Installing Ubuntu by USB On Mac and Windows with 20+ New Hacks 2019
Ubuntu is like Windows 10 and OS X in that the installation media contains a comprehensive set of drivers for most hardware devices found in a common home computer, and computers have enough storage space that the installer will set up a basic running system with a standard configuration.
This blog explains 20+ New Hacks to Installing Ubuntu by USB or Dual Boot on Mac and Windows.
This makes installation fast: a standard image can be installed to the hard drive. It also makes installation easy: other than language, region, time, and user information, once the installer knows where to install the OS, it doesn’t need any information to start installing.
And if you have an active network connection, it guesses at the region and time settings, too.
It’s not time-consuming, either. Ubuntu can be installed in 20–30 minutes, depending on how fast your disks are, and if you run the installer after clicking “Try Ubuntu” from the installation media, you can even browse the Web or play Solitaire or Mines while you wait.
There are a lot of ways to install Ubuntu, so this post will make some assumptions. The first is that you are using the latest long-term support release of Ubuntu, which is 16.04 LTS. The second is that you are installing Ubuntu from a DVD or a USB drive that was at least temporarily dedicated to holding the Ubuntu installer.
These same assumptions will be made throughout the entire post. If you are new to Ubuntu, this will provide a stable, reliable starting point as you become familiar with Ubuntu.
This post guides you through the basics: preparing to install Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, performing the actual installation, and optionally switching to more advanced graphics drivers—in case you need them for gaming or additional monitor support.
The remainder of the post will offer a brief look at additional Ubuntu flavors, giving you an idea of the differences you can expect with those interfaces during installation and daily use.
Preparing to Install Ubuntu
The first thing you’ll need to do is to download and prepare installation media for Ubuntu. These are usually distributed as DVD images, but you can also prepare a USB drive as well.
Installation DVDs are much easier to create than USB keys, and sometimes you will receive a copy of Ubuntu with a post, from a library, from a friend, or from a local Linux User Group or Ubuntu Local Community Team.
If you have any trouble with this post, these are very useful resources to search for. The following steps are geared toward Ubuntu but generally apply to the other flavors of Ubuntu as well.
Ubuntu is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. You will also need a computer that has 3D graphics acceleration, although most computers have this feature built in.
In order to install Ubuntu, you will need to have at least 8.6 GB of hard drive space available. That said, 20 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content.
You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 2 GB of RAM, although 1 GB should also be usable with 32-bit installs. You can download the Ubuntu installer from https://www.ubuntu.com/download/. It will be in the form of a DVD image with a .iso file extension.
Creating an Ubuntu DVD
If you want to install Ubuntu from a DVD, insert a blank DVD into your computer. In Windows, you can right-click the downloaded file and choose the menu option that says “Burn disc image” to move the installer to a blank DVD.
In Ubuntu, right-clicking the file and choosing “Write to Disc…” will accomplish the same thing. On either OS, you will want to make sure to check the “verify” option before burning the DVD, to guard against disc burning errors.
On OS X, you can run Disk Utility, then drag the downloaded file to the left pane where your hard drives are listed. Click the Ubuntu ISO and click the Burn icon in the toolbar, and the installer will be moved to the blank DVD. Make sure to enable the option to verify the burned disc.
Once the disc is burned, you’ll be ready to use it to start Ubuntu on your computer. Use a felt-tip pen to label the disc “Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS,” with an accurate point release number if you downloaded a later version, and add “32-bit” or “64-bit” as appropriate.
With this DVD, you can run Ubuntu straight from the disc, which is a great way to demonstrate Ubuntu on a friend’s computer without changing it, or to do basic computing on a computer that has malware or viruses installed or is having trouble booting up.
This makes it much more useful than a simple install disc, so you may want to keep it in a safe place so you can use it or lend it to friends in the future.
Creating a Bootable Ubuntu USB Drive
Preparing a USB drive to install Ubuntu is a lot more complicated, but if you want to install Ubuntu from a USB drive, you will need a drive with at least 1 GB free, formatted with the FAT32 file system.
The completed drive will be identical in functionality to an Ubuntu DVD, although some drives can be configured with “persistence,” which means that settings changes and files will be saved to the USB drive for next time.
On Windows, you’ll need to download a special utility to copy the installer to the USB drive. You can download the Universal USB Installer from www.pendrivelinux.com/.
This site contains step-by-step instructions with screenshots that you can refer to, but the basic steps are to run the program, choose Ubuntu 16.04 LTS from the drop-down list, and select the ISO you would like to copy.
If it’s in the same directory as the utility there’s a good chance it will be automatically selected. Choose your USB drive’s drive letter and click “Create.” Be very careful to choose the right drive letter because if you choose your system disk, it can make your system disk unbootable.
On OS X, you will need to use the command line to convert the ISO file into a disk image, identify the internal device name, and copy the disk image over. This will destroy or make unrecoverable all data on the target disk, and it is easy to accidentally target the wrong disk, so consider burning a DVD instead and creating a USB drive using Ubuntu.
Once you download the Ubuntu ISO, go to Applications, then Utilities, and open Terminal. This will open a command-line interface where you can type commands directly to the computer. Type the commands exactly as indicated, including upper and lowercase letters. You should substitute the bold text to match your computer’s settings.
The first thing you will need to do is to convert the ISO file to a disk image IMG file. To do this, you will type:
hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o ~/Downloads/ubuntu-16.04.3-desktop-amd64.img ~/Downloads/ubuntu-16.04.3-desktop-amd64.iso
You may need to change the location or the filenames if you saved the ISO outside your Downloads folder or if you downloaded a 32-bit version of Ubuntu or a version other than 16.04.3 LTS.
This step may take a long time. Once hdiutil is finished, the next step is to determine the device name of your USB drive. This is extremely important. First, you’ll run diskutil to list all attached drives:
Then, connect your USB drive to your Mac and run the same command again. You’ll see an extra disk listed, and that will be the name of your target disk, in the format /dev/disk2.
The actual name depends on what drives are connected and the order of connection since the computer was started, so you’ll need to repeat this step again each time you create a USB drive with Ubuntu.
Next, you want to unmount the USB drive so that OS X doesn’t try to use it while you’re copying the disk image you created. Run the next two commands, substituting the IMG file you created previously and the drive name you found with diskutil.
diskutil umountDisk /dev/diskX
sudo dd if=~downloads/ubuntu-16.04.3-desktop-amd64.img of=/dev/diskX bs=1m diskutil eject /dev/diskX
The sudo dd command will take several minutes to complete because it copies the disk image directly to the USB drive. Once all of the commands finish, you have a USB drive that can be used to run or install Ubuntu.
On Ubuntu, even if you are running it from a DVD or USB drive, open the Unity dash and search for “Startup Disk Creator.” Choose an inserted disc or ISO and then select a USB drive from the list, and click “Make Startup Disk” to create a bootable USB drive.
Any inserted disc or ISO located in the Downloads folder will be listed automatically. If the “Make Startup Disk” option is grayed out, you may need to use a different USB drive or delete some files to clear enough space. Due to a change in the disk images, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS discs or ISOs should only be created while running Ubuntu 14.10 or later.
Every computer’s startup process is different. It is determined by the computer manufacturer, but more specifically by the motherboard manufacturer. When a computer turns on, it runs special software that’s built into the motherboard. Traditionally this was called the BIOS, but most computers built today use UEFI.
