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Before We Begin

Desktop Linux For The Windows Power User

What Hardware Will It Run On?

One of the most attractive attributes of Linux is the relatively low level of system requirements needed by even the most modern distributions. Ubuntu's minimum system requirements are listed as simply 384 MB RAM and 4 GB of disk space.

The computers used for this guide are not bleeding-edge desktops or gaming rigs. On the contrary, both systems are very ordinary. They are typical office PCs chosen with Windows Vista in mind. The 32-bit test system was built to reflect PCs currently being replaced due to poor performance using Vista. The 64-bit system is newer and can handle Vista, but it's still just an office system. Note that I only use multiple test systems to check functionality, not to test performance, but here are the test-system specs if you are interested:

32-Bit Test System
64-Bit Test System
Intel Pentium 4, 2.4 GHzAMD Athlon 64 X2, 2.0 GHz
Biostar P4M80-M4Biostar NF61S-M2 TE
512 MB DDR, 266 MHZ 4 GB DDR2, 800 MHz
Radeon 9550 256 MB DDR AGPNvidia GeForce 6100 Integrated
Hard Drive
EIDE 7,200 RPMSATA 3 Gb/s, 7,200 RPM


It is highly recommended that you backup your vital data before you begin following this guide, especially if you are planning on installing it on the same hard drive with a Windows installation. It is also highly recommended that you read the entire article once through before following the directions.

This guide is going to require changes to your partition table and data loss is certainly possible. You will need to know how to burn an ISO file to a CD as well as how to set your BIOS to boot from the optical drive. You will also need to know some hard disk partitioning basics. If you want to dual-boot Ubuntu with Windows, make sure to install Windows first, since installing Ubuntu before Windows will most likely invite problems. If you don't trust the partitioner with the Ubuntu installation CD or just want to use your own partitioning solution beforehand, you'll need at least 10 GB of un-partitioned free space for Ubuntu in order to follow this guide. If you want to install Ubuntu on a second hard drive, with Windows on the first, just follow the directions for a blank hard drive.

Which Version Should I Choose?

First, you will need to download an ISO file from the official Ubuntu Web site. Your first choice is between version 9.04, which is the latest stable version, and 8.04 Long Term Support (LTS ). A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months, but an LTS release comes out every two years. The LTS is supported for three years, while non-LTS releases are maintained for two. If you are the type of person who wants the latest software, go for 9.04 and upgrade to the latest version every six months. On the other hand, if you want to get your system set up and leave it that way, go for 8.04 LTS and do an upgrade every two years.

How Many Bits Do I Need?

The next choice is between either the 32-bit or 64-bit edition of the version you choose. Keep in mind that, like Windows, the 64-bit edition of Ubuntu will have more compatibility issues than its 32-bit counterpart. Popular programs that won't run on the 64-bit edition include Google Earth and Adobe Flash 10.  Driver support also lags behind on the 64-bit platform. Ultimately the choice is yours, but the 32-bit editions are going to provide for a more painless experience. All screenshots have been taken from the 32-bit edition of Ubuntu 9.04, but the instructions are essentially the same for 8.04, 32-bit, and 64-bit editions.

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