Now that you've acquired Linux Mint, you have a number of choices in how you install and/or use it. We'll look at the pros and cons of each.
Booting from CD (or DVD)If you have a magazine cover disk or have burnt a CD/DVD from your download ISO, it's just a a matter of slipping in the disk and rebooting your PC. This is often touted as a great way to try out Linux. I disagree. Optical drives are just too damn slow. Unless you're merely booting the disk to actually install Linux on a hard drive, I don't recommend it.
- Simple: just pop in the disk and reboot.
- Non-invasive: There's nothing to install.
- Compatability: A good way to check your basic hardware will work with Linux.
- Installation: A very easy way to install Linux to a hard disk
- Speed: It's slo-o-o-ow! Running for CD will give you nothing like the performance of a hard disk-based installation.
- Saving: While you can save data to your hard disk or USB drive, you can't update the OS itself.
Running from a USB driveThis is a much better option than running Linux from a CD or DVD -- especially if you're using USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 -- but it's only available to file downloaders.
You need two things to create a bootable Linux USB drive: the downloaded ISO image file and a copy of the Universal USB Installer from Pendrivelinux.com. Creating a bootable drive is a simple, two-step process and it's fully documented on the Pendrive website.
- Quick: Close to hard disk drive speeds.
- Portable: You can carry it with you and use it any PC.
- Reboot required: You'll have to reboot the PC to use Linux.
- ISO required: You need an ISO image first, and that means a download.
In a virtual machineVirtual machines are a great way to try Linux. In fact they're a great way to try a variety of Linuxes!
What is a virtual machine? It's a piece of software that runs on your computer and simulates ... a raw computer. A more formal definition is a "completely isolated guest operating system installation within a normal host operating system". What that means in practical terms is that you can do stuff like this ...
Yes, that's Windows 7, Android and Pinguy Linux all running inside my regular Kubuntu Linux distribution courtesy of VirtualBox -- a free virtualisation program for Linux, Mac and Windows machines.
- Easy: You can try out a variety of operating systems to see which you prefer.
- Multiformat: Build virtual machines from disks or ISO images -- without having to write them to disk first!
- No reboot: Virtual machines run inside you running OS so there's
no need to reboot.
- Full-screen: VMs can run in a window or full-screen.
- Fun: You can mess about with a VM and try things you wouldn't normally risk on a regular install.
- Speedy: Depending on what else you're running, a VM can perform
almost as fast as your regular machine -- dependent of course on good
- Hardware: You need plenty of RAM and plenty of disk space and fast CPU for good performance.
- Graphics: Graphics drivers in VB are good, but they don't handle all the fancy stuff many modern graphics cards are capable of.
- A little too easy?: See below ...
Installing as alternative operating system
The real way to try Linux is to install it in parallel with your
current operating system. That way you'll give it full access to all
your hardware and allow it to fully exploit the capacity of your PC.
But there's another more subtle reason I suggest a multi-boot
installation. It involves a bit of psychology.
More than a decade ago I set myself the task of using nothing but Linux for a month. The long-term result surprised even me: I've used little else ever since. It's that good (and was, even back then). But Linux is different. There are things that will seem strange at first -- but only because they're new -- and there is a learning curve. By immersing yourself in it, you'll soon learn its nuances.
Running it as a VM is fine, but the moment you encounter something a bit tricky, the temptation is to flip back and do it in your old OS. Result: you learn nothing. I don't know about you, but if I'm faced with a reboot I tend to think "I'll just try googling for that first ..."
That was the way I learned Linux ... and came to love it!
- Hardware: It fully exploits that capacity of your hardware, at full speed too!
- Full immersion: The best way to learn Linux.
- Reboot required: You'll have to reboot the PC to use your other OS.
I'll be stepping you through a full Linux Mint installation next time.