How to Install Ubuntu: Run Linux on Your Laptop or PC

Ubuntu has branded itself as the friendly face of Linux, and this focus on accessibility extends to the setup. The OS is remarkably easy to find, download, and install. Over the past few versions, Canonical has continued to streamline the process, making it easier to handle.

How to install Ubuntu

Before you install, though, there are some decisions to make. First of all, you need to know which version to install.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll ignore derivatives such as Kubuntu and Xubuntu, not to mention server variants, and focus on the core Ubuntu Desktop, namely focal Fossa (Ubuntu 20.04 LTS). LTS gives you long-term support for drivers plus system and security updates.

Installation Methods

The standard method of installing Ubuntu is downloading the ISO file and burning it to a CD, but Canonical is aware that many netbook, notebook, and laptop users may not have access to a CD/DVD drive, and that a USB stick is often preferred by most users anyways. So, what’s next? It’s time to choose your installation method.

The install method discussed here is not referring to media options, it is about the type of install you want to have, including replacing your Windows 7, 8, or 10 OS with a full Ubuntu installation, installing Ubuntu alongside Windows 10, making a persistent USB Live drive, or trying Ubuntu without actually installing anything. Here are the details.

Option #1: Try Unbuntu 20.04 LTS before Installing It

The first option you have is to test out Ubuntu 20.04 before you decide to overwrite or install alongside your Windows OS on your laptop or PC. This option is easy to do. An Ubuntu Live USB is basically an Ubuntu OS installation iso that provides two options upon bootup: try it first or install it.

Simply choose to try Ubuntu and you’ll see the OS launch before your eyes as a live USB OS. The option is not like a complete Ubuntu installation. You are loading a live USB drive, meaning that Ubuntu 20.04 is loaded using cache and does not touch your HDD at all, except for persistent drives that write to the USB, which are mentioned in the next section.

With a live USB, you can run and install applications, and you can explore what the OS looks like plus see how it functions. What you cannot do is create a profile, install drivers, or update the kernel. Any activity and installed apps will disappear after each shutdown or reboot. OK, here’s where the tables turn so that you CAN save files with every bootup.

Option #2: Make a Persistent Ubuntu 20.04 Live USB Drive

Ubuntu not only lets you try it first but also incorporates the option to make the bootable USB persistent. This feature is performed using third-party software, such as UNetbootin or Rufus. When adding the Ubuntu installation iso to the USB, you can choose to include persistent storage, which reserves a portion of the USB stick for saving files and making other OS changes.

The amount of persistence is limited to 4GB since the USB stick requires Fat32 formatting to boot. With persistence, all installed programs, OS customizations, and saved personal data will remain through every bootup you perform.

How to Make an Ubuntu 20.04 Persistent USB Drive using Windows

Since most of you currently have Windows 10 on your PC or laptop, and you don’t have Ubuntu available, you need a bootable USB maker for Windows. Here are a couple of options.

Make Ubuntu 20.04 USB Installer Using Rufus

Rufus is a very popular option for making bootable USB drives, whether it gets used for launching programs or installing an OS. Rufus now supports persistence, as long as you add an August 2019 or later Ubuntu OS.

Make Ubuntu 20.04 USB Installation Using UNetbootin

UNetbootin is a multi-platform program that works on Windows, Linux, and Mac PCs. In this situation, you’ll use the Windows version. UNetbootin supports persistence for Ubuntu 8.10 and above.

Overall, persistent live USBs can run on any PC, but the option restricts functionality to a cached user, not a personal one filled with your unique profile data. A persistent install is designed to get you going in the most simplistic way, using applications, browsing the web, saving files, checking email, personalizing the system, etc. It is not a full-fledged install, although you can save on it (as the “cached” user).

Option #3: Replace Windows 10 with Ubuntu 20.04 on your Laptop or PC

The easiest way to install Ubuntu 20.04 on your laptop or PC is to replace Windows 10 using a bootable USB install stick. Once again, UNetbootin and Rufus work great in Windows to create the installation media.

It’s a clean and easy installation process. The installer will happily wipe your old Windows partition(s) and install Ubuntu 20.04 for you.

Before you go “all-in” on this OS switch, you must check the requirements to ensure your PC or laptop is capable of installing and using the new OS; it probably is. Ubuntu is fairly generous when it comes to installation requirements, although the newer releases raise the bar a little, such as Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

Focal Fossa (Ubuntu 20.04 LTS) requires the following:

  • 2 GHz or higher core processor
  • 4 GB or more of memory (2 GB or higher for virtualized installs)
  • 25 GB or higher drive space
  • VGA (a.k.a XGA) or higher display output with at least 1024×768 resolution
  • 3D Acceleration capable graphics card with 256 MB or more

You can also install Ubuntu alongside an existing Windows setup. Run the Ubuntu installer and it will give you all the options you need to set up Ubuntu and Windows partitions manually, or you can use the easy “Install Alongside” option, decide how much space to give each operating system, and let Ubuntu handle the rest.

The two operating systems work smoothly without any interaction, and both Windows and Ubuntu will run at maximum speed.

Installing Ubuntu from a USB memory stick

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step one

To install Ubuntu from a USB memory stick, you’ll need three things: the ISO file for your version of choice, the Universal USB Installer program, and a 2GB memory stick.

You can find ISO at www.ubuntu.com/download and the USB Installer from www.pendrivelinux.com.

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step one

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step two

Run the Universal USB Installer. Select your version of Ubuntu from the first drop-down menu, navigate to your ISO file in the text box, then select your USB drive from the second drop-down menu.

Check the box if you need to format the drive, then click Create. Hey presto, one bootable USB stick.

How to install Ubuntu step two

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step three

First, check that the BIOS of your new Ubuntu system is set up to boot from a USB drive (check manuals for details if need be).

Now insert the USB stick and restart your PC. It should load the Ubuntu installer. Click the Install Ubuntu button and tick the two boxes on the next page before clicking Forward.

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step three

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step four

In this case, we want to install Ubuntu alongside the existing Windows installation, so choose “Install alongside other operating systems”. If you’re happy to wipe the drive and start again, pick the second option, “Erase and use the entire disk”.

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step four

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step five

This screen shows your existing partitions and how they will be divided up post-installation. To change the share for either Ubuntu or Windows, just drag the dividing line to the left or right. Click Install Now when you’re ready.

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step five

How to install Ubuntu from a USB: step six

While Ubuntu installs, you can select your location, your keyboard layout and finally enter your details as the initial user. When it’s finished installing, Ubuntu will restart, and it’s time to log in and explore.

How to install Ubuntu step six

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