On any Mac, insert the disc or USB drive, turn on the power, and hold down the Option key until you see a list of drives. Choose your Ubuntu media with the mouse or arrow keys and continue booting.
On other computers, you will need to configure the BIOS or UEFI to boot from your disc or USB drive. There is no standard way of doing this, so you may need to consult your manufacturer’s documentation for instructions.
First, insert the disc or USB drive into your computer, then turn it on. You can usually watch the startup screen for messages such as “Press <ESC> for startup menu,” “F9 to change boot device,” “F12 Boot Menu,” or something similar.
These will let you choose a device to boot from for the current boot only. You only have a couple of seconds to press the key, so plan to let the computer boot at least twice for you to be able to locate and read the message.
If your installed OS begins to boot, let it finish before restarting the computer, then use the OS’s shutdown feature. If your computer has no OS, then you can simply reboot at any time.
The other option you have is to change the boot search order in your BIOS or UEFI configuration. This will change your settings until you change them again and may be the only way to choose a different boot device.
For this, you want to search your startup screen for messages like “DEL to enter BIOS” or “F10 to enter setup.” You should be able to find a “boot options” or “advanced” menu with a boot order option.
You’ll want to move your boot device type to the top or front of the list. Sometimes USB drives are only listed if they are plugged in when the computer turns on. Once you have changed the startup order, follow the onscreen instructions to save your changes and boot or exit the configuration.
When your computer reboots, you will know that you were successful if you see a solid color screen with a simple icon at the bottom. The icon means that pressing any key on the keyboard will allow you to set up various accessibility options.
If no keys are pressed for five seconds, the bootloader starts Ubuntu in English and will ask whether you want to install Ubuntu or just try it out. If you already know whether you want to install Ubuntu or try it without installing, pressing the spacebar can speed the final startup process.
Pressing the spacebar (or any other key) will prompt you for a default language for your Ubuntu experience and then allow you to choose other accessibility and startup options. F5 can be used to activate high-contrast themes or a screen reader.
You can also use this menu to verify your installation media or test the computer’s RAM for errors. Both are useful troubleshooting tools if anything goes wrong during installation.
The last option is useful if you changed your boot settings and accidentally booted from the Ubuntu installer instead of your computer’s hard drive. It should hand control back over to your installed operating system without booting the Ubuntu installer.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is the flagship of the Ubuntu project. Powerful and stable with elegant user experience, this is where you should start if you have never run Ubuntu or Linux before.
It features the Unity desktop interface, LibreOffice, and Thunderbird and is a suitable replacement for Windows and OS X in most casual desktop computer use.
Beginning the Install
Ubuntu will show a splash screen while it boots, and then you will see a welcome screen. This is the first step of the Ubuntu installer and one of only seven screens you will have to interact with to install Ubuntu on your computer.
On the left-hand side of the installer is a list of languages. From here you can easily choose the language you are most comfortable with and interact with Ubuntu in that language for the rest of the session. If you install Ubuntu, it will be installed in the language you choose on the welcome screen.
The first option, Try Ubuntu, will run a desktop interface with most of Ubuntu’s features present. Software updates are disabled at first, but you can run the default selection of programs and try out the Unity interface without installing it on your computer.
This is a fantastic way to see if Ubuntu is compatible with your computer’s hardware and also allows you to try out newer versions of Ubuntu or different flavors before you upgrade. The second option, Install Ubuntu, will begin the installation process.
If your computer has an active Ethernet connection, Ubuntu will try to use it to connect to the Internet. But if your computer has a supported wireless network card, Ubuntu will display a list of available networks that you can choose to connect to.
While your installation media has all of the software necessary for a complete installation, if you connect to your home network from here, the installer will download certain updates from the Ubuntu servers, and it will also remember your connected wireless network on your newly installed system. Once you have decided on your network settings and click “Continue,” you’ll see the system requirements for the installation.
The most important requirement is disk space. The installer will tell you if each condition was met, but you can still continue even if the laptop is on battery power or if there is no Internet connection.
The installer will install a basic, complete Ubuntu system, and you won’t have to choose various software packages during install. However, there are two optional choices that you can make on this screen that can install additional software.
The first option is “Download updates while installing.” This doesn’t update the entire system, but it does update core software related to the install process to help ensure that the install process goes smoothly. It also downloads the latest language translations available.
The other option is “Use this third-party software.” By default, Ubuntu is composed of software that is licensed with either a Free Software or open source license. This means that anyone can redistribute every component under relatively well-known terms.
But occasionally some proprietary software is needed for a working computer system. Software with proprietary licenses cannot always be redistributed. Many Linux users are sensitive to using proprietary software for a variety of philosophical and practical reasons.
For instance, some hardware requires special drivers or firmware that is not available in source code form. This prevents the drivers from being studied and improved upon by the community if any bugs or security issues are discovered. Sometimes this can be a minor inconvenience, such as when the system libraries for MP3 playback were patent encumbered.
Canonical purchased a distribution license to include MP3 libraries in Ubuntu, but the license has restrictions on its source code. Other times the lack of freely distributable software can cause frustration, such as when firmware for a wireless network card can’t be included.
Binary-only network card firmware can be a security vulnerability because you don’t know what the card is doing. On the other hand, if you have a laptop that needs wireless communication, then you may need the binary firmware anyway.
Software such as MP3 libraries, Adobe Flash for Firefox, and certain video and audio codecs can be added after Ubuntu has been installed, but most new users expect this software to be included in a “complete” desktop operating system, so Ubuntu allows users to automatically install a small selection of non-free software.
The software doesn’t cost any additional money for you because Canonical has taken care of all licensing concerns, so it is a good idea to select the checkbox if you aren’t familiar with these issues.
If you want to minimize the proprietary software installed on your computer, however, feel free to leave it unchecked. You can still add software support on a case-by-case basis later.
The next screen lets you choose how you want Ubuntu to be installed on your computer’s hard drive. If you are installing on a new computer or you want to completely replace the existing operating system, the answer is simple.
Choose “Erase disk and install Ubuntu,” and your hard drive will be partitioned, formatted, and dedicated to Ubuntu automatically.
If your computer has an operating system already installed and you would like to keep it, then it should be detected here. You may have an option “Install Ubuntu alongside Windows 10,” for example.
This will allow you to shrink the space allocated to Windows 10 and create dedicated space for Ubuntu using a simple graphical slider.
But there may be problems with computers that contain extra disk partitions for recovery or factory reset data that prevent Ubuntu from adding a new partition. And sometimes Ubuntu may not detect other installed operating systems.
These scenarios will be dealt with at the end of this post, in the section “Multiple Operating Systems.” For now, be aware that unless Ubuntu offers an “install alongside” option, other operating systems and data will be lost unless you use the “Something else” option.
Two optional settings are available when choosing to erase the drive and install Ubuntu. “Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation for security” sets up full-disk LUKS-based drive encryption.
With this setting, a small, unencrypted boot partition is created for the Linux kernel and bootloader, and the rest of the drive is encrypted and Ubuntu installed on this encrypted portion.
This provides strong protection against data theft from a lost or stolen computer or hard drive by requiring a separate password to unlock the Ubuntu partition each time the computer boots.
The other option, “Use LVM with the new Ubuntu installation,” enables Logical Volume Management, which is a system to allow a computer to deal with disk storage in a more flexible way.
