Linux Made Easy: A Comprehensive Guide for New Users



The paraphrase, “Are you ready to explore the world of Linux?” If so, you’re in for a treat! The Linux community offers abundant free and open-source software on any PC. With hundreds of active Linux distributions and dozens of different desktop environments to choose from, the possibilities are endless. This is a far cry from the one-size-fits-all, pre-installed Windows software.

However, it’s important to note that Linux operates differently than Windows. From software installation to hardware drivers, there’s a learning curve to navigate. But don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to install Linux on your PC to get started.

With that said, let’s dive into what you need to know to start exploring the world of Linux.

Exploring the World of Linux: A Comprehensive Guide

fedora gnome shell desktop

Linux refers to a family of Unix-like systems based on the Linux kernel rather than a single operating system. Hundreds, if not thousands, of distributions or “distros” of Linux are available. This abundance of choice results from Linux’s open-source nature, which allows skilled individuals to use, edit, modify and redistribute the system to their liking.

Each distro of Linux comes with its own tools and applications, resulting in many different flavours of Linux to explore. However, selecting the right distro can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we will provide guidance on how to choose the right distro later. Let’s examine why you might consider switching to Linux in the first place.

Get Started with Linux: Choosing and Downloading Your First Distro

linux mint 18.2 sonya cinnamon desktop

If you are interested in using Linux, the first step is to choose the Linux distribution that suits your needs. Unlike Windows 10, there is no single version of Linux. The GNU core utilities, the graphical server, a desktop environment, a web browser, and other programs are all included in Linux distributions in addition to the Linux kernel. These components are offered in various combinations by each distribution in a single operating system that you can install.

You can visit DistroWatch, which provides an excellent, in-depth summary of all the main Linux distributions you might wish to try to get an idea of the many Linux distributions that are offered. For former Windows users, Ubuntu is a fine place to start. Ubuntu aims to smooth out a lot of Linux’s harsher edges to make it more approachable for new users.

Alternatively, Linux Mint is another popular option. It comes with the Cinnamon or MATE desktops, which are more traditional than Ubuntu’s Unity desktop. Many users now prefer Linux Mint for its user-friendly interface and ease of use.

When choosing a Linux distribution, your first priority should be finding something other than the absolute best. Instead, opt for a reasonably popular option such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, or openSUSE. These reliable and user-friendly choices suit most people’s needs.

To get started, visit the website of your chosen Linux distribution and download the ISO disc image that corresponds with your hardware. The best part? Linux distributions are free to download and use!

Once you have the ISO file, you have the option to burn it onto a DVD or a USB disk. It’s worth noting that booting from USB 3.0 tends to be faster than booting from a DVD and is often more versatile since many laptops and desktops no longer come equipped with DVD drives.

Burning an image to a USB requires a specialized program. Fortunately, many options are available for Linux distributions, and Rufus, UNetbootin, and Universal USB Installer are the three recommended programs.

If you are using Fedora, the Fedora Media Writer is the most convenient option available. It is easy to use and provides a streamlined experience. You can quickly transfer your desired image to your USB drive without complications. The Fedora Media Writer makes burning images to a USB quick and hassle-free.

The instructions above are suitable for most desktops and laptops. However, if you intend to use Linux on a Chromebook, Raspberry Pi, or any other type of device, there are specific instructions you must follow. These instructions will differ from those mentioned earlier and require special attention to ensure the Linux installation is successful.

Chromebooks and Raspberry Pis, for instance, have a different architecture from traditional computers, and their hardware specifications may not support some Linux distributions. Therefore, it is essential to research and understands the device’s compatibility with Linux before proceeding with the installation process.

Additionally, using Linux on non-traditional devices may require additional steps, such as unlocking the bootloader, creating a bootable USB drive, or installing drivers manually. These steps can vary depending on the device and Linux distribution you plan to install.

In summary, while the instructions provided above are adequate for most desktops and laptops, using Linux on a Chromebook, Raspberry Pi, or any other type of device will require special attention to specific instructions to ensure successful installation.

Boot Linux from External Drive: A Beginner’s Guide

fedora live cd start

To boot a Linux system, restart your computer while the disc or USB device is inserted. If everything is set up correctly, the system should automatically boot. However, there may be instances where you need to change the BIOS or UEFI firmware boot order or manually select a boot device during the process.

If you need clarification on whether your computer is running UEFI or BIOS, it will likely run UEFI, especially if it’s under five years old. On a desktop, you’ll typically need to click the Del or F12 key during the POST phase, which happens before Windows starts booting, in order to access your BIOS or UEFI. By doing this, you’ll gain access to your system’s boot menu, allowing you to select the desired boot device.

Accessing the BIOS/UEFI on laptops can be more challenging than on desktop computers, and this is because many modern laptops need to provide the option to enter UEFI through keystrokes. However, some laptops feature a small, unlabeled button on the side that can be pressed while turning on the computer to enter the UEFI setup screen.

If you need help with how to access the UEFI setup screen on your laptop, it is recommended to consult the user manual of your PC. This will provide you with the necessary information and instructions to successfully access the UEFI setup screen.

When it comes to younger Windows PCs running on Windows 10, disabling Secure Boot may be necessary before booting Linux. Secure Boot has been known to cause problems for many Linux users. Although most of the more significant Linux distributions will boot with Secure Boot enabled, some won’t, and disabling it may be necessary.

Most Linux distributions offer a “live” environment that allows you to use the operating system without installing it on your computer’s hard drive. This means the system runs entirely off the disc or USB drive, providing a chance to get a feel for the Linux desktop.

