Ken Hough's Website

Linux For Beginners

Installing Linux:

Most Linux distros install in much the same way, so let's take a look at how this proceeds.

First of all, the computer should be connected to the Internet via a broadband router and this connection should be via an ethernet cable (wi-fi connections can be set up later).

Next insert a Linux installation CD or DVD and boot the computer from this. You might need to adjust the BIOS to allow the PC to boot from the CD/DVD drive.

Depending on the distro used, you should eventually see either:-

-- A 'live' version of Linux which runs from RAM alone. This will take some minutes to load. The hard drive will not be written to. You may use this 'live' system to explore Linux and even to browse the Internet, or you can click on an icon that will initiate a full installation to the hard drive.


-- A menu giving a number of options for initiating installation directly to the hard drive.

Linux can be configured to provide for different kinds of duty, so options presented during installations might seem complicated and confusing. New users of Linux should normally choose default options. Do not be tempted to play with other options, especially those labelled as “expert”.

In essence, you will be asked to define your location, language, and keyboard format. You will be asked to define what duties the installation should perform. Just leave it set as a normal desktop machine (or a laptop config if appropriate). Depending on the distro used you will be asked to enter user name(s) and password(s), and in the case of Debian Linux, also a separate root/admin password. Do not forget the root password!

The installer program should then automatically detect and configure the ethernet port of the PC before requesting an IP address from your router via DHCP. The system should then be ready for the installation to begin. This will include downloading the latest versions/updates of software from the on-line distro specific repositories.

During the installation process, Linux will be installed along with very large libraries of hardware drivers. These libraries will most likely include drivers for any printer, scanner, or other hardware that you might have. As well as installing the Linux operating system, the process will also install most of the application software that you are likely to need. eg office suite, browser, email client, media player, etc – all in one operation. So no need to hunt around for other installation CDs and licence keys or to execute several re-boots as would be the case with a Microsoft system.

Despite carrying full libraries of drivers, a Linux installation can be expected to boot up significantly faster than is the case for a Microsoft Windows system.

Don't judge the distro by the appearance of the installer program. For example, the Debian Linux installer does appear to be quite basic (even archaic) , but it is actually one of the slickest of installers.

Depending to some degree on the speed of your PC and Internet connection, the entire installation process should take only an hour or so. You should then have a fully working Linux system complete with application software, and ready to go when the computer is re-started.

Note: Typically only ONE re-boot is needed and that is simply to transfer control from the kernel used for installation to one that is installed on the hard drive. Later when additional software is installed, it will not be necessary to reboot – unless updates to the kernel are applied.

That's it! Simple!

One more point to consider:

Linux is available to run on 32 bit processors and on 64 bit processors. Current 64 bit processors can run in 32 bit mode and so can run both versions of Linux, but not vice versa.

A 64 bit version of Linux will usually be able to run 32 bit versions of software. I use a 64 bit system, usually without problems. However, there have been a few issues, and for this reason, unless you are keen to go for 64 bit operation, I suggest that you begin by choosing a 32 bit version of Linux.

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