How to Install Linux – Beginners Guide

Last updated: August 4, 2022 | James Kiarie

Linux is an open-source and community-developed operating system based on the Linux kernel. It began as a personal project by Linus Torvalds, who is considered the father of Linux.

Since its official release in 1991, Linux has made huge leaps with its wide adoption in enterprise environments and also by hobbyists and desktop lovers. You can run Linux on most computers that support 64-bit Intel or AMD CPUs.

In this tutorial, we learn how to install Linux on a computer.

Select a Linux Distribution

A Linux distribution is an operating system that is based on the Linux kernel. It comprises the Linux kernel - which is the foundation of the operating system - GNU shell utilities, an installer, a package management system, X Server ( graphical desktop ), and other components many of which are developed independently of each other and distributed as opensource code.

A Linux distribution may contain thousands of software applications and other useful utilities. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Linux distributions. Here are some of the widely used Linux distributions.

Linux DistributionDescription
UbuntuBased on Debian, Ubuntu ranks as one of the best Linux distros for desktops. It provides a user-friendly, elegant, and intuitive GNOME environment by default that is easy to use especially for newbies to Linux and users transitioning from mac os and Windows operating systems.
Linux MintLinux Mint is another popular distribution for desktop and laptop lovers. It provides an easy-to-use user interface that resembles Windows 10 & 7 desktops. . It also provides a myriad of productivity and everyday-to-use applications out of the box to help you get started.
Fedora
Pop!_OSPop!_OS aimed to provide fast navigation, easy workspace organization, and fluid, convenient workflow.
DebianDebian is one of the oldest and most popular Linux distributions on which several distributions are based. These include Ubuntu, Deepin, MX Linux, Kali Linux, and AntiX to mention a few. It's a popular choice for desktop and enterprise environments.
Manjaro Manjaro is an elegant and user-friendly distribution based on Arch Linux. It's a popular distro for laptop and desktop lovers and provides hundreds of free software packages and other essential utilities out of the box. It's a great choice if you are coming from a windows system.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Abbreviated as RHEL, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a commercial Linux distro that is mostly used in enterprise environments for supporting production workloads.
OpenSUSE OpenSUSE is a rock-solid Linux operating system that provides an excellent out-of-the-box experience with bountiful software packages and great support for a variety of hardware.
Arch LinuxArch Linux is a popular Linux distribution for developers and advanced users. It's ideal for users who want to configure the system from the ground up.

Download the Linux Distribution

The first step is to download Linux. This involves downloading an ISO image file of your preferred Linux distribution. Some of the beginner-friendly Linux distros such as Ubuntu Desktop, POP OS, or Linux Mint, you can consider downloading and installing.

When downloading the ISO files, you will be presented with options on whether to download 32-bit or 64-bit ISO files. Nowadays, most modern systems come with 64-bit CPUs, so you will most likely download a 64-bit ISO disk image.

Create the Boot Media

To install Linux, you will need to create a bootable medium. If you have a PC with a DVD drive, you can burn the ISO image directly on a DVD using an application such as PowerISO. However, modern PCs have dropped support for DVD drives, and in most instances, you will be required to create a bootable USB stick. In this guide, we are going to use a 16GB USB flash drive that will be used as an installation media.

With the ISO image at hand, grab your USB stick or flash drive and make it bootable using free tools such as Balena Etcher, Ventoy, Rufus, and UNetbootin just to sample a few.

To demonstrate this, we are going to use Rufus which is a free utility for creating bootable USB drives. So, download the Rufus executable file. Then launch the file. Select your USB stick, and the ISO file, and finally press 'START' to start creating the bootable USB disk.

Create bootable USB drive
Create a bootable USB drive - I have used Rufus

Boot PC or Laptop using Boot Media

With the bootable USB thumb drive in place, plug it into your PC and reboot. Once you see your vendor's logo ( HP, Dell, Asus, etc.), press ESC, F10, or F12 to access your PC's BIOS or UEFI firmware settings. Alternatively, you can perform a quick Google search to check how to access the BIOS settings if in doubt. Next, head over to the boot order section and set the bootable USB drive as the first boot option for your computer to boot from it. Then Save the changes and continue booting.

Modern PCs with UEFI have a feature called Secure Boot which is designed to prevent the installation of unapproved or compromised operating systems which would infect your system with rootkits and other nefarious malware. Modern Linux distributions come with secure boot support enabled.

However, older Linux distributions may require you to disable Secure Boot on your PC before they can boot. However, this may not be necessary since most of the modern distributions now come with support for secure boot as earlier mentioned. Should you encounter a Secure Boot error message, consider disabling the secure boot feature.

During the boot process, you will see a flurry of boot messages on your screen as the installer initializes.

installer initialize
Installer initialize

Once the reboot is complete, you will land in the live environment, and the installer will provide on-screen instructions on how to proceed with the installation process.

