Windows to desktop Linux in three easy steps

You like the idea of a free, lightweight OS. But isn’t installing and using Linux on a desktop painful? Not if you use this guide

Are you geek enough for Linux? Though it first earned a reputation as a platform for hobbyists and hackers, Linux has come a long way since Linus Torvalds cobbled together the first kernel as a student project. A modern Linux desktop is a sophisticated, user-friendly GUI environment, with features and applications to rival any proprietary OS. In fact, when compared to the mainstream alternatives, there are lots of compelling reasons to give Linux a try:

It's free. Switching to open source software means the end of software license fees, not just for the operating system, but for the major applications that run on it, as well.

It's secure. Linux is largely immune to the viruses, worms, adware, spyware, and Trojan horse programs that plague Windows.

It's compatible. Linux can take advantage of most of the media and file formats you use now, but open source software doesn't tie you to proprietary protocols and file formats. That means no more vendor lock-in.

It's lightweight. Linux offers plenty of cutting-edge capabilities for today's high-powered PCs. It can scale down to suit older hardware, too -- unlike Windows Vista.

It's well supported. Between an active user community and a variety of commercial support offerings, help is available for everyone, from novices to advanced users.

If you're willing to take the plunge, getting started with Linux is a matter of a few easy steps. Once you're done, you should have a fully operational desktop system suitable for learning, experimentation, or even for replacing your current PC for day-to-day computing needs. You can even keep Windows on the same machine, allowing you to switch back and forth between the two operating systems.

1. Get Ubuntu

Linux comes in lots of different flavors, called "distributions." Each is a unique combination of the Linux kernel plus an assortment of open source tools and applications, assembled to meet its maintainer's concept of the ideal OS experience.

Many good Linux distributions are available -- if you have time, you may want to explore your options -- but since we have to choose one, we'll use a popular offering called Ubuntu. Ubuntu provides an attractive, user-friendly desktop environment without a lot of clutter, which makes it a great choice for new Linux users. It's also free, and its user community is large and active, which means it's easy to find help and support.

Like most Linux distributions, obtaining Ubuntu is easy. You simply download the installation media as an ISO disk image file, which you then use to create a bootable CD or DVD. The most obvious way to get an ISO image is to download it directly from one of the many Ubuntu Web servers around the world (the Desktop Edition is the version we'll use here). An alternative way is to use BitTorrent. You can find torrent files for downloading Ubuntu images peer to peer on the Gutsy Gibbon release page.

Of course, either of these options assumes you have access to a broadband Internet connection and a CD/DVD burner. If downloading 650MB or more would be difficult or you don't feel comfortable burning the installation disc yourself, you can also request installation media by mail from Canonical, the company that oversees Ubuntu development. The CD and shipping are both free.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Neil McAllister

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?