Installation of Linux

Click the Geek for the Linux Geek video (new window)

Click the Geek for the Linux Geek video (new window)

Installation of Linux is, under normal circumstances, far quicker and easier than installing Windows. If you believe you can install Windows on a computer then you can easily install Linux.

If you are not familiar with Linux or its many “faces” called distributions, see What Is Linux? (below).

This article is part of the Linux Series:
1) What Is Linux?
2) What Are Some Linux Uses?
3) Why I Use Linux…Security
4) What if Windows, Linux, or OS X Were Houses?
5) What if Windows, Linux, or OS X Were Cars?
6) Windows XP Support Ends-Install Linux
7) Preparation of Windows XP before Linux Installation
8) Installation of Linux (this article)

Cukurbagli’s Blog on Linux has a very good and brief tutorial on Linux entitled “Downloading and Installing Linux Mint 16 ‘Petra'” This is an excellent overview of the installation process. Most of you who are new to Linux should follow this tutorial and leave a comment for him.

Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

If you have never installed an operating system on a computer, you will want to read up on it a bit and then you should be able to easily install Linux. There are forums for “noobs” or new users on various Linux forums who have helped many others just like yourself. These forums are “open” 24/7 and free of charge!

Linux distributionsThree popular Linux distribution forums are:
Ubuntu Forums,
Linux Mint Forums, and
Zorin OS Forums.
If you take some time to browse these forums before you dive into downloading and installing a Linux distribution, the time you spent in preparation will be well worth the effort. You do not need to sign up to browse these forums for “how-to” do something in Linux, however, if you sign up for a forum, you can also post questions. If you encounter a problem with Linux, you will almost always find that someone else has had the same problem and gotten an answer.

The article Picking a Flavor of Linux tells us “Linux, an alternative computer operating system to Windows and Mac OS X, comes in many versions, or so-called distributions. Some Linux distributions are easier to use than others and each one has its ardent followers, but Linux Mint and Ubuntu have emerged as two of the easiest options for those new to the system.”

When you install a Linux distribution such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu,
Zorin, or Mint XFCE, a large number of useful programs are installed and are also free. These include a web browser, an email program, an office suite, photo editing and music playing programs and many, many, others–all free!

A very popular and easy to install distribution of Linux is Linux Mint. “Installation of Linux Mint is generally performed with the Live CD.

Make sure you download and carefully read the document called The Linux Mint User Guide.

NOTE: One difference between Windows and Linux is the direction of folder or directory locations. Windows and Mac users tend to say folder, Linux users frequently say directory. Windows uses a back-slash (\) and Linux uses a forward-slash (/) to designate folder or directory paths. When you are reading instructions about how to find folders or directories and files, keep this in mind. For example, C:\Documents and Settings is where you would commonly find your personal files and folders in Windows. Whereas, /home/USERNAME/ is where you would find your personal files and folders in Linux, commonly called the Home directory.

64 or 32-bit?

32bit or 64bit?When considering a Linux distribution you will encounter tech talk about 64 or 32-bit versions. This article, How To Tell if You Have Windows XP 64-bit or 32-bit says “Figuring out if you have the 64-bit or 32-bit version of Windows XP should only take a minute.” It is important to know whether the distribution of Linux you will be downloading is the 64-bit or 32-bit version. One difference is that a 32-bit version will only “see” 4GB (gigabytes) of RAM memory, if your computer has more RAM, a 32-bit version cannot use it. If your computer is less than two years old and has more than 4GB of RAM you should use the 64-bit version. If you are unsure, use the 32-bit version, the 64-bit version can be installed at a later time.

System Requirements (RAM and stuff)

Many Windows users will probably find the transition to Linux Mint easier than going from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8. Most Linux distributions will run quite nicely on older laptops and PC’s. For more on that see the Linux Mint system requirements.

Two of the most popular versions of Mint are called MATE and Cinnamon. Linux Mint Mate is a bit “lighter” and needs less RAM to run than the Cinnamon version.
System requirements are:
**x86 processor
(Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
**512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
**5 GB of disk space (20 is better)
**Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution

A third version of Mint called Linux Mint XFCE is a lightweight desktop environment which is quite fast and has even lower system requirements than does MATE.
System requirements are:
**x86 processor (Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
**384 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage)
**5 GB of disk space
**Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution

Memory module DDRAMIn order for your computer to run both the operating system and the programs you install, it is important to have enough Random Access Memory or RAM. The more RAM your computer has, the more programs you can open at the same time and the faster your computer will process the information that you seek. This is what is commonly known simply as memory. Some people use the term memory for the size of their hard drive but this is only partially correct and not commonly used among computer users.

How much RAM does my Windows PC have? is a good article with images showing you exactly how to find how much RAM your computer has. The short version is: “START –> Control Panels and double-click on the System icon”

The article called How can I find out how much RAM my Windows XP computer has? gives good tips for making sure you buy the correct type of RAM chips.

