Ubuntu Setup: Installing

Making Some Decisions

Note

You should read the Ubuntu Setup: About Linux section before continuing.

Single Boot or Dual Boot?

If you have a PC, your first decision is whether you want to keep Microsoft Windows™. Millions of people work exclusively on Linux, including a few people at MousePaw Media. However, if you rely on Windows-only software, such as Microsoft Office™ or software from Adobe or Autodesk, you may want to keep Microsoft Windows™ installed.

Note

You should consider whether you are actually dependent on the Windows-only software you use, or if a Linux alternative will do just as well. See Ubuntu Setup: About Linux

Warning

Use of Microsoft Windows™ 7 or later for company work is strictly prohibited. This means you may not install and use your work copy of Linux as a virtual machine on Windows.

If you want Ubuntu Linux to be your only operating system on the computer, the installation process is a lot easier.

Otherwise, if you want to have both Windows and Ubuntu Linux on your machine, you can install them side-by-side. To do this, you must have at least 200 GB of free space on your hard drive.

Warning

Whether you’re single-booting or dual-booting, backup all of your files to external removable media**, such as an external hard drive or a flash drive! If something goes wrong (which it can), you’ll need that backup.

Note

If you’re a little intimidated by all of this, consider seeking out a tech-savvy friend, coworker, or relation to help you, especially if you’re dual-booting.

If you’re on a Mac, your best option is to install Ubuntu Linux on Parallels.

Choosing a Distribution

Below are links to several great Ubuntu-based operating systems, including Ubuntu itself. They all run the same software and work the same at their heart, so just pick one you like.

If you have absolutely no idea what to go for, just go with Ubuntu itself. I’m writing these instructions on Ubuntu anyway!

If you’re not sure which version to select, we recommend one of these two:

These are other options in the Ubuntu family:

Alterative Distributions

If you’re a more experienced Linux user, there are hundreds of other varieties of Linux that can be used.

However, these are not officially supported by MousePaw Media for development, and we offer no in-house technical support for them. In some cases, you’ll need to compile some required software packages from source.

If you’re up for the challenge, and are willing to be your own technical support, you are welcome to use any variety of Linux you like for development work at MousePaw Media.

Here’s a few popular, non-Ubuntu varieties of Linux.

Choosing a Version

A new version of Ubuntu releases every six months. While it is always free to upgrade, it isn’t always easy, and sometimes you have to reinstall the entire operating system in the process.

Every two years, Ubuntu releases a Long-Term Support [LTS] version, which is supported with updates for five years. The most recent LTS was Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”. If you’d prefer stability over cutting-edge new features, I’d recommend this option.

However, if you’re tech-savvy and love experimenting with the latest features, you might want to use the newest release.

Important

Our instructions and build environment are all based on the LTS release. If you use a newer version, you will be responsible for adjusting instructions for your release yourself.

32-bit or 64-bit?

You should know whether your computer is a 32-bit or a 64-bit system. In any version of Windows, go to Control Panel → System. On Windows 7/8/10, you may need to use the search box in the Control Panel to find this. Look for “32-bit” or “64-bit”.

If you’re on a modern Mac, it’s 64-bit.

Preparing for Installation

Downloading and Creating Installation Media

Once you’ve selected your distro, go to the official download page on their website. While you can usually download the ISO (disk image) file directly, you should seriously consider using the Torrent. This option reduces the load on the server, and it can be stopped and resumed whenever!

You can download torrents on Windows using µTorrent, or on Mac/Linux using Transmission.

Once you’ve downloaded the ISO, burn it onto a blank DVD (if your computer has a DVD drive), or make a bootable Flash drive following these instructions.

Preparing For Disaster

We’d all like to believe that this process is flawless, but nothing with computers is. You should have a backup plan in case something goes haywire.

1) Make sure you have a backup of all your files! Put this backup on a removable device, such as an external hard drive or a flash drive (or set of flash drives).

Note

If you’re ditching Windows forever, congrats! You can skip steps 2-3.

