your life easier if you choose to install third-party software.
On some computers, you will be prompted for a secure boot password. Just create some password, you will be asked for it on boot.
You almost always want to pick the first option. On a PC with Windows on it, choose the option that says “Install alongside Windows”. This way, Ubuntu will give you the choice to start Windows or Ubuntu when you turn on your computer. All your Windows data will stay safe.
Don’t want Windows anymore? You can click the erase disk option.
Want to reinstall Ubuntu? There will be an option for that too.
The next screen will ask you to choose how much storage you want for Ubuntu, and how much for Windows. In this case, “Files” will be the space reserved for Windows. Drag the little space between the two sections to change the amount of space chosen.
It is best to choose at least 64GB for Ubuntu. The more space given to Ubuntu, the more programs and files you can store.
You can also access Windows files from Ubuntu, but not the other way around.
Now you can set your timezone/locale. Just click on the map on where you are, or type it in the text field below it.
You are almost done! Just fill out your name, username, and choose a password. You can leave the computer’s name the default
If you forget your password, you’ll need to reinstall Ubuntu.
Ubuntu should start installing! This may take some time, so go and grab a snack, watch your favourite show, or whatever else to keep you occupied.
Congratulations! You have installed Ubuntu! All you need to do is restart you PC, and select Ubuntu at the purple menu.
From here on out, you can use your PC as normal! The tutorial above will show you how to install software and use Ubuntu.