This advanced option allows experienced system administrators to use one disk to mirror another or to store data across multiple disks as though they were one large drive.
This is traditionally used on servers more than desktops. Choosing this option will automatically configure a working system, but this post doesn’t cover LVM usage.
The installer has seven screens, but the button at the bottom of this one says “Install Now.” When you click this button, Ubuntu will display a window with a summary of the changes being made.
If you click “Continue,” Ubuntu will repartition your hard drive and begin copying Ubuntu to your disk while you finish answering the install. This helps to shorten the install time, but it also means that this is the point at which you commit to the install.
Clicking “Quit” now will bring up the Ubuntu desktop from the disc and you can start the installer again from the launcher on the left side of the screen.
Clicking “Continue” on the confirmation prompt will cause a delay that can take from a few seconds on a blank hard drive to a couple of minutes if Ubuntu needs to resize existing partitions and file systems. When it has applied the partition and formatting changes to the hard drive, the next screen will appear.
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Setting Regional Settings
The next screen asks for your location so that it can set your time zone. You can either click directly on the map or type your location into the text field.
The map will update your location to the major city nearest to your click and highlight your time zone. Typing a city or location name into the text field will bring up a list of matches from Ubuntu’s time zone database.
This information not only sets your current time but also applies any applicable Daylight Savings Time or Summer Time rules for your locale. Your timezone information is updated periodically along with other Ubuntu updates as your local legislation changes.
Next, you can set your keyboard layout. The default selection is selected based on the language you chose on the installer’s first screen, so it’s quite likely that you won’t need to make any adjustments.
If your keyboard doesn’t match the installer’s selection, then you can either select it from the list or click “Detect Keyboard Layout” and type a series of keys that will help Ubuntu narrow down the list of likely candidates for you.
This shows characters in several different languages before asking some additional yes or no questions and should help you find something that matches your physical keyboard layout. Once you have made a selection you can test your keyboard settings in the text field before clicking “Continue.”
Creating the Primary User Account
The only other information that Ubuntu will need from you during the installation is all about you. This is the last installer screen, and you’ll enter your name, the name you want to give to your computer, your account username, and a password.
Your name will appear on the computer’s welcome screen when it boots and can contain any supported character. The computer name will also be shown on your local area network, but it can only consist of Latin letters a–z, dashes, and numbers.
Your username will be the actual name of the user account your computer uses to identify you and name your personal storage folder. Your password will log you into the computer and should be something secure and unique.
A password is required for system security, but if you will be the only one using your computer, you may want to log in automatically. You can choose this setting and once booted, Ubuntu will log you in and go straight to the computer desktop when your computer is turned on.
If you require your password to log in, however, this will allow you to encrypt your home folder. This means that all of the files stored in your personal storage folder will be encrypted and unreadable when you are not logged in.
For security-minded persons, the virtual memory area on the disk is also wiped and encrypted when you choose this, but your files are accessible to the system and any simultaneously logged-in user while your account is logged in. This is an extremely efficient way to keep your files safe if your computer or hard drive is ever stolen.
Once you answer these last questions, Ubuntu can finish the installation with no further input from you. The entire process usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes in total, depending on your computer and disk speed.
A slideshow explaining some of the features of Ubuntu is presented while you wait, and if you had chosen to try Ubuntu and ran the installer from there, this is where you could sit back and browse the Web or play a game such as solitaire.
Once the install process is finished, the installer will display a window saying that the installation is complete and you can restart your computer. When you are ready to restart, Ubuntu will shut down and then wait for you to remove the install disc or USB drive from the computer and press Enter. Then it will reboot your computer and boot into Ubuntu.
Install Proprietary Graphics and Network Drivers
Ubuntu is powered by the Linux kernel and has excellent hardware support. A hardware driver is a special software that communicates between the operating system and a specific hardware component of a computer.
They are usually designed so that a program can tell the operating system something generic like “I want to play this sound file,” and the operating system uses a software library to decode the sound format and then uses a sound driver to play it on the computer’s sound card.
The driver is written to work closely with the operating system so that the driver, and not the rest of the software, handles the hardware details.
Because of this interface, most drivers become an extension of the operating system. In Ubuntu and other Linux-based operating systems, drivers are written as kernel modules that can be either baked into the kernel or loaded on an as-needed basis, saving memory. It is this close relationship that leads to a practical and philosophical dilemma.
Some hardware is easy to support. Most hard drives, CD-ROM drives, and USB drives, for instance, communicate using the basic ATAPI protocol. Therefore, the same generic driver supports all of these devices and is easily maintained. Other hardware such as video cards and network cards are more difficult.
Two video cards from the same manufacturer may work in completely different ways, and many wireless network cards require the computer to send firmware to the network card every time they are powered on. In these cases, driver support can depend on the manufacturer.
When a driver is licensed under a Free Software or open source license, it can be examined, maintained, and improved by the developer community. This is important because it helps to ensure compatibility when new versions of the Linux kernel become available, and it ensures that any security issues or bugs can be addressed in a timely fashion once discovered.
Some manufacturers only provide proprietary drivers for various reasons. These drivers are usually precompiled and can only be used as-is.
After Ubuntu is installed on your computer, you can run “Additional Drivers” by searching for it from the Dash. To access the Dash, press the Super key on your keyboard or click the Ubuntu icon on the Launcher at the left edge of your screen.
Additional Drivers searches your computer for hardware that has proprietary drivers available from Ubuntu and presents a list of devices and available drivers. Some drivers are optional, and others are required to use a device.
For example, AMD graphics card that has a free driver, and two proprietary ones. The free driver was installed by default and may not work as efficiently or support all of the features of the AMD card.
The proprietary driver is provided by AMD but is unlikely to see major improvements in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. The Broadcom network card does not have a free driver available and will be nonfunctional without the proprietary driver.
Providing a choice between drivers allows Ubuntu users to choose whether they are comfortable using proprietary software that cannot be reviewed or improved by Ubuntu developers. This tool also installs the proprietary drivers in a manner that ensures they will continue to be loaded when Ubuntu’s Linux kernel receives updates.
Additional Ubuntu Flavors
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS comes in many additional, popular flavors—including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and Ubuntu GNOME. The steps for creating and booting from each flavor’s installation media are identical to those used for Ubuntu.
Once you’ve downloaded the appropriate disc image you can follow the steps listed at the beginning of this post. While the look and feel of each flavor are distinct, the installation process is extremely similar.
The following sections walk you through the installation details and provide links for more documentation about the respective flavors.
Kubuntu is a flavor of Ubuntu that showcases the KDE Plasma desktop environment and its rich ecosystem of software. Sporting a clean, silver look, the Kubuntu desktop features an efficient desktop that is similar to Windows in a lot of ways but also allows for serious customization options. For this reason, KDE has long been a favorite desktop environment for advanced users.
Kubuntu was the first flavor of Ubuntu to be released. While Ubuntu used to ship with the GNOME desktop environment by default, the software repositories also included KDE and related software.
Users could install KDE and choose between that and other desktop environments at login. It was also possible— although a little bit of work—to replace GNOME with KDE entirely.
A group of Ubuntu community members who enjoyed using KDE worked together to create a new downloadable disc and installer that would install Ubuntu without GNOME and instead provide KDE and related software right out of the box.
