So you’ve done your research and now you want to take the plunge and start learning about Linux!
You could go about this in many different ways (like having a virtual linux machine), but I’m going to walk you through how I myself went about it.
This guide will walk you through the installation of Ubuntu specifically, as in my opinion, it’s a great ‘flavuor‘ to start learning Linux on.
There were three main web pages I used to get me through the process and if you have any trouble with my guide here, I would recommend visiting them. They are:
- Every Day Linux User: Guide to partitioning for Windows/Ubuntu
- PenDriveLinux USB Installer: You can pick your own if you like
- Ubuntu Desktop: To download the version of Ubuntu you would like to use
Don’t forget for this process that you will also need a clean USB drive for the install.
Due to a lot of laptop switching and general need for better hardware I ended up repeating this process three times with different machines. The first time however was probably the most educational, though I certainly learned quite a bit from my installation of Ubuntu on my current Yoga 3 Pro (entry forthcoming).
If the worst happens you want to make sure you have a backup/recovery USB so that you can always boot back into Windows if needed. If your are not sure how to do this there are many guides available for whichever version of Windows you may be running. Here is a good guide which covers Windows 8, 8.1, and 10.
Okay now that you’ve made your backup lets jump straight in.
Partitions and Windows Disk Management
In your version of Windows you will need to find the ‘Create and format hard disk partitions’ tool. This can usually be done through searching and you may find it under a section called ‘Disk Management.’ When selected the tool will open the ‘Disk Management’ window.
Your Windows operating system will probably be listed as ‘OS(C:)’ under the ‘Volume’ heading. This is the partition which contains the operating system for your Windows machine. It is also the partition that will need shrinking in order to provide room for our new Ubuntu partition.
Right click on ‘OS(C:)’ and select ‘Shrink Volume.’ This will bring up the ‘Shrink C:’ window. The settings listed are the default, and for our purposes they are likely fine. You may however wish to have more or less space allocated to your partitions. If so make sure to double check your math before you do any shrinking, though it is possible to reallocate space later.
As listed above you can go here to download Ubuntu. As of writing this article the latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu is 14.04.4 and the latest version of Ubuntu is 15.10. I would recommend starting out on the LTS (14.04.4) version purely from a support perspective.
If you choose the run the latest version however, just know that you may run into some ‘bugs’ down the line which might take quite a bit of digging to help solve. I did not actually take my own advice (currently running 15.04) and so far it’s been generally fine. I’ve found the learning experience enjoyable anyways so really it’s up to your personal preference.
Creating a Bootable USB
You can create a bootable USB using many different tools. I chose PenDriveLinux, but most of them will suit your purposes if you would like to use another one. In the case of PenDriveLinux, simply download and install the tool from their website.
- For Step 1: ‘Ubuntu’
- For Step 2: ‘Browse’ to find the .iso file you downloaded for the version of Ubuntu you chose
- For Step 3: Find your USB drive in the drop down menu
- you may need to tick the ‘show all drives’ box, but probably not
- if you are not sure what letter represents your USB driver open a file explorer to view it
- Select the ‘Create’ option and once the installation is complete, you can close the window
Stopping Fast and Secure Boot
We need to change some Windows boot settings before we can get to installing. Depending on your version of windows, you may have to do a bit of searching to find these settings.
It will likely be something like this however:
- Go to your Windows ‘Control Panel’
- Find the ‘Power Options’
- You want to ‘Choose what the power button does’
- Deselect ‘Turn On Fast Startup’
- If you don’t see this as an option, then select ‘change settings that are currently
Unavailable,’ so that you can reveal the options currently hidden and change them
Now you will need to shut down your computer so make sure you save any information you may need later and remove any USB drives from the computer before shutting down.
The next step is to enter the BIOS menu for your computer. This can be done in several different ways and there may be a specific way for your laptop. For example: booting to the BIOS on the Yoga 3 Pro requires a small paperclip or pen to press the inlaid button to the right off the power button. In another case my original Ubuntu machine (the HP Spectre) required me to restart the computer using the power button and as it was starting repeatedly press the ESC key in order to access the Startup Menu and from there the BIOS.
Once you get into the BIOS from there you will need to find the ‘System Configuration’ settings, you will need to use the arrow keys to navigate around the menu. Inside here you will find the ‘Boot Option,’ under which is the ‘Secure Boot’ setting. Navigate to it and disable it following the prompts.
Make sure before you exit the BIOS that you save any changes you made.
UEFI Firmware Settings
So secure boot has been disabled now right? Well not entirely thanks to UEFI.
