Installing Linux


With so many flavors of Linux there are nearly as many installers.

The installation of your chosen distro will be distribution specific. Refer to your distro on Linux#Distribution_Specific and when available there will be an installation guide listed on the distribution page.

When installing Linux you will be given choices of Filesystems to use for your files, please consult the Filesystems page for comparisons between the major filesystems.

Here is a list of questions a user might ask about installing Linux:


Which Linux distribution should I use?

We can't answer that question for you! Fortunately, there are a wide variety of free Linux distributions you can try. Then you can decide for yourself. TWUUG tends to promote the following three popular desktop distros: Fedora, Mandriva, and Ubuntu. It is unlikely you will go “wrong” with any of those three. However, there are many other Linux distributions out there. Visit to get information about many more.

Should I use a 32 bit or 64 bit Linux?

A 32 bit Linux distribution will run on 32 and 64 bit hardware, but a 64 bit Linux distro will only work on a 64 bit CPU. Except for the ability to more easily address greater than 4GB of RAM, there are no real advantages for running any 64 bit operating system at home. Typical performance gains for 99% of users is almost too small to even measure.

What are the minimum requirements to run Linux?

Linux can run on a wrist watch or a multi-million dollar mainframe. But the typical desktop Linux distribution is geared to a typical home computer. Even installing hundreds of included programs, a Linux install typically only takes 4 to 5GB of space on your hard drive, although you will want to leave additional space for your files, music, pictures, etc. For a nice experience, we typically recommend a 1Ghz processor or better. We don't recommend trying to install a modern, full-power, desktop-oriented Linux distribution on a machine with less than 512MB of RAM, and a more realistic minimum would be 1GB.

Do I have to overwrite the OS already on my computer?

No. You can run most Linux distributions in “live” mode. In this mode, it will run from the DVD without touching your hard drive. Although it will run much, much slower. If you choose to perform a real Linux install and already have MS-Windows on the hard drive, Linux will “repartition” your drive for “dual booting”. In this way, when you start your computer, you can use either operating system. One last option is to install Linux in a virtual machine (such as with VirtualBox or VMWare).

Is installing Linux difficult?

Many people think it is usually easier to install Linux than it is to install MS-Windows. But most people are not used to installing their own OS, because their computers usually come pre-loaded with one. Still, there might be some challenges- especially if you have some unusual hardware that doesn't work well with Linux. Over the years, installing Linux has become faster, easier, prettier, and supports auto-configuration of more hardware. If you haven't tried it in a few years, you might be surprised.

What should I do before installing Linux?

The most important thing you must do is backup any important files on your computer! But this has nothing to do with installing Linux- you should always have backups. It can also be very helpful if you know exactly what hardware is in your machine- CPU, video card, chipset, how much RAM, etc. If you already have MS-Windows installed, it would be a good time to clean up your files, and “de-frag” your drive. As a final check, it is a good idea to check the integrity of your hard drive before making any major changes. Typically this is done with a special bootable image provided by your hard drive manufacturer. A “quick test” usually only takes a few minutes, and will tell you if your hard drive is in good condition.

How do I install Linux?

First, obtain the media for the distro you plan to install. For most people, this means getting a DVD/CD from TWUUG or a friend or by downloading Linux from a website and burning it to a blank DVD/CD. (If you don't have an optical drive in the machine, you can create a bootable USB flash drive).

Make sure your BIOS is set to boot from your DVD drive, then insert your Linux DVD and boot it. The exact screens and prompts will vary depending on the Linux distro, but they are similar. You will typically be asked about what language you speak, your timezone, how you want to partition your hard drive, and possibly what types of packages to install. You will also be asked to pick a user name and password. At some point in the process, the installation program will format the appropriate partition and copy the Linux operating system to your hard drive, along with selected applications, and setup the boot loader.

How do I start Linux?

After the installation is complete, you should be prompted to reboot. On reboot, you might be asked which OS to boot (if, for example, you already had MS-Windows installed). The boot process will begin and once complete, you will be presented either with a graphical desktop or a login screen. The first boot usually takes longer than subsequent boots, because the system will continue to configure itself and adapt to your hardware.

What do I do after installing Linux?

Well, a sensible next step would be to update your system. Linux changes quickly and there are probably many dozens of updates to install. Each Linux distribution handles updates differently, but most of them will automatically query the Internet for updates and pop up an alert. Test your network connection to make sure it is working :) Then, experiment and have fun.

What if I need help?

TWUUG is one source of help. Make sure you join the Forums! When asking questions on TWUUG, remember to be very specific... tell us which distro, what version, what type of hardware, and a detailed description of the problem. There are also thousands of forums on the Internet for getting generic Linux assistance or help specific to the distribution you are using. One good place to start searching is the Linux Questions Website.

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