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Any help on installing Linux on a desktop?

+10 votes
I am planning on bringing a desktop to school to try and install Linux on it. However, I really don't know anything about Linux, minus a few commands, so I was seeing if anyone had some advice on what form of Linux I should install and how I should go about it. Anything helps!
asked Sep 4, 2015 in Fall 15-16 by Riley Moss (100 points)

2 Answers

+4 votes

You'll get plenty of opinions from different people, but, you should probably choose between one of the popular distros:

a) Ubuntu  (I'm running this, but with the Cinnamon desktop installed, for odd reasons.)
    Xubuntu (runs better on older hardware)

b) Mint Cinnamon edition, another Ubuntu flavor, with a more traditional (perhaps Windows-like?) desktop.  This would probably be my top vote for a first-time Linux user.

c) Fedora Linux (another popular distro.)

d) Arch Linux (if you want to tinker a bit more, and learn more about how things work under the hood).  (Evan is using this, and might weigh in on the Arch pros/cons?)

In terms of installation, there are lots of tutorials on the web.   And actually, it's usually pretty easy these days.

A safety tip:  Even if you are planning to install Linux to dual-boot with Windows... if you have data that you care about on the Windows partition of the desktop, make sure to back it up (e.g. to external HD or USB stick) before the installation process, just in case.   Usually the partition can be resized safely to make room for Linux, but you never know.  And you might accidentally do something that wipes it...


answered Sep 4, 2015 by Forrest Stonedahl (3,438 points)
+1 vote

I hope this isn't too late, but as someone who exclusively uses Linux I wanted to help. 

Linux has a lot of distributions you can get ("Linux" refers most specifically to the kernel itself). I think your main concern as you choose should be what will you be using it for? Keep in mind that on any distro, you will likely be able to install whatever programs you like--so, for instance, you install Ubuntu and it comes with LibreOffice and you don't like its word processor? No worries, you can always install something like AbiWord or maybe even run Word on Wine instead. The main practical differences between distros will be things like the type of window and display managers it uses, what package manager it uses, and how the install process works.

I agree with Stonedahl's suggestions for the most part, but if you're hoping to stick to more popular (and thus better-documented) distros, I would strongly suggest Mint, in whatever flavor, over the *ubuntus--it's a bit lighter, more user-friendly to someone who is used to Linux, and has better out-of-the-box support for things like playing MP3s and other proprietary file formats than Ubuntu last I checked. Mint and Ubuntu you can download and put on a disc or a flash drive to do a guided partition and install, so you don't really need to know what you're doing.

I'm an Arch user, and if you want Linux because you want to learn it or understand how OSes work, I cannot recommend Arch more, and I would always be willing to personally help you. The installation requires you to have Internet and gives you a blank command line, and then you do everything yourself. You will know everything about your system and be able to diagnose when something is wrong if you do this. Arch is incredibly well-documented via the Arch Wiki (they also have installation guides there--I used the Beginner's Guide!) and I recommend you turn to the Arch Wiki when you want to know stuff about Linux or Linux programs even if you end up installing another distro. If this sounds too overwhelming but you want the educational experience, you could also try doing it in its own small partition or on another computer sometime.

Also seconding Stonedahl's warning about backing things up. When I first installed Mint, I meant to dual-boot, but then my cat knocked my computer's plug out of the socket from the other side of the wall while I was partitioning. So, the unlikely can and will happen, so be safe!

answered Sep 10, 2015 by Evan Henkel (100 points)