The extremely simple guide to installing Ubuntu using Wubi (From Windows)

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Many people are put off using Ubuntu because of installation issues. Not that installation is difficult, of course, but for the true non-technical user, it's equivalent to scaling Mount Everest.

This guide is for them. It's a step-by-step guide to installing Ubuntu for complete and utter beginners. If you have a relative, or friend, who would like to try Ubuntu, but who is frankly scared of the prospect, then send them a link to this posting! It assumes zero prior knowledge.

We're going to use something called Wubi. This is built into the latest releases of Ubuntu and lets you install Ubuntu as a file within Windows. It makes installing Ubuntu just like installing some Windows software. No drastic repartitioning is necessary and you don't have to deal with baffling terminology.

Once installation has finished, you just choose between Windows and Ubuntu when you boot. If you decide you want to get rid of Ubuntu, you can use Add/Remove Programs to get rid of it, like a Windows program.

Above all, there is NO repartitioning of the disk, and no complex terminology. Using Wubi is therefore extremely safe and presents an almost zero possibility of problems.

Using a Wubi installation of Ubuntu is just the same as any other installation of Ubuntu, with one or two caveats:

  1. First, performance isn't quite as good as a standard installation, although it's unlikely you'll notice much.
  2. Secondly, you won't be able to use the Hibernate (suspend to disk) power saving mode of Ubuntu.

To follow the instructions below you'll need:

  • at least 5GB of hard disk space free in your Windows setup (if free space isn't available then consider uninstalling software or deleting files; movies and MP3s take up an enormous amount of space);
  • a blank CD-R or CD-RW disc;
  • a reasonably fast Internet connection (you're going to download a 700MB file);
  • the ability to concentrate without hurting yourself.

If you fulfill these criteria, let's crack on!

The installation

  1. Start by defragmenting your Windows hard disk. This is necessary because you're about to create some massive multi-gigabyte files there, and you really want them to be contiguous on the disk, rather than spotted in pieces around a disorganized hard disk. To defrag under Vista, open Computer on the Start menu, and then right-click your hard disk icon. Select Properties and then the Tools tab in the dialog that appears. Then click the Defragment Now button. Under XP, open My Computer, right-click the hard disk icon, click Properties, then the Tools tab, and click the Defragment Now button. Then click the Defragment button in the program window that appears.
  2. Ubuntu is distributed as an ISO image. An ISO image is effectively the contents of a CD-ROM in a large file. As such, it's pretty large (about 700MB), so start it downloading ASAP because it might take a while. Head off to http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and download Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition for a standard personal computer. The default options selected on the website are fine, in fact, so you can just click the Start Download button.(If you don't mind waiting around for up to ten weeks before installing Ubuntu, you might request a free Ubuntu CD be mailed to you via the Ubuntu Ship-It service: https://shipit.ubuntu.com. This will remove the need to burn your own CD, and you can skip straight to Step 6 below.)
  3. While that's downloading the ISO image, you'll need to source a blank CD-R or CD-RW disk. Then you'll need some software that will create your new Ubuntu install disk from the file you're downloading. This can be done using Nero Burning ROM (or most disk burning software apps), but I'm going to assume you don't have this, because not everybody does. So head off to http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com and download ISO Recorder. This is a freeware application that burns CD/DVD ISO images. You'll need to download V2 if you have Windows XP, or V3 if you have Windows Vista. You will need the 32-bit version in each case, unless you know for sure that you're using a 64-bit version of Windows. Once ISO Recorder has downloaded, install it.
  4. Insert your blank CD-R or CD-RW disk and, assuming the Ubuntu ISO file has now downloaded, right-click on it and select Copy Image To CD (cancel any Windows dialog boxes that pop-up asking what you want to do with the blank CD-R/RW). This will start ISO Recorder. If you're running Vista, in the ISO Recorder interface, click the Recording Speed dropdown list and select the slowest speed possible. If you're running XP, in the ISO Recorder interface click the Properties button. Then click and drag the Recording Speed slider to the left, so it's at the lowest speed possible that isn't actually zero. This is necessary because, for some reason, burning ISO images to CD tends to go wrong if a high writing speed is used. Click OK to close the dialog, then click the Next button to actually burn the disk.
  5. Once the burn has finished, the disk will be ejected. Close the ISO Recorder program and slip the disk back in again. A new dialog box will pop-up, offering several options, but the one you want is Install Inside Windows (if you're running Windows Vista, you'll have to select to Run Umenu.exe first).
  6. Another dialog box will pop-up, this time with the Ubuntu installation choices (see screenshot below). The first lets you select which partition or hard disk you want to install Ubuntu to. Assuming you only have one hard disk, this can be left as it is. The installation Size dropdown lets you set the size of the Ubuntu partition in GB (in other words, the size of the files that will created to contain your Ubuntu installation). You'll need at least 4GB for a comfortable installation. You can leave the Desktop Environment dropdown as it is (it only has one option anyway), and assuming English is your main language, leave the Language dropdown as it is. In the Username box, type the username you'd like to use when logging into Ubuntu, and in the Password box, type the password you'd like to use. Once done, click the Install button.
  7. Now you can sit back while Ubuntu installs. There are two phases to this. First the new files are created for the Ubuntu installation in the Windows file system, and some files are copied across. Following this, the computer reboots into Ubuntu, and the installation is completed. Leave the CD in the drive throughout. When the computer restarts after the installation reboot, you'll have to choose Ubuntu from the boot menu (use the up/down cursor keys and hit Enter when you've made your choice). You'll have to do this each time you want to start Ubuntu in future, in fact. Later on I'll tell you how to make Ubuntu your default boot choice.
  8. Once Ubuntu is installed, you'll be prompted to login with your new username and password. And that's about it. Everything configures itself. If you have a printer it will be detected and installed, for example (no need for driver disks here!). The only thing you may have to do is setup your network connection --- click the NetworkManager icon at the top right (it looks like two monitors inset against each other) and then select the wifi network from the list. When you click on it you'll be prompted to enter the wifi password. You might also need to set the screen resolution, if it isn't already correct, by clicking the System menu, then the Preferences menu, and then the Screen Resolution option. Following this Ubuntu is ready to roll, and the world is your oyster. You'll find your Windows files are accessible by browsing to the host folder in the root of the file system. I advise you to get a good book to help you get to grips with Ubuntu. You can try the award-winning Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Third Edition, published by Apress. You might want to partner this to Ubuntu Kung Fu, published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf, which contains over 300 tips, tricks, hints, and hacks for Ubuntu, all of which will turn you into an expert user in record time. Both are written by the shame-faced but award-winning author of what you're reading now.
  9. One last thing. I mentioned earlier that you can make Ubuntu the default choice on the Windows boot menu. To do this in Vista, right-click Computer, then click the Advanced System Settings option. Under XP, right-click the My Computer icon and click Properties. Then, under either operating system, in the dlalog that appears click the Advanced tab, and then the Settings button under the Startup and Recovery heading. Then select "Ubuntu" from the Default Operating System dropdown list. You might also want to reduce the figure in the Time to Display List of Operating Systems, so you're not wasting 15 seconds each time the computer boots unattended. A value of two seconds gives you just enough time to hit a key to stop the countdown and then make an alternative selection.
  10. If you want to remove Ubuntu (Shock! Horror!), browse to C:ubuntu and double-click Uninstall-Ubuntu.exe. Resist the temptation to just delete the C:ubuntu folder. This will leave the boot menu entry in place, and that will start to get on your nerves after a while. If, on the other hand, you wish to convert your Wubi installation into a fully-blown hard disk partition installation, you can follow the instructions at http://lubi.sourceforge.net/lvpm.html.