2) Find your Microsoft Windows™ recovery disk or flash drive. If you want to dual-boot, you’ll want to have this handy in case something goes wrong and Windows gets nuked.

3) Write down your Microsoft Windows™ license key. For Windows 7 or 8, you can recover this key using Magical Jellybean KeyFinder. You may want to write down any other software license keys that tool recovers, as well.

4) Write down a list of all your Windows software. Make sure you have install disks, registration info and/or keys, etc. You should probably do this, even if you are ditching Windows. You may want to set up a VirtualBox later!

Preparing for Dual-Boot

Note

If you’re not dual-booting with Windows, you can skip this step.

In Windows, open up “Disk Management”. On the table, find the disk and partition (disk section) that has at least 200GB of free space. It is probably marked Active (System, Healthy, Primary Partition), although you can certainly install Linux on a different hard drive or partition from Windows.

Right-click that partition on the chart and click Shrink Volume.... Under Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB:, enter the amount of space (in MB) you want to set aside for Linux. There are 1024 MB in 1 GB, so (200 GB = 204800 MB) and (250 GB = 256000 MB).

Installing Linux

Turn Off Secure Boot

If you have a PC running Windows 8 or later, you may need to turn off Secure Boot before you can install Linux.

Note

It is not possible to install Linux on Microsoft-branded computers, such as the Surface Pro.

To do this, go to the Power menu (where you shut down from), hold down SHIFT, and click Restart. After a few moments, a menu screen will appear. Select TroubleshootingAdvanced OptionsUEFI Firmware Settings.

This will bring up the UEFI Settings control panel, which is independent of the operating system. Every brand of computer has its own such control panel, and they all tend to look a little different.

Warning

Be very careful in here.

Search through the options for “Secure Boot” and disable it. If you’re dual-booting, do NOT turn off UEFI altogether! Also, search for “Fast Boot” (if the option is present) and disable that.

Change Boot Order

Note

If you are on a PC running Windows 7 or earlier, you probably have BIOS instead of UEFI. To get to that, restart your computer. As the computer brand flashes on your screen at the beginning of startup, look for the key to press for “Setup”. If you miss the chance to press it, just turn off the computer by the power button and try again.

Either on your UEFI or BIOS control panel, look for the option to set “boot order,” which denotes the order of devices to boot from. Set your Ubuntu installation media (the DVD drive or bootable flash drive) as the first device in that list.

Now press the key listed as “Save Changes and Exit”. Your computer should boot to the installation medium.

Testing Linux

You will be given the option to “Try” the Linux operating system you selected. This is called the “Live” version. You should always run this first, to make sure it will work on your computer.

Note

Give it some time - it is actually loading the entire operating system from the DVD or flash drive into RAM, so it will be very slow. The final installed operating system will be much faster.

When the “Live” version of the operating system has booted, feel free to test it out. At minimum, make sure you have a working internet connection, as you’ll need that for the installation to finish. If you can’t get the internet working, this may suggest that your computer’s internet hardware is not compatible with Linux.

When you’re happy, start the “Install” program.

Installing Linux

The first screen will ensure you are connected to the internet and have enough hard drive space for the installation. Check Download updates while installing and Install this third-party software. Click Continue.

Warning

Be very careful what you select on the next screen!

For Single-Boot

If you want to permanently remove Windows and install Linux, select “Erase disk and install Ubuntu”. This is usually the best option for a completely new install.

Alternatively, you can click Something else and set up the partitions yourself. I personally recommend having a 50 GB / partition, and using the rest as a separate /home partition. You can find more information about setting up partitions on this page.

Note

As of Ubuntu 18.04, it is no longer necessary to set up a separate swap partition.

For Dual-Boot

If you’re dual-booting, be very careful. Look for the section marked free space, and click the + button to create a new partition.

We’ll first set aside 50 GB for our system, so set the partition size to be 50000 MB, Primary and Beginning of this space. Set Use as to ext4, and Mount point to /. Confirm.

