Linux Windows

Curious About Linux? 5 Easy & No Risk Ways To Try Linux On Your Windows PC

Justin Pot 04-07-2013

try linux on windowsWant to check out Linux, but fear you might wreck your existing Windows installation? Don’t. There are plenty of risk-free ways to try Linux, from live CDs to USB keys to virtual machines – and I’m going to outline all of them. Whether you’re thinking of ditching Windows or simply want to tinker with some tech, Linux is worth looking into. There are hundreds of great Linux distros out there to try, all giving you easy access to tens of thousands of open source programs. Better yet: it all runs on a secure system that’s free in every conceivable way. Even beyond the practical points, Linux is just plain cool. If you consider yourself a geek, you should at least try it out. I recommend starting with Ubuntu if you want to see how user friendly Linux can be, though others will tell you Linux Mint is a better first experience. The good thing about what I’m outlining below is you can try both, easily, so let’s get started.


The Live CD/DVD Method

Try this first. Almost every version of Linux can run as a live CD, meaning you can boot and try the entire operating system without installing anything. This way you can give the desktop a spin, try out a couple applications, and generally get a bit of the Linux experience. Just download the ISO file for your distro and burn the image to disk. In Windows Vista/7/8 this is as simple as right-clicking the ISO and clicking “Burn Disc Image”.
try linux on windows. Once you’ve burned a live CD you can boot from it. You may need to change your PC’s boot order to do this (check out my guide to using live CDs The 50 Cool Uses for Live CDs Live CDs are perhaps the most useful tool in any geek's toolkit. This live CD how-to guide outlines many uses live CDs or DVDs can offer, from data recovery to enhancing privacy. Read More if you’re not sure how to do that), but in most cases you only need to hit the right button before your computer starts loading Windows. A live CD is a complete version of any Linux distro, running from a CD. It won’t run at full performance, but you probably won’t notice – and there’s no chance of it affecting your system (unless you open partition editing software or otherwise intentionally wreck things).
try linux inside windows
It’s a great way to try out just about any Linux distro, so be sure to give any distros you’re interested in a spin. Oh, and live CDs are not just for the curious: I’ve argued that every Windows user should have an Ubuntu Live CD for troubleshooting 4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have An Ubuntu Live CD Read More , and Tim Brookes made a similar argument Windows Users: Here Is Why You Need A Linux Live CD Read More .

The USB Key Method

Of course, it’s 2013: many computers don’t have CD drives. One thing you do have, however, is a USB port – and if you’ve got a USB drive, you can boot Linux. It’s called a persistent drive, it’s completely risk-free, and there are Windows tools for creating them – easily. The best such tool for Windows users is Linux Live USB Creator (LiLi) Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Read More . This free app for Windows looks great, and guides you through the steps necessary to create a bootable Linux USB drive.
try linux inside windows
The software will do everything – from downloading your distro of choice to formatting your drive. Be sure to allocate some space for persistence at bottom – doing so allows you to take documents, settings and software you install with you from one machine to the next. It’s a version of Linux you can use on almost any computer! There’s another program for the job, if you’re curious: UNetbootin. It’s not as pretty, but it works. It will download a wide variety of Linux distros for you, and write them to your USB drive.
try linux inside windows
Read more about UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More , if you’re curious. The article is old, but the software hasn’t changed much – and hasn’t needed to.

The Windows Installer Method

Want to actually install Linux, but don’t want to deal with partitioning? Surprisingly there is a way. Software called Wubi can install Ubuntu within Windows – meaning you can uninstall it later from the Control Panel. This isn’t a virtual machine: it’s a fully bootable system – and there’s no need for partitioning.
try linux on windows 7
Check out Wubi, if you’re curious. Though, as OMG Ubuntu pointed out back in April, Ubuntu now warns Windows 8 users against using Wubi. Put simply: it won’t work on newer computers. At all.
You’ve been warned.

The Virtual Machine Method

Okay, so Virtual Machines are a little more work than any of the above methods, and to say performance won’t be great is a bit of an understatement. Having said that, it’s a great way to test Linux software The Best Linux Software and Apps Whether you're new to Linux or you're a seasoned user, here are the best Linux software and apps you should be using today. Read More without the need for restarting your computer. Plus, because virtual machines cannot affect your primary drive, they’re basically risk free.
try linux on windows 7
And it’s not like setting up a Linux virtual machine is a lot of work – you can even download and test almost any Linux OS, pre-packed for use with Virtualbox Download & Test Run Every Linux OS You Want With Virtualboxes For a long time, I've been curious about Linux operating systems. I've used Windows my whole life, so the idea of switching to another operating system is a pretty big deal. I think switching to... Read More . The files aren’t small, but these packages work wonderfully. Of course, you can also create your own Linux virtual machine – check out our VirtualBox guide How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More for more information on that. There are other virtualization programs out there, including VMWare Run Multiple Operating Systems At Once With VMware Player We’ve lavished attention on VirtualBox here at MakeUseOf, and for good reason. However, VirtualBox isn’t your only option for creating and using free virtual machines. VMware Player, VMware’s free product, is every bit as good... Read More . So you’ve got choices.

