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This chapter is geared towards intermediate users. Some tech skills are required.

Ubuntu — A beginner-friendly Linux distribution

How to install Ubuntu

Discover Ubuntu

The easiest way to discover Ubuntu is to run it alongside your current operating system, for example using a Live USB drive or VirtualBox. If Ubuntu isn't to your liking, you can simply switch back to Windows or macOS.

If you only want to give Ubuntu a quick spin, run it off a Live DVD or USB drive. More details below.

Show me a step-by-step guide

Instructions Description
Download Download the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu. At the time of writing, the latest LTS was Ubuntu 20.04. Check out the most recent release cycle for more information.
Burn Use a Windows, macOS or Ubuntu Linux machine to burn the downloaded .iso file to a DVD. Alternatively, use a Windows, macOS or Ubuntu machine to create a bootable USB drive.
Restart Insert the bootable DVD or USB drive and restart the computer. Most machines will boot automatically from the DVD or USB drive. If that's not the case, try repeatedly hitting F12, ESC, F2 or F10 when the computer starts up. This should provide access to the boot menu, where you can select the DVD or USB drive.
Test Ubuntu Select Try Ubuntu without installing from the menu.

VirtualBox is another option to discover Ubuntu while keeping your current operating system. The program creates so-called virtual machines which run inside your Windows or macOS machine. More detailed instructions below.

Show me a step-by-step guide

1. Install VirtualBox

Make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements: 2GHz dual core processor or better, 2 GB RAM or more, 25 GB of free drive space. Download and run the latest VirtualBox Platform Package for Windows hosts. Open the downloaded .exe file and follow the installation wizzard.

Make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements: 2GHz dual core processor or better, 2 GB RAM or more, 25 GB of free drive space. Download the VirtualBox Platform Package for OS X hosts. Open the downloaded .dmg file and drag the VirtualBox icon on top of the Application folder. For easy access, open the Applications folder and drag the VirtualBox icon to your dock.

2. Configure VirtualBox

Instructions Description
Download Ubuntu Download the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu Desktop. At the time of writing, the latest LTS was Ubuntu 20.04. Check out the most recent release cycle for more information.
Create a Virtual Machine Start VirtualBox and click on the button New.
Name and operating system Give your Virtual Machine (VM) a name, for example Ubuntu. Also select the Operating System (Linux) and the version, for example Ubuntu (64-bit).
Memory size Choose how much RAM to allocate to Ubuntu. 2 GB are recommended, 3-4 GB are even better.
Hard disk Select Create a virtual hard disk now to add a virtual hard disk.
Hard disk file type Choose the VDI format for the hard disk file type.
Storage on physical hard disk Choose Dynamically allocated for the hard disk file size.
File location and size Choose where to create the virtual disk. Also, decide how much disk space to allocate to Ubuntu. 10 GB are recommended, more is even better.
Optical Disk Selector Back on the main screen, click on Start to launch the Virtual Ubuntu Machine. In the pop-up dialogue, click on the icon to choose a virtual optical disk file. Click on Add and navigate to the location of the downloaded LTS Ubuntu .iso file. Click on Open, Choose and Start. After the boot phase, the Ubuntu installation wizzard will show up.

3. Install Ubuntu in VirtualBox

Instructions Description
Welcome Select a language and click on Install Ubuntu.
Keyboard layout Select a keyboard layout.
Updates and other software Choose between a normal or minimal installation, depending on how many apps you would like to install from the start. Optionally, check the box Download updates while installing Ubuntu to speed up the setup after the installation, and the box Install third-party software to benefit from (proprietary) drivers for graphics, WiFi, media files, and so on. Click on Continue.
Installation type & encryption This screen allows to choose whether to delete the existing operating system and replace it with Ubuntu, or whether to install Ubuntu alongside the existing operating system (so-called dual boot).

Since we're installing Ubuntu in VirtualBox, no other operating system is present. Just choose Erase disk and install Ubuntu, click on Advanced features and select Use LVM with the new Ubuntu installation as well as Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation. Then click on OK and Install Now.
Choose a security key Choose a strong and unique security key. It will be required to decrypt the disk each time the computer starts up. Also check the box Overwrite empty disk space for more security. Click on Install Now. Confirm the pop-up window by clicking on Continue.

