How-To: Install Linux Risk Free, With No Formatting or Repartitioning Required

February 24, 2009

Linux, for those who don’t already know, is a free and open source operating system, which you can find in dozens of different versions (known as distributions). The distribution you pick depends very much on your how you plan on using the OS, but for the purpose of this article we are going to assume you are looking for a desktop alternative to Windows. And as a full-featured Windows replacement, no other Linux distribution comes close to Ubuntu, which features a full suite of pre-loaded desktop applications and an easy to use installer. Fresh installs of Ubuntu will contain recent versions of the most popular open source applications including Open Office, Firefox 3, Gimp Image Editor, and several other multimedia tools and games.

The most recent release version of Ubuntu is 8.04.1 LTS (Long Term Support). This distribution is often referred to as “Hardy Heron” and went live in April 2008. It will remain current until the next iteration, billed “Intrepid Ibex”, launches in October.

Ubuntu contains many unique and innovative qualities designed to make it less intimidating the average Windows user who may be looking for a change. One of these features is called Live CD. Once you have downloaded and burned a copy of the Live CD ISO, you will have the ability to launch a fully functional copy of the Ubuntu to test out driver compatibility and to sample the user interface, all without installing a single file to your PC. This guide will walk you through testing your hardware and installing a dual boot setup all without formatting or repartitioning your hard drive.

What you’ll Need:

  • A PC Running Windows XP or Vista
  • A Backup of Your Data (Just a Precaution!)
  • 45 Minutes

AND

Ubuntu Live CD ISO
Free, Direct or Bit Torrent
ISO Burning Software
Free, InfraRecorder

1. Use Your ISO Burning Software To Create A Live CD

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<![endif]–>To begin we must mount our newly acquired ISO file to a bootable CD. You can use either your existing CD burning software, or since we are in an open source frame of mind, a free alternative such as InfraRecorder. Once this is completed the CD should be moved to the bootable optical drive on your PC.  We are now ready to restart our machine and begin the trial.

2. Try Ubuntu Without Any Change to Your Computer

As mentioned before, one of Ubuntu’s finest features is the ability to run the OS off the CD before you commit any additional time to an installation. Running the software “live” is made possible without permanent installation by placing all the necessary files into RAM instead of your hard disk. Incompatibilities are rare, but not even Microsoft has the ability to predict every system configuration. The odds are pretty good that if you have problems booting with the “Try Ubuntu” option, you will have problems with a full blown installation as well.

3. Test Your System For Compatibility

linux

If all went well with the Live CD initialization, after a short boot sequence you should find yourself greeted by a fully functional desktop with which to experiment and test your hardware. To get a quick overview of native driver support you can click system, preferences, hardware information. This will give you a list of hardware detected on your PC similar to the Device Manager in Windows.

For a quick and easy way to verify basic compatibility, try using the built in utility located under system, administration, hardware testing. This will walk you step by step through compatibility checks on your video, audio, and input devices. If you manage to pass each stage of the test with without issue, you should have no trouble getting your hardware up and running after a permanent installation. So if you’re now ready to give Ubuntu a home in your system, and have 4GB of disk space to spare on your hard drive, go ahead and restart the computer and boot back into Windows to begin the installation

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