Recently I decided it was time to grab up a spare computer that I could use for tinkering as well as back up files from my other machine in the event that it goes down. The one big thing I wanted to do was to install a Linux OS and experience everything that comes with it. This would be my first time installing a Linux OS. I chose to install Ubuntu since it is the most widely used and has the most extensive documentation and help available.
When I bought this machine it had a fresh install of Windows XP and came with the recovery disk which was excellent because I had to use it multiple times before I got things just the way I wanted them. Since this computer didn’t have any files I didn’t have to worry about backing anything up but it would be a must if considering putting Ubuntu on an everyday machine. To install Ubuntu you need the install CD. Ubuntu community can mail you one if you so request online, but why not be a DIYer and burn it yourself? I downloaded the Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop version for a graphical install and then went straight to burning it onto a CD. This was a mistake. I didn’t figure that the piece of the installation instructions regarding running the checksum was all that important, but it absolutely is. If the download is the least bit wrong the installation will not work. I burned several CDs of a bad image. Eventually I followed the installation documentation more closely and actually downloaded winMd5Sum. With this free tool I was able to compare the checksum of the downloaded image with the correct checksum from the Ubuntu site. It took several attempts and switching to a Canadian mirror before getting a successful download. Finally I could burn it to a disc.
Burning the Disc
The download comes as an image with an “.iso” extension. I had never burned an image before so I followed the Ubuntu advice to download the free Infra Recorder. The actual burning of the image to the disc couldn’t have been easier. Following the Ubuntu instructions I quickly had an Ubuntu install disc. I inserted it into my computer and restarted it so it could boot from the disc and headed straight to the install options. Here is where I went wrong for the second time by skipping a small part of the install instructions. Instead of using the “Install” option on the disc I should have first chose, “Check the disc for defects.” After a few failed installs and a bunch of wasted time, choosing the “Check for defects” option finally revealed that while my download was successful, my burn did not translate to the disc just right. Burning another disc or two finally yielded some successful results.
There are many ways to install Ubuntu. It can be installed as the sole operating system on the computer, as a virtual OS inside of Windows, or even as a side-by-side dual boot with Windows. I was attempting the latter. When trying to achieve a dual boot installation the hard drive must be partitioned so that each OS can reside in its own territory. With Windows on the machine I first dabbled in the computer management menu to try to clear space for Ubuntu, but then while installing it was difficult to interpret the partitioning. My solution was to reformat the hard drive so that Windows again occupied the whole hard drive and then use the installer disc to set up the partitions. I think this is the best option because you get a very good visual of how your hard drive is split up and you’ll have to go through the setup menu anyway so it saves you time from toiling in a Windows configuration. Other items in the installation process are very easy such as choosing language, naming the computer and setting up a user account. With the install completed, the next time the computer starts there will be a choice to start Ubuntu or Windows which is the whole idea of a dual-booting system.
Installing Ubuntu, especially in a dual-boot situation, can be a daunting task. Although my experience exemplified Murphy’s Law it is a very do-able process. Looking back, I could have saved a ton of time had I followed the online instructions more carefully and verified the download and burn of the image. Bottom line though is that the instructions and documentation are great resources and there are plenty of forums and YouTube videos also documenting the process. With the volume of help out there I wouldn’t worry about lacking experience like myself, just jump in, read up and take your time.