You can use the Linux desktop like a regular installation in the live environment. You can browse the internet, work with documents, or use any other software pre-installed with the distribution. Additionally, you can install new software, which will remain installed until you reboot the system.

This feature provides an excellent opportunity to experiment with Linux without committing to a complete installation. It also allows you to test how well Linux works on your hardware before installing it. Overall, the live environment is a valuable tool for exploring the world of Linux.

A Linux live DVD or USB drive can be handy even if you intend to use something other than Linux as your everyday operating system. You can insert the DVD or USB drive into any computer and boot Linux whenever possible. This tool can be used for various purposes, including troubleshooting Windows problems, Providing a secure environment for online banking and other crucial functions, retrieving files from a corrupted system, or analyzing a compromised machine for malware.

If you have extra USB sticks, you can test out various Linux distributions and choose the one that best meets your requirements. This is a handy way to test out different versions of Linux without having to install them on your computer. Also, you can save files and settings to the drive, and they will remain accessible every time you boot Ubuntu if you activate the “persistence” option while installing Ubuntu on the USB drive.

To leave the live Linux system, you only need to reboot your computer and remove the disc or USB drive. This makes it easy to switch back to your regular operating system whenever required.

Running Linux Safely and Conveniently in a Virtual Machine

Debian 9 in VirtualBox on Arch Linux

With free virtualization tools like VirtualBox, it is now possible to have multiple virtual machines (VMs) that come complete with their own boot sequences and isolated storage. The ability to run various operating systems on the same computer without having to reboot

 is one of the most well-liked applications for virtual machines.

It is easy to create a virtual machine on Windows that can be used to run a Linux virtual environment. Virtual machines are simple to manage, and when they are no longer needed, they can be deleted. The entire virtualized (guest) operating system 

can be made into backup copies if needed.

Setting up VirtualBox is simple, even if you’ve never used it before. Once installed on Windows 10, you can create a virtual machine using VirtualBox’s wizard in just a few minutes. The step-by-step instructions in the VirtualBox manual are a great resource if you’re still unsure of where to start.

However, there are some disadvantages to using VirtualBox. Virtualization typically causes a performance hit due to overhead, although this can be reduced if your CPU has virtualization support built-in. Intel refers to its virtualization support as VT-x, while AMD’s is known as AMD-V. To benefit from this technology, you must also ensure that virtualization support is enabled on your motherboard (in the UEFI or BIOS).

In addition to the performance hit, virtual machines usually do not have direct hardware access to things like video cards. Despite these disadvantages, virtualization provides an excellent way to try out Linux without needing to install it on your PC’s “bare metal” if you are Linux-curious.

Customizing Your Linux Experience: A Guide to Desktop Environments

Fedora 25 desktop

Linux is an extremely adaptable operating system that offers users a variety of desktop settings and software options. The pre-installed software and user interface on your Linux distribution and desktop environment will vary. However, most Linux distributions come with applications that cater to specific needs. For instance, the Firefox web browser usually comes pre-installed with most Linux distributions, while the Chromium browser (or Google Chrome) can be installed with just a few clicks.

Your desktop environment should have standard components like an application menu, taskbar or dock, and a notification area or “system tray.” Take the time to explore these components to familiarize yourself with how everything works. You will also find a collection of system utilities that enable you to configure your hardware and customize your desktop to suit your needs.

Ubuntu 16.04’s Unity desktop may be quirky, but it is packed with features that may be unfamiliar to you, such as the HUD. Be warned, though, that future releases of Ubuntu will replace the Unity desktop with the GNOME shell, which is the default in Fedora and other distributions. If you want to give Ubuntu a try, we advise Ubuntu GNOME because it uses the GNOME desktop rather than Unity.

In addition, ensure that you enable virtual desktops, as most modern Linux desktops have disabled them by default. Experiment with virtual desktops to determine if they suit your workflow.

Each desktop environment has a set of tools that you may use to change the way your desktop looks and feels. For example, Cinnamon’s System Settings running on Linux Mint 18.2 shows the customization options available.

Most Linux distributions allow you to install the desktop environment of your choice after installation if you are dissatisfied with the one you are currently using. You can install multiple desktop environments simultaneously if you have enough storage space. When you log in, you can select the desktop environment you want to use.

If you need help, there are plenty of online resources available. You may frequently get the answer by googling the name of your distribution and your query. The documentation websites for Fedora and Ubuntu are excellent options if you prefer a more organized assistance environment. Additionally, while the Arch Wiki is geared towards users of Arch Linux, it is an excellent in-depth resource for Linux programs in general.

The Linux Installation Conundrum: Making the Right Choice for Your Computer

When installing Linux, you have a variety of options. Keeping Linux on a disc or USB drive and booting it anytime you need to use it is one option. You can experiment with it multiple times until you are certain that you want to install it. This method allows you to try out different Linux distributions and reuse the same USB drive.

However, the main reasons to install Linux instead of running it from a USB drive or disc are productivity and convenience. Unlike running Linux live, an installed Linux system will remember your settings, maintain your files between reboots, and keep your installed software.

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It is a simple process when you are ready to install Linux on your computer. Just launch the installer provided in the live Linux environment. You have another decision: to wipe away your current Windows system and replace it with Linux or install it in a “dual-boot” configuration. The installer will enlarge your Windows partition to make room for Linux if you choose the latter option, and you may choose which operating system to use each time you boot your machine.

Lastly, you can always choose to install Windows on a virtual machine.

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