Next, we’ll create the swap space, which is used as a sort of extension to our RAM memory. Click free space again and click +. Set the partition size equivalent to the amount of RAM you have (remember, 1 GB = 1024 MB). Select End of this space and set Use as to swap area. Confirm.

Finally, we’ll use the rest of the free space for our /home partition. Select free space again and click +. Leave the size at the default, and leave Primary and Beginning of this space selected. Set Use as to ext4 and Mount point to /home. Confirm.

Important

On the table, ensure that the checkmark under the Format column is only checked on those three partitions you just made! DO NOT FORMAT ANY OTHER PARTITIONS!

Click Install Now, and then read and confirm the dialog boxes.

During the Install

Your installation has started! While we wait, let’s set a few options.

If you have an internet connection (you should), you can enter your city in the box below the map. Then, click the option in the popup list. (If you have too much trouble with this, just click your time zone on the map and call it good.)

Next, select your language and keyboard layout. Chances are, you can leave the defaults.

Finally, create your login credentials. Enter your full name in the top box. Then, take this opportunity to think of a good name for your computer - you’ll see that name every time you open the Terminal. This is also the name that will appear on local networks when you connect, so it’s helpful to have a unique and identifiable name.

Some computer names I’ve seen include tardis, bagofholding, enigma (that one’s mine), cortex, and sunshine. Just pick something that makes you happy.

Third, pick a username. This is usually your first name, but it can be anything, so long as it is composed only of lowercase letters and numbers, and the first character is a lowercase letter.

Finally, choose a password. If you ever lost this password, you could reset it with a little effort, but you really should pick one that is easy to remember. At the same time, you should choose a password that is hard to guess. (See “A Word About Passwords” below.)

Once that’s done, just wait for the install to finish. There are some interesting slides that will tell you more about Ubuntu Linux while you wait, but don’t plan on staring at the screen the whole time. The install can take anywhere from 1-6 hours, depending on your internet connection speed.

A Word About Passwords

Passwords don’t have to be hard to remember. First, here are a few rules:

  • NEVER use your name, or the name of a relative, friend, or pet.
  • Don’t use any form of the phrases “password”, “secret”, “letmein”, or “iforgot” in the password. These are surprisingly common, and as such, they’re the first thing a cracker tries.
  • Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, at least one number or symbol (ideally at least one of each). This doesn’t mean things have to be in crazy or illogical positions. That said...
  • Length is the real key to a good password!
  • Real words are allowed! Passwords are cracked one character at a time, so the dictionary and the rules of grammar actually don’t help the bad guys.

There are two easy (and fun) ways to make a good password that follows these rules:

1) Think of your favorite song lyric, movie line, or poem. That whole thing without spaces is your password! Seriously. Leanonmewhenyou’renotstrongI’llbeafriendI’llhelpyoucarryon! is actually a solid password. It’s long, and has a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters and symbols. Yet, it’s easy to remember. You won’t ever forget it!

2) Pick 3-4 random words out of the dictionary, preferably ones of moderate length. You can choose ones that make you laugh, as they’ll be easier to remember. Then, mix in the month and year you created this password, and at least one symbol. 01/17:ZealousJellyfishWrangler! is a very strong password, and after you’ve typed it a couple of times, it’s hard to forget.

You can use GRC Haystack and How Secure Is My Password? to test out your password. Those sites are safe to enter your password on - they won’t store anything.

After The Install

Once the installation is finished, it will prompt you to restart your computer. Click the Restart Now button. When prompted, remove your installation media (the DVD or USB) and press ENTER.

Your computer will now restart. If it hangs in the process, go ahead and turn it off via the power button.

When you start the computer up, you may need to tap a key to view the Boot Menu and select an operating system to boot to. This key is usually F11 or F12, but you can find it when you first turn on the computer and see the manufacturer logo.

If there is only the option to boot to the hard drive or an external device, boot to the hard drive. You should be presented with an option to start your Linux operating system or Windows (usually “Windows Boot Manager”).

Once you’ve booted into Linux, continue to the next section of this tutorial.