Start Linux Installation

The installation concept will be the same for all Linux Distros. Here for example we choose POP!_ OS.

Configure Language settings

Once the system booted, the installer will walk you through a couple of steps. The first step is to select your preferred installation language.

Select a language
Select a language

Once selected, choose the preferred version of your language. For instance, in this case, I have selected United States English.

Select the Region of Language
Select the Region of Language

Configure Keyboard layout

Next up, select your preferred keyboard layout. You can type a few words in the text field provided to verify your selection. Then click 'Select' to continue.

Select keyboard layout language
Select keyboard layout language

Thereafter, select the input language and click 'Select'.

Select keyboard input language
Select keyboard input language

Configure partitioning

Once you have selected the installation language and input language, you will be provided with 3 options for partitioning your hard drive.

  1. Clean Install - This option erases your entire disk and installs OS on it. It also automatically partitions the disk for you.
  2. Custom (Advanced) - This option is handy when you want to install Linux by manually partitioning the disk by yourself. You can specify custom partitions such as swap, root, boot, and home to mention just a few. This option is ideal for experienced users and especially when you have an existing operating system and you want to have a dual boot setup.
  3. Try Demo Mode - This allows you to run OS as if it was actually installed on your computer. No changes will be made to the hard drive.
Clean Install
Clean Install

If you want to start on a clean slate and install Linux on your hard drive, click on 'Clean Install'. The option erases everything on your PC including any existing OS.

Manually Manage Partition (Optional)

However, if you want to manually configure the partitions click the 'Custom ( Advanced )' option. This option also comes in handy especially when you want to dual boot linux with Windows operating system that is already installed on your computer.

Manually Manage Partition
Custom (Advanced)

In the next step, the hard drive capacity will be displayed. To start partitioning the hard drive, click 'Modify' partitions.

Next, the partition table will be displayed and your hard drive will be labelled 'unallocated', the reason being that no partitions exist yet. To start creating partitions, click Device > Create partition table.

On the pop-up that appears, click 'Apply'

Next, right-click on the unallocated partition in the grayed-out section and select 'New'.

We have a 40GB hard drive and these are the partitions that we are going to create:

/boot - 1GB
/home - 15GB
/ - 20GB
swap - 4 GB

In the first dialogue box that appears, provide the details for your boot partition including the size of the partition, filesystem type and label. click the 'Add' button.

The partition will be displayed on the partition table. Next, right-click on the unallocated partition and select 'New' as we did before.

Next, specify the partition details for the home partition and leave everything intact. Then click 'Add'.

Repeat the same procedure to create the root partition.

For the swap partition, select 'Linux-swap' as the file system type.

To apply the changes made to the partition table, click on the green tick icon as shown.

Then click 'Apply' to enforce the changes made to the hard drive.

Next, click 'Close' to exit.

In the next section, you will be required to specify the mount point for each of the created partitions. So, for the first partition ( /dev/sda1), toggle on the 'Use Partition' and 'Format' options and set the partition to be mounted on /boot the mount point

Repeat the same for the /dev/sda2 partition which, in our case, will be mounted on the /home mount point.

Do the same to the /dev/sda3 partition which will be mounted on the /root mount point.

Finally, for the swap partition, set it as 'Swap'.

Finally, all the partitions have been configured with their mount points. Click 'Erase and Install' to continue.

Create a User account

Moving on, the installer will prompt you to create a user account. So, specify the full name login username. The press 'Next'.

Create user account

Then create a password for the user's account and click 'Next'.

choose account password

Next up, you will be required to set up Drive Encryption. This protects your data from being compromised in situations such as when someone is running linux on a Live USB stick.

Encrypting your disk is entirely optional. However, if you decided to encrypt data on your disk, ensure you never forget the password, or else you won't be able to access your operating system.

In this case, we have opted not to encrypt the disk. If this is your choice, uncheck the encryption option and click 'Don't Encrypt'.

From here, the installer will proceed to automatically create the disk partitions and copy all the files and software packages to your hard drive. The progress bar will indicate the progress of the installation process.

Reboot and login into your Linux system

When the installation is complete, you will be prompted to restart. So, click Restart.

Restart the device

Once the system restarts, you will be presented with the login screen. So click on the avatar and provide your password.

This ushers you to the OS desktop. The Welcome window will walk you through the post-installation process which is quite easy and intuitive.

All Done !! Ready to start using Linux.

This takes you to the OS desktop. From here you can navigate and explore various features and settings that your Linux system has to offer.

Desktop

Conclusion

In this guide, we have demonstrated how to install Linux operating system on a hardware computer. As you can see, installing Linux is not as hard as it might appear and it's just a matter of following basic instructions provided by the installation wizard. Most distros will follow the same installation procedure.

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