Start by downloading Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Desktop OS … don’t waste your time with those other 2000+ Linux Distros ‘wannabe’ OSes. Get a few of the USB Flash Drives that I mention in the SanDisk & Samsung post. Use the 16GB one for creating a ‘Live’ USB, and one of the 32GB ones for the installation drive (get the Samsung if you have a laptop and/or small computer). Know what a Boot Menu is? Start ‘Cracking the Books’ if you don’t!
That’s the best pic I could find, and newer ones look a lot better, but no decent pics of them. Knowing how to use your Boot Menu is going to be key to doing all of this fairly safely on your Windows computer. However, ‘n just in case, go ahead and do a full image backup … if you’re using WIN10 then “Create a system image” using the free Backup and Restore (Windows 7) program located in your Control Panel … if you’re using Vista just delete it (-wink-)… if you’re using WIN7 go ahead and upgrade to WIN10, then “Create a system image.” If you’re still using DOS, then stop here and go try one of the ‘Archies’ or even Arch Linux … slower versions of DOS, but you might like them.
The Boot Menu is a menu accessible when a computer is first starting up. It can contain many different device options to boot to, including CD, DVD, flash drive, or hard drives, and a LAN (network). The Boot Menu allows a user to load up other operating systems or applications, even if the computer itself already has an operating system on it. A Boot Menu is also useful for installing a new operating system on a computer because the user can choose what device to use.
How to enter the Boot Menu
When a computer is starting up, the user can access the Boot Menu by pressing one of several keyboard keys. Common keys for accessing the Boot Menu are Esc, F2, F10 or F12, depending on the manufacturer of the computer or motherboard. The specific key to press is usually specified on the computer’s startup screen. The Boot Menu allows a user to select what device to load an operating system or application from as the computer is booting.
If desired, the order of the devices listed in the Boot Menu, also called the boot sequence, can be changed.
We’re going to skip Boot Sequence here, since the purpose of this post is to allow you to easily switch between Windows & Ubuntu whilst leaving Windows as default boot option #1. By now, you should know what your computer’s Boot Menu key is…if not, stop right here and go find out. Two of my computers use the F8 key, and the other three use the F12 key.
Get the Rufus bootable USB creator. I like it since it creates the steadiest bootable USB’s almost every time, without the need of changing settings in BIOS…seems to work best on fairly new computers (4 years old?) to new ones. I’ve found the “FreeDOS” selection in the Boot selection drop down menu seems to have eliminated all my previous problems with Rufus:
Then when you hit “SELECT” (Red rectangle in below pic) to select your new Ubuntu .iso & it automatically sets it up now to boot on most computers (Purple rectangle in below pic):
A ‘Live’ USB of a Linux Distro is meant to help you decide on which of 2000+ Distros you want to use, but even with persistence storage those tests become limited pretty fast, IMHO. We’re looking at adding Ubuntu as at least your 2nd OS so are planning for the long-term. Still, a ‘Live’ USB is handy at times, and is easy ‘n fast to create. Here is an Ubuntu Tutorial on creating one (for 18.04 but same for 20.04) – Create a bootable USB stick on Windows:
Some quick ‘snippets’:
- Test out the Ubuntu desktop experience without touching your PC configuration
- Boot into Ubuntu on a borrowed machine or from an internet café
- Take note of where your browser saves downloads: this is normally a directory called ‘Downloads’ on your Windows PC. Don’t download the ISO image directly to the USB stick!
- You can avoid the hassle of selecting from a list of USB devices by ensuring no other devices are connected.
- Now choose the Boot selection. Choices will be Non bootable and FreeDOS. Since you are creating a bootable Ubuntu device select FreeDOS.
