Learn about one of the free alternatives to a Windows operating system. Check your PC hardware against the minimum hardware specification requirements and then follow a step-by-step guide to installing and setting up Ubuntu.
This guide concentrates on Ubuntu GNU/Linux, one of the free of charge Linux distributions. It comes with lots of free/open source software such as email, office and photo-editing packages. It is not only used by home users, some web hosting providers also offer Ubuntu Linux servers. This guide will explain the recommended minimum system requirements for Ubuntu, how to install Ubuntu, and how to install programs on to Ubuntu operating system.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular distributions and generally regarded as a very beginner-friendly option. In addition to official Ubuntu release made by Canonical Ltd, there are several community-developed versions available, for example the light-weight version called Lubuntu. If your computer doesn't meet the minimum system requirements for Ubuntu, Lubuntu would be a better alternative for you.
- 1000 MHZ+ CPU
- 1GB of RAM
- 5GB of HDD space (required)
- 3D acceleration capable graphics card with 256 MB or more RAM
- DVD drive / USB port and support for booting from
- Keyboard + mouse
- 512MB of RAM
- 6GB of HDD space
To see if your other hardware such as wireless network cards, graphics cards, TV cards, and USB devices will work correctly, please check the Ubuntu hardware support pages.
Download and 'burn' your own copy of the DVD (requires a fast internet connection and DVD writer hardware) as follows:
You can download an Ubuntu ISO image free of charge from the Ubuntu download page. After clicking the Download button, the site offers a page for a voluntary donation; direct download link is located at the bottom.
If your computer has less than 2 Gb of RAM, it's recommended to use the 32-bit version of Ubuntu (ubuntu-16.04-desktop-i386.iso at the time of writing), which can be downloaded here.
Installation images for Lubuntu can be found here.
Once the download is complete, it is recommended to verify the checksum of the ISO image, so that you can be sure that the image has not been tampered with or corrupted during transfer.
A checksum program is needed to calculate the checksum of a file. If the resulting hexadecimal number (md5 hash) matches the number posted on the Ubuntu website then you can be sure that the file is clean and free of corruption.
Here is a step-by-step guide to verifying your downloaded Ubuntu using the program Winmd5sum:
- Download winmd5sum
- Open the program and select your downloaded .iso image by browsing your computer
- Press 'calculate' (this may take some time)
- Use the 'compare' feature to see if the md5 hash is the same as the one listed on the Ubuntu hashes list
- Download and install CDBurnerXP Pro
- Open CDBurnerXP Pro, then choose the first option to 'create a DATA CD/DVD or burn an ISO image'
- Select 'File', then 'Write disk from an ISO file'
- A new window will pop up, browse your computer for the Ubuntu ISO image and select it
- Select 'Finalize disk' then choose the slowest write speed possible to minimise errors
- Select 'Write disk'
- Once writing is finished (at ×1 should take around 15 minutes) the DVD is ready to be used.
If your computer supports booting from a USB memory stick, you can create an Ubuntu installation memory stick using Rufus USB Installer. The size of the Ubuntu ISO image is 1.4 GB, so the minimum size for the USB stick is 2 Gb. Note that the USB stick will be formatted during the process, which means that all data on the memory stick will be deleted.
To make the bootable memory stick, acquire and verify the ISO image as in parts 1 and 2 above, then download and run the Rufus USB Installer. A graphical guide for using Rufus can be found here.
If you are planning on dual-booting Ubuntu with your current operating system it is recommended that you defragment your hard drive before starting the install, so that the drive contains large contiguous area of empty storage for the Ubuntu installation. One free defragmenting tool option is Auslogics Disk Defrag.
The Ubuntu operating system is very easy to install. This guide focuses on installing Ubuntu by using the Live DVD. The installation procedure for the bootable USB stick is identical apart from the boot source at steps 1 and 2.
There are two main ways of installing Ubuntu: you can either do a clean install (no previous operating system) or you can dual-boot it to run side-by-side with another operating system such as Windows 7.The install is very similar for both but there will be some parts specific for a clean install and a dual-boot.
- First you need to make sure that the optical drive is the first boot device; this can be done by entering the BIOS (normally done by pressing delete on start up) and checking under boot priority CD/DVD is above the hard drive, if not change accordingly
- Restart your PC with the Ubuntu DVD in the drive
- It may take some time to load but when it has you will have Ubuntu system running from the DVD. This give you the opportunity to test it out before installing it permanently. Note that Ubuntu will run relatively slowly from the DVD compared to when installed on your hard disk drive.
- To go ahead and install Ubuntu, select your language and click 'Install Ubuntu' on the graphical menu.
Once you have tried Ubuntu from the live DVD, you can select the 'install' icon on the desktop to start the installation
The first screen offers two options to be used during the installation. It's recommended to select the 'Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, Flash, MP3 and other media' for better hardware and media formats support. If you have a working internet connection during the installation, ticking 'Download updates while installing Ubuntu' saves time as you don't need to install the updates separately after the installation has finished.
The simplest option is 'Erase disk and install Ubuntu'. This will delete all the current data from the HDD and install Ubuntu on it. Especially if you are using a laptop that will be used while travelling, you may wish to tick the 'Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation for security' box, so that your data will be better protected in case the laptop is lost or stolen.
If you feel that you know what you are doing, you can select 'Something else', where you can do the partitioning manually. You will need to create two new partitions; one for Ubuntu and the second to be used as swap space. Swap partition is used similarly to page files in Windows. The size of the swap partition should be 1.5-2 times the amount of physical RAM in your system if you have have less than 2 Gb of RAM; for larger amounts of RAM, matching the RAM and swap partition sizes is sufficient. In a dual boot system you can make the necessary partitions in few simple steps:
- Resize the Windows partition to make room for Ubuntu. You should have at least 20 GB of free space for Ubuntu and the swap partition
- Right-click on the unpartitioned space, select "New", and then set the size to be the unpartitioned space subtracted by the size of the swap partition. Mount point should be "/", and file system "ext4"
- Make the swap partition similarly, this time letting it to fill the rest of the space and using "swap" as the file system.
After the installation type has been selected, you'll get a prompt for confirming the changes that will be made to the HDD. Click 'Continue' to proceed.
Next screen is the time zone selection. If you have a working internet connection, the installer will auto-detect the time zone; if not, click on your location on the map.
After selecting 'Continue' again, you will come to the keyboard layout page where you should select your input language and keyboard type. You can use the test box to try out characters such as £, $ and @ to make sure it is configured correctly.
Finally, you get to 'Who are you?' screen. Choose your username, password, and name for the computer. If you want to log in automatically after a boot, untick 'Require my password to log in'.
Then click 'Continue', and Ubuntu will be installed on the HDD. You'll be prompted to restart the computer once the installation has finished.