When it comes to installing popular Linux flavour Ubuntu, there are so many useful snippets of information on blogs and guides all over the internet. If you Google “How to install Ubuntu”, you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s how to install Ubuntu:
How To Install Ubuntu Summary
- Download Ubuntu
- Check if Your Computer will Boot from USB
- Make BIOS Changes
- Try Ubuntu Before you Install It
- Create Bootable USB
- Install Ubuntu
- Create a username, password, and computer name. You will login with this user id after the installation is complete.
For an Ubuntu beginner or curious Windows intermediate user, there’s no single, simple source of information when it comes to getting started. One thing I have noticed is that there’s a lot of technical jargon and sometimes unnecessary terminal commands in lengthy forum posts, but no simple “how to” guides, which I think might put some people off! A shame, when you think about how easy Ubuntu is to install, use and tweak to look really cool!
Here we explain how to install Ubuntu in the three different ways that it is most commonly installed: (1) from a USB drive, (2) in a virtual machine, (3) or running it from a USB drive without installing it.
1. Download Ubuntu
For you first need to download a Ubuntu .ISO CD image file. In this example we install Ubuntu version 15.10. But it does not matter what version you use.
We downloaded Ubuntu using a bittorrent client from here because the file is over 1GB in size. Using torrent lets you resume the download in case there is some interruption. Download it either way you want.
It is important that you download the Desktop version. If you download the Server version it will not install any graphical desktop and you will have to add that manually.
2. Check if Your Computer will Boot from USB
The only thing slightly complicated about installing Ubuntu might be getting your computer to boot from the USB. How complicated that is depends on how old your machine is, who is the manufacturer, and what model that you have. You might have to consult the manufacturer’s website for instructions if you cannot find the options discussed below.
Here we provide general guidance and not specific click-here-click-there instructions for BIOS. For example, how to even access the BIOS screen varies by manufacturer and model. Most of the time you can bring that up by pressing the Esc key when the machine is booting.
Before you change any BIOS settings just stick in a bootable USB Ubuntu drive (Below we explain how to create that.) and see if you machine boots from that. If it does fine: proceed with the installation instructions in the next section. If not, continue with these BIOS instructions.
It is important to note that you might have to enable virtualization in BIOS if you are setting up a virtual machine.
3. Make BIOS Changes
You need two things to install Ubuntu from a USB: (1) corrected BIOS settings on your computer to look for an operating system on the USB before it looks to the hard drive for that and (2) a bootable USB (We explain below how to create that.). A bootable USB means one that has a bootable partition on it. In other words you cannot simply copy the Ubuntu ISO to the USB. It needs to be burned on with a tool like Unetbootin, which you can get from here.
Note that with Windows you might have some difficulty replacing Windows with Ubuntu if the manufacturer has enabled Secure Boot. That is enabled by the manufacturer to ensure that you are using a version of Microsoft that someone has actually paid for and not copied.
Once you figure out how to bring up the BIOS boot settings, change the UEFI Boot Order to put USB at the top of the list ahead of OS Boot Manager. If you have Legacy Support enabled then you change the Legacy Support Boot Order instead.
4. Try Ubuntu Before you Install It
If you want to try Ubuntu before installing that you can run it from the USB drive using UnetBootin (Which we use in the next section to create the bootable USB). Also the Ubuntu installation screens will give you that option too.
5. Create Bootable USB
Download and install UNetbootin and use that to create a bootable USB. This will create a bootable partition on the disk and copy Ubuntu there. Trying to make a bootable USB drive yourself is otherwise complicated.
Enter the location of the ISO file that you downloaded and select the USB drive letter or location.
6. Install Ubuntu
Once you get the bootable USB working follow the screens below to install USB:
Pick your language.
Here click Download Updates while Installing and Install This Third-Party Software. Either way Ubuntu will download the bulk of the operating system from the internet. Look at the next graphic for an explanation.
If you select the download and 3rd party options above then Ubuntu will update the repository, which is the list of servers from which it will download software. You can see those options in the Software and Updates screen after you have completed installing Ubuntu. You can go back later and add those that after the installation if you want.
Notice that in this screen it lists CD as an option. Unselect that as otherwise it will prompt you to plug in the USB after you have Ubuntu running.
Select Erase disk and install Ubuntu. The Something else option would let you create your own partitions, which would be complicated, which you could do if you want to have a dual boot machine to be able run Windows or Ubuntu on the same machine.
But there is no need to deal with that complexity as you can run Ubuntu in a virtual machine as we explain below. The Something else would also let you pick the second, solid state drive in your laptop or desktop to install Ubuntu, but that is a more complicated installation. Plus if you mess that up you can end up with a machine that will not boot at all.
Click continue to commit to erasing the existing partitions on your hard disk.
Select the time zone.
Pick the keyboard type.
Create a username, password, and computer name. You will login with this userid after the installation is complete.
Now the installation is complete. Remove the USB drive and click Restart Now. If you have installed Ubuntu into a virtual machine, the Restart Now option will probably give an error message, so use the virtual machine software to restart the machine instead of here.
Now login with the userid you created.
Create an Ubuntu Virtual Machine
Here we use Oracle Virtualbox because it is free and works well. Creating a virtual machine is easy. The only complicated part is telling Virtualbox from where to load the Ubuntu ISO file, as that is not obvious.
Download and install Oracle Virtualbox. In this example we use Virtualbox version 4.3. You do not need Guest Additions unless you find that the mouse does not work or if the Ubuntu screen does not maximize to fill up your display.
As we said above, if you are setting up a virtual machine then you might have to enable virtualization in BIOS.
In Virtualbox click New.
Enter any Name you want and pick Type Linux and Version 64 bit. (It is not likely that your computer is so old as to be a 32 bit machine.)
You do not need a lot of memory or disk space to run Ubuntu. But the more you pick the better. So pick maybe ½ of your computer’s memory and however much disk space you think you will need. It will not allocate that space right away but will grow the file up to that limit.
Select Create a hard drive now.
Select Dynamically allocated.
Pick the space you think you need.
After the machine is created Virtualbox will return you to the main screen. Right click on the virtual machine you just created and select Storage. Here you will tell it where to find the .ISO file so that it boots from there. Click Settings/storage.
Click on the CD image that says Empty under Controller IDE. You will delete this and replace it with another. Right click and select Remove Attachment Empty.
Then click the + sign to Add the ISO file.
Select the ISO image that you downloaded (You should copy that to some other folder than Downloads for permanent keeping).
Now it should look like the graphic shown above.
Now install Ubuntu following the directions above. As we said above, at the end you might need to force a restart from Virtualbox if the Restart Now option gives and error. Do that by selection the virtual machine, right-click that, and select Settings/Close/Power Off then Start after it powers off.
Note that you can also change the CPU option to cause the virtual machine to use more than 1 physical CPU or logical core.