Linux, as we know is an open source operating system that anyone can try out for free, without paying even a single penny. Anyone can freely download different Linux distribution of their choice and then distribute it legally. Ubuntu and Linux Mint are two of the most popular distributions that have attracted many Windows users. In this article we will be taking a look at from where can you download the Linux distribution of your choice and how to install bootable Linux on a USB flash drive.
Downloading Linux Distribution
The first question that users who are new to Linux is: From where can I download the latest version of Linux? Linux, the term refers to just the operating system kernel itself. But a complete Linux distribution like Mint, Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu, etc comes with GUI components and many other utilities which are supplied by the GNU project. Now that the concept is clear, you are going to download a Linux distribution and not ‘Linux’.
If you are just starting out and want to try out Linux for the first time, then I would recommend you two distributions – Mint and Ubuntu. You can’t go wrong with any of them and both the distributions have very active community which can help you when you are stuck somewhere. Head over to their website and download the Desktop version ISO of 64-bit.
Distrowatch is one such website where you can get information about various Linux distributions. After downloading the ISO, it’s time to burn a CD/DVD or install the Linux in your flash drive. If you have a blank CD/DVD lying around, then you can burn the ISO on the CD/DVD by right-clicking on the ISO and selecting a burning application like Nero, Windows Disc Burner or any other application.
Installing Bootable Linux on a USB Flash Drive
The other option is to install Linux on a flash drive so that you don’t have to burn a CD. UNetbootin is a program for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X that allows you to create bootable Live USB drive for Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, and various other Linux distributions.
You can create a Linux bootable flash drive in two ways:
- UNetbootin can download the entire ISO (CD image) if you have not already downloaded it.
- If you have the ISO ready, then you can use that ISO and put it on a flash drive.
The first thing that you will need to do is to download UNetbootin from here. Insert your flash drive in the computer and run the program.
The interface of this program is really very simple. If you want this program to download the CD image (ISO) for you, then select the Distribution from the drop down menu and also select the latest version from the list. In most cases, your computer should support a 64 bit OS and therefore you can download the 64 bit version.
But in case if you have already downloaded the ISO, then click on “Diskimage” and then browse and select the ISO from your hard disk. From the bottom, select the drive from the drop down menu, and in most cases your flash drive will be automatically selected by default. Finally, click on OK. Let this program finish the process and then proceed to the next section.
Now that you have your bootable flash drive ready, it’s time to boot from it. Reboot your computer and open BIOS. Change your boot device priority to a USB drive and save the changes. Restart the computer and you will see that the USB drive would open up just like a live CD. Choose your language and if you want, then you simply try out how the OS runs on your system without installing it. You can run and try out the entire operating system from CD itself, without installing anything. But if you are installing the Linux distribution, then make sure you know how to partition it. Apart from /Home, you will also need to create a small /swap partition.
Once installed, you can simply format the flash drive and start using it again for your normal use. Or you can keep a separate drive for such purposes.
So that’s how you can run a fully-fledged Linux operating system from a flash drive, without the need for any CD or DVD. This method is perfectly suitable for those who don’t have any optical drive installed on their systems, or for those who like to experiment with different Linux distros so that they don’t have to burn the distribution every time to the CD/DVD.