Kubuntu is available for both 32- and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. Kubuntu does not require hardware 3D graphics acceleration although most computers have this feature built-in, and it makes the desktop animations much smoother.
In order to install Kubuntu, you will need to have at least 8.6 GB of hard drive space available, although 20 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content. You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 2 GB of RAM, although 1 GB should also be usable.
You can download the Kubuntu installer from https://www.kubuntu.org/getkubuntu. It will be in the form of a DVD image with a .iso file extension.
Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Kubuntu installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post. You can also find more documentation about Kubuntu and KDE at http://docs.kubuntu.org/.
The Kubuntu installer automatically boots into a live desktop session from the DVD. If you click “Install Kubuntu 16.04.3 LTS,” you are given the same options and steps to install as with Ubuntu.
The Kubuntu desktop is fairly straightforward. The K Menu in the bottom left of the screen will let you search and launch your applications. Unlike the analogous menus in Windows, Ubuntu, and GNOME, the K Menu isn’t launched with the Super key.
Instead, Alt+F1 will open the K Menu and you can click a choice or type your search immediately. Running applications will be displayed in the panel at the bottom of the screen.
The biggest change with Kubuntu is the desktop style. The KDE Plasma Desktop is built around the concepts of widgets and activities. You can customize your desktop with widgets, which are pieces of functionality that display content and information so that you have them handy at a moment’s glance.
The Plasma toolbox—also called a “cashew” because of the icon shape—is available in the top right of the desktop as well as the far right of the default desktop panel at the bottom of the screen.
The default Kubuntu desktop has a Desktop folder widget, which displays any files you have in your desktop folder. You can remove or resize this widget and add more folder widgets as well.
Not only can folder widgets show folders on your computer but they can also display folders on remote computers that you have access to. Widgets can provide weather information, webcomics, news, calculators, hardware information, even a web browser.
Activities are ways to customize your desktop for specific kinds of activity or work. Unlike virtual desktops (or workspaces) that simply give you more room to organize your running applications, activities provide independent desktops with completely separate widget layouts. Typically, you might have one activity set up for casual computing, one for work, one for software development, and so on.
Each can have its own set of widgets and configuration and can automatically launch specific programs as well. They aren’t active unless you’re using them, so unused activities won’t slow down your computer.
KDE and GNOME both strive to be comprehensive desktop solutions with different design goals. Therefore, Kubuntu comes preloaded with KDE apps that integrate more easily into the established look and feel of KDE.
For instance, Kubuntu ships Amarok instead of Rhythmbox and Kontact instead of Thunderbird. These applications are more or less equivalent but they do have different features and different workflows.
Because Kubuntu is simply Ubuntu with a different selection of software, you can install the same applications on any Ubuntu flavor. This means that you can install Amarok on Ubuntu or Thunderbird on Kubuntu.
A default install is just a shortcut to a specific type of desktop and workflow. You are never limited to the default choices. In fact, if you prefer Ubuntu Software to KDE’s Discover, you can even install that yourself. They use the same update system internally and will not conflict with each other.
KDE itself has always been famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for the sheer number of complex settings you can change. And while the default settings are a great starting point, you can still change most of the behavior.
If you find that Unity or GNOME doesn’t fit the way you work, with a little bit of configuration, KDE might be the perfect environment for you.
Xubuntu is a flavor of Ubuntu that showcases the Xfce desktop environment and a variety of lightweight software. Sporting a striking blue and gray theme, the Xubuntu desktop is efficient and appeals to a more classic and minimalistic aesthetic than either Unity, GNOME, or KDE.
Xfce is also not as resource intensive as the other desktop environments and is ideal for slightly slower computers or systems without supported 3D acceleration.
In the beginning, Xubuntu emerged as an alternative to Ubuntu that was ideal for slow computers with limited amounts of RAM. While it is no longer the most lightweight flavor of Ubuntu, it still remains a popular choice as a modern but basic computing experience that can easily be added on to.
Xubuntu is available for both 32- and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. Xubuntu does not require hardware 3D graphics acceleration although most computers have this feature built in, and where present it makes the desktop animations much smoother.
In order to install Xubuntu, you will need to have at least 7.1 GB of hard drive space available, although 20 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content. You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 1 GB of RAM, although 512 MB should also be usable.
You can download the Xubuntu installer from https://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/. It will be in the form of a DVD image with a .iso file extension. Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Xubuntu installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post.
You can also find more documentation about Xubuntu and Xfce at http://docs.xubuntu.org/1604/.
Preparing to Install Xubuntu
The Xubuntu installer is nearly identical to Ubuntu’s but is in the style of the Xfce interface. The slideshow after the final step introduces some of Xubuntu’s features.
Xubuntu’s desktop looks like a simplified version of Ubuntu and GNOME2’s desktop before Ubuntu 11.04. In the top left corner of the screen is the Whisker Menu, which you can open by clicking or by pressing Ctrl+Esc.
This is the main application launcher and displays your favorite applications when first opened. You can browse the different categories by clicking the right side of the Whisker Menu.
As with most other modern operating systems, you can also type the name of the program you would like to run and the list of applications will be filtered as you type. Right-clicking an application in the menu lets you favorite or unfavorite it. Your currently running applications are listed to the right of the Whisker Menu icon.
Xfce has fewer options than the more complex desktop environments because it seeks to stay small and simple. The desktop does have some customization options, which you can quickly access by right-clicking the desktop and choosing “Desktop Settings” from the pop-up menu. From there you can change the way the desktop behaves as well as remove the default icons that are present.
Many applications will be familiar. The default web browser and mail clients are Firefox and Thunderbird, respectively, and they work as well as ever. But other applications are chosen for their efficiency.
LibreOffice is installed by default and reads and writes Microsoft Office formats as well as the standard OpenDocument formats. Music and video playback is provided by Parole, and instant messaging is provided by Pidgin, which was once the default in Ubuntu.
Additional software is provided by GNOME Software, and indeed any software available in the Ubuntu software repositories can be installed and run under Xubuntu.
Xubuntu was once the best way to run Ubuntu on computers that just weren’t up to the task of Ubuntu’s interface and default applications. Today, users who want a comfortable desktop that is simple and minimalistic use Xubuntu as a classic interface that still offers the hardware and software compatibility of Ubuntu.
Lubuntu is a flavor of Ubuntu that showcases the LXDE desktop environment and a variety of lightweight software. Sporting a refined blue and gray theme, the Lubuntu desktop is a classic desktop that is designed to use as few resources as possible while still providing a contemporary computing experience.
While complex web browsing is necessarily memory and processor intensive, any of the local applications are quite efficient.
Lubuntu arose as an even more lightweight option after Xubuntu began adopting more and more
GNOME and other heavy applications that made it difficult to run on older machines. Of all of the various
Ubuntu flavors, Lubuntu now provides one of the fastest and most comfortable experiences for older systems.
Lubuntu is available for both 32- and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. Lubuntu does not require hardware 3D graphics acceleration, although most computers have this feature built in, and where present it makes the desktop animations much smoother.
In order to install Lubuntu, you will need to have at least 5.2 GB of hard drive space available, although 15 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content.
You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 384 MB of RAM, although 512 MB will be noticeably more comfortable. Lubuntu developers also recommend a minimum 1 GB of RAM for systems intended for web usage with complex sites such as YouTube, Face post, or Google Docs.