The Online Demo

Of course, you could take the path of least resistance and try Ubuntu online. You read that correctly – with Ubuntu’s online demo you can even run a browser in your browser so you can browse while you browse.
try linux on windows
Okay, this is more a gimmick than an actual trial, but it’s still pretty cool – there’s an online demo of Ubuntu you can play with right now. You’ll see a boot screen, and then the Ubuntu Desktop. Take a tour, or just explore – it’s up to you. Most of the actual apps won’t run, but it’s still a cool way for you to get a feel for how the Ubuntu desktop works. It’s easy, and because it’s in your browser it’s certainly risk-free.



There you have it: five risk free ways to try Linux on Windows . But if you’re feeling just a little more brave, you should really go ahead and try actually dual-booting Tired Of Windows 8? How To Dual Boot Windows & Ubuntu If you discover that Windows 8 isn't quite your cup of tea, and you have no feasible path to downgrade, it may be a good idea to dual boot with Linux to have an alternative... Read More . It’s not risk free – you should back up your data first. You’ll need to partition your hard drive. But it’s not as scary as it sounds, and you’ll probably get better performance than any of these methods. For now, though, I want to know which of these no risk methods you’re using to try out Linux. Let me know in the comments below, okay?

Related topics: Linux Distro, Live CD, Ubuntu.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ryan Anderson
    February 14, 2016 at 2:12 am

    I am starting to test a VDI for Linux and needing a couple of Testers. No installing, just basically remoting into a computer that i host.This is still in beta...probably closer to alpha stage. I will try to keep uptime as high as possible. I am looking for 1-3 Testers that's would like to try this out. All I ask in return is your experience and letting me know of issues that arise. You will be able to connect with software that can be installed on your Windows, Linux, Android, or iOS device. Anyone interested, please let me know.

  2. Juan
    July 29, 2013 at 3:07 am

    That is not complete true, after use Ubuntu for a while I experience problems in the hardware, extremely high HHDD usage and temperature, that cause fan damage on my 2 laptops, poor batteries performance ( just 30 min). In windows is very quit and low temps, Better battery performance ( 1 Hour same usage as linux) . No problems in hardware due is build for windows.

    • Justin Pot
      July 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      That is far from typical, Juan, and I wonder what caused it in your case. But even hearing this, there shouldn't be any risk to trying Ubuntu out...

      • Juan
        July 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm

        Same problem in 2 different computer is not coincidence. Different brand and hardware. I try solution in the web and foud a lot people looking for decrease HHDD usage, that is the little trick that Linux has to be faster than Windows. But in change it needs maximum and constant RPM of the disc. Community excuse this saying it save life time of HHDD. Well may be that is ok but Temperature and fan noise is terrible. I would say to any people who want to try Linux, try it in an old PC and just for study purposes. All easy to install it, is going to be a headacke every time wants to install propietry drivers o game. In other hand, You loose warranty if use another OS. When you install Linux is without any warranty. All theese details should be advised in this kind of web pages.

  3. Josue A
    July 11, 2013 at 5:33 am

    With virtual machine I have tried and works very good.

    • Justin Pot
      July 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Nice! Did you use Virtualbox?

  4. Christos Palmer
    July 11, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Best way of checking out Linux, try the Puppy Linux distro, its fun, easy, and a small download compared to the offerings. Installs to a USB stick, or a SD card. Try it first.

    • Justin Pot
      July 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Puppy is fantastic, and a great introduction to Linux. Good recommendation.

  5. Onaje A
    July 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Linux has some great apps. Thanks!

  6. nifosio
    July 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Miss the install it on external disk or in a usb (im not talking about using a live usb)
    BTW: even i use (*)ubuntu some times, ubuntu is linux but linux is not ubuntu.

  7. dragonmouth
    July 5, 2013 at 11:52 pm


    Silly question, but have you tried a Google search for the type of the software you need, but in Linux?

  8. Dane M
    July 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I use a dozen or so boutique software apps that are available on windows only to earn my living, so my main machine is flat out married to the windows franchise until it becomes profitable for these folks to add linux to their bag of tricks.

    But, I figured, I could install Edubuntu on an old machine I have as an entertainment center for my kids in the front room. But three days later all I can seem to do is browse the web with the pre-loaded firefox. I can't even install chrome. I downloaded the linux version from Google's site, but trying to run it gives me crpytic messages about unfulfilled dependencies with no indication of how to fulfill them. Trying to load the chromium browser from the big list o' software you can download get's me a message that i'm not connected to the internet... Ummm... yeah, I am....

