Do you ever feel that your computer is way too slow, even though you have decent hardware? Well, you're not the only one!
But today, the endless frustration of a slow pc will come to an end! Let me present to you: Ubuntu, an open source, Linux based operating system.
In this Instructable, I'll be showing how to install Ubuntu alongside Windows, so you can choose which operating system to use, whenever you start your computer.
While searching for a tutorial to send to a friend, I realized there were no recent, in-depth Instructables on how to install Ubuntu. But that's about to change!
If you like this Instructable, please consider voting for me in the Digital Life 101 contest, this would help me a lot.
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Step 1: Why Ubuntu?
The Ubuntu site gives the following arguments for choosing Ubuntu:
- Ubuntu is far more than an operating system. With thousands of applications to choose from, it's completely free and easy to use.
- Ubuntu is made for sharing. Use it, modify it, improve it, share it. Anywhere, any time and with any number of people all over the world. No licence required.
- Ubuntu operating systems are regularly updated. Come in a new, improved, easy-to-install release every six months, so you're always up to date.
- Ubuntu comes with all the support you need and powers the most popular computers — on servers, desktops, notebooks and netbooks.
- Ubuntu comes with a ready-made community dedicated to building and promoting free systems and software.
Some other positive things about Ubuntu, from my own experience are:
- It is fast. Not only does it start up in a flash, and are browsing and other normal tasks really smooth, but also heavy things like 3D rendering, compiling, and even bitcoin mining are significantly faster than in Windows.
- Driver support: when you have, for example an older printer, that is not supported in Windows 10, there's a 99% chance that it will work right out of the box in Ubuntu.
- The community: After Windows and OS X, Ubuntu is the most popular desktop operating system, so there's a very large community, to help you with all of your problems.
- Interface: Ubuntu is one of the Linux operating systems with the most 'polished' user interface. It is very intuitive, and not too different from Windows.
- Flexibility: The sky's the limit, there's a piece of software available for virtually anything you want, and you can change any setting you want, using the terminal interface.
However, there are some disadvantages as well, the biggest problem is probably software installation:
Ubuntu doesn't support Windows software. In most cases, this isn't too much of a problem, but it's not very convenient. For example, Microsoft Office is only available on Windows and Mac, there's off course LibreOffice and OpenOffice, but they have a prehistoric interface, compared to MS Office. Microsoft has, however, a great free web app to solve this problem, but you can't use it if you need some more advanced options. Another problem is Adobe software: programs like After Effects, Premiere or Photoshop will not run in Ubuntu, but there are some very good open source alternatives, like GIMP and Blender.
If you're a PC-gamer, you'll probably also want to stick to Windows for now. Although Steam is available for Ubuntu, the selection of games is rather limited.
The images I added are some benchmarks and tests I did. As you can see, the startup and shutdown times on Ubuntu are much better than Windows, and CPU 3D rendering on Windows is almost 30% slower than Ubuntu. (The GPU render times are the same, this is probably due to the fact that both Windows and Ubuntu use the same Nvidia driver.)
But you can see that across the board, Ubuntu is much faster.
Step 2: Before You Begin...
The official Ubuntu documentations does not state minimum system requirements. The rule of thumb is: if it runs Windows XP or higher, it will run Ubuntu without any problems.
But if you have an older computer, you might want to take a look at Lubuntu, a lightweight "flavor" of Ubuntu.
For the installation, you'll only need a USB flash drive (>2GB) and an internet connection* - preferably a fast one, because the file you need to download is over 1GB. (And you'll need a computer to install it on, obviously.)
* an internet connection to the computer you want to install it to is not necessary.
A little technical know-how may come in handy, but I tried my best to write an easy step-by-step tutorial with lots of images, that most people will be able to follow without any problems.
This is probably the most important step of this Instructable: backup all your important files on an external hard disk, and if you haven't already, create a Windows recovery drive.
You could also create a restore point, you can find it in the Control Panel, under System and Security > System > System Protection > Create. (image 2+3)
I have installed Ubuntu over 20 times, and never ran into any problems, but since we'll be re-sizing partitions, it is possible to lose data.
When you have finished backing up, safely remove your external hard drive, and store it somewhere safe.
I highly recommend that you read through the whole Instructable before you start installing anything.
Step 3: Downloading Ubuntu & Installing to the USB Flash Drive
At the bottom of this step, there's a small dictionary with the technical terms I'll use.
