Due to the overwhelmingly positive reviews that the Linux operating system has been getting in the recently, you might be curious to know more about this open source operating system offered by Linux. You might have heard that Linux is no longer the preserve of power users and can be easily operated by an inexperienced user. You wonder, what is this fuss about Ubuntu, Fedora and Linux Mint? After years of using Windows there might finally be something that is not only more affordable than both Windows and Mac OS, it is also very easy to obtain and configure as well.
This article will inform you of the options that are out there to enable you make the judgment on whether Linux is worth using as an everyday operating system.
If you want to test out a Linux system, you may run it inside your Windows installation (virtually) or install it on a different partition of your hard disk. Running it virtually is the safest option since no change will be done to your existing Windows setup. However, by using this method you may not realize the true ability of the Linux system. By installing it on another partition, you will get the full Linux experience and still be able to access your Windows setup via dual-boot. However, this is a more complex setup and is not recommended for inexperienced computer users as it is possible to permanently lose all the files that you use to access Windows setup.
We will see how to test drive Ubuntu inside your existing Windows system. Ubuntu is currently one of the most popular variations of Linux (distros) in use and is well supported by its parent company, Canonical and a vibrant user community.
1. Use Linux as Conventional Windows Software
Ubuntu can be installed like any other Windows software, for example, Microsoft Office. That means you can install Ubuntu then uninstall it any anytime to suit your computing environment. Ubuntu is installed on Windows using a tool known as Wubi (short for, Windows based Ubuntu Installer). This utility will enable you to install Ubuntu into the Windows system and have it run side by side with the other installed programs. To accomplish this, start Wubi, enter a password (that will be used to log into Ubuntu) then follow the prompts that will be provided.
When running the program, Wubi will automatically search for the appropriate Ubuntu image file from the internet and install it into the Windows program files. Wubi will also give you the opportunity to install Ubuntu from an existing *.iso file (image file). You accomplish this by copying the .iso file into the folder that also contains the Wubi setup files, wherein Wubi will automatically use it as the Ubuntu source disk.
After running to completion, Wubi will prompt you to restart you computer. After rebooting, the initial power up screen will offer you a choice of either starting up the computer in Ubuntu or Windows mode. In essence, Wubi will have occasioned a full Linux system installation, meaning that Ubuntu will use your computer’s hardware to run at full capacity.
If you want to remove Ubuntu from your computer, log into Windows during the next restart then go to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel and uninstall it.
2. Use a Virtual Machine
You can run a Linux distribution on Windows by virtualizing it. Meaning, you can run it inside a Windows installation. This may be possible in any direction, that is, you can virtualize Linux in a Mac OS installation, or Windows in a Linux installation. First, you will need a virtualization software like VMware to accomplish this (You may obtain it from the Internet at free of charge). Install it in your Windows machine from where you will virtualize Linux. Since we are talking about Ubuntu, obtain the Ubuntu.vmx (VMware image file) from the Internet. Run the .vmx file (by double-clicking it) and it will cause an instance of VMware to start with the full execution of Ubuntu running within it.
What you have done, is that you have run Ubuntu as the guest operating system of the host operating system, Windows. You can achieve the same end result by using other virtualization software like Oracle’s VirtualBox. To do this, follow the same guidelines as outlined in the preceding instructions but instead of downloading VMware, download VirtualBox and the corresponding Ubuntu Virtual image from the Oracle’s website at no extra cost.
3. Run an Ubuntu Live Session
You can run Ubuntu without installing it! Just run a live session. This means, Ubuntu will fully run from the installation media as if it is a hard disk partition. You can achieve this by running Ubuntu off a LiveCD or a Live Media. To create a Live Media, use a USB stick that has enough space for the entire Ubuntu image file. While a LiveCD can be created by simply burning the Ubuntu image file directly onto a CD (or DVD, whichever has enough space)
Obtain the Ubuntu image file from Ubuntu’s website by downloading it at no license restrictions and free of charge. If due to Internet connectivity issues that is not possible, you may make a copy of an existing Ubuntu installation disk (it is allowed, since Ubuntu is free) or acquire an installation disk from companies that ship operating system copies using mail, for example, the OSDisc company.
To make a Live Media, use Linux startup disk creator utilities like UNetbootin, which will turn your USB flash drive into an installation media. Choose your Ubuntu image file where prompted by UNetbootin and the drive path of your flash drive for the creation of the Live Media to commence.
Once the Live Media has been created, restart your Windows computer with the media inserted (Make sure that the appropriate drive has been chosen in your BIOS’ boot sequence configuration). On startup you will see Ubuntu startup in installation mode. Wait for it to finish the initial powering up sequence from where you will see a screen with one option that reads “Try Ubuntu without Installing”. Select this option and Ubuntu will boot from the media without affecting your Windows installation.