Linux is one of the most commonly used operating systems in the computing world today. Having been created by the famous Linus Torvalds himself, it is an operating system based on the grandfather of modern computer systems UNIX. It powers everything from internet routers, home routers, servers, special-tailored systems, and so many more. It is open source, meaning that programmers are able to modify the source code as see fit and contribute to make improvements. We are going to be installing Linux via Debian, one of many flavors of Linux available.
Linux is an operating system that is considered to be different from the daily driver that is Windows. For those who simply use a computer to do basic tasks will find it hard to migrate over to something different, or may not just be familiar with the concept of a computer operating system. Though surprisingly, there are more similarities than differences between Linux and Windows.
- Linux runs on a desktop just like Windows. Furthermore, there are many different types of desktop environments to choose from. There isn’t just a one-and-only static desktop that everybody uses.
- More and more Windows applications are starting to appear on Linux as well. While alternatives do exist such as LibreOffice, companies like Microsoft are starting to embrace the Linux environment. Not only did they release MSSQL Server for it, they’re slowly introducing Microsoft Office to the platform. You can also use Office differently on Linux without any compromises.
- Popular web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are available on Linux. There are no compromises in terms of functionality, and may even offer better performance due to the lower overhead in Linux.
What makes Linux better?
Of course Linux does excel in several areas of the operating system spectrum. While in the past it may have been more difficult to install and use, Linux strives to simplify the user experience and attract those who were initially hesitant to make the change. Here are some examples where Linux has been known to shine:
- Linux is considered to be more secure. The attack surface for hackers to penetrate is even smaller than its Windows counterpart. In most cases as a desktop user, you will be logging in as a normal user. Administrative tasks are reserved for a special account called root. This particular account is the only one able to make changes to the system and install applications. In order to do anything with the system, you will need to invoke the root program sudo before executing a command. This makes it difficult for malicious actors to implement malware straight from a web site. The file would then have to be made executable through permissions.
- Linux can be configured to be small in size and use very little RAM. This is the best choice for computers that are old or have weak specifications, and also benefit from modern patched software for maximum security.
- Linux is known for its stability. Never having the need to reboot the computer to solve a problem. Also updating Linux to a new version in most cases doesn’t require a reboot. This makes for a great server operating system that’s depended upon for critical applications/services.
With Linux, there are many different versions available, referred to as distributions. These distributions are versions of Linux made by different companies/groups with their own software environments managed through package managers, though they all share the same software albeit with little tweaks. Here are some examples of Linux distributions available:
- Arch Linux
- Linux Mint
Ubuntu, Debian, RedHat, and CentOS are one of the most commonly used distributions of Linux. For this guide, we will be installing Debian and going through the installation process.
Installing Linux (Debian version)
You can grab a copy of the Debian installer here. While you can install it however you want, for this guide we will be going with installing Linux through the internet which requires an internet connection.
We will also be using Rufus to burn the ISO image onto a flash drive. You can get it here.
When you’re ready, open Rufus and insert your USB flash drive.
For Boot selection, click SELECT and navigate to the folder of your netinst ISO and select it. Make sure your Partition scheme is set to MBR and your Target system is set to BIOS or UEFI. File system should also be set to FAT32 (Default). Click START to proceed.
You may come across this error requesting to download additional files for Syslinux which is required for installation. Click Yes to proceed.
The netinst ISO can be written as both either an ISO image or an DD Image. Most of the time you should be writing an ISO image to the USB flash drive, but if you are encountering problems booting into the installer, try DD instead. Go ahead and click OK. Rufus will now write the image onto the USB flash drive. If you encounter additional errors along the way, disable your anti-virus temporarily until the process is finished.
Eject your USB flash drive and insert it into your computer. Refer to your computer manufacturer’s manual on how to boot from your USB drive. We are now ready for installing Linux.
Once you have booted into the Linux installer, lets go ahead and select Graphical install and hit enter to continue.
Note: At some point during the installation, you will be asked to configure your connection to the internet. It is recommended that you stick to the default DHCP settings and run a wired connection to your computer from the router.
Here you will be asked to select a language. Hit Continue and proceed to select your languages, and Continue again to configure your keyboard language. Click Continue once more to proceed.
Here you will define a Hostname of your Linux computer. Feel free to name it as you like, as described above. Click Continue when ready.
You are now asked to configure a Domain name to identify your computer. Since this is on a local network(most likely) and not a server connected directly to the internet, feel free to make one up. E.g. “mycomputer.local”.
You will be asked to make up a password for the system account known as Root. It is imperative to write it down somewhere, preferably on a piece of paper. Be sure to enter it again down below and click Continue when done.
Here you will make a user account that will be used by default when logging into Debian. Feel free to name it as you like. Click Continue.
Now you will enter the username for your account. Click Continue when done.
Enter a new password for your user account. It is recommended that you write it down somewhere in case you forget it. Enter it again down below to verify. Click Continue.
You will now partition your hard drive. The recommended choice would be to go with Guided – use entire disk since this is your first time installing Linux. Click Continue.
There are now options on how to partition your system. It is best to leave the selection at All files in one partition (recommended for new users). As a result, Linux will now place everything in a single partition. Click Continue.
As you can see, you are given a list of the following changes that are going to be made and partitions to be formatted. Click Yes to write the changes to disks. After, click Continue.
Since we are doing an internet-based installation, we have no need for additional media such as CDs or DVDs. Leave it at No and click Continue to proceed.
You will choose a server where future applications will be downloaded from and installed. It is best to choose a server that you can trust. Click Continue.
Here you will pick a specific location to download applications from through package manager. Leave it at deb.debian.org and click Continue.
You are free to choose whether you want software usage information to be transmitted to developers. This only seems to be limited to how many times a certain application has been used and nothing more. Select an option and click Continue.
You can now choose from a list of pre-defined software to install. This is only an initial list and does not represent the distribution’s software library. Here you can choose from 8 different desktop environments to use. Make sure that only one is checked. Also, click on SSH server to check it since we will be using it extensively. Click Continue.
You will be asked if you want to install GRUB boot loader onto your hard drive. If you intend to install another operating system such as Windows later on, then you can configure it to boot through GRUB. Make sure Yes is selected and click Continue.
Select /dev/sda or the equivalent on your end to install GRUB boot loader on. Click Continue when ready.
Let the installer finish. Once that’s done, remove your USB flash drive and click Continue to reboot into the desktop.
Once you arrive at the login screen, click on your username and type in the password that you’ve just created earlier.
In the end, you will be at the desktop. Depending on what you’ve selected to be your desktop environment, the left hand corner of your desktop should allow you to pull up a drawer full of software installed. Navigating through will give you an idea of how things work. By default, Firefox is already installed and ready to surf the web.
You have now successfully completed the process of installing Linux!