In order to download the right version of Ubuntu, you'll first have to know whether you have a 32-bit or a 64-bit computer. If you don't know this, open Control Panel, and go to System and Security > System. Halfway the window, there's a line 'System type'. If your processor is an x64-based processor, your computer is 64-bit, if your processor is an x86-based processor, your computer is 32-bit. (image 1) Both types will work fine with Ubuntu, you just have to download the right version. It is best to remember the amount of RAM you have as well.
Now go to www.ubuntu.com, go to Desktop > Overview, and click'Download Ubuntu'. On the next page there will be 2 options: The bottom one is the latest release, so it has some new features, but I recommend you choose the top one, since it has long term support (LTS). This tutorial will be based on Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS, but other releases should be similar.
From the dropdown menu on the right hand side, choose the right flavour (i.e. the system type from the previous paragraph). Next, click 'Download'. This will take you to the 'Contribute to Ubuntu'-page. If you want, donate some money to keep this free project going. Otherwise, click 'Not now, take me to the download'. The Ubuntu ISO-file will start downloading.
Downloading Pendrive Linux
While Ubuntu is downloading, we'll download a tool to install Ubuntu onto the pendrive. Download it from the following link: www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/. Click the blue 'Download UUI' button to download.
Turning off Windows fast startup
In Windows 8, 8.1 & 10, the default shutdown option is not a full shutdown, but some kind of hibernate. Windows stores some parts of the operating system in a file (hiberfil.sys) on the disk. If you want to access your Windows files from Ubuntu, you'll have to disable this option, since you can't perform any changes to the disk as long as Windows is not fully shut down (i.e. if a hibernate file exists). Otherwise, you'll get an error similar to image 6, when you try to open the disk.
You can change the settings while you wait for the Ubuntu download to complete.
Go to Control Panel, and under Hardware and Sound > Power Options > System Settings, click 'Change settings that are currently unavailable'. Then uncheck 'Turn on fast startup', to disable fast startup. Then click 'Save changes', and exit Control Panel.
Installing Ubuntu onto the pendrive
Once the downloads are completed, insert your USB flash drive into your computer, run 'Universal-USB-Installer-a.b.c.d.exe' you just downloaded, and configure the installation:
- Step 1, select 'Ubuntu' as the distribution.
- Step 2: click 'Browse', and select the Ubuntu ISO-file you downloaded earlier.
- Step 3: this is a dangerous one: make sure you leave the 'Show all Drives' box unchecked, and choose the right drive letter of your USB drive from the dropdown menu. If you pick the wrong one, you may end up deleting all your Windows files. If you are absolutely positive that you have selected the right letter (i.e. the one of your USB flash drive), check the 'We will format *X:\* Drive as Fat32' box, where X is the letter of the pendrive.
- Step 4: if you plan to install Ubuntu on multiple computers, you may want to create a persistent file, to save installation settings, for example, otherwise, just set it to 0MB.
Then click 'Create'.
You'll get another dialog to confirm the installation, read it, and check again if you selected the right drive, if you're 100% sure this is the case, click 'Yes'.
The next window will show you the progress of the installation. Wait for it to complete, and click 'Close' when you get the message 'Installation Done, Process is Complete!'.
You now have a USB drive with Ubuntu on it.
- CPU: central processing unit, processor, the part of a computer that does the actual calculations.
- OS: operating system, system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides services for computer programs. Windows, OSX and Ubuntu are examples of an operating system.
- NAS: network-attached storage, a computer data storage connected to a network, that can be accessed by multiple computers or other devices on that network.
- Partition: a division of a storage device. A partition has its own file system.
- File system: used to control how data is stored and retrieved. Without a file system, information placed in a partition would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins. A file system keeps a table with the addresses of every file.
- Formatting: Creating a new filesystem inside a partition. This deletes the index of all files on the partition, so data is lost when you format it.
- RAM: random-access memory, a very fast type of volatile memory that is connected directly to your processor. Every bit of data that has to be processed has to pass through RAM, and the operating system and other programs are loaded into RAM.
- Swap: the SWAP partition acts as an overflow to your (RAM) memory. If your memory is filled up completely, any additional applications will be run off of the SWAP partition rather than memory. However, since your hard disk is many times slower than RAM, this will have a negative effect on your computer's performance.
- HDD: hard disk drive, main storage device, non-volatile memory, consists of one or more disks that are magnetized by a moving head.
