Linux installation

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Choosing a distribution

Main article: Choosing a Linux distribution.

General remarks

If you just want to try Linux your best choice is to use VMware to create a virtual machine and install Linux on it. Always use the distribution that the Linux guru next door uses, so if you have any problems you can ask him or her for help.

Note about source based distributions
If you are interested in the nuts-and-bolts of Linux, and don't mind reading a long list of instructions, then running through a Gentoo installation may be for you. A source based distribution such as Gentoo encourages its users to come to grips with Linux system management by making them configure, compile and set up everything from scratch. It's really worth doing if you have the time to learn that way, and the learning method and quality of the documentation set it apart from most other distros.

Hardware requirements

In general if you don't need special features or have exotic hardware requirements and little or no Linux knowledge you are on the safe side using one of the major distributions, i.e. Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, openSuSE, Red_Hat. All them are equipped with a graphical installation, preconfigured desktop and graphical configuration tools.

Of course if you require to run Linux on a pre Pentium machine you might get in trouble using the latest Mandriva, Fedora, etc. because they may not support every processor type and require a certain amount of system memory, try an older version of Mandrake or Red Hat. On the other hand using the latest technology may confront you with a lack of drivers and proper support unless you get a development / factory version from a frequently updated distro.

Some Live CD distributions, such as Knoppix or Ubuntu allow you to test-drive before you install. Knoppix is well-known for its very good automatic detection and configuration system and is a useful diagnostic tool to help you gather info about your system before installing any chosen distro.

A majority of distributions make a good attempt at autodetecting the target system's hardware, though WiFi device auto-detection is still more or less non-existent if not using an Intel based chip.

Special hardware requirements, like old hardware, may lead you to other distributions like VectorLinux which is based on Slackware.

How to get a Distribution?

  • Buy a boxed distribution online or in a store. This way you get user guides specific to your distribution and support from the distributor. If you buy an official copy some of the money will help maintain the distribution.
  • Download the ISO files and burn your own CD set. The ISO files can be found at the main distribution site or on countless mirrors. If the option exists, downloading from a distributed P2P network such as BitTorrent is preferable. Using p2p the download is likely to be faster, especially at busy times, and the cost to the distributor is far less than over ftp.
  • Download only a small installation CD or floppy image and install your system directly per FTP Install or HTTP Install. Only the selected software is downloaded which is in most cases faster than downloading the whole CD set. But not every distribution supports this installation type.
  • Sometimes magazines add partial or even complete distributions, occasionally before they are made available online.

Installation Guides

Configuring Linux

General

Co-habitating with Microsoft Windows® (Dual Booting)

Where to get general help

What next? How to make the most of Linux.

How to keep a distribution up to date

  • Use a package manager like apt-get, Synaptic, up2date, urpmi ... to download, install, and upgrade applications, and to find applications that will meet your needs.