Download, Confirm, Create, Install

1) Ready, Set, GO; Download the Linux ISO

mount and view iso imageAn ISO file, frequently called an ISO image, is a “package” which contains all the files necessary to boot from and/or install a computer program or operating system. The ISO image file is downloaded via direct download or torrents for copying to a CD, DVD, or USB disc.

You will need to download the ISO image for your particular distribution of Linux:
**Ubuntu Download
**Linux Mint Download
**Zorin OS Download
**Mint “Community” Editions (XFCE included)

ISO images for Linux usually come in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. For example the Linux Mint 32-bit version is called linuxmint-16-mate-dvd-32bit.iso and the 64-bit version is called linuxmint-16-mate-dvd-64bit.iso.

Anytime you download an ISO image, download it from the closest location listed. For example Linux Mint has many “mirrors” or servers that allow you to download the ISO image from. If you look at the 32-bit download page for Linux Mint MATE you will see mirrors listed from Africa to the USA. A download may take quite some time, on a slow download connection, it could take a few hours. The images are frequently over 1.2 GB in size.

2) Confirm the quality of the ISO image

simple checksum md5Once you download the ISO image you should first check to confirm that every “bit and byte” has been successfully copied to your drive. You can confirm this using a Windows program called Simple Checksum which it claims is “a program that generates and verifies SHA1 and MD5 hashes; aka. “MD5 Sums”, or “digital fingerprints”; of a file”

There are several Windows programs which can be used to verify the accurate downloading of the ISO image, you may have to search for one that meets your needs if you do not think Checksum is useful.

When you run a MD5 verification program it should return a long number called a MD5 Hash. The MD5 Hash for Linux MATE looks like this: 678dc3975bb205137a67702f3552a894. If the large Hash number matches then you have a successful download of the ISO. Each MD5 program will have its own set of instructions, carefully read and follow them.

3) Create a “live” CD or USB installation

After you download the ISO of the Linux distribution you will need to create a CD, DVD, or USB stick installation that will allow you to run Linux without touching your hard drive. This is commonly called a “live” version of a Linux distribution and installs a complete operating system environment on a CD/DVD or USB stick. The “live” version allows you to run the distribution from that device. You will need to make sure your computer can start up from a CD or USB stick; if it can start up from a Windows CD, DVD, or USB stick, it will also start up from a Linux Live CD.

If your computer can boot from a USB stick, read How to create a bootable USB stick on Windows.

You will need at least an 8GB USB drive and it should be formatted to vfat or FAT 32 before you use one of the USB creator programs. Make sure there is no other data on the drive.

UnetbootinUnetbootin is a popular program USB writer program which runs on both Windows and Linux. Follow their instructions (with screenshot images) and you should have no difficulty.

YUMI-Multiboot USB Creator is another popular program for making bootable USB drives.

If your computer will not start up or boot from a USB, you will have to create a CD or DVD from the ISO image you downloaded. CDBurnerXP is one such program. Their web site says “CDBurnerXP is a free application to burn CDs and DVDs, including Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. It also includes the feature to burn and create ISOs, as well as a multilanguage interface. Everyone, even companies, can use it for free. It does not include adware or similar malicious components.”

Don’t burn the disk at max speed, that is where things can go wrong and you might end up with a coffee coaster. Burn an ISO at the slowest possible speed. You don’t want to install a corrupt operating system. After burning your software should be able to check the integrity of the disc you have just burnt, do that for good measure.

4) Set your BIOS for CD, DVD, or USB start-up

BIOS setupYou will need to access the BIOS of your computer. BIOS means Basic Input Output System. All personal computers have a BIOS and it is independent of Linux, Windows, Mac or any other operating system. Check with the user manual of your computer or search the web for your brand of computer for how to access the BIOS. The usual way is to restart your computer and immediately after it shuts down and restarts you will press the appropriate key. This key can be Escape (Esc) or it could be the F2 key or F12 keys. Your user manual should tell you which key to use or search for it. Here is an article about How To Access the BIOS Setup Utility.

Once you are in the BIOS, you can determine if your computer will boot from a USB drive. This little tutorial How To Boot From a USB Device will guide you. Running a “live” version of a Linux distribution from a USB drive is much faster than from a CD or DVD disk.

If, for some reason, your BIOS does not have the option to boot from a USB drive, you can sometimes get around that, here for example is a how to called Boot From a USB Drive Even if your BIOS Won’t Let You.

Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Preinstall Boot MenuOnce you have set your BIOS to start up or boot from your CD, DVD, or USB drive, insert your CD, DVD, or USB drive. You will usually press the F10 key to Save your changes, Exit from the BIOS setup and the computer will restart and boot from the CD, DVD, or USB.

