Need Details

Right now I have Windows XP and I want to get Linux, but I dont know the first thing about installing it or buying the right things. So can you tell me what I need and how to set it up?


  • Before buying any software: You'll need either an empty hard drive or partition on an existing hard drive to install Linux onto to get the best experience. You can actually place most Linux distro's on a VFAT partition as a large file (I know that RedHat allows this, but I don't know which other ones do since I don't use many of the 'easy' distros), but I don't suggest this.

    Check your hardware. Find out if your modem (if you have a modem) is what's called a 'winmodem', few of them work in Linux. They're basically just a plug for the phone line and use the CPU to do all the work, and it's very hard to write drivers for them. Your video card will almost assuredly work, but it may take some work to setup if you don't know what you're doing and you don't pick an easy distro (the easy ones will do all the setup work, the expert ones will not).

    If you have a fast connection and a CD burner, don't bother paying for a distro yet (you can in the future, but if you're not sure what you're getting, it's really not worth it if you can avoid it). Just about every major distro except SuSE has ISO's for free and legal download. If you do not have the connection and burner, just purchase a distro in a local store or online (from cheapbytes, for example).

    You'll have to pick what you want to get out of the distro. If you want:

    A Windows-ish environment where you can get desktop-ish work done: I'd suggest RedHat, SuSE (no free version), Mandrake, or Lycoris (which I haven't tried, but I've heard very good things about).

    A more basic environment for learning about the low level details of Linux: I'd suggest Slackware (a new version is nearly out; I used Slackware for a long while), Debian (a incredible package management system; I use it now), or Gentoo (a BSD-ports-like package management system, very good if you have some time and want the ultimate in performance).

    See for a more complete list of distros and their features. After figuring out what you want and getting your hard drive(s) ready, go at it. As long as you don't touch your Windows partition(s), you can't hurt anything.
  • If you don't have a fast connection and/or burner you can get cheap cd's from If you are looking for redhat, it'll be listed as pink tie 7.3 because of the trademark issues.

    If you buy a retail version, you will get a manual of some sort with it (I think) but if you want to tough it out and figure it out yourself, then probably a downloaded verion or a cheapbyes cd would be better.

    Since this is your first install, I would recommend that you either back up your HDD because you could end up wiping it clean if you use the wrong partition. Another option is to buy a couple removable HDD racks for about $30 CDN each, and get a small ie 5-10G HDD for your Linux system, then just swap in which OS you want and boot your computer. That is my method on dual systems... 1 20G fixed drive 2 removable's, 1 with win2k and 1 with redhat7.1 (will be 7.3 when the disks arrive)

    Distro's like redhat will pretty much install themselves after you answer a few questions. I'm going to have my mother, or maybe even grandmother try the install with redhat 7.3 just to prove that the average person can now install redhat as easy as (or easier than) windows! I am fed up with the argument that windows is the only option for the average person because the alternatives are too hard to use! The results of this experiment will be posted here.

    Best of luck, post back if you run into any trouble. Someone will probably be able to help you.
    Ben Martin :-D

  • Someone once told me that I need to get Unix to run Linux is that true?
  • That doesn't even make sense, so I don't see how it's true :). Unix is a completely different operating system that AT&T made 'back in the day'. The term 'unixes' is often used to mean 'unix-like operating systems'. Linux, the BSD's, HP/UX, Solaris, AIX, and other such OS's are 'unix-like', but they have nothing to do with Unix.
  • Alright thanks thats what i thought but no one would listen:)
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