How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu: the cheapest way to upgrade from XP

Click through and you’ll be invited to donate to Ubuntu before downloading the OS: if you’d prefer to try it out without paying, click “Not now, take me to the download”. A large ISO file will now start to download; it’s around 1GB in size, so depending on the speed of your internet connection, it could take minutes or even hours to arrive.

Once the ISO has downloaded, the simplest thing to do is burn it to a DVD (it’s too big to fit on a regular CD). If you don’t have a DVD drive (or a spare disc), use a tool such as the free LinuxLive USB Creator to “burn” it to a USB flash drive. Once this is done, all you need to do is shut down Windows and boot your PC from your freshly created DVD or USB drive. This may entail pressing a key while the computer starts up in order to access the boot menu – or even going into the BIOS and changing the order of boot devices to give the USB or optical drive a higher priority than your main hard disk.

How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu: Test drive or full installation?

If you aren’t certain whether Ubuntu is right for you, you can easily try it out without making any changes to your system: simply boot up the installation DVD and select the “Try Ubuntu” option (rather than “Install Ubuntu”). This will boot up a “live” Ubuntu environment, running entirely from the optical disc (and from memory), so you can get a feel for the OS and applications before making a commitment.

You can try out Ubuntu from a "live" environment without touching your existing Windows installation

Because of its reliance on the optical drive, the “Try Ubuntu” environment is much less responsive than a real installation, so don’t be disheartened if it’s annoyingly slow. For obvious reasons it’s also not possible to install additional applications, although you can access and update files on your Windows hard disk. If you’re sold on Ubuntu right away, you can install the OS from within the live environment, simply click on the “Install Ubuntu” icon at the top of the Launcher.

Needless to say, if you boot from the installation media and select “Install Ubuntu”, the operating system will be installed on your hard disk. You’ll be asked whether you want to “download updates while installing” – this will take longer, but it means that when you’re finished any recently updated OS components and drivers will be ready and working.

It’s also a good idea to tick “Install this third party software”, which refers to the Fluendo MP3 plugin. Without it, you won’t be able to listen to MP3s, which probably isn’t what you want. It’s only excluded by default since the encoder isn’t fully free and open-source.

You’ll next be asked how you want to set up Ubuntu. As discussed above, we suggest you choose “Install Ubuntu alongside Windows”; if you choose “Replace Windows with Ubuntu”, be certain you’ve backed up all your data before proceeding. To set up the dual-boot system, the Ubuntu installer divides your hard disk into two partitions: drag the divider to choose how much space you want to keep for Windows and how much to allocate to Ubuntu. You may as well shrink XP down almost as far as it will go: just leave a gigabyte or two of headroom in case you ever need to boot back into Windows for some reason, as it won’t work properly if there’s no spare disk space.

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