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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 to use Wubi: it runs from Windows, installs Ubuntu to the drive of your choice, and automatically creates a setting in the Windows boot loader to add a second boot option for Ubuntu.
But there are some drawbacks to installing with Wubi. For one thing, you can’t suspend or hibernate to save power, which you could do if you had the regular install (i.e. burned and booted from the CD). Also, because Wubi doesn’t get its own partition, it actually uses the Windows boot loader to boot from a disk image of a Linux partition on your Windows drive; this results in slightly reduced disk speed and a dependence on the Windows boot loader (you can’t ditch Windows entirely and run Ubuntu as your main OS). So, Wubi may be good for people who want to test Ubuntu, but once you’ve decided to use it on a regular basis, Wubi probably won’t cut it.
Burning a CD can take a while, getting a CD shipped takes an even bigger while, and a friend who can lend you a disk might be hard to find. So, the other option is to use UNetbootin. UNetbootin can either download the contents of the Ubuntu Live CD (or CDs for other distros) or use an already downloaded CD image and put it onto a flash drive. It then makes your flash drive bootable, and makes it behave just like a regular Ubuntu CD.
Download UNetbootin here, insert your flash drive, and run the program you downloaded.
Where it says ‘distribution’, drop down the menu and choose Ubuntu (or whatever distro you want, if you prefer something else). If you already downloaded the CD image, then instead choose the disk image option and point it to the disk image you downloaded. At the bottom, choose your drive from the drop down (if it doesn’t show up in the list, make sure the type is set to flash drive, that your flash drive is plugged in, and that other programs like a file manager can open it””if it still doesn’t show, try closing and re-opening UNetbootin). Then hit OK and let the program work its magic. Once it’s done, head to the next step.
Now, this will only work if your machine can boot from an USB (most can). To do this: Reboot your PC, and either open the BIOS with whatever key it says (F2 on mine) and change the first boot device to an USB flash, or get a one-time boot menu (F12 on mine) and choose USB flash. It will open up just like the Live CD would. Then choose whatever language you want and start the installation. Make sure you know what partition you’re going to use: the setup will give you a partition manager to manage the partitions, but it’s a good idea to already know which disk you want to use, how much free space it has for a new partition, et cetera. Once you’re done, you can wipe the flash drive and use it for whatever you’d normally use it for (you couldn’t do that with a CD unless it was a CD-RW, but those are more expensive and aren’t as good for data quality).
If you already have a Wubi-installed operating system, you can use LVPM to upgrade it to a regular installation, but I won’t get into all the details here (maybe in a later post, but there’s a pretty thorough guide at the project page).
So there you go, a full Linux installation without having to burn a single CD, with all the features and performance.
If you have any questions or problems, leave a comment or if you know something better than UNetbootin, be sure to let us know in the comments too.