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Before you can install Linux, you need to decide on one of the "distributions" or flavors of Linux you wish to use. There are many different distributions available. All are freely available for download from DistroWatch. For the sake of brevity we will cover how to install Ubuntu. First go to Ubuntu.com and download the current release.

All distributions are basically the same since they run on the same code base. There are differences that all users should be aware of. Some distributions focus on security through obscurity and make it hard for users to get software working. Other distributions like Debian focus on both security and ease of use. Ubuntu is based on Debian Linux.

Once you have downloaded the ISO file you can open it in your CD or DVD burning software and write it onto a blank CD or DVD. Now it is time to decide how you want to install the software. Your options are to completely erase windows and install Linux as your only operating system, install it alongside your current OS (dual boot), or install it inside a virtual machine. One note on MicroSoft virtual machine. Do NOT Use IT! It is not really a VM and it may actually harm your windows installation. There is a better, open source solution, available from Oracle called VirtualBox. I have chosen to run Ubuntu as my only host operating system on my computer, and run Windows inside VirtualBox to test different versions of Internet Explorer, but I digress.

After you decide how you will use the software, launch the installation disk by rebooting your computer and hit the F12 key repeatedly during the initial boot sequence if you want to replace Windows or dual boot your computer. Look for our section on " How to install Linux in VirtualBox " for a quick tutoral on how to create a new virtual machine using VirtualBox. The rest is simple, follow the on screen instructions and you will be up & running in no time.