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Migrating from Windows to Linux, Part 1: Preparation

Hardware Compatibility

Is your hardware compatible with Linux? If the graphics card or network card doesn't work with Linux, then you probably shouldn't migrate. Before checking to see if your hardware is compatible, you need to figure out what hardware you have. We have provided a printable hardware checklist at the end of the article.

One easy way to check if your hardware is compatible is to download Knoppix Linux, which is an "On-The-Fly" Linux distribution. It will boot Linux into memory and won't disturb the contents of your hard drive. You can read our review of it here . If your hardware works with Knoppix, then it should work with the other Linux distributions.

Modern Linux distributions automatically detect most hardware. Hardware drivers may be needed for newer or rare hardware. The Linux community is well-known for writing their own drivers when the manufacturers refuse to release one (can you say Intel Centrino?). Hardware drivers allow communication between hardware (network cards, graphics cards, etc) and the operating system.

Another good starting point for checking hardware compatibility is the Linux Documentation Project How-to on Hardware Compatibility.

There are two tricks that network administrators use to get hardware information quickly and easily. One is to open up Device Manager, which will list your hardware, and take a screenshot (Hold down the Alt and the Print Screen keys). Then, paste the screenshot into the Microsoft Paint program.

The other trick is to use a program called Balarc Advisor to print out a list of all your hardware. You can obtain this great program here .

Our checklist at the end of this article can also help you list your hardware. After finding out what hardware you have, you should find all the Linux drivers for your system and burn them to CD or DVD. The most important driver is the network card driver. If you can't connect to other computers or, more importantly, the Internet, then you cannot search for answers.

In the following section, we'll take a look at hardware that might give you difficulties.