Caution: If you lose the security key, all data will be lost. Store the security key safely.
Where are you? Choose a time zone and location. Click on Continue.
Who are you? Provide login information, such as a username and strong, unique password. Select Require my password to log in. Click on Continue.
Restart & login for the first time Click on Restart Now after the successful installation. The Virtual Machine will reboot. You can now log in to your first Ubuntu session by providing the correct security key and password.
Discover Ubuntu Walk through the initial setup options, and start discovering Ubuntu. Close the session once you've finished. Going forward, you can launch Ubuntu by clicking on the Start button on VirtualBox's main screen.

Show me a summary video

The Ubuntu Desktop

After signing in for the first time, the so-called GNOME Desktop will load:

Gnome Desktop Elements Description
Top bar Displays date, time, notifications, battery life, network connections, volume, and so on.
Dock Located on the left, displays shortcuts to your favorite applications, and currently open applications. The dock's location can be changed.
App drawer Located on the bottom left of the dock, provides access to all installed apps.
Overview screen Accessible via the Activities button on the top bar, displays all open windows.
Search bar Accessible via the Activities, allows to look for apps, files, settings, commands, and so on.

The terminal

The terminal is an interface to execute text based commands. Many new users are put off by the terminal, as it's often associated with some obscure code hacking. In fact, using the terminal is not that hard and can be much faster than navigating the graphical interface. Open the terminal with the shortcut CTRL + ALT + T, or click on the "Applications" button on the top left and search for "Terminal".

Tell me more about the terminal

The terminal is sometimes called shell, console, command line or prompt. It takes some time to get used to, but is quite efficient once you've learned a few tricks. For example, putting sudo in front of a command means it's run with administrator privileges. Similar to the security pop-ups in Windows and macOS, which require an administrator password before installing a program or modifying a setting. Here some more reading material to become a terminal-ninja:


Ubuntu installation

Install Ubuntu

Start to like Ubuntu? Want to permanently install it on your computer? Great! Just perform some preliminary checks and follow the installation instructions below.

Show me the list of preliminary checks

Checklist Description
Is my device compatible with Linux? Test it with a Live USB or VirtualBox
• Check the compatibility database
Ask the Internet
• Buy a Linux compatible computer
Does my device fulfill the minimum requirements? • 2 GHz dual core processor
• 4 GB system memory (RAM)
• 25 GB of free storage space (Ubuntu takes approx. 5 GB, keep at least 20 GB for your data)
Is my device plugged in? If you install Ubuntu on a mobile device such as a laptop, make sure it's plugged in.
Is the installation medium accessible? Check if your computer has either a DVD drive or a free USB port.
Is my device connected to the Internet? Check if the Internet connection is up and running.
Have I backed up my data? Back up your data, since there is a (small but real) risk of data loss during the installation process!
Have I downloaded the latest Ubuntu version? Download the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, which is supported for 5 years, including security and maintenance updates. At the time of writing, the latest LTS was Ubuntu 20.04. Check out the most recent release cycle for more information.
Have I prepared a bootable device? Use a Windows, macOS or Ubuntu Linux machine to burn the downloaded .iso file to a DVD. Alternatively, use a Windows, macOS or Ubuntu machine to create a bootable USB drive.

Show me the step-by-step installation guide

Instruction Description
Boot Insert the bootable DVD or USB drive and restart the computer. Most machines will boot automatically from the DVD or USB drive. If that's not the case, try repeatedly hitting F12, ESC, F2 or F10 when the computer starts up. This should provide access to the boot menu, where you can select the DVD or USB drive.
Welcome Once the device has booted, you will be presented with the installation wizzard. Select a language and click on Install Ubuntu.
Keyboard layout Select a keyboard layout.
Updates and other software Choose between a normal or minimal installation, depending on how many apps you would like to install from the start. Optionally:

• Check the box Download updates while installing Ubuntu to speed up the setup after the installation
• Check the box Install third-party software to benefit from (proprietary) drivers for graphics, WiFi, media files, and so on.

