Linux for the masses. The easiest way to try it

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A lot of people have heard of Linux, and maybe want to try it. But the talk of partitioning the hard drive, messing with the BIOS or even burning an ISO file, has many giving it second thoughts, thinking it all sounds too complicated.

There's now an easier way thanks to the 'wubi' installer

The usual way of trying Linux is via a 'live' CD/DVD, where you download an ISO (a CD/DVD image)
Burn it to the appropriate media, then change the boot order of your PC to boot a CD/DVD first
You then boot from the CD/DVD and Linux runs entirely from the CD/DVD without touching the hard drive or Windows. All clever stuff and you can install it to the hard drive in a multi-booting format with Windows if you decide you like it.

But, as I already mentioned, this sees a lot of people with their eyes glazing over, and running to the hills in panic at the thought of such 'geeky' stuff - especially if there's a chance of not being able to access Windows afterwards...... which can't happen with a 'live' CD/DVD anyway, but rumours, especially false ones have a way of circulating through the grapevine.

So back to the easy way with 'wubi'

You download the tiny 1MB file in the link above
(just put "wubi" in Google if Ebay decide to remove my link btw) and run the file. 
You are asked to choose a version of Linux from a menu of 4 types
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Kubuntu with KDE4 or Xubuntu. They are all basically the same version of Linux, but one of the joys of Linux is the different GUI front ends available. Whereas Windows utilises the same GUI, Linux has many different ones catering for different needs or designed to run on older hardware.

Unless you have a very old PC with limited RAM, you'll probably not want or need to use Xubuntu which uses a light desktop that is lacking in some of the nice touches available in the other three. KDE 4 is experimental and probably best avoided too, so that leaves us with two choices Ubuntu or Kubuntu

You can try all four if you wish, because another feature of 'wubi' is it's easily uninstalled too, but for now we'll stick to two. Ubuntu uses a 'Gnome' desktop which although fully featured is probably not quite as good as Kubuntu with the KDE desktop IMO, but it's toss a coin time really.  If you can't decide go for Kubuntu

So we've picked our 'flavour' of Linux, now we need to allocate some space on the HD for it. If you were installing Linux the traditional way, you'd need special Linux partitions, but with wubi, you allocate space on a Windows partition and a pseudo Linux file system is created within that.  The default is 15 GB, which is more than you'll ever need unless you plan to do a lot of large downloads when using it. 5 GB is plenty, but I'd use 7 to give a bit of head room.

Next choose your user name password and away you go

The installer will then download the ISO you chose and install it in the pseudo file system for you - after it's rebooted that is, because although it's in a Windows partition, it's runs outside of Windows and needs to be picked at boot-up time from the boot menu.  It takes about 10 minutes to install, depending on your PC.
I tried it on dual core 3800 with 2 GB of RAM and it took about 6 minutes on that.

It will add an entry to the Windows bootloader, so you can choose Linux or Windows at start-up

The ISO it has to download is nearly 700 MB, so you need quite a fast connection and shouldn't try it on dial-up unless you're very patient and leave your PC on all night and all day, till it's finished downloading

Even if you're on broadband, you may need to do it the alternative way though, because this is very popular and the server is overloaded most of the time.

The alternative way is to download the ISO for yourself - don't worry, you don't have to burn it to CD - just put it in the same folder as the wubi installer and it will find it automatically

The Kubuntu ISO to work with the current installer is here

Enjoy you first taste of Linux ;o)
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