How to Install Ubuntu: Run Linux on Your Laptop or PC
Ubuntu’s standard installation method is to download the ISO Disk Image File and burn it to a CD or DVD. Still, 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 anyway. Therefore, you have both methods available to install Ubuntu.
The install methods discussed here do not specifically refer to installation media options (DVD, Server, USB). The article is about the type of install you want to have and how to install it, 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.
Option #1: Choose Your Ubuntu Version
Before you install Ubuntu, you need to decide on which version you want. Several Ubuntu Operating System variants are available, including core Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Budgie, and many more.
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 versions give you long-term support (five years) for drivers plus system and security updates. Other releases like Ubuntu 20.10 (Groovy Gorilla) do not carry long-term support and only receive nine months of updates. However, non-LTS versions get newer features, but they, unfortunately, encounter more bugs. If you are tech-savvy, feel free to explore the choices. Overall, LTS versions are the most popular and the most stable.
Option #2: Try Unbuntu 20.04 LTS before Installing It
After deciding on the Ubuntu version you want, trying it out without installing it is a great option. Test out Ubuntu 20.04 LTS or any other variant before you decide to either overwrite your current OS or install it alongside Windows on your laptop or PC. This option is perhaps the easiest one of them all. 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 “Try Ubuntu” and you’ll see the OS launch before your eyes as a live USB operating system. 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 #3: Make a Persistent Ubuntu Live USB Drive
Ubuntu not only lets you test drive it first but also incorporates the option to make the bootable USB persistent, while still trying it out. 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.
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.
Rufus in Windows
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.
UNetbootin in Windows
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 #4: Replace Windows 10 with Ubuntu 20.04 on Your Laptop or PC
The simplest 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.
The installer will happily wipe your old Windows partition(s) and install Ubuntu 20.04 (or any other variant) 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) Minimum Requirements
- 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
Option #5: Install Ubuntu from a USB Memory Stick
Once you have decided which Ubuntu version you want, met the minimum requirements to install it, and obtained the iso disk image (downloaded to your PC), you can create a bootable USB installer. You’ll most likely need a 4GB or higher USB stick.
To install Ubuntu 20.04 LTS using a USB device, you first need to create the installation media from the iso, as discussed above. Run the Ubuntu installer and it will give you all the options you need to set up Ubuntu, and you can also install it alongside Windows using this method. Choose to set up partitions manually or use the easy “Install Alongside” option. Determine 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.
Note: When installing Ubuntu (any version) alongside Windows 10, ensure you turn off Windows 10 Fast Boot. The OS locks partitions so that they are ready to resume their current state upon bootup, which tends to interfere with Ubuntu read/write privileges to the NTFS folders.
Here’s how to make a bootable Ubuntu USB installer.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
Option #6: Install Ubuntu from a DVD ISO
Burn a DVD disc using UNetbootin, Rufus, or another bootable image creator. CDs don’t have enough storage capacity, so a DVD is required. Reboot the PC and follow the prompts.
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