You can download the Lubuntu 16.04 LTS installer from https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ Lubuntu/GetLubuntu. It will be in the form of a CD image with a .iso file extension. Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Lubuntu installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post.
You can also find more documentation about Lubuntu at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ Lubuntu/Documentation.
Preparing to Install Lubuntu
When you boot the Lubuntu install media, you will be prompted to choose a supported language and then you can select whether to try Lubuntu or install Lubuntu.
The Lubuntu installer’s slideshow is much like Ubuntu’s, with the minimalistic style of the LXDE interface, and the slideshow after the final step introduces some of its features.
Lubuntu is a simple desktop that looks very similar to a classic Windows desktop. The panel at the bottom of the screen contains the menu that contains your installed applications, there are quick launch icons for the file manager, web browser, and to show the desktop, and your running programs are listed to the right.
Lubuntu ships with Openbox as its window manager and uses the older term “iconify” to refer to minimizing a window. Middle-clicking the show desktop icon will “shade” all windows, which means that the windows will be reduced to only their title bars. Clicking a “shaded” title bar once will restore that window.
Middle-clicking the desktop background will display a list of all open applications across all virtual desktops. Aside from these charming quirks, the interface should be quite familiar to most computer users.
Lubuntu does include Firefox as its standard web browser, but lighter applications replace the standard
Ubuntu offerings. Sylpheed is the standard email client and it is very fast and responsive.
AbiWord and Gnumeric replace LibreOffice for word processing and spreadsheet editing, respectively.
A simple but respectable music player called Audacious provides audio queuing and playback, and MPlayer provides video playback. A graphics editor called mtPaint provides a photo and image editing interface straight out of the early 1990s, in a fun way.
Additional software is provided by the Lubuntu Software Center in the System Tools menu, and any software available in the Ubuntu software repositories can be installed and run under Lubuntu.
Lubuntu is now the least hardware-intensive flavor of Ubuntu and is a pleasant way to bring new life to a computer running older versions of Windows that are no longer supported. With the advantage of modern software and security updates, Lubuntu can keep older computers useful as well as safe.
Ubuntu GNOME is a flavor of Ubuntu that ships with a standard GNOME 3 desktop and applications. For users who prefer the GNOME Shell interface, installing Ubuntu GNOME provides an easy way to enjoy a computer experience that is almost 100% GNOME 3.
At the inception of the Ubuntu project, GNOME provided both the default desktop environment and default user shell. This relationship continued until the GNOME project decided to focus on a radical new interface for desktop interaction.
While Ubuntu and GNOME ultimately pursued different approaches as they worked toward their shared goal of moving past the traditional desktop interface, Ubuntu GNOME brings the two back together again.
Ubuntu GNOME is available for both 32- and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. Ubuntu GNOME does not require hardware 3D graphics acceleration, although most computers have this feature built-in, and acceleration greatly enhances the GNOME Shell experience.
In order to install Ubuntu GNOME, you will need to have at least 7.4 GB of hard drive space available, although 20 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content. You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 1.5 GB of RAM, although 2 GB will be noticeably more comfortable.
You can download the Ubuntu GNOME installer from https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGNOME/ GetUbuntuGNOME. It will be in the form of a DVD image with a .iso file extension. Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Ubuntu GNOME installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post.
You can also find more documentation about Ubuntu GNOME at http://ubuntugnome.org/ documentation/.
Preparing to Install Ubuntu GNOME
The steps for creating and booting from Ubuntu GNOME installation media are identical to that used for Ubuntu at the beginning of this post.
Using Ubuntu Gnome
Ubuntu GNOME is very similar to Ubuntu in terms of default software selection, but the user interface is provided by GNOME Shell instead of Unity. The interface is designed to emphasize both simplicity of the interface and working with a single program at a time. This makes GNOME Shell a very unique experience from that of Windows, OS X, or Ubuntu.
Pressing the Super key or clicking “Activities” in the top left of the screen activates the Activities overview. This shows the GNOME Dash on the left, all applications currently open on the active workspace in the middle, and all workspaces on the right. Workspaces is the Ubuntu and GNOME term for the virtual desktop.
At the top of the overview is the application search and you can search all installed applications on your OS. Clicking the grid button at the bottom of the Dash will display all installed programs one screen at a time for you to browse through.
Clicking a Dash icon, window thumbnail, or workspace will close the Activities overview and display the application you clicked.
The top panel displays the current application’s name and icon. If the application supports GNOME 3, then clicking its name in the top panel will display the application’s menu. The middle of the panel displays the current day of the week and time and clicking it shows a calendar and any upcoming appointments.
The right side of the panel shows the computer’s status, and clicking it allows you to adjust the network status, audio volume, and power settings, and to log out or shut down the computer.
GNOME 3 adopts a user interface philosophy that promotes simplicity. There is no list of running applications on the screen outside the Activities overview. In some applications, such as the file manager Nautilus, the title bar and toolbar have been combined, and the menu moved to the panel.
The “Minimize” and “Maximize” buttons are also gone. Dragging the window to the top of the screen will maximize a window, and right-clicking the title bar will allow you to select “Minimize.”
It may seem strange that GNOME 3 would remove such important buttons, but the GNOME Project decided to emphasize using workspaces over managing lots of windows.
The Activities overview always creates an extra, empty workspace that you can use to sort your programs. Any program you launch will appear on the current workspace, but you can then drag the window thumbnails in the Activities overview to a different workspace on the right. The Activities overview will initially only show you the programs running in the current workspace
Firefox is running in one workspace, LibreOffice Writer is in another, and the last one has LibreOffice Calc and the GNOME Calculator running in a third workspace. The main advantage of organizing your windows this way is to help you organize your display.
If you have a spreadsheet and tools in one workspace, for instance, and Firefox or a game like Solitaire or Mines in another workspace, you can take a break by switching workspaces and when your break is finished you can switch back to a workspace with the windows exactly where you left them.
GNOME 3 also replaces the notification icons in the top panel. When supported applications indicate a new notification, they are placed into the Message Tray at the bottom of the screen.
You can either push the mouse against the bottom edge of your desktop or press Super+M to display any new notifications, which are sorted by applications. Clicking the application icon in the tray displays the queued messages.
Ubuntu GNOME provides an alternative desktop environment that contains most of the same applications as Ubuntu but a new and unique interface that tackles a modern computer workflow in a way that is distinct from Ubuntu’s Unity interface.
If you prefer this way of interacting with your computer, this is the most convenient and foolproof way to enjoy a GNOME 3 experience.
Ubuntu MATE is a flavor of Ubuntu that showcases the MATE desktop environment for those who were happier with the classic GNOME 2 environment.
Using the Ubuntu themes with cool green highlights replacing Ubuntu’s orange highlights, the MATE desktop is a solid work environment and has additional layout options that can mimic Windows, OS X, or Ubuntu’s Unity. MATE also is ideal for slightly slower computers or systems without supported 3D acceleration. In addition, it is an excellent option for running on a Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 computer.
Ubuntu MATE is available for both 32- and 64-bit computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. Ubuntu MATE does not require hardware 3D graphics acceleration although most computers have this feature built in, and where present it makes the desktop animations much smoother.
In order to install Ubuntu MATE, you will need to have at least 9 GB of hard drive space available, although 20 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content. You’ll also be happiest with a computer that has at least 2 GB of RAM, although 1 GB will also be usable.
