If you're a Windows 7 user who wants to try out Linux for the first time, one of the easiest ways to do so is to install Ubuntu by using the Windows Ubuntu Installer, or Wubi for short. Using this installer, you can run Ubuntu on your Windows system without having to deal with partitioning and formatting issues, and if you ever get sick of the Linux variant, you can easily uninstall it from within the Programs applet in the Control Panel.
Wubi allows the Desktop version of Ubuntu to run in a virtualised space on your Windows 7 laptop and, because of this, it can be quite slow at times. This will depend on the configuration of your laptop, too, so if you have a fairly modern device, you shouldn't have too many problems running it. In any case, it's a good way to see what Ubuntu offers as far as the user interface is concerned and what programs can be installed on it. Who knows, you might even like it and want to use it full time or as part of a dual-boot set-up in future — especially if Windows 8 isn't your cup of tea.
To install Ubuntu through Wubi, it's a matter of simply heading over to the Ubuntu Web site's Download section and clicking the Windows installer link. You'll need to download the installer for the version of Ubuntu you want to use, which is 12.10 at the time of writing. Save the wubi executable file to your hard drive and then run it.
You can just use the default settings that are presented to you on the main screen, but you'll have to select a username (it must be all in lowercase letters) and password for your account. You might also want to tweak how much space the operating system will take up on your hard drive if you expect to download a lot of programs and data files. We used a Samsung Series 9 laptop with a relatively small solid state drive installed, so only 11GB was given to Ubuntu.
Once you click on the install button, the installer will start downloading Ubuntu 12.10. How long this takes will depend on the speed of your Internet connection. For us, it took about an hour over an ADSL2+ connection with a sync speed of around 16 megabits per second. You'll need to reboot the system upon the completion of the download and installation, at which point you'll be able to log in to the brand spanking new version of Ubuntu.
A bootloader is installed, which allows you to easily choose between Ubuntu and Windows 7 when you switch on reboot your laptop. You can't access any files that are on the Windows partition while running Ubuntu, and any files you save within Ubuntu won't be viewable through Windows 7. Ubuntu will basically run in its own environment on the Windows partition. You could use a service like Dropbox to share files between the two environments if you wish.
If you want to then get rid of Ubuntu at any point, you can easily uninstall it from the Programs applet in the Control Panel. Look for the Ubuntu entry.
The whole experience — from installation to uninstallation and everything in between — really couldn't be simpler and we think it's the best way to trial ubuntu on a Windows 7 laptop. There is no need to prepare bootable USB sticks or burn CDs with ISO files, no need to have an optical drive, and you don't have to know anything about Linux installation procedures to enjoy it — Wubi takes care of everything for you. However, if you do enjoy what you see, then we recommend you take the time to install Ubuntu properly on your machine because it will run quicker on its own proper partition than this Windows version.
Do you use Ubuntu on your laptop? Do you have an even easier way to trial Linux on a Windows laptop? Let us know in the comments below.