They say around “10 minutes” to create using a “reasonably modern machine,” but it’s never taken that long on any of my old previous machines. It just took me 4 minutes to create one without persistent, so 7 minutes or less on a fairly new computer (4 years?). Adding persistence takes longer, but gives you the ability to save settings for a few days of testing before installing long-term. Not many of the Linux Distros have reliable long-term support & long-term financial backing…basically, there are Ubuntu, Red Hat (Fedora) and SUSE (openSUSE) and then the rest – the rest work on a shoestring budget managed by a developer (or half dozen of them +-), and one of the renown “Linux Communities” (aka “Angry Mob with Torches“). I want an OS, not some ‘Barbie Fashionista’ toy social OS, which is why I have Ubuntu LTS as my 2nd choice of a Desktop OS (WIN10 is #1).
OK … we should be ready to install Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to a USB now. Am plugging my 16GB ‘Live’ and a clean Fat32 formatted 32GB USB into 3.0 ports along with a test 120GB SSD and booting up my computer – hit the F8 key for the Boot Menu on the ‘Apevia’ Ryzen™ machine (main Linux tester), and I see both the USB’s plus the SSD (don’t normally have any other drives on this test machine), but you may see more (remove any other USB’s tho). Look for the UEFI: SanDisk, Partition 1 (14663MB) choice (the 16GB ‘Live’ version) and select it. The Grub screen comes up and selects automatically, then Ubuntu does a complete disk check on all drives (one of Ubuntu’s new security measures – note: see the *Linux Security Issues* page when you have time).
A Welcome screen comes up with a choice to “Try Ubuntu” or Install Ubuntu” – select the try option.
Next, select the “Show Applications” icon at the bottom of Dock (Taskbar in WIN10).
That will open the applications screen … I add the “Settings” app to the Dock. Generally switch my primary mouse button and connect to my Wi-Fi. Maybe turnoff the “Blank Screen” under power settings, to avoid the blank screen.
Ready to install … on the desktop there is an “Install Ubuntu 20.04 LTS” icon.
Installation starts > select your language > keyboard > several options, but am going with Normal + download updates + install 3rd party:
On “Installation type” I have started using “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” during these recent tests instead of the “Something else” option, since the time is about the same, and it’s very reliable on an Ubuntu USB installation; however, be very careful what you select here because your Windows disk is also listed in the choices, and you don’t want to wipe it out:
Next is probably the most important selection to this point, i.e. the “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” installation window, with the “Select drive:” dropdown option menu of available drives. We want the SanDisk Ultra 32GB USB – it will probably show less than 32GB, e.g. “30.8 GB” on the SanDisk Ultra (that name is key here!). Select the SanDisk Ultra and hit Install Now button:
Installation continues – Where are you? > Who are you? And then the auto installation takes over from here … should take 15-20 minutes before seeing the Installation is complete and a restart choice. Installation goes a lot faster on an SSD, but we’re going with a USB for easy compatibility with your Windows OS, and for some portability. Hit restart, and it will soon ask that you remove the installation USB…remove it and hit enter.
We are now headed back to the Boot Menu so be ready to hit the key on time…if you miss the Boot Menu key it should just boot back into your Windows OS (note: we left the Boot Sequence as is in order that Windows boots as the default OS). Just restart again from Windows, then open the Boot Menu…you should see a UEFI: SanDisk, Partition 1 (29328MB) choice – select it and your newly installed Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to the 32GB SanDisk Ultra USB 3.0 Flash Drive should boot up.
Knowing which drives are which in a Boot Menu is very important, which is why I use the 16GB SanDisk for mainly ‘Live” USB’s, and the 32GB SanDisk or Samsung for installing to.
OK … that’s it! You can plug this full Ubuntu USB into most any computer, and boot into it thru the Boot Menu. Easily add apps and extensions like Gnome Tweaks, screenshot (capture full or choice), let it get regular updates, etc. as you give Ubuntu Linux a thorough test drive.
Will add this post to the Linux ‘n USB Flash Drives page…
Rule of Thumb – if you can’t install Ubuntu on it, then you can’t install any Linux Distro on it.