Ubuntu is available as a "live" CD, which means that you can use it directly from the CD without installing it. But running an operating system from a CD is slow, to see what Ubuntu can do running at full speed, you need to install it to your hard disk.
The ideal situation would be to install Ubuntu on it's own separate hard disk, but most people don't have two hard drives in their computer, and most people are not prepared to give up Windows. Therefore they have to install Ubuntu along-side Windows on the same hard disk in a dual-boot configuration.
Configuring a dual-boot system involves partitioning your hard disk to make space for Ubuntu. When your computer first starts, it reads information on the first sector of the hard drive which tells it where to find the "boot loader". The boot loader is a file with information about the installed operating systems and how to start them.
The boot loader for Windows is a file named "boot.ini". The boot loader for a Linux system (like Ubuntu) is GRUB (Grand Unified Boot Loader). When you install Ubuntu in a dual-boot system, it redirects the system to use GRUB. When you first start your system, GRUB presents a list of options, including starting Ubuntu or starting Windows. So you'll still be able to use your Windows operating system.
To install Ubuntu, start it with the live CD. To use the live CD, your computer's BIOS must be configured to boot from the CD drive. It's probably already configured that way, but if not, when your computer first starts watch for a message telling you which key to press to access the BIOS setup. Most computers use the F2, F1, Esc, or Del key.
When the BIOS setup screen appears, select the Boot option, configure the CD drive in the boot order before the Hard Disk drive, then follow the instructions to save your change and exit. This change will not effect the normal operation of your computer except for a slight delay when it starts to check the drive for a bootable CD.
Because Ubuntu live CD creates it’s file system in RAM, it requires a system with a least 512 MB of RAM. Some sources claim the minimum is 256 MB, but I haven’t had any luck getting Ubuntu live CD to boot on systems with less than 512 MB of RAM.
Installing Ubuntu as a dual-boot system involves partitioning your hard disk to make space for Ubuntu. If you make a mistake in the partitioning process, you could lose your Windows operating system. I'm going to explain the partitioning process in complete detail, so the chances of making a mistake are minimal, but you should still make a complete back up just in case.
You'll need at least 10 GB of free space for Ubuntu on your hard disk. You should also leave at least 10 GB of free space for Windows after you install Ubuntu. So if you don't have at least 20 GB of free space on your hard disk, you should remove any unnecessary programs and files first.
Then run Windows Disk Cleanup utility to get rid of any other unnecessary files. You should also run Windows Defragment utility to move the data on your hard disk to consecutive allocation units, which will make it easier to partition the disk.
Start your computer with the live CD. Ubunto uses the GNOME desktop, which looks similar to the Windows desktop, except that the menu, by default, is located at the top of the screen. To install Ubuntu, click on the Install icon on the desktop, or select System | Administration | Install in the menu.
Ubuntu will present several screens where you select your language, location, keyboard layout, login name, and password. After entering data in each screen, click on the [Forward] button. Eventually you reach the "Prepare diskspace" screen. Make sure the "Manual" radio button is set, then click on the [Forward] button.
On the "Prepare partitions" screen which appears, you'll see a rectangle with a green border. Similar to Windows Disk Manager, this rectangle represents the NTFS area of your hard disk that now contains the Windows operating system. Right-click on the NTFS partition and, in the popup menu that appears, select Resize / Move.
Remember, earlier when you checked the space on your hard drive and determined how much you would leave for Windows and how much you could free up for Ubuntu. In the Resize dialog box that appears, move your mouse pointer over the black arrow on the right side of the box with the green border. Drag the black arrow to resize the partition. Then click on the [Forward] button.
In the warning message box that appears, click on the [Apply] button. Ubuntu will proceed to resize the partition. When the message box appears that informs you that operation has been completed, click on the [Close] button.
After the partition has been resized, the "Prepare mount points" screen will appear. At this point you have created some free space on your hard disk, but you have not created partitions for Ubuntu. Click on the [Back] button to return to the "Prepare partitions" screen.
You might recall that a hard disk can have up to four primary partitions. If you need more than four partitions, one of the primary partitions can be configured as an extended partition. There can be only one extended partition on a drive, but that extended partition can be divided into up to 23 logical drives (or as many as you can configure without reusing a drive letter).
An operating system can be booted only from a primary partition. I'm telling you this for informational purposes only, because we only need three partitions to create a dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu system. Some drives use a primary partition for special drive debugging utilities or encryption software, but that still leaves the three partitions we need.
Ubuntu, like any Linux system, needs one partition for the root file system, and another partition to use as a swap space. The Windows operating system uses a file on the same partition as a swap space (pagefile.sys). So Windows can be installed on a single partition. In some rare situations (i.e. the SWAP partition is on a separate drive) having a separate SWAP partition can improve system performance. But in most cases, it just makes Linux more complicated to install. However, since this function is part of the Linux Kernal, I doubt that it will get fixed anytime soon.
In the "Prepare partitions" screen, right-click on the unallocated space that you created. In the popup menu that appears, select New. In the "Create new Partition" dialog box that appears, use the up/down controls to set the number in the "Free Space Following" box to 1024. In other words, the new partition will use all the free space except 1024 MB, which we are leaving for the SWAP partition.
In the "Create new Partition" dialog box, make sure "Create as:" is set to "Primary Partition" and "Filesystem" is set to "ext3". Then click on the [Add] button. Then in the "Prepare partitions" screen, click on the [Forward] button.
In the warning message box that appears, click on the [Apply] button. Ubuntu will proceed to create the partition. When the message box appears that informs you that operation has been completed, click on the [Close] button.
Now we need to configure the remaining 1024 MB of free space into a partition for the SWAP partition. Click on the [Back] button to return to the "Prepare partition" screen.
In the "Prepare partitions" screen, right-click on the remaining unallocated space. In the popup menu that appears, select New. make sure "Create as:" is set to "Primary Partition" and "Filesystem" is set to "ext3". Then click on the [Add] button. Then in the "Prepare partitions" screen, click on the [Forward] button.
In the warning message box that appears, click on the [Apply] button. Ubuntu will proceed to create the partition. When the message box appears to inform you that operation has been completed, click on the [Close] button.
In the "Prepare mount points" screen, you need to select one partition for the root file system, and one partition to use as a swap space. In the list of mount points, in the drop-down list for the large partition that you created, select "/". In the drop-down list for the small partition that you created, select "SWAP". Then click on the [Forward] button.
In the "Ready to install" screen that appears, verify the settings information, then click on the [Install] button. Ubuntu will proceed to copy files to the hard disk.
When the "Installation Complete" dialog box appears, click on the [Restart now] button. After the CD is automatically ejected, press the keyboard [Enter] key.
After the computer restarts, GRUB will appear giving you a selection of operating systems to start. Use the keyboard arrow keys and [Enter] key to select an operating system. If you choose Ubuntu, screens will appear requesting your username and password, then Ubuntu will start.
If you select Windows, the first time you run it, it will notice that the hard drives partitions have been tampered with and it will run CHKDSK and may install new devices. The next time you choose Windows, it will start normally.
Now, with your dual-boot configuration you can see what Ubuntu can do when installed to your hard disk running at full speed, and you can still run Windows when you need to use legacy applications that don't come in a Linux version.
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