Get To Know Linux: Installation

Jack Wallen
Dec 8, 2008
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

Unless you search it out, you're not likely to come across a PC that comes with Linux pre-installed (exception being the wide-variety of netbooks being sold). Because of this if you want to use Linux you are probably going to have to install the operating system yourself. To hard-core geeks that is not only a non-issue it's typically rainy-day fun. But for the vast majority of people (who are not of the geek persuasion) installing an operating system might as well be brain surgery.

Little do the unwashed masses know that installing Linux is actually a very simple process. In fact, installing Linux is far easier than installing any flavor of Windows. Let me walk you through the typical Linux installation from a LiveCD disk. There might be some minor variation on the order, depending upon which distribution you use.

NOTE: A LiveCD is a version of a Linux distribution that allows you to run the operating system from CD and RAM. No changes are made to your computer unless you start the installation process.

  • Insert CD of Linux distribution
  • Reboot Computer
  • Let the LiveCD boot to the desktop
  • Double click the Install icon
  • Enter the basic information (location, time zone, keyboard layout, etc)
  • Select how to appropriate space on disk (If you are not dual-booting you can select Use Entire Disk)
  • Enter user information and password
  • Read the installation summary and then, if all is correct, move on with the actual installation.

At this point the installation will be completely automatic. When the installation is complete you will want to reboot your computer (remember, you are running from the LiveCD still). When the reboot is finished you will be at the log in screen. Enter the username/password you supplied during install and your desktop will start up. Congratulations, you have successfully installed Linux!

But will all of my hardware work?

This is often one of the more often asked questions regarding Linux. Generally speaking, the answer is "yes". There are, of course, some hardware that might have trouble. One area that can give you problems is your video card. Linux does a great job of detecting hardware, and most likely your video card will be detected. There are, unfortunately, cards that simply aren't supported. For a good list of supported video cards take a look at this page for a fairly comprehensive listing. The next piece of hardware that can cause problems is wireless networking. I have found most modern distributions are outstanding at finding wireless cards. But just in case you need to know for sure, here is an extensive listing of how wireless cards fare with Linux support.

Most other hardware shouldn't give you problems. But in case you have one particular piece that doesn't work "out of the box" you can always try a different distribution. As far as I have discovered Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and Mandriva are the best as discovering and automatically configuring hardware.

Final Thoughts

Installing Linux is a piece of cake. Seriously. If youc an install a piece of software on a Windows machine, you can install Linux. It's that easy.


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  1. fromtheyard said on December 14, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    here’s a tutorial to help dual boot windows xp and opensuse 11….can be used for other distributions too !

  2. Dotan Cohen said on December 10, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Matthias, choose Manually Configure Partitions (or something like that) in the Ubuntu installation. You might be more comfortable making the new partitions in Windows and then using the Ubuntu installer just for formating the linux partition.

    Don’t forget to backup the entire drive before playing with the partitions!

  3. Matthias said on December 10, 2008 at 11:49 am

    It is nowadays rather easy to install some linux distributions into an empty harddisk, but I would like to know, how to manually prepare the harddisk, if you want to keep your OS and your data and you want to try different kind of linux (ubuntu, mandriva, fedora or others). How to make a dual boot system and how to make the right partitions (how many, what kind of, and which format, where should they be placed). I try to find an OS that can replace my Windows Vista (because i don’t like it at all), but I would like to find the right replacement. I think that many people would like to try linux systems but they want to compare with equal presuppositions (there are too many linux distributions), so the question is not how to press the installbutton, but how to find out which ‘new’ system could replace the system, we all are ‘forced’ to. It would be nice if IanG’s prophecy would come true.

  4. Dotan Cohen said on December 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

    It is true that the user would lose his data installing the way that I gave her the disc, however, that is the case for both Ubuntu _and_ Windows. I was checking how hard an Ubuntu install is compared to a Windows install, not checking how a person would migrate a Windows computer to Ubuntu.

  5. VD said on December 9, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Well I guess installing linux has become far more simple then when I came about first sight of it in about 2000 (some Suse 6.something if I recall correct). If you dont have to alien a hardware like TV-, SCSI- or video-editing card basically all should be working. I am impressed how the installation process has improved over the past years as I tried out one or another live-CD. My favorite so far has been Ubuntu which I found out to have great support (at least in german) from various websources.

  6. iampriteshdesai said on December 9, 2008 at 10:33 am

    You should tell them that if they install Linux this way they will burn away all their data. A better way would be to use Wubi

  7. Dotan Cohen said on December 9, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Last year I did an experiment: I gave the mother in law a legal XP disc and a legal Ubuntu 7.04 disc. I convinced her to install them, just so that I could see where she had difficulties. The only difficulty that she had with Ubuntu was entering the username and password on first boot that she had set up in the install. In XP, she couldn’t even enter the serial number correctly. I was tempted to help her to she where else she would get stuck, but it didn’t matter so I didn’t.

  8. Genisis said on December 9, 2008 at 7:54 am

    @Marc DUDE! Lighten up a little. Ok, it might true that wireless is a little harder to get going on Linux. It might be a drawback. However, paying $150 to $350 for an OS is a larger drawback IMO! Also, There is WAY more support for Linux in the updates and fixes, without needing to “authenticate” a license every time. Hmmm…might I add NOT needing anti-virus on every box that is loaded with Linux as well. The one small drawback of needing to do a 15min change to get (some) wireless cards working is a VERY small price to pay for all the benefits of Linux.

  9. Pat said on December 9, 2008 at 3:51 am


    I installed Red Hat in just 1 hour…

  10. Marc said on December 9, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Linux easier to install than linux? Are we talking about the same linux? I don’t recall having ACPI or wireless nightmares with Windows.

    It’s less true with the lastest Ubuntu but you forgot to mention that you need to type commands in the prompt to recompile drivers just to get basic 3d hardware acceleration in most distributions.

    Is it possible to at least talk about linux without being evangelistic and forget to mention the drawbacks?

  11. Womble said on December 9, 2008 at 1:29 am


    Asus particularly have been doing that with some of their mainboards for a while now.

  12. IanG said on December 8, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I think new pc`s are going to have Linux onboard as an option to boot into before you get to your main operating system.

  13. BRasulov said on December 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    not complete mate
    i think its better take one distro n show ppl how to install it with screenshots. i know there r lots of sites where ppl can find how-to-dos but dont u think u could be someone who is the inspiration for some newbies here in ghacks?

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