Next, click on Continue.
Installation type & encryption Choose whether to:
• Delete the existing operating system and replace it with Ubuntu. Caution!: this will erase all data on your hard drive! Make sure you backed up your data!
• Or install Ubuntu alongside the existing operating system (so-called dual boot). This should have no incidence on the existing configuration of your computer. Still, make sure backed up your data, you never know...

To encrypt Ubuntu, click on Advanced features and select:
Use LVM with the new Ubuntu installation
Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation

Then click on OK and Install Now.
Provide a security key Enter a strong, unique security key. It will be required to decrypt the disk each time the computer starts up. Then click on Continue.

Caution: If you lose this security key, all data will be lost. Store it safely.
Where are you Choose a time zone and location. Click on Continue.
Who are you? Provide login information, such as a user name and a strong, unique password. Select Require my password to log in for more security. Then click on Continue.
Restart & login for the first time That's it. Wait for the installation to finish, remove the USB key and click on Restart Now when prompted. After the reboot, log into Ubuntu with your security key and password.

Show me a summary video


Ubuntu configuration

Configure Ubuntu

System updates

Keep Ubuntu up to date and regularly install the latest security patches, bug fixes and application upgrades. Open the terminal with the CTRL + ALT + T shortcut, or click on the Applications button on the top left and search for Terminal. Run the following command:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

What just happened?

The first command sudo apt update checks if new software versions are available. The second command sudo apt upgrade installs the newest updates. The -y at the end of the command authorises the installation of new packages.

If you prefer not to use the terminal, click on the Applications button on the top left of the screen, and search for Software Updater. It will check if there are updates available and suggest to install them.

Once the system is up to date, clean up and remove unnecessary old packages:

sudo apt autoremove
sudo apt autoclean
sudo apt clean

Bug reports

Apport is Ubuntu's bug reporting system. It intercepts crashes and files bug reports. You might want to turn it off for privacy reasons. Open the terminal with the CTRL + ALT + T shortcut, or click on the Applications button on the top left and search for Terminal. Run the following commands to completely remove the bug report functionality:

sudo apt purge apport
sudo rm /etc/cron.daily/apport
Tell me more about removing or disabling bug reports

If you prefer not to use the terminal, open the Ubuntu Software Centre, search for Apport and click Remove. To merely disable the automatic bug report while still keeping the functionality, open a terminal and type sudo systemctl disable apport.service. Then open the configuration file with the command sudo gedit /etc/default/apport and set the value enabled to zero, i.e. enabled=0.

Codecs

Codecs tell your computer how to read video or audio files. For legal and ethical reasons, some Linux distributions don't include all multimedia codecs. Sometimes it's therefore necessary to install additional codecs to view particular file formats.

Open the terminal with the CTRL + ALT + T shortcut, or click on the Applications button on the top left and search for Terminal. Run the following commands to fully enjoy your multimedia experience:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu $(lsb_release -cs) partner"
sudo apt update
sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extras adobe-flashplugin browser-plugin-freshplayer-pepperflash libavcodec-extra libdvd-pkg

Software Center

As of Ubuntu 20.04, the traditional software center has been replaced with Snap, a new technology to deliver applications bundled inside one single file. If you prefer reverting back to the Software Center, run the following commands:

sudo apt remove snap-store
sudo apt install gnome-software

If you want the Software Center to support Snap as well as Flatpak packages, run the following commands:

sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-snap
sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak

Look & feel

Ubuntu allows to customise almost every visual aspect of the operating system, such as fonts, window styles, animations, themes, icons, and so on.

Open the terminal with the CTRL + ALT + T shortcut, or click on the Applications button on the top left and search for Terminal. Run the following command to install Gnome Tweaks and get full control over Ubuntu's visuals:

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks

Alternatively, click on the Applications button on the top left and search for Software. Now look for Gnome Tweaks and click on Install.

Graphic drivers

The vast majority of Linux distributions ships with open source graphic drivers out of the box. While this is sufficient to run standard applications, it's often not enough for gaming.

To install proprietary graphic drivers, click on the Applications button on the top left of the screen and type Additional Drivers. Choose the correct graphical driver (most of the time, it's the default option) and restart your system.


Ubuntu support

Support

For further details or questions, refer to Ubuntu's documentation, Ubuntu's tutorials, Ubuntu's wiki or ask Ubuntu's beginner-friendly community for help.


Ubuntu Desktop