You can download the Ubuntu MATE installer from https://ubuntu-mate.org/download/. It will be in the form of a DVD image with a .iso file extension. Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Xubuntu installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post.
If you are installing on a Raspberry Pi, then a preinstalled system image will be in the form of a compressed disk image with a .img.xz file extension, and you can follow the installation instructions at https://ubuntu-mate.org/ raspberry-pi/.
You can also find more information about Ubuntu MATE and the MATE desktop environment at https://ubuntu-mate.org/about/ and http://mate-desktop.org/.
Preparing to Install Ubuntu MATE
The Ubuntu MATE installer is nearly identical to Ubuntus. The slideshow after the final step introduces some of the Ubuntu MATE’s features.
Ubuntu MATE’s desktop looks like Ubuntu’s desktop before Ubuntu 11.04. In the top left corner of the screen are the Applications, Places, and System menus, which you can open by clicking with the mouse.
Pressing Alt+F1 opens the Applications menu. This is the main application launcher and displays a menu of application categories with applications in submenus. You can browse the different categories by hovering over them with the mouse or navigating with the arrow keys. Your currently running applications are listed on the bottom panel, and you can click an application to switch to it.
Xfce has fewer options than the more complex desktop environments because it seeks to stay small and simple. The desktop does have some customization options, which you can quickly access by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing “Change Desktop Background” from the pop-up menu.
From there you can change the wallpaper image in the background as well as the themes used for windows and controls, the system fonts, and the appearance of menus and toolbars.
Many applications will be familiar. The default web browser and mail clients are Firefox and Thunderbird, respectively, and they work as well as ever. LibreOffice is installed by default and reads and writes Microsoft Office formats as well as the standard OpenDocument formats. Rhythmbox and VLC provide music and video playback, and Pidgin, which was once the default in Ubuntu, provides instant messaging.
Software Boutique provides a curated selection of software in the System ➤ Administration menu. You will want to be sure to click the “Retrieve the latest software listings” link at the bottom of the window.
You may need to enter your password if the Welcome and Software Boutique applications have been updated. Click the various category icons on the top of the window.
Additional software is provided by GNOME Software, which you can download as “Software” under the “More Software” category. Any software available in the Ubuntu software repositories can be installed and run under Ubuntu MATE.
The MATE interface is extremely flexible and can be highly customized, but there are several default layouts which are included for your convenience. They are styled to look like Windows, OS X, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, and more.
Use the System ➤ Preferences ➤ Look and Feel ➤ MATE Tweak menu option and click “Interface” to see the various panel layouts available. Aside from the default layouts, there are many other options available to you, and you can save your own panel layout for later.
Ubuntu MATE is the perfect bend of a powerful desktop with feature-filled defaults software and an efficient system that will run on older computers and Raspberry Pis as well.
It is also ideal for users who have used GNOME in the past and are happier with the older customizable but less resource-intensive interface. The classic user interface is a great way to enjoy the power and functionality of Ubuntu on any computer.
Ubuntu Server is a special installation of Ubuntu that doesn’t include a graphical interface and contains a smaller selection of preinstalled software. This allows the software you do choose to install to make the most of your hardware. Ubuntu Server is one of the most popular servers operating systems available, and it is very easy to install.
Ubuntu Server is available for both 32- and 64-bit PC-compatible computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. It is also available for several other architectures as well, including ARM.
In order to install Ubuntu Server, you will need to have at least 1 GB of hard drive space available, although 5 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content, depending on your intended use of the server. Ubuntu requires 512 MB of RAM, but the recommended amount of RAM likewise depends heavily on the work you will be doing on the server.
You can download the Ubuntu Server installer from https://www.ubuntu.com/server. It will be in the form of a CD image with a .iso file extension. The steps for creating and booting from Ubuntu Server installation media are identical to that used for desktop Ubuntu.
You can also find more documentation about Ubuntu Server at https://help.ubuntu.com/16.04/ server guide/.
Installing Ubuntu Server
When you boot the Ubuntu Server installer, you will select a language and then you can choose to install Ubuntu Server on your computer. The Ubuntu server installer will start almost immediately.
You’ll see two options to install Ubuntu. The first, “Install Ubuntu Server,” will install Ubuntu with the original hardware kernel, but with Ubuntu 16.04.2 and later installation media, you’ll also have the option to install Ubuntu server with the HWE kernel.
HWE stands for “hardware enablement,” and while the standard Ubuntu software will be from 16.04, the HWE kernel is the Linux kernel from the latest Ubuntu release, on a three-month delay.
This allows you to install Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on newer hardware that was not supported or available in April 2016. The HWE kernel will continue to be updated to the latest Ubuntu release’s kernel every six months.
On the first page of the Ubuntu installer, you will choose your language again by highlighting it with the arrow keys and pressing Enter. Ubuntu will be installed in the language you choose on this screen.
Next, you will choose the geographical location that defines your locale. Once you have chosen your location, you can choose your keyboard layout. If you have a non-standard keyboard, you can have the installer attempt to detect it, or you can simply choose it from a list by choosing “No” when the installer asks if you wish to detect your layout.
After loading some drivers and installer instructions, the installer will attempt to auto-configure the network. Then it will ask you for a hostname for your server and then how you want to proceed with the network installation.
Most servers are set up manually so that their network information doesn’t change, but if you are installing a home server or in a virtual machine you may want to configure the network using DHCP. This will result in your server’s IP address changing from time to time, based on your router’s settings.
Next, the server install will ask for the full name of the user that will have administrative access to the server. Enter your full name, press Enter, and then you can use the suggested username or create a new one. Because there is no graphical interface on the server, you will need to remember the username you enter here. Next, you should enter a password.
The last step in setting up the primary user account is to choose whether or not the user’s home directory should be encrypted. This works identically to desktop Ubuntu and is transparent while logged in.
After you set a password, the installer will attempt to retrieve the correct time from the Internet and use your public IP address to determine your time zone. You will be asked to confirm the preferred time zone and offered the chance to pick your time zone from a list.
The installer will then begin to load disk partitioning rules and present you with partitioning options. Unless you know how you would like to partition the disk, it’s safe to choose one of the guided options. The first option, “Guided-use entire disk” will create a partition table and several partitions.
The next two set up Logical Volume Management (LVM), with or without encryption. The final option allows you to manually define a partitioning scheme and partitions as well as mount points for each partition. Follow the onscreen prompts to set up your hard drive. If you are not familiar with LVM, you may want to choose “Guided-use entire disk.”
By default, the installer will use 100% of the available space on the disk that you choose. Finally, it will list the changes that will be made and ask you to confirm them. At the point, installation of the core Ubuntu system will begin. This will take at least several minutes.
After the core system has been set up, the installer will configure the package manager, which will keep Ubuntu update. If your network requires proxy settings, enter the information when prompted; otherwise simply press Enter. Ubuntu will download updated package information and download and install any available language updates.
Once these updates have been installed, the installer will offer to set up automatic updates. This will automatically check for security updates daily and install them if found.
This is recommended for home or project servers, but you may want to keep automatic updates disabled for production servers if you have an alternate method of ensuring that updates are installed, such as a Landscape subscription or private update server.
