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Today I’ll show you how to set up a “dual boot” system that includes Linux (specifically Ubuntu Linux) alongside Windows XP or Vista. There will be no hard-drive partitioning (that’s scary!), instead Ubuntu will be installed in this case as if it were any other Windows program. This also makes it easy to uninstall later, in case you don’t like it.
Why would someone want to do this? Maybe you’re just beginning to really learn it, like I am. Maybe you’re a gamer who is just not a fan of the Windows interface and would like an alternative. Maybe you’re the power-user type and just wants to see what the fuss is about. Any reason you may have is valid. I’m just a big fan of free software who wants to help spread the word.
To get started, there’s no need to go to the Ubuntu site and download or order a CD-ROM. In this example, all you will need is to download and run the Wubi installer. Wubi started as an independent project, but is now officially supported by the Ubuntu community as a method of installation.
On the first screen, you’ll provide your desired username and password as well as designate the size of your “virtual disk” file, which your PC will see as a Linux file system.
Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, this next part may take a while. Wubi will download an image of the Ubuntu installation CD. As long as you’re on a broadband connection, this shouldn’t take more than an hour or two; Feel free to ignore the approximate download time at the onset.
After a few more installation screens, you’ll be prompted to reboot your system. Doing so should bring you to a new screen, giving you a choice whether you want to boot into Windows or Ubuntu. Select Ubuntu anytime to finish the installation.
Don’t panic when you see the formatting-partitions screen; Only the virtual disk file on which Ubuntu sits is being formatted.
After another reboot, enter your username and password and gaze upon a fresh pristine Linux desktop. It takes a little bit of getting-used-to, but the learning curve isn’t that steep.
Feel free to glance over the documentation to get your feet wet, check out our many articles on Linux use, and join the forums if you have any questions. Don’t be afraid of asking something “stupid”. We were all n00bs once. Well, except me. I’m still a Linux n00b. But hey that’s what I’m taking out student loans for.
My choice of Ubuntu may have upset some Linux fans. Feel free to let me have it, and tell us why your favorite distribution is better, in the comments.