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Going Linux

To get the full advantage of this technote it helps that you know how to install memory and an additional hard drive into your existing Windows computer. If you do not have these skills, most computer stores offer installation services for a fee.

Here is a quick quiz before we start.

Are you tired of Microsoft® Windows™ getting infected every time you turn around?

Are you tired of Windows™ getting slower as it gets older?

Are you tired of having to pay for expensive Microsoft® upgrades that just take more of your money and don't actually make your life any easier?

Are you tired of being forced to buy a whole new computer just because the new Windows™ operating system doesn't work with your existing hardware?

Do you want an operating system with major updates (actual improvements) every year?

Do you want an operating system with good free support and good commercial support by people that actually speak your native language?

Do you want an alternative you can start using today?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is the technote for you. Otherwise, please direct someone else to this technote.

The most active and friendly version of Linux for the typical Windows user at the time of this writing is called Linux Mint. This works equally well on average laptop and desktop computers, even if they are too old to run the latest Microsoft Windows.

The following is our suggested path to get Linux Mint running on almost any Windows XP or newer computer while keeping your existing Windows intact.

  1. Go to www.LinuxMint.com and download the latest desktop CD image and burn it to a blank CD disk. You most likely want the 32 bit version if you have been running any version of Windows that does not have 64 bit in the version or description. Unlike Microsoft Windows, the 32bit version of Linux Mint can access all of your computer's memory even if you have more than 4 gigabytes of RAM installed. But if your computer has more than 4 gigabytes of memory you may also want to try the 64bit version of Linux Mint for better performance on modern hardware.
  2. Boot your computer and note the total memory. You want at least 512 megabytes, but more RAM is better. If you do not have enough RAM, go to your favorite computer store and pick up the maximum amount of RAM you can fit into your motherboard. This may require taking your computer into the store for help. Be very careful with the RAM sticks because they are very sensitive to any kind of static shock, even static you can not feel. Keep them safe inside static blocking bags (the pink, green or dark silvery looking bags with ESD printed on the outside) whenever the RAM is not installed in a computer.
  3. If your Windows hard drive is very full (less than 20 gigabytes available free space), you may also want a new additional hard drive at least 40 gigabytes or larger. Hard drives are very affordable right now so this is a good idea even if you have lots of free space on your Windows hard drive. Unless you know for sure your computer is fully compatible with big hard drives, it is smart to stay away from the super large capacity drives because they are not as compatible with older motherboards. Install the new drive in your computer along with your existing Windows hard drive following the manufacturer's directions. You do not need to format this new drive!
  4. Boot your computer from the Linux Mint CD (may require a change in your BIOS so the CD-ROM drive boots before the hard disk drive). This CD is a live test run of the Linux Mint operating system. Notice that Firefox, games and productivity programs are available to use right away, but they run slower from the CD than they do from the hard drive. Keep this part in mind while you explore and test.
  5. If everything works like you want and you can get to web sites on the Internet, then your computer hardware is compatible with Linux Mint and you can double click the Install icon on the desktop to continue. When asked, tell it to use the new (blank) hard drive you just installed. If you did not install a new hard drive, choose the option to shrink Windows and use the available drive space for Linux Mint.
  6. Installation takes a few minutes. You can continue to use Firefox (or any other program) while this happens, but be aware that a lot of work is going in in the background so things may be a little slow from time to time. When completed, reboot and remove the CD. You will have a choice every time you boot your computer to start Windows or Linux Mint so you can go back to run Windows programs later if needed.

Note: If you have a gigabyte or more of RAM installed, there are some very interesting ways to run your old Windows on top of Linux Mint using a technology called virtual computing. The free VirtualBox program can run your Microsoft Windows inside Linux and is covered in another tech note.

After Linux Mint boots from your hard drive, go to the Applications menu, the Other section and choose the Update Manager program to check for updates. This ensures all of the newest updates and bug fixes are installed and you have the latest protection. It is a good idea to look for updates on a regular basis especially if your computer is turned off or disconnected from the Internet most of the time.

Share and share alike

When you are done, give the Linux Mint CD to someone else so they can see what Linux Mint looks like in person on their own computer without needing to install anything. Encourage them to make copies of the CD and pass them on to others too. The Linux Mint CD is also a good way to see if new and used computers are compatible with Linux before you buy them.

First published 2007-06-10. The last major review or update of this information was on 2011-12-20. Your feedback using the form below helps us correct errors and omissions on this page.