- Terminal: a means of interacting with a computer program where the user (or client) issues commands to the program in the form of successive lines of text (command lines).
- Mounting: associating a (removable) storage device with a point in the file system, so that its contents can be accessed.
- Mount point: the point where a storage device is mounted. In Ubuntu, this is /media or /mount. Inside these folder, there's all the content of the storage device.
- Symbolic link: a file that contains a reference to another file or directory.
- Extension: an identifier specified as a suffix to the name of a computer file, often separated from the filename with a dot, or other character, that indicates a characteristic of the file contents or its intended use.
- Root user: the superuser, a special user account used for system administration. Can be compared to the administrator in Windows.
- Booting: the initialization of a computerized system.
- BIOS: basic input/output system, a type of firmware (system software) used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process. Settings like CPU speed (overclocking), setting the system time etc. can be performed in the BIOS.
- Bootloader: small program that starts the booting process when the system is turned on, it loads the OS from the hard disk into RAM and initializes other hardware as well.
Step 4: Starting Up Ubuntu, and Changing Partitions
Now restart your computer, and while booting, press the function key that gets you in your motherboard's boot menu. This depends on your motherboard brand and type, for example, on my Dell laptop, it's F8, and on my Gigabyte motherboard it's F12.
In the boot menu, choose to boot from the USB flash drive, sometimes called 'USB-HDD'. If a Ubuntu splash screen appears, choose 'Try Ubuntu without installing'. Otherwise, select 'Try Ubuntu' when the computer is fully started up.
Either way, you should end up on the Ubuntu Desktop. (image 1)
If you don't use a standard US qwerty keyboard, the first thing you'll want to do is set the right keyboard layout: click the 'En' on a white background in the top right corner, and then 'Text entry settings...' in the window that appears, you can click the '+' sign (bottom left) to add your keyboard layout, and then you can select English (US) and delete it using the '-' button, or use the arrows to change the order of the list. (image 2)
If you are using a wired internet connection, you should get two arrows in the top right bar, if you're using a wireless connection, there should be an empty WiFi 'triangle' instead. (image 3) Click it, select the right network, end enter your password.
Next, press the Windows-key on your keyboard to bring up the start menu (or click the top left Ubuntu logo) and in the search bar, type 'GParted'. One of the results should be an application 'GParted Partition Editor'. Open it. (image 4)
Resizing the Windows partition - for computers with one HDD
If you have only one hard disk in your computer, you'll have to shrink the partition that is used by Windows, to create two new ones for Ubuntu.
When GParted starts, it will start scanning the partitions on the disks, wait for it to finish, and make sure the Windows C:\ disk is selected from the drop-down menu in the top right corner, it is not called 'C:\' in Ubuntu, but it will probably be '/dev/sda'. You know you have the right one if the size matches the size of your C:\ disk off course, and if the disk has two 'ntfs' partition, and one of them has the flag 'boot'. This could look like image 5.
Right click the largest partition, and select 'resize/move'. (image 6) In the 'Free space following' field, type the amount of space you want for your Ubuntu install: This is the amount of disk space, plus the amount of swap (this is space on the disk that is used to store data while the system is turned on, if you run out of RAM. You don't really have to understand this, just keep in mind that you need it.) For example, I took 64GB for Ubuntu itself and 8GB swap. The absolute minimum requirement for Ubuntu 14.04 is 6.6GB of disk space, but I recommend using at least 16GB, even if you store your documents somewhere else.
If you have less than 8GB RAM, you should use 8GB swap, if you have more RAM, use the same amount of swap as you have RAM.
Finally multiply the sum of the disk space and the swap by 1024 (1GiB = 1024MiB).
For example, for my system (2GB RAM), I did: (64GiB disk space + 8GiB swap) x 1,024 = 72 x 1,024 MiB = 73,728MiB Free space following.
If your system has 16GB of RAM, that would be (64GiB disk space + 16GiB swap) x 1,024.
Of course, this space has to be available on your disk, check this in the 'Unused' column, and leave enough spare space ('Unused') on your Windows partition, leave for example at least 64GiB of unused space on your Windows partition.
If you don't have enough space, go back to Windows, and delete some files, or maybe consider buying a second hard disk.
If you change the 'Free space following', the 'New size' of the Windows partition should update automatically. Make sure you don't change the 'Free space preceding', otherwise, you will move your Windows partition, and this will result in an unbootable Windows.