    I'll try again later, I guess, but if I cannot simply download and install a browser, well, I'm not so certain there is anything there that will pay me back for my time investment.

    • dragonmouth
      July 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Try downloading from I have downloaded literally hundreds of distros from them and never had problems that I did not cause myself.

  9. Rawal B
    July 5, 2013 at 2:54 am

    If only adobe products reun on linux, I will definitely switch to Linux OS.

    • dragonmouth
      July 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      There is some question whether Adobe products run properly even on Windows. :-)

  10. Lee
    July 5, 2013 at 2:30 am

    If all the software I used worked on Linux, I might switch to it as my primary desktop OS. I really like the power of the command line (especially after getting a raspberry pi and using the TTY more than X) and it's available in a window right at your fingertips. I did install Cygwin in Windows but it just doesn't feel the same.

    Linux does have some UI issues though. With so many window managers and desktop environments, it's hard for the UI to stay consistent which bugs me at times.

    • dragonmouth
      July 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      If all the software I used worked on Windows, I'd switch back. /grin/

      If all you use is O/S specific software, it is hard to change O/Ss. Have you tried Linux equivalents to Windows programs?

      If you stick with one window manager, the UI issues go away.

      • Lee
        July 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

        I can pretty much find equivalent software on Linux for everything except one program. I'm visually impaired and use a camera to see the board in class, and that camera comes with proprietary software that only runs on Windows. I've tried getting it to work in Linux but the program doesn't work in WINE, and I can't get anything else to get an image from the camera.

        I've thought about trying to figure out how the camera interfaces with the software in Windows and seeing if it would be possible to create my own version for Linux, but that would be a huge project (if it's even possible).

        • dragonmouth
          July 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm

          I may be able to put you in touch with someone who might be able to help you with the software. Sorry if it all sounds iffy but I haven't been in touch with the guy for a long while. I'll check around and get back to you.

        • Lee
          July 5, 2013 at 10:40 pm

          Since I thought of it again, I decided to try getting it to work with WINE again. It might be something to do with the .NET framework not being installed or something, so I'm trying to use winetricks to get it working. I'll reply back if I get it to work.

        • dragonmouth
          July 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm
        • dragonmouth
          July 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

          Rather than playing Telephone where you tell me and I tell him, contact the guy directly on Facebook:

          I emailed him but he has questions that I can't answer. If and when you contact him, tell him Dragonmouth sent you. I'll let him know you might be calling. :-)

  11. Sumeet D
    July 5, 2013 at 12:58 am

    usb method of ubuntu

  12. MikeFromMarkham
    July 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I've tinkered with all of the above methods of using Linux over the past several years, and they all work albeit at different speeds. If I don't have disk space or time to create a separate linux partition for dual booting, then I tend to use a USB stick with persistence, and it generally works very well. For noobs coming from Windows to test Linux, you may find it easier to start with ZorinOS or Mepis, both of which are designed to give a very Windows-like feel to the user.

  13. dragonmouth
    July 5, 2013 at 12:34 am

    "every Windows user should have Ubuntu Live CD for troubleshooting"
    In the name of Bill Gates, why Ubuntu???!!! Wouldn't a distro without all the excess baggage of office, video and music players, and other everyday applications be better? A distro such as System Rescue CD or Rescatux which has only troubleshooting applications would be much better suited for any recovery of a corrupted Windows.

  14. Meena B
    July 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    tried most the above, probably except burning to a CD, tried the live usb, virtualbox, windows installer, and installing to the HDD alongside windows 7 and windows 8
    i still find it annoying as it makes my laptop overheat and reduces the battery
    on Ubuntu on battery 100% charged, it lasts no more than two hours, in windows 7, it can last for about 4-5 hours
    that's actually the only reason why i don't use linux very often

    • John
      September 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Did you ever check the power options like in windows 7...control panel, power options ??? Just curious.

      I too have tried Linux Mint 15 on a usb stick and my Dell Vostro 3350 laptop heated up so much it automatically turned off, otherwise it would have been fried.

      My guess is that the default settings in Linux are for ultra high performance which would then cause the problem both you and I have.

  15. theMike
    July 4, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    i've used linux distros through out the years inside virtualbox. after windows 8 disaster i've switched completely over to linux. something i couldn't have done without getting the experience first.

  16. ReadandShare
    July 4, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Linux -- years of struggling -- just to get from under 1% of users to barely over 1%.

    As a 'complete and total' Linux newbie, I tried Ubuntu and Mint last month -- and came away underwhelmed. Sure, a great part is simply the difficulty one goes through learning something new -- while unlearning something old (Windows).