 


________________

Keir Thomas is the award-winning author of the newly published books Ubuntu Kung Fu, and Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Third Edition. A previous edition of the latter won a Linux Journal award a year or two ago. He's been writing about computers and operating systems for over a decade.

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26 thoughts on “The extremely simple guide to installing Ubuntu using Wubi (From Windows)

  1. using wubi, files from windows can be accessed.

    they are stored under /host

    and additional hard drives are mounted in /media

    [Reply]

  2. I’m using Ubuntu installed with Wubi and I find it possible to access Windows files from /host. Bye bye

    [Reply]

  3. Unfortulently, from the eyes of a newbie, your ten-step wall of text seems rather intimidating. You could probably knock off the last two steps into a second section. Also, while non-technical computer users would indeed need help on how to burn an .iso, it seems out of place for an article aimed at giving “extremly simple” instructions. You can simplify the install process, and reduce the length of your guide by half, by giving them a link to request a free CD through Ubuntu’s ShipIt service.

    [Reply]

  4. Indeed, there is no need to download the ISO image. When you start Wubi, it provides to download it. In addition, when you uninstall Wubi, it saves a backup of the ISO on the hard-disk, for a re-installation. So, steps 2-5 are not necessary.

    [Reply]

  5. Unfortulently, from the eyes of a newbie, your ten-step wall of text seems rather intimidating

    Maybe you’re confusing newbie users with stupid users? Maybe I credit newbie users with a little more intelligent and patience than you.

    [Reply]

  6. I remember my first (re)install of MS DOS on my 486. I had inadvertently acquainted myself with fdisk in my first few days on x86 hardware. The prospect was daunting, but I didn’t have a choice really. A PC without OS is more useless than a brick.

    With my nerves screaming I popped in the first 3.5″ floppy and just followed the instructions on the screen. I felt like dieing, but within an hour I was back up and running and looking at my Windows 3.11 install disks.

