If you have any friends who are into technology you may have heard the term “Linux” thrown about at some point. Linux is a free and open alternative to Windows. If you install Ubuntu Linux you’ll experience what is probably the most user-friendly version of Linux you can try today.
Ubuntu Linux is becoming more and more popular and is a fine modern operating system. If you’re sick of “the man” bringing you down all the time the anarchist hacker vibes of Ubuntu Linux might be calling to you.
Unfortunately the process of installing a new operating system next to (or over) Windows is not something most people do for casual fun. I have done it for fun, that’s true. I wouldn’t recommend it as a good way to spend a Friday night, however.
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Install Ubuntu Linux the Easy Way
If you are in a “try before you buy” mood there’s an easier way to get the job done. You don’t have to make changes to your hard drive or install complicated boot management tools. Instead, I’m going to show you how to set up a “virtual machine” on your computer and then install Ubuntu Linux to that.
If you didn’t already know, a virtual machine is a simulated computer on your computer. It’s sort of like a computer living in the Matrix. It thinks it’s an actual physical PC, but it’s just a program running on another computer.
There are lots of great uses for virtual computer tech. These days when you rent a server for your website, chances are it’s actually a virtual computer running on a huge cluster of mega-computers.
Virtual computers can be deleted, rolled back and restored with great ease. That’s why they are popular as servers. For somebody who wants to try out and install Ubuntu Linux, it’s also perfect.
If you mess it up, you can just restore a backup or delete it and start over. You literally have nothing to lose.
Pick Your Team
Before you can do anything, you’ll need some virtual machine software. The good news is that home users can get this software free!
For my money, I always go with VirtualBox, but VMware Player is a fine choice too. For this “how to” will be based on VirtualBox though, so go ahead and download that.
Installing the software is pretty easy, just follow the steps the installer presents you with.
Linux comes in many flavors and you can try them all out on different virtual machines at the same time. Ubuntu Linux is by far the most friendly one for people coming from Windows. So head over to the Ubuntu Desktop Download Page and grab the version that you want.
You basically have to choose between the latest version or the “LTS” version. It doesn’t really matter in this case, but you should remember the difference. The LTS version is basically the most stable one, so if you are putting Ubuntu on a computer that needs to stay up and secure, that’s the one to go for.
Be warned that this is approximately a 1.5GB download, so make sure you have the bandwidth for it. You can also download it (legally) via BitTorrent.
Ready To Go
First, start up VirtualBox. You should see this screen pop up. Go ahead and click on the big blue “new” button at the top left of the window.
Now specify how much of your computer’s RAM should be reserved for the virtual machine. This depends on how much RAM you’ve got and what you want to do with the virtual machine. We just want to try out and install Ubuntu Linux, so leave it as default.
Right now, we want to create a new virtual hard drive, so just leave it at the default setting.
You can also leave the drive file type as default.
It’s also fine to leave it on “dynamically allocated” so that the drive changes size depending on needs.
Finally you get to change something! The default size of 8GB is too small for Ubuntu Linux, so set the starting size to 25GB. This is the recommended drive size for Ubuntu Linux.
If all went as planned, you should see this screen now. Your new virtual machine is ready to be booted up for the first time. With the machine highlighted, click the big green arrow labeled “start”.
Now we have to put the Ubuntu file we downloaded to use. Click the little folder icon and navigate to where you downloaded the file. Select it and click start.
After a while, the installation program should start up and you can then install Ubuntu as normal. I’m not going to go over the installation of Ubuntu itself here. It’s super easy and the wizard will guide you all the way.
There is one specific trick you need to know. When the installation is finished and you are asked to reboot the virtual machine, you’ll have to remove the virtual DVD file. To do this, simply click devices>optical drives>remove disc from virtual drive.
Once the virtual machine has rebooted you have finally managed to install Ubuntu Linux!
VirtualBox is pretty good at teaching you how it works as you go. The latest version of Ubuntu Linux also supports its features. So this means you can almost use the Ubuntu Linux window like another app in Windows.
You can make backups of the virtual hard disk file you created, in case anything ever goes wrong with your virtual Ubuntu Linux machine. Just drag a copy of it to another folder or an external drive. Remember to make a new copy after changing stuff on your virtual machine.
Lead Image Public Domain
All screenshots by Kees Friesland