Click 'Resize/Move' to continue. (image 7)
Now there will be empty space (unallocated) on your disk (note that this is just a simulation, GParted doesn't really change your disk until you apply all actions). Right click in the unallocated space, and select 'New'. (image 8)
We'll now create the Ubuntu partition, so make 'New size' the size of your Ubuntu partition x 1024, and 'Free space following should now be the amount of swap you chose x 1024. (64GB x 1024 = 65536MiB, in my case) Create it as a Primary Partition, with an 'ext4' file system. You could give it the label 'Ubuntu' if you want. (image 9). Then click 'Add'.
Right click in the unallocated space again, and select new, to create the swap partition. The size should already be correct ('New size' = the swap size you've chosen x 1024, 'Free space preceding' = 0, 'Free space following' = 0) Select Primary Partition, and linux-swap as file system. (image 10) Then click 'Add' again.
The result should be something like image 11. Check that you only shrink the Windows partition, and that you don't move or delete it, and that you don't change the 'System Reserved' partition. Check the pending operations at the bottom of the screen. If you're 100% positive that you have followed these steps correctly, click 'Apply All Operations', the green checkmark at the top of the screen (image 11).
GParted will prompt you again if you are absolutely sure, if you are, and you have backed up all your important data, click 'Apply'. (image 12).
Then GParted will start applying the changes to the disk. WARNING: This is irreversible, if you did anything wrong, your Windows partition might get corrupted, or you might simply lose all data on the disk, check and double check and triple check that everything is correct.
Note that shrinking the Windows partition can take quite some time, especially if your Windows installation is somewhat older, and if you haven't run 'defrag' in a while.
When finished, you should get 'All operations successfully completed' (image 13).
You can now close GParted.
Resizing the Windows partition - for computers with two HDDs
If your computer has 2 or more hard disks, you may want to install Ubuntu on the secondary hard drive. If this is the case, you can just follow the instructions for 1 HDD, but instead of resizing the Windows Partition, resize the ntfs-partition on your second hard drive, and create all partitions on this second disk as well. The second disk is most likely listed as '/dev/sdb'.
Step 5: Installing Ubuntu to the Hard Disk
Installing Ubuntu to the primary HDD
On the desktop, double click 'Install Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS'. (image 1)
Choose your language and continue.
On the next screen, all checmarks should be green (if you're on a laptop, it will also check whether the computer is plugged into the wall), and check the two checkboxes to download updates, and to install third-party software (to play mp3-files etc) (image 2) Then continue.
For the installation type, select 'Something else' (image 3). Whatever you do, do not select 'Erase disk and install Ubuntu' since this will delete Windows entirely, and all your documents/data will be lost forever. (unless you really want to, obviously). Then continue.
In the next window, you'll see all the available partitions. (image 4) Double click the 'ext4' partition you just created in the previous step. Leave the size as it is, (note that it is displayed in MB, not in MiB, so it will be different from the size you selected in GParted, but this doesn't matter) select 'use as ext4 journaling file system', check 'format the partition', and choose '/' as mount point from the drop-down menu. (image 5) Click OK.
Double click the swap partition to see if 'Use as swap area' is selected, if so, click OK. (image 6)
You'll be prompted write the changes to the disk. (image 7) If you are 100% sure that you won't be formatting any of the Windows partitions, you can click 'Continue'.
At this point, the window should look something like image 8.
At the bottom, select your primary HDD as 'Device for boot loader installation'. This should be the device, e.g. /dev/sda, and not the partition (sda1 - sda4).
If you are positive that the format box is only checked on the ext4 partition, and not on the Windows ntfs partitions, click 'Install Now'.
You will be prompted once again to write the changes to the disk (image 9). Read the warning, and make sure that only the Ubuntu partition is going to be formatted. Then click 'Continue'. This will initiate the installation.
Now select your location, to set the time zone. Then continue. (image 10)
Select the right keyboard layout. Then continue. (image 11)
Fill in a name, computer name and username, and pick a password. Then continue. (image 12)
Finally, wait for the installation to complete, and restart your computer. (image 13 + 14).
Installing Ubuntu to the secondary HDD
The installation on the secondary HDD is quite similar, you just have to select the ext4 and swap partitions that are now on /dev/sdb (sda is the first HDD, sdb the second and so on).
The only difference is the 'Device for boot loader installation': there are 2 possibilities:
- Install the boot loader on the primary hard drive: Ubuntu will replace the Windows boot loader , and create a link to both Windows and Ubuntu. Settings in Ubuntu can be changed to set the default OS.