If all goes well you should now see a logo for the Linux distribution you have selected. If the start up is from a CD or DVD it may take several minutes to open up to the desktop of the distribution.

Most of the popular Linux distributions can be run directly from the “live” CD/DVD or USB drive. The “live” version may run slower during this test because all data is being pulled from a CD or DVD which is slower than your hard drive. Running Linux from a USB is much faster but not all computers will boot from a USB stick. A “live” install will allow you to test-drive Linux without touching any files on your hard drive to make sure your hardware is compatible such as USB, networking, sound and video, and others.

5) Dual-Boot or Not?

Windows-Ubuntu dual bootAfter you have successfully booted and tried the features of your Linux distribution, you may now be ready to install Linux. You have to decide if you are going to install Linux alongside of or in place of Windows XP.

You do not have to replace your old XP software immediately. With Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Zorin, you can install Linux alongside XP and try it for a while. If you like it, then you can install your favorite distribution on your hard drive alongside Windows if your hard drive space is large enough to permit this. Usually 20GB or more is sufficient. Many new users feel safer doing a “dual-boot” where they can choose upon startup whether to run Windows or Linux.

How to install Linux Mint on your XP PC takes you through the installation with screenshots and how to try Mint before you decide. “…if you’re considering switching out XP for Linux Mint, here’s how you’d go about it…Partitioning a hard drive can become very complicated, but fortunately, there’s an easy choice that will let you dual-boot both XP and Mint. Simply pick the first option on the Installation Type menu: Install Linux Mint alongside them.

This procedure will install Linux Mint next to your existing XP system and leave it totally untouched. When I do this, I usually give half the drive, or half the remaining drive space to Mint. You’ll be asked to choose which operating system you want to boot by default.”

If you decide to dual boot with Windows XP, you may need to make some changes to your hard drive before you do this.

NOTE: the newest version of Mint is 17 but the installation instructions are the same.

How to Dual-Boot Windows XP and Linux (Updated!) is an excellent visual and page-by-page how to guide (using Ubuntu) if you want to try to tackle installing Linux alongside XP. The process will be similar for any Linux distribution.

A more detailed process worth reading and following called How To Install a Dual Boot Configuration: Linux Mint 13 “Maya” and Windows 7/Vista/XP shows how to install Mint and XP together. “This particular tutorial assumes you have Windows XP, Vista, or 7 installed first.” This tutorial walks you through the partitioning process which is not difficult but does demand your attention.

Also take a look at Dual Boot Linux Mint with Windows XP or Windows 7. This article also explains how to install Linux Mint alongside Windows 7, if you have a Windows Vista or XP computer, the instructions are similar.

I suggest you read through each of the above guides until you are clear about what you need to do for a successful installation.

Mint installation startupOnce your installer has finished, you will be asked to restart the computer. Once it restarts you should see your Linux distribution located as the first option. You can press the Enter key or wait and you computer will start up to your new Linux installation.

Linux Mint bottom panelThe Software Manager is located on the bottom panel of Linux Mint. It notifies you if there are updates available. It is a good idea to immediately install all available updates at this time.

Keep your updates current, at least once a week, and install security updates when they come to you. Security means just that, do not neglect it. Enjoy!

Will My Programs be Different in Linux?

Linux programsLinux Mint programs for Windows XP users says “The biggest challenge for Windows XP users switching to Linux Mint is having to change the programs you’ve known and used for years.” Fortunately, there are many programs which are the same or similar on both Linux and Windows. There are also many Linux programs which duplicate the functionality of your Windows programs; using them will provide no great challenge.

Some of the programs or applications (apps) which come with Linux Mint or Ubuntu include but are not limited to; Firefox Browser, Thunderbird EMail, GIMP and GThumb Photo Editors, LibreOffice Suite, a text editor, a calculator, search and screenshot utilities, system monitor, the “infamous” Terminal (command-line editor), Tomboy “sticky” notes, Transmission bittorrent client, VLC and Rhythmbox music players, assorted CD and DVD creators, and an all-in-one Control Centre to customise your Linux experience. Enjoy!

Other Links:

Zorin OS 8 ReviewGood, But ‘Linux Mint Cinnamon’ Is The King.
Linux Mint Forums

A series of Linux Mint Installation Guide With Screenshots including startup menus for installation.

File Shredder is “A free desktop application to securely shred files and folders on computer. Files deleted with File Shredder can not be retrieved back.” Formatting a drive does not actually delete the existing data on a drive, it just allows for new data to be written over it. Shredder software writes over the entire drive with meaningless random data, ensuring that none of your files will be readable by anyone accessing a hard drive of a thrown-away computer.

This ends our Linux Series for now. A continuation of the series might come soon called “What to do after installing Linux”.

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