The Ubuntu installer will then offer a list of several predefined roles that can be automatically installed. For instance, you can choose a collection of software to create a LAMP server (a Web server with database and programming support for websites), a mail server, and many others.
Select a role with the up and down arrows, and use the spacebar to toggle the collections on and off. Press Enter once you have selected the packages you would like.
The installer will then install the rest of the Ubuntu server software. This is the bulk of the installation process and will take the longest amount of time in the process. Once it is finished, the installer will perform cleanup tasks and then reboot.
The “tasksel” program provides these roles and can be used to add additional roles to an existing Ubuntu system. You can type “man tasksel” on the command line of a running Ubuntu server for more information.
Using Ubuntu Server
After it boots, Ubuntu Server will display a series of startup messages and then a login prompt. Entering your username and password will display some system statistics and then the command prompt. From here you can interact with your new server via the command line.
Server administration is an entire post in and of itself, but the Ubuntu Server documentation linked at the beginning of this section can get you started with a few simple projects. With Ubuntu running on an older PC or a dedicated virtual machine, you can learn at your own pace.
Ubuntu Server is a small and compact operating system you can build a server on, and with the popularity of both the server and cloud installs, the skills you learn using Ubuntu can easily be put to use in production environments.
Installing a Minimal Ubuntu System
A minimal Ubuntu system is a special install of Ubuntu that contains the very bare minimum of software required to boot and compose a standard Linux environment.
This system doesn’t include a graphical interface and can be used as a base for systems where resources are at a premium. Minimal Ubuntu installs can be performed using the Ubuntu Server disc.
Ubuntu Server is available for both 32- and 64-bit PC-compatible computers, and you should install the 64-bit version if your computer will run it. It is also available for several other architectures as well, including ARM.
In order to install a minimal Ubuntu system, you will need to have at least 700 MB of hard drive space available, although 5 GB is a more comfortable amount to allow for additional software and storage for your own content. Ubuntu minimally requires 192 MB of RAM, but the recommended amount of RAM depends heavily on the work you will be doing on the server.
You can download the Ubuntu Server installer from https://www.ubuntu.com/server. It will be in the form of a CD image with a .iso file extension. Once you have this file downloaded, you can create Ubuntu Server installation media using the instructions found at the beginning of this post.
Installing a Minimal System
The steps for creating and booting from Ubuntu Server installation media are identical to those used for desktop Ubuntu. Once you’ve downloaded the appropriate disc image, you can follow the steps listed at the beginning of this
You can also find more documentation about Ubuntu Server at https://help.ubuntu.com/16.04/ server guide/. It will apply equally to a minimal system because of the command-line interface.
When you boot the Ubuntu Server installer, you will first select a language. On the next screen, press the F4 key. You will see a menu that allows you to customize the type of Ubuntu install. Use the up and down arrow keys to choose “Install a minimal system.”
If you are installing Ubuntu into a virtual machine, choose “Install a minimal virtual machine” to conserve even more space. Because virtual machines use a small set of virtual, standard hardware, Ubuntu will only install the most likely drivers for virtual users. Press Enter to make the menu selection, and then press Enter again to choose “Install Ubuntu Server.”
The Ubuntu server installer will start almost immediately. From this point on, the install process is identical to the instructions in the “Installing Ubuntu Server” section.
Using a Minimal Ubuntu System
A minimal system is useful for any number of interesting and esoteric uses where resources are limited, whether it be for a small server running on older hardware or a platform to build more complicated software. A minimal install can be an excellent way to put together a lean system using your preferred window manager.
It can even be a good way to install packages one by one to see how a standard Linux environment is built from many components. With only a core selection of software available, you can choose exactly the software you want to work with while still enjoying all the benefits of Ubuntu—a robust package manager, five years of security updates, and a comprehensive selection of precompiled software packages.
While Ubuntu is often thought of as a great choice for beginning Linux users, it is also a compelling choice for expert computer users. A minimal Ubuntu install is a perfect starting point for self-teaching or serious do-it-yourself projects.
Multiple Operating Systems
Dedicating a computer to a single operating system is always the simplest way to use a computer. But there are many reasons this might not be practical. First and foremost is a situation where you only have one computer and you still need your old operating system.
In this case, installing two operating systems on one computer can be a way to work with a new operating system while still being able to use the first one.
The first thing to know is that a computer can only run one operating system at a time. When the computer starts, the bootloader is responsible for loading the rest of the operating system.
Therefore, to dual-boot you need to install a bootloader, which will allow you to choose between installed operating systems. The second thing to know is that each operating system will be installed and set up independently.
Each operating system will have its own settings, and normally they will not interfere with or affect one another. Sometimes disk storage can be shared as long as each operating system can read the same file systems, but the home or primary user folders cannot be directly shared between two different operating systems.
Dual-Boot with Ubuntu and Windows
Most PC-compatible computers come with Microsoft Windows preinstalled. This is useful for many reasons—notably that you can take the computer out of the box and turn it on and it will start up and boot into a working interface. This was not always the case with computers.
However, Windows is expensive and there are many programs that run best when running directly on Windows while it is running directly on the computer hardware (as opposed to a virtual machine). It is often useful to be able to keep Windows installed on a computer even when primarily using Ubuntu.
Ubuntu can often be installed alongside Windows without special concerns, but sometimes legacy formatting restrictions can cause installation problems.
It is always best to install Windows first, then install Ubuntu next, because Windows is designed to be the only operating system on a computer and the Ubuntu installer is designed to work alongside other operating systems if they are present. An Ubuntu installation proceeds as outlined earlier in this post until the fourth screen, which asks for the installation type.
Ubuntu offers to either install itself alongside your existing operating system or replace it entirely. It is noteworthy to mention here that if Ubuntu does not correctly detect your existing operating system on this screen, continuing will probably erase it as well.
Ubuntu must be installed into its own dedicated file system. If you choose to install alongside Windows, the installer will create these file systems automatically. If you have installed Windows manually and left empty space unallocated for Ubuntu, the installer will simply use the entire remaining disk space.
Otherwise, Ubuntu will show you a screen that displays your hard drive and allows you to adjust the amount of space allocated between Windows and Ubuntu.
Ubuntu will reserve an amount of disk space equal to the RAM in your computer for virtual memory. This allows your computer to temporarily load more information than it has available RAM, and it also allows your computer to hibernate and power down without closing all programs if your hardware supports it.
Accounting for this extra dedicated space, you should give Ubuntu at least an additional 10 GB for itself. You can use the mouse to resize the Windows and Ubuntu file systems. If you want to install Ubuntu onto a different hard drive, you can select it from the drop-down list at the top of the installer window.
A second hard drive is a good way to install Ubuntu on a desktop computer. Once you click “Install Now,” the Ubuntu installer will shrink the Windows file system, shrink its containing partition, create several new partitions for Ubuntu, and then create new file systems.
This action is irreversible and begins the rest of the Ubuntu install. The installation procedure from this point on continues as detailed earlier in this post.
When you start your computer after Ubuntu is installed, Ubuntu’s bootloader, GRUB, will give you ten seconds to choose a different file system before Ubuntu is started. You will also have the ability to test your system memory for errors, which can be a useful diagnostic tool.
Most computer hard drives use a partition scheme called Master Boot Record (MBR). This uses a partition table at the beginning of the drive that defines the way the drive is dedicated to different file systems. Unfortunately, MBR was created in 1982 to support the massive new 10 MB hard drives that would soon be available on the IBM PC XT computers.