- Install the boot loader on the secondary hard drive: Ubuntu will create a link to itself on the secondary disk, the link to Windows on the first disk remains unchanged. Settings in the bios can be changed to set the default OS: If the default boot device is the first hard disk, Windows will start, if the default boot device is the secondary hard disk, Ubuntu will start.
Step 6: Starting Ubuntu, and Getting Started
When your computer restarts, it should automatically start Ubuntu: when you get a purple screen that looks like image 1, you can use the up and down arrows to choose the operating system. The default should be Ubuntu. Use the arrow keys to stop the countdown, and the remember what entry Windows is o²n, in my case, this was entry 5. Now select Ubuntu, using the arrow keys, and press enter to boot.
When Ubuntu is booted, you'll get a login screen, just type in your password, and press enter. Then it will get you to the desktop.
Setting Windows as default operating system
If you want to continue using Windows as your default operating system, these are the steps you have to follow:
- Hit CTRL+ALT+T on your keyboard, this will open a terminal, it is like cmd in Windows, if you're familiar with it. This is a way to change settings etc. using text commands. You don't really have to understand what this does, you can just follow these steps.
- Type in
"sudo update-grub" (without the quotation marks)
sudo means 'superuser do', and will require your password. This is like administrator tasks in Windows (the blue-yellow shield). Grub is the boot loader, it is a program that runs when you startup your computer, and it will find the right operating system on the hard disk. This command will update its settings etc.
To paste in a terminal, use CTRL+SHIFT+V instead of CTRL+V. (image 2)
- Type in
"sudo gedit /etc/default/grub"
Gedit is the default text editor in Ubuntu, like notepad in Windows. /etc/default/grub is the file where grub keeps some of its settings. Note that Ubuntu uses forward slashes for folders, whereas Windows uses backslashes. (image 3)
- On line 6, set GRUB_DEFAULT to the number of the Windows-entry you remembered at the beginning of this step minus 1 (this is because grub counts from 0, so the 1st entry has index 0). For example, in my case Windows was the 5th entry, so I set GRUB_DEFAULT to 4. Make sure there isn't a # in front of the line, otherwise it will get recognized as a comment. (image 4)
- Save the file (CTRL+S or click 'Save'). Then close gedit (the close button is at the top left, like on OSX).
- In the terminal window, run
again. You can just type it again, or press the up arrow key twice to go back two commands. (image 5)
- When update-grub is finished, you can close the terminal. The next time you startup your computer, it will automatically start Windows again.
You can follow one of these tutorials if you want to remove Ubuntu and Grub completely (you'll need your Windows DVD): http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/how-do-you-remove-ubuntu-and-grub/42d3f550-bf5f-459d-94ed-4cbadd7c933c?auth=1
The Ubuntu is pretty straightforward, especially if you're used to Windows 7. In the left top corner there's the "Start" menu, where you can search your programs and files. You can drag an icon from the start menu to the launcher bar along the left edge, and unlock programs from that same launcher by right-clicking and selecting 'Unlock from Launcher'. The default browser is Firefox, and the default mail program is Thunderbird, but you can install others as well (Well, not Internet Explorer or Outlook obviously). The default file browser is nautilus, it is the first icon in the launcher. System settings can be accessed from the launcher, or from the cogwheel/power button in the top right corner. Playing music is done by Rhythmbox. LibreOffice are the default office programs. A taskmanager-like program is 'system monitor' (it can not be accessed by CTRL+ALT+DEL or CTRL+SHFT+ESC, but you could pin it at the tenth place in the launcher, so you can access it with WIN+0, the first nine apps in the launcher can be accessed by pressing the Windows key plus their corresponding number).
You can change the volume using the speaker symbol in the top right corner.
You can install new software using the Ubuntu Software Center.
Just try it yourself, to get to know the interface, but be careful if you enter your password, just like in Windows, you can perform "dangerous actions" when you enter your administrator password.
I recommend my other Instructable "Getting started with Ubuntu" to, well, get started with Ubuntu.
It covers some of the settings, tips & tricks, and the installation of some useful programs, like Google Chrome, Skype, Spotify etc. I'll also explain how to access your Windows files from Ubuntu & vice versa.
Step 7: Finished
Well, that's it, I hope you enjoy your fresh Ubuntu installation!
If you have any questions or remarks, please leave a comment!