Some suggestions for installing Linux on a PC

This is an outline of what you need to do to install Linux, and some sources of information to help you. For detailed information about Linux, see the web site for The Linux Documentation Project,

Prepare a place for Linux on your hard drive

If you have a desktop computer, the easiest solution is to add another disk drive to devote to Linux, rather than sharing the existing drive with Windows. This minimizes the chances of making a mistake that will mess up your Windows disk. Buy whatever hard drive your local office supply or computer store has on sale for less than $100, and you will have plenty of disk space for a Linux installation. Installing it in your computer will be straightforward, following the instructions that come with the drive.

If you have a laptop, or you would rather wrestle with software than hardware, you can install Linux on the same drive that holds Windows. Initially, the entire disk will be formatted as a Windows file system, or there may be other partitions for backup and system files. You will need to shrink the Windows partition to make room for a Linux partition and a Linux swap partition. This may be done with the free utility QTParted (a clone of the commercial program Partition Magic). It may be found at It may also be included in some Linux distributions. The Knoppix Live Linux CD, which can be obtained, contains QTParted, and allows you to boot a version of Debian Linux without making any changes to your hard drive. This is useful for trying out Linux and setting up your drive before installing Linux.

Get a Linux distribution

There are several choices of Linux distributions, and they are all quite similar in terms of what they provide. Red Hat Fedora Linux ( is one of the most popular. Ubuntu Linux ( and its variations such as Kbuntu (which uses the KDE desktop) is another popular distrubution. SuSE Linux ( is also very highly regarded, as is Gentoo Linux ( All of these are available for free download from their web sites, along with the necessary documentation. But, if you are new to Linux, it may be best to buy a Linux distribution set with CDROMs, an installation manual, and an introduction to using Linux. You will find many choices at a bookstore or computer store.

Decide on a partitioning scheme

The instructions for installing whatever Linux distribution you choose will require you to understand somthing about disk partitioning and the unix device names for disk partions. For example, the primary master drive on a PC is called /dev/hda, and the primary slave /dev/hdb. The Windows "C:" drive is normally the first and only partion on /dev/hda, and is called /dev/hda1. You will need to select which other partitions on which drives you will devote to Linux and to the swap partition. A mistake at this point could ruin your Windows installation, so you should read these instructions carefully.


Install Linux following the instructions that came with the distribution package. These will include instructions for setting up the computer to give you a choice of whether to boot Windows or Linux. Be sure to install the various programming tools and development libraries, which are not always installed by default in a minimal installation. Start Linux and then use a browser to read any provided HTML documentation for using Linux. You will find lots of help at the The Linux Documentation Project,, and a short guide on this CDROM in Introduction to UNIX or Linux and the graphical desktop.

Then, install GENESIS and start playing with the tutorials and demonstration scripts!