Because of this, the original specification only allows for four partitions to be created. Creating more partitions requires using one of these “primary” partition slots to define an “extended” partition, which can hold an unlimited number of additional “logical” partitions.
Because this part of the partition table has remained unchanged ever since Windows computers are limited to only four drive letters per disk unless some partitions are created in the extended partition space.
Ensuring the Ability to Reinstall Windows
Traditionally, computers come preinstalled with Windows on a single primary partition, and a computer manufacturer may have created additional primary partitions to store backup, recovery, or diagnostic tools. This can cause conflict because these are always created as primary partitions to allow the computer to boot directly into them.
Beginning with Windows Vista, Windows began creating a dedicated boot partition to increase reliability. Most new computers with Windows preinstalled now contain two Windows primary partitions: a “recovery” partition that allows the owner to reinstall Windows to its factory-shipped condition, and a “backup” partition created by the manufacturer to assist the user in creating full computer backups.
This means that there are no more partitions available for Ubuntu, and most computers do not come with separate Windows install discs.
If this is the case, Ubuntu will not display an option to install alongside Windows. You will have to make a decision to modify the partition layout yourself. Personally, I order the installation media from my manufacturer for about $20 plus shipping and remove the backup and recovery partitions.
Some manufacturers install a tool that allows you to create a recovery disc using blank DVDs. Another alternative would be to download the Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 setup disc directly from Microsoft if your computer’s case has a Windows product key on it.
This will allow you to reinstall Windows again in the future. But if you do not want to do this, you will need to use a different hard drive.
By default, Ubuntu also replaces the bootloader on your first hard drive to allow your computer to automatically start up. If you uninstall Ubuntu in the future, your computer will not be able to fully boot from the hard disk without installing a new bootloader.
You can use a Windows recovery disk or setup disc to do this and choose “Automatic Repair.” Windows should reinstall its own bootloader and you will be able to boot directly into Windows again.
Using the Graphical Partitioning Tool
If Ubuntu cannot install itself automatically because there are no available partitions or if you want to specifically choose a different disk or bootloader target, you can choose “Something else” from the Installation Type screen and click “Continue.” Ubuntu will start a graphical partition editor.
The partitioner will list all hard drives and partitions. Ubuntu doesn’t use Windows drive letters but instead refers to physical hard drives in the order in which they are connected to the computer.
The first hard drive will be named /dev/sda, the second /dev/sdb, and so on. Each partition on a hard drive is numbered and added to the physical drive name.
Primary partitions are numbered from 1 through 4, but logical partitions always begin at number 5 even if there are lower numbers available. Unless notified, no changes will be made to your hard drive until you click “Install Now.”
If you already have four primary partitions, you will have to remove at least one to install Ubuntu. You can do this by selecting it and clicking the minus (-) button under the partition list.
You may also need to resize an existing partition to create more room to install Ubuntu. By selecting /dev/sda2 and clicking on “Change…,” the partition can be given a smaller size, which creates free space for Ubuntu.
By clicking “free space” and clicking the plus (+) button, you will be able to create a new partition. The Ubuntu installer will also allow you to choose various other properties, such as whether the new partition will be a primary or logical partition and whether it should be located at the beginning or end of the available free space.
“Use as” will indicate what file system should be created inside the partition, and if changed on an existing partition will cause the partition to be formatted. “Mount point” describes where the file system will be available inside Ubuntu, and the drop-down list will list several common locations depending on the selected file system.
Ubuntu needs at least two partitions to run optimally, and they can be either primary or logical partitions. The first is the main system partition of at least 8.6 GB, which is mounted at “/” (read as “root”) and is formatted as “Ext4 journaling file system” unless you have a reason to use a different compatible file system.
The second is a swap partition. Once you choose “swap” from the “Use as” list, the mount point will gray out because it is not applicable.
Dual-Boot with Ubuntu and OS X
All Macs come with OS X preinstalled, and thanks to the Unix-like nature of the operating system and the purpose-built hardware, most Apple users are very happy staying with the default software.
Upgrades are extremely reliable thanks to the limited hardware and software combinations. So for many users who want to install Ubuntu on their Mac, it will be their first time installing an operating system. Luckily, it’s still a pretty easy process, and dual-booting ensures that you can still boot into OS X for top speed.
Although all Intel-based Macs are basically PCs, there are still some differences from a traditional PC. They all boot using EFI, not BIOS. And bootable Mac hard drives are partitioned using the GPT partitioning scheme.
But Ubuntu has limited support in resizing Apple file systems. For this reason, I like to make room for an Ubuntu install in OS X before running the installer.
From the OS X desktop, with Finder as the current application, choose the Go menu and then Utilities. Then, double-click Disk Utility to launch that application. When it appears, it will show all of your hard drives and partitions in the left pane. You’ll want to select the actual disk that you wish to modify, not a partition.
The partitions have friendly names that you are used to working with such as “MacPost Pro Drive” and are indented underneath the disks, but the disks begin with their storage capacity.
Once you’ve selected the drive, you’ll see five options at the top of the right pane. The middle option, “Partition,” will let you resize your OS X partition and create room for Ubuntu.
You can click the displayed partition to select it, then drag the resize handle at the bottom corner of the partition to graphically resize the disk, or you can simply change the number in the size field.
You can estimate the amount of space needed for Ubuntu by taking 10 GB of space for Ubuntu plus the amount of RAM installed on your machine, and increasing that by the amount of storage you want. I recommend at least 20 GB plus the amount of RAM for a simple desktop install. Once you have freed enough space, click the “Apply” button.
Disk Utility will ask if you want to partition the disk, and should state “Partitioning this disk will change one of the partitions. No partitions will be erased.” and list any partitions that will be resized. Then it is safe to click the “Partition” button.
Once the resize operation finishes, you can reboot your Mac. By holding the Option key, you will be able to choose to boot with your Ubuntu installation media. An Ubuntu installation proceeds as outlined earlier in this post until the fourth screen, which asks for the installation type.
Ubuntu offers to either install itself alongside your existing operating system or replace it entirely. It is noteworthy to mention here that if Ubuntu does not correctly detect your existing operating system on this screen, continuing will probably erase it as well.
Ubuntu must be installed into its own dedicated file system. If you choose to install alongside OS X, the installer will create these file systems automatically. If you resized your partitions with Disk Utility and left free space unallocated, the installer will simply use the entire remaining disk space.
Otherwise, Ubuntu will show you a screen that displays your hard drive and allows you to adjust the amount of space allocated between OS X and Ubuntu.
If you want to install Ubuntu onto a different hard drive, you can select it from the drop-down list at the top of the installer window. A second internal hard drive is a good way to install Ubuntu on a desktop computer.
Once you click “Install Now,” the Ubuntu installer will create several new partitions for Ubuntu, and then create new file systems. This action is irreversible and begins the rest of the Ubuntu install. The installation procedure from this point on continues as detailed earlier in this post.
Once Ubuntu has finished installing, you will be able to choose which operating system to boot by holding the Option key when you turn on or restart your Mac.
If you would like to change the operating system that boots automatically, in OS X you can go to the Apple Menu, then System Preferences, and in System Preferences double-click on Startup Disk applet. Although Ubuntu will be displayed as “Windows,” you can change your preferred default operating system here.