Basically the UEFI keeps a list of keys for drives it has verified and will boot from, this is done before you ever receive the laptop. In order to boot from an external USB drive we are going to have to play around in the UEFI settings.
Unfortunately this is different for every computer. Here for example if HP’s explanation of UEFI Secure Boot and how to disable it. You may need to do some googling to help you find your computer’s UEFI settings and how to modify them.
For my setup the UEFI settings were in the BIOS. I selected ‘UEFI Boot Order’ and simply moved the ‘USB Diskette on USB Hard Disk’ to top. I cleared all of the ‘Secure Boot Keys’ which required me to enter a code (WRITE this code down just in case as you will need to enter it again) and once this was done I simply saved all my changes and exited the BIOS. My computer then restarted to the ‘Operating System Boot Mode Change’ screen where I re-entered the code I had supplied previously during the clearing of the ‘Secure Boot Keys.’ You may be prompted to save changes again during this process, which you should always do.
Booting from the USB
Shutdown your computer fully now and insert the bootable USB drive you created. You should now boot to the Live Mode of Ubuntu. If for some reason you are still booting directly into Windows then there is likely an issue with your ‘Secure Boot’ settings. Make sure you have fully disabled ‘Secure Boot’ for your specific computer.
Now that you have booted from the drive it is time to install Ubuntu. Select ‘Install Ubuntu’ and follow the prompts. Once you get to the ‘Preparing to install Ubuntu’ window you will see if you are ready to proceed. All green check marks are a good sign, but don’t click anything yet!
If you are not connected to the internet and this is not what you were expecting this may be for a few reasons. Most likely it is a driver issue. For example on my own Yoga 3 Pro install there was a driver issue that would not allow me to connect to the internet during the initial installation process.
After the installation process you may need to find a working internet connection and troubleshoot what the issue for your specific machine might be. You may also be able to connect in the next step, but don’t worry though if you can’t, you can still continue the installation!
Before we hit ‘Continue’ I want to highly recommend to you check the ‘Install this third party software’ option. If you’re new to Ubuntu it will probably help save some time you would otherwise spend hunting around for these packages. If you are not connected to the internet however you will not be able to download these packages at this time, but you can do it later. Leave it checked anyways as you might connect in the next step.
Now you can select ‘Continue’ and if you are not having wireless driver issues you may now be able to connect to your wireless network. Go ahead and connect if you can and select ‘Continue.’
Now is the part where we actually install to your machine, so if you’ve decided that maybe this process isn’t for you, now is the time to stop. If you haven’t checked your Windows backup was correctly done than it is highly recommended you check this now on another machine before continuing as we have reached the ‘point of no return’ after this step.
Now as we are creating a partition of Ubuntu and leaving Windows on the machine we want to select the ‘Something else’ option. The results shown will differ by machine, but you are looking for a large amount of unpartitioned space which you created earlier during the first steps. It may have a name like ‘sda 7.’
When you’ve found it, select it and select the ‘+’ button to create a ‘logical partition.’ Set the Size to ‘50000’ MB and the Use as to ‘EXT4’. Select ‘Continue’ and in the next window you should not need to change any settings. If you are happy with everything you have entered and are sure you wish to proceed you may now select ‘Install.’ You will be prompted to pick some basic things like your keyboard layout and time zone during the install.
When the install is finished choose to reboot your machine and remove the USB drive. If everything has worked properly you will boot to a menu allowing you to choose between Windows and Ubuntu.
Boot Repair and Google
If not then don’t worry. You may need to change some more settings that are dependent on your machine. You can turn off your machine, insert your bootable USB drive, boot from it again, and go through the process of a boot repair.
Once the Live Mode of Ubuntu has launched search (you may need to press your super key with the windows icon to do this) for the ‘Terminal.’ Once in the terminal enter the following:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && (boot-repair &)
Choose the recommended repair option and let the tool work. It may supply you with some command to copy and paste into the terminal.
TIP: to paste into the terminal use CTRL+Shift+V
Once finished reboot your computer and remove the USB drive. If you are stilling having issues despite boot repair then you might have to consult Senior Engineer Google to help you sort them out for your particular machine.
Well that was a bit of a long ride but I hope you enjoyed it all the same. Don’t be discouraged if you run into a lot of problems even at this initial stage. It may be disenhearting but remember every problem you encounter gives you a chance to learn more about computers and coding. The most important part at this stage is to not give up! Chances are you are not the first person to encounter whatever problem you are having so keep searching and trying solutions, something will work eventually.