This article is a simplified answer to the very common question on Linux forums: How do I install Linux? You’ll find the question at least once everyday in /r/Linux subreddit on Reddit (albeit in different words).
What holds you, a newbie, from installing Linux? The answer would be the fear of losing Windows. This article walks through 3 simple steps to test and install Linux. I have intentionally omitted technical jargon, as there are many tech-tutorials available online for each distribution.
- Choose a distribution: It’s important to select a distro that suits your needs. The common ones are browsing, listening to music, watching movies and processing documents. Check out this list if you are lost. For all practical purposes, Ubuntu might be the right distro for you. If not, it’s easy to switch over in Linuxland.
- Test drive: It’s still a sad fact that there are hardware lacking proper support for Linux. However, the good news is, the number is decreasing rapidly. Companies like Intel, Nvidia contribute regularly to the Linux kernel and have dedicated teams to make their hardware work on Linux. Things are far brighter than before. However, to make your ride smooth, install your distro on a Live USB (there are guidelines available for every major distro out there), boot your system from it and verify that your touchpad and keyboard, brightness control, graphics card, audio, network card or wifi work fine. There are high chances they will (contrary to the popular belief that Linux is for old hardware, it runs on bleeding edge too e.g., this article is being written on a state of the art Sony VAIO running Linux). If not, check Google for the right driver or workarounds. Don’t forget that on all desktop or laptop, you need to install drivers for Windows separately too.
- Install: A version of Microsoft Windows would have come along with your computer when you bought it. First things first, backup all important data on an external storage. While many advise a dual boot setup, now that you’ve ran a test drive and are more confident, I would recommend you rather nuke Windows and let Linux use the full hard disk. If you wish, have a spare partition for important data. The complexity involved in getting a dual-boot computer ready is the main reason many don’t try Linux. Why bother? I remember spending many sleepless nights trying to dual-boot my computer 16 years back, corrupting Windows as well as the partitions. The truth is, almost all Windows software have Linux versions or alternatives. Many of them can run over Wine. You can always run Windows from a VM if you need it.
Once the installation is over, reboot and behold your brand new desktop. It will be far more beautiful than Metro and far more powerful than the Windows 7 desktop, I promise! And did you know that switching between awesome desktop environments on Linux is a matter of installing a few packages?
Please feel free to suggest if I missed anything. Reasonable ones will be duly added.