Installing an open-source operating system (OS) remains a viable alternative to Mac and Windows. Open-source software is developed, maintained, and published by the community – all for free. In this article, we’ll quickly cover the pros and cons of an open-source OS, then walk through a guide to testing and installing Ubuntu Linux on your PC.
Note: We will focus on Linux-based operating systems in this article. There are many other open-source OSes out there, but it’s not possible to cover them all here. Search for “Linux alternatives,” if you’re curious.
What are the Pros and Cons of Open-Source Operating Systems?
Linux operating systems and entire libraries of software are available for free, allowing you to skip the license fees you’d expect with Windows and Mac systems. Popular software suites like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative have free substitutes and, while not everything has a free equivalent, many users will find their needs are covered.
The other advantage to using an open-source OS is the ability to customize it. For example, many different distributions or “flavors” of Linux exist, including Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, Arch, and countless others. Distributions come packed with software and access different libraries for additional programs, allowing you to customize the appearance and function of your PC. While that may seem overwhelming, it’s all optional. You can use a distribution as-is, or you can overhaul the system to your liking.
The major drawback of using Linux or another open-source OS is the lack of native support for programs developed for Windows or Mac OS. Projects like Wine allow running Windows applications on Linux, but they aren’t perfect and don’t support all programs. As a result, Linux is not always a good match for gamers. The number of Linux-compatible games on Steam and other platforms is increasing, partly thanks to a push by Valve, yet it’s far from a majority.
How to Install Linux Ubuntu
Note: Don’t forget to make a backup of your files before attempting to install any operating system, unless you like to live dangerously. But seriously – make a backup. You’ll be glad you did.
Step 1 – Download Ubuntu Onto USB
We’ll be installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS in this guide. At the time of writing, this is the most recent long-term support (LTS) build of the Ubuntu distribution, meaning updates for the system are guaranteed for five years. You can download this or other versions from the Ubuntu website: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop
Step 2 – Create Bootable Media
Once you’ve downloaded the Ubuntu 16.04 ISO file of your choice (I’ve chosen the 64-bit option), you’ll need to create a bootable USB drive with it. There are lots of programs that can do this, including Rufus USB and Universal USB Installer. Be careful to install the Ubuntu ISO file on the USB disk’s label, or you could overwrite another drive accidentally! Once this is complete, you can start the installation process on your PC.
Step 3 – Boot from USB Drive
Insert the bootable USB drive into your PC and power it on. Press the DEL key during the boot process to access the computer’s BIOS. Set the USB drive as the first boot option, then save and exit. Remember to go back and revert this change when the installation is complete.
If you want to try Ubuntu without affecting your PC, choose the “Try Ubuntu” option. If you are certain that you want to install Ubuntu, proceed with “Install Ubuntu.”
Step 4 – Pre-Installation Options
You’ll go through several configuration options in this step.
You can choose to download updates during the installation process or save them for later. Also, at this step you can choose to install MP3, Flash, and other important licensed software. This is done because the software to support MP3 playback and other formats requires separate license agreements and can’t be included by default. I recommend checking this option, as the software is free and supports many popular media formats and some important devices, like WiFi drivers. Make your decision and choose “Continue.”
Step 5 – Format Disk and Install Ubuntu Linux
This next step is important. Data loss can occur if you are not careful! In Image 3, you will see the last screen before the installation process starts. For a standard installation, choose “Erase disk and install Ubuntu,” which will format the PC’s hard drive, deleting all of its contents. A pop-up message will ask you to confirm which drive partition will be erased. Do not press “Continue” unless you are certain this is the right drive to format. If you are sure, click “Continue” to start the installation. If you are unsure, choose “Something else” and specify the partition to format.
Step 6 – Specify Time Zone, Language, and Keyboard Layout
Next, you’ll need to choose your time zone and keyboard language.
Step 7 – Create Your User Account
In this step you’ll set up your User Account. Provide your name, a name for your PC, a username and a password. Choose “Continue” to start the installation process.
Step 8 – The Installation Begins
Once you’re at this step, all you need is a little patience and your new PC will be ready. Ubuntu will install (Image 8), which can take a while. Once it’s finished, you’ll be prompted to restart your PC (Image 9). Be sure to remove your USB drive after the restart and revert your BIOS boot order changes.
Step 9 – Run Ubuntu Linux
Once your PC reboots, you’ll be greeted with the Ubuntu login screen.
Provide your password and you’ll see the Ubuntu desktop.
Your Ubuntu PC is ready for use! – Ike Quebec, GamersNexus