    The fear of borking the system beyond repair is very paralyzing the first time, but once you get past that hurdle and find out you can successfully install an OS and have it run well, the next time is a lot less frightful. Don’t fear that install disk, just read up, gather courage and go ahead. You can only gain knowledge.

    [Reply]

  7. That’s a very nice guide! Today, i’ve decided to try Ubuntu a this will be a great help! Thank you! I only have one question – how long does the installation (minus download) take?

    [Reply]

  8. Hi there
    I was just wondering can i install ubuntu and kubuntu this way on the same machine
    and still be able to select from the 3 on the boot screen?

    [Reply]

  9. Hey thanks for your reply.
    the extra space taken up doesn’t worry me too much. id just like to try them both and my cd drive is fried.
    Thanks again for your help.

    [Reply]

  10. i have tried installing ibex with hard disk.But when it comes to partioning step it is now showing any of the disk partitions to choose..neither it is showing any options to choose manual or guided partions.But when i tried for hardy i am able to install successfully. how can i resolve the problem.

    [Reply]

  11. Excellent article, and much appreciated, but I’ve got an old Dell laptop running Windows Me (with working wi-fi adaptor card) that I’d love to get Ubuntu onto. Unfortunately the free Ubuntu CD stalls at the “launching browser” stage, instead opening the Temporary Internet Files folder! (Bizarre, but there you go.) Any way I could download the .iso file and work from that instead?

    [Reply]

  12. Wubikungfu,

    “Maybe you’re confusing newbie users with stupid users? Maybe I credit newbie users with a little more intelligent and patience than you.”

    Well, looks like someone’s true colors came-a-shining through.

    Sorry, I don’t see anything in his comment that warranted that type of response, and I agree with him. Why wouldn’t that look intimidating to newbie, especially when it seems so inconsistant with an application that promises easy intallation?

    I wouldn’t blame anyone, newbie or expert, for for glancing at that, then promptly looking elsewhere for a better written, easier to use guide. And I’m sure MANY have done just that.Tsk, tsk. They must be all be stupid and incapable of appreciating your rare genius for exposition. Perhaps such a poor, misunderstood-and obviously brilliant-little princess as yourself should be wisked back to the solitude of your tower where you won’t have to have to endure the unwashed masses and their pesky,honest, politely phrased opinions. So, so sad.

    So what’s are the origins of this tale of woe? Were you picked on in high school, or maybe got graded too harshly by your technical writing teacher? Do enlighten us, and please forgive our poor reading skills and low capacity for comprehension as we struggle to understand.You might want to include a pronunciation key in your response for any terms that contain over two syllables-we no good read such big, big words. And sorry if our replies aren’t delivered in a timely fashion, we’re still trying to find the “any” key.

    ~J.D.

    [Reply]

  13. Re: your comment:

    “To follow the instructions below you’ll need:
    the ability to concentrate without hurting yourself.”

    It’s that arrogant smerky snickering attitude that has and will always kill Linux for Windows users (besides the fact that Linux is a slug, has been unable to earn full hardware/software support from venders world wide, is impractical as a working productive desktop)

    I’ve been checking out Linux distros, for the past 12yrs. and you guys have not come up with a single viable / realistic alternative to Windows. Yet you still maintain this ridiculously incongruous degree of arrogance that has become truly pathetic.

    Linux might be fine for all you high school and college script kiddies and students but for us adults out here having to making an actual living, Linux is a waste of valuable time. Again, it’s impractical. It always needs a baby setter.

    humility …..get it.

    [Reply]

  14. Hi,
    Thanks,
    nice guidelines for newbies users, detailed instructions, but WUBI installs directly ISO file so no need to burn CD

    [Reply]

  15. Why does it take me hours to download ubuntu whereas you said it only takes 10 minutes?

    “Veronique says:
    OCTOBER 14, 2008 AT 3:43 PM
    That’s a very nice guide! Today, i’ve decided to try Ubuntu a this will be a great help! Thank you! I only have one question – how long does the installation (minus download) take?

    Ubuntu Kung Fu says:
    OCTOBER 14, 2008 AT 4:41 PM
    Hi Veronique. Installation takes about 10 minutes.”

    what should i do?

    [Reply]

  16. To Louie:

    The download (even on the fastest typical home internet connection today) would take at least ten minutes in itself. The download, which is actually writing the operating system to the hard disk, not just downloading the necessary files for installation, will probably take about 10 minutes as well.

    All in all, you’re looking at around a half hour of download and install time, depending on your internet connection and how quickly you work install the system.

    [Reply]

  17. have you found any indication that a successful install and boot of Wubi, would also a make a good install of Ubuntu server to the same machine using conventional installation methods?

    [Reply]

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