How to Install Ubuntu and Other Linux Distros

I have been a hardcore Linux fanboy for a really long time now. I think the first Linux distro I ever used was Ubuntu 8.04 (what that translates into is 8 as in 2008, 04 meaning May). I had always been pretty interested in computers and technology. My dad really understood this (he is a prof in ECE at my university) and really helped drive me forward in this field. It started off with programming animation software (Alice if I recall correctly) and eventually migrated into more complex things like micro-controllers and such.

I was 12 and he gave me one of the older family desktops so that I could play with it. He had suggested that we try installing Linux on it. At the time I had absolutely no idea how to install operating systems. It was an old computer, Pentium III with 256 MB of RAM old. We didn't even have enough RAM to install Ubuntu, so we had to get get another stick of 256 MB RAM to actually install and use Ubuntu. From there on I was captivated by Linux and the world of FOSS (free, open-source software).

Step 1: Choose Your Distro

This is probably the most important choice for your Linux experience. Your distro (short for distribution), is what your default installation of the operating system will look like. The GUI (graphical user interface) will greatly change the "feel" of Linux. 

Here are some common Linux distributions (click photos to go to download page):


Ubuntu has a similar feel to the OS X. The vanilla install is more intuitive than OS X with a built in dock and high quality search menu. They use a GUI called Unity.  If you are new to installing operating systems and Linux I would strongly suggest Ubuntu since it has the largest support network and is one of the easier to use distros.


Fedora right now also seems to look and feel a lot like OS X but with some improvements. I haven't used Fedora in several years but I have looked at what it currently is sporting for the desktop environment and it is using GNOME 3. Ubuntu used to be GNOME but has since changed to Unity. Fedora is fairly similar to Ubuntu in that there is a reasonable amount of support for the OS. Problem being is that I find most software for Linux comes as either a Tarball or a .deb package which means you can install from the Tarball or convert the .deb to a .rpm. For new users, .deb and .rpm are similar to the Windows .msi and .exe. They are files that can be used to install software. The difference between the two is that .deb would be for operating systems that use Debian (hence .deb) while the .rpm is for systems that use Red Hat Package manager (hence .rpm). 

Linux Mint:

Linux Mint (from now on called LM) is probably my second favorite Linux distribution. It is based on Ubuntu (which is my favorite distro). I haven't used this OS in a while either (at least as my primary Linux OS) but I have installed it in virtual box and played around with it. It is still a very good choice for new Linux users as it is very user friendly using the MATE desktop environment. While Unity an GNOME 3 are similar to OS X, MATE is very similar to Windows 10 with all of the annoying features removed. 


There are loads of other distros available for your choosing. I have only listed three of the easiest to use operating systems just for simplicity. If you have any questions just comment or shoot me an email. I am right now using Ubuntu Studio 16.10 since I am really into audio and video production so I wanted the Studio version of Ubuntu. There are so many choices these days but really any distro should do the trick. The hard part is finding what works best for you.

Here are some other commonly used Linux distros:

Kali is a security/penetration testing Linux OS.

I have very little experience with openSuse but I like the logo so it makes the list!

Step 2: Choose Your Installation Method

There are several different ways to install your distro. I will cover the two most common methods.

Once you have downloaded your operating system you will most likely have a .iso file. This will be the CD/DVD image that you will need to burn onto some device or other. Here is where we have two different choices of installation method. You can choose between either a USB stick install or a CD/DVD install.

CD/DVD Install:

If you are using Windows, there is a built in way to burn the .iso file to a CD drive. That is really straight forward and the easier way. If you are newer to Linux and .iso installations I would suggest this method. You simply can right click on the .iso file and then burn it to the disc. Problem solved.

Flash Drive Install:

This is by far my favorite method of installation since it is so much faster to install the operating system.

Clicking the image above will take you to a site which will let you install Universal USB Installer. This is a tool that will let you install a .iso file into a flash drive. Follow the instructions from installer and it will do the rest for you.


I cannot emphasize this enough, BACK UP EVERYTHING! I take no responsibility for any lose of data or damage to equipment or anything that happens to your system from following this guide. As a precaution please backup everything on your computer. Ideally to an external hard-drive, cloud storage or another partition on your computer (for more advanced users).

Step 4: Begin the Installation

This step can be either the most or least complicated step of the installation process.

You will need to begin by turning off your computer and rebooting to your bios or selecting your boot menu. If you are using a CD installation, your computer will most likely just boot right off the CD.
Alternatively if you are using a USB stick, you will need to boot to your bios (my laptop has a button for it), others may require you to press F2 or ESC to get to your bios or boot menu. From there you should see an option that will let you boot to your flash-drive.

You may need to navigate your bios to change the booting priority. Generally the bios will tell you what keys to use to navigate and to change settings so don't worry too much about it. If you get stuck or need help just google your hardware and some support should exist for it. 

At this time your computer will finally boot to a screen asking what language you would like to use. I am going to use Ubuntu as an example case. 

After you have selected your language (or waited long enough), this page will appear. At this point you can still change the language in the bar on the left, or you can proceed with the installation. You can either install Ubuntu right away or try Ubuntu. I generally suggest try Ubuntu so that you can have something to do while the rest of the installation completes.

From here one of two things will happen, you will proceed to the installation page which is similar to the above picture or you will get booted into a live version of Ubuntu. If you choose the live version of Ubuntu you simply have to open the installation window when you are ready (it is on the desktop).

Once the installation window is open it will ask you some questions about your installation. At this point it will ask if you would like to download updates and 3rd party software during the install. I would recommend that you do so just because won't extend the installation by long and it will not need to be updated right away once the install is completed. It will also allow for 3rd party or proprietary audio and video to be played (mp3, avi, etc.).

Now is the riskiest step of all when it comes to the installation. This is where files can be overwritten accidentally so extreme caution is advised. For my case I will be doing an installation in a virtual machine so I will do a clean install (erase disk and install Ubuntu). If an installation of Windows is present, Ubuntu will let you select to install alongside Windows. If you are an advanced user, feel free to modify the partitions as you like in the "something else" option. I rarely choose to encrypt my files or use LVM since I have never needed them. I would suggest that if you are a new user that you don't use them at this time. Once you click "install now", the system will confirm that you want to do this and summarize the changes. From there click continue.

At this point the computer will need some information for setting up things like timezone and personal information. It will also ask your keyboard layout. Unless you have something special, it will be US English.

Then give them your user name, computer name and password and you are good to go! Click on continue and the installation will complete.

The computer will then reboot. If you installed alongside another operating system, after you reboot the computer will ask which operating system you would like to boot to (Ubuntu or Windows). If you just did a clean Ubuntu install, once you reboot you should be asked to login to your account (or auto-logged in if you chose that option),

Step 5: Have Lots of Fun!

From here you are now able to use and experiment with Linux. One thing that I would suggest would be checking out the software center for your distro. They usually have loads of great FOSS (free and open source software). 

Personally I use Linux for recording music and video production. All of my recording software is completely free and better than most of the professional grade software that I have used in the past. The video editing tools aren't as equally matched to the professional tools but they are still very powerful and better than iMovie or Movie Maker. 

The Linux community has something for everybody. Be it programming, recording, editing, graphics, whatever you can do with a computer there is a Linux community for you! Let the world of Linux consume you!

Just stay away from FreeBSD (just kidding), their logo is the devil after all!

Questions, concerns and edits? Comment below if I left out any major steps or if you need help! 


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