If you like the look of Ubuntu and want to try it out on your laptop or PC, simply download the Desktop Edition from the Ubuntu website. Click the Download link in the menu at the top, then the Download and install button. Use the drop-down menus to select the version you want. It's best to go with the defaults unless you have a reason not to. The file is around 700MB.

Also see: Speed up your computer with Ubuntu

There are other links on the page which explain how to run Ubuntu alongside Windows and also instructions on how to burn an installation CD if you don't want to create a bootable USB flash drive as we're going to do here.

Download Ubuntu

We recommend using a 4GB USB flash drive and downloading the Universal USB Installer utility to install Ubuntu. Run the utility (it runs directly in Windows from the executable file you downloaded) and ensure you select the appropriate version of Ubuntu from the list. Next, point the utility to the location of the ISO file on your hard disk and, finally, select the correct drive on which to install it.

Make sure you've backed up the files on the flash drive, as it will erase them. Similarly, back up the files on the computer onto which you're installing Ubuntu, even if you plan to install it as a second operating system.

Universal USB installer

Once all the files have been written to the USB drive, you can insert it into a free port on the computer which will run Ubuntu. If the computer doesn't boot from the flash drive, you'll need to change the order of the boot devices in the Bios. You can enter the Bios by pressing Del, F1 or another key that's listed on the screen at boot time.

Follow the on-screen instructions when Ubuntu loads - it will detect if another operating system is present and provide options about how to install Ubuntu. If you want to get rid of Windows and make Ubuntu the only operating system, we recommend choosing the 'Something Else' option and deleting the Windows partition on your hard disk. You'll also need a 'swap' area, which should be double the capacity of your computer's memory.

If you're familiar partitioning Windows disks, it's a little confusing when doing the same in Linux. Instead of referring to drive letters, you'll see disks and drives listed as hda or sdb, etc. Hda refers to the first IDE disk - the second would be hdb. Modern hard disks which connect via SATA or even USB are called sda, sdb, sdc, etc. Each primary partition is numbered 1 to 4 and each logical partition from 5 upwards. Make sure you're certain of which disk and partition you're dealing with before committing the changes. Partitioning occurs only when you click the install button.

The partitions you need for Ubuntu are: root, home and swap. Root is where Ubuntu is installed, and should be at least 4GB. Choose ext4 as the file system and / as the mount point. The home partition is where your files are kept, and should be large enough to accommodate everything you plan to store. Again, choose ext4 as the type, and /home as the mount point. The swap partition should be twice the capacity of your computer's memory, so if it's 2GB, then create a 4GB swap partition.Choose swap as the type - there's no mount point.

Partition table

During the installation, you'll be asked for a few details including your location, language, username and password. It's advisable to have your computer connected to a network, and you'll be prompted to choose a Wi-Fi network if no Ethernet cable is connected. This ensures the latest updates are installed.

Once installation is complete, remove the flash drive and press Enter. Your computer will restart and launch Ubuntu. Head to the Software Centre (the shopping bag icon towards the bottom of the dock) and you can install your favourite applications including Chromium (the Ubuntu version of Google Chrome), Skype, Dropbox and others.

Ubuntu Software Centre

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