    But my hunch is still that Linux will remain in the cellar where it's always been -- for two main reasons:

    1. First has to do with Linux itself. It's more for tinkerers than pure end users. And just like with cars, while there are enthusiastic tinkerers -- the vast majority are simply just end users. As a pure Windows user, I had no problems at all using an iPad back in 2010 or using Android tablets since then. The learning curve was almost flat and things worked out of the box by and large. I tab to install apps and they get installed. But with both Ubuntu and Mint, after installing fresh from bootable discs, both failed a couple of times when I tried to install apps from Linux''s own app repository!!

    2. Second has to do with the competition. I really believe Linux lost its chance when Microsoft finally produced a halfway decent OS with the XP -- and followed through with the even better Win 7. The vast majority of users are Windows users, and for us -- there doesn't seem to be a whole lot better/easier/more stable to ditch Windows now for Linux.

    Anyway, my two cents. Or maybe just one cent.

    • Richard Steven Hack
      July 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Your mistake was using Ubuntu and Mint. Ubuntu is known for having quality control issues.

      You should have tried openSUSE. Aside from some minor problems I'm having with either the Linux version of Firefox or the proprietary Nvidia video drivers (I can't tell which, but am leaning toward Firefox - which always has its own quality control problems), it has been rock solid. I use it for everything on a daily basis and only use Windows for support of Windows clients.

      That said, I don't expect Linux to replace Windows either until corporate America gets it head out of its butt and realizes that spending money on Windows (especially when half your servers are running Linux or Unix) is just dumb - especially given the security issues. But there's no shortage of stupid in corporate America.

    • dragonmouth
      July 5, 2013 at 12:17 am

      "Linux — years of struggling — just to get from under 1% of users to barely over 1%."
      As Samuel Clemens famously said about three kinds of falsehoods "Lies, damned lies and statistics" Where did you get the 1% number, out of thin air? Or it just sounded good? And Linux has not and is not struggling. Most of the Linux community couldn't care less if it supplants Windows or not. As long as Linux works for them, they're happy.

      "First has to do with Linux itself. It’s more for tinkerers than pure end users. "
      What does Linux need, in your opinion, to make it for "pure end users"?

      " But with both Ubuntu and Mint, after installing fresh from bootable discs, both failed a couple of times when I tried to install apps from Linux”s own app repository!!"
      Ubuntu and all other distributions based on it and derived from it are best used in their default installed state. They do not take kindly to any alterations. Unfortunately those that keep pushing Ubuntu and Mint will not tell you that.

      I used to be a long time Windows user but I switched to Linux about 6 years ago. Windows Update process was one of the big reasons I switched. Many times the Updates caused more problems than they cured and it took/takes Microsoft forever to fix them. Another big reason was security. I had to run a fice or six different programs to detect and control all the different malware afflicting Windows. With Linux I just run a firewall and that is sufficient. Haven't had any malware since I switched.

      The way Windows handles its Registry is an abomination. Windows Uninstall leaves hundreds, if not thousands, of Registry Keys when it runs. In Linux there is no need for programs such as CCleaner - there is nothing to clean.

      The same copy of Linux can installed on unlimited number of PCs without anybody complaining about it. It is not welded to one hardware configuration. And when you want to change your hardware, you don't have to call home base and beg for permission. You can move the drive containing Linux O/S from an Intel-based PC to a AMD-based one and Linux will not throw a hissy fit, it'll just automatically re-write the config files.

      Just my two cents.

      • Hans Gruber
        July 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm

        Id like to add that the 1% meme that appeared 2yrs ago was weird since I remember that number being higher before I tried PCLinuxOS in 2007 for the first time.

        Not only that but there is that graph Ballmer used on investors not too long ago which among other things showed that according to MS, Linux and Mac had the same percentage of home users (the graph looked slightly bigger on the Linux side).

        Unless Ballmer became a Linux booster, seems like a pretty credible source as he has no love for Linux.

  17. Jim
    July 4, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Just use VirtualBox. Once you see how disappointing and useless Linux is on a desktop, you can just delete the virtual machine. Simple as that.

    • Matthew U
      July 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Once you see how disappointing and useless Jim is on a comment, you can just delete the comment. Linux is only really let down by its poor software choice.
      It is personal opinion but don't go saying it is rubbish

    • Vishal S
      July 5, 2013 at 5:47 am

      Isn't there a dislike button? Linux is everywhere whether you like it or not. Windows sucks, specially with 8,and Mac is too closed too suit anyone but guys with deep pockets.

    • Vivek R
      July 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Those who failed to capture the charm of Linux will be talking rubbish about it....I say Windows Suckzzzzzzz