How to install Ubuntu on your Windows computer

Updated: 04/02/2019 by Computer Hope
Tux the Penguin, with Ubuntu coming through Windows.

If you want to run Linux on your Windows computer in a dual-boot configuration, you should consider installing Ubuntu. It's a solid, user-friendly Linux distribution that goes out of its way to co-exist happily with Windows on your computer.

In this guide, we'll be installing Ubuntu 16.04 alongside Windows 10. These instructions should also work with Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Note

One of the first steps will be to create the bootable installation media. To do this, you need either a USB flash drive or a DVD-R drive and blank DVD-R disk.

Tip

If want to install Ubuntu as your only operating system, replacing Windows completely, see the how to install Ubuntu page.

Download Ubuntu

Begin by downloading the Ubuntu installer image. It's called an "image" because it's a snapshot of everything that needs to go on an entire disk, all in one ISO file. To get it, go to the official download site and download Ubuntu Desktop. The size of the file will be about 1.5 gigabytes.

Downloading Ubuntu

Create the installation media

In these steps, we'll write the Ubuntu .ISO image to a USB flash drive (or a DVD-R if you prefer).

  1. You'll need special software to create the bootable installation media. We recommend using Rufus Portable, a free utility for Windows. Go to the Rufus site and download the installer. As of this writing, the current version is 2.12p.
  2. Insert your flash drive into a USB port on your computer, or insert a blank DVD-R disk into your DVD-R drive.
  3. Run the Rufus .EXE file when it's finished downloading. There is no installer, the program runs. When you receive a UAC prompt, click Yes to continue.
  4. In the Rufus window, click the Select Image button (pictured) to choose an image file. Open the .ISO file that you downloaded.

Selecting the source ISO image file in Rufus

  1. Make sure your USB flash drive (or DVD-R drive) is selected in the Device drop-down box.

Selecting output device in Rufus

  1. Click Start.

Starting ISO write in Rufus

  1. At this point, Rufus may need to download updated SysLinux files. If prompted, click Yes to download the updates.

Installing syslinux updates in Rufus

  1. The Ubuntu installer is an ISOHybrid image, so you will be given the choice of ISO or DD image writing mode. ISO image mode is the safer option because it does not overwrite the partition table on your flash drive. Choose ISO image mode and click OK.

Choosing iSO write mode in Rufus

  1. To begin writing the image to your flash drive, click OK.

Rufus confirmation dialog

  1. Keep an eye on the green progress bar, because there is no special message when the job is done. Look for the progress bar to complete, and the status message to say READY. When it does, you can exit by clicking Close.

Your flash drive or DVD-R should now be a bootable Ubuntu disk. If you boot your computer while the disk is inserted, the installer runs. Let's do that now.

Boot from the installation media

  1. Reboot your computer with the USB flash drive (or DVD-R) inserted in your computer. The Ubuntu installer should start instead of Windows. If it doesn't, you should change your computer's boot device sequence in your BIOS setup so that your USB (or DVD-R) is ordered above your hard drive. When the installer boots successfully, you will see the Ubuntu loading screen.

Ubuntu LiveISO loading screen

  1. At the welcome screen, choose Install Ubuntu.

Ubuntu LiveISO welcome screen

  1. On the next screen, you can choose whether you want updated software packages to be downloaded while you install Ubuntu. What option you choose is up to you (you can always do it later). Either way, this might be a good time to make sure that your installer connects to the Internet. Use the network icon in the systray in the top-right of the window to adjust or configure your networking settings. If you use Wi-Fi, you can use this interface to connect and authenticate to your wireless network.

Ubuntu LiveISO Networking menu

  1. Choose an installation type. If you want to install Ubuntu as a dual-boot option with Windows, select Install Ubuntu alongside Windows. Click Continue.

Ubuntu LiveISO installing alongside Windows 10

  1. Next, choose where Ubuntu should be installed. The installer will recommend a configuration that allocates a reasonable amount of space to Ubuntu while giving priority to the size of your Windows partition. As you can see in this example, we are installing on a very small drive, but there's still room for Ubuntu alongside the base Windows 10 installation. To accept the settings and begin the installation, click Install Now.

Ubuntu installer partition setup

  1. You will be prompted twice to confirm, and this is your last chance to change your mind. Click Continue at both prompts to begin.

Ubuntu confirmation 1

Installing Ubuntu confirmation 2

  1. Next, set your time zone by clicking on the map or typing the name of a city into the text box. Click Continue.

Ubuntu installer selecting time zone

  1. Specify your language and what type of keyboard you use, then click Continue.

Ubuntu installer choosing language

  1. Type your full name (or whatever you want), your computer's name, and your desired username. This user account is the name you'll use to log in to Ubuntu. Choose a password and confirm it. Click Continue.

Ubuntu installer creating user account

  1. Wait for Ubuntu to install.

Ubuntu installer copying files progress bar

  1. When the installation is complete, remove the USB flash drive (or DVD-R), so your computer boots from the hard drive. Click Restart now.

Ubuntu installer complete

  1. When your computer boots, you will be greeted by GRUB, your new multiboot loader. This software is what allows you to choose between Ubuntu and Windows when you boot your computer. If you do nothing, it will load Ubuntu. You can use the up and down arrows to select Advanced options for Ubuntu (which includes recovery options if you have a system problem), or various recovery and diagnostic tools. You can also choose to boot into Windows 10. Right now let's boot into Ubuntu.

GRUB2 displaying boot options for Ubuntu and Windows 10

  1. You'll be presented with a login prompt. Enter the username and password that you specified in step 21.

Ubuntu login prompt

Congratulations! You're a Linux user. You'll find that the user interface has similarities to both Microsoft Windows and macOS. It is very intuitive to use, but discussing all its features is beyond the scope of this guide.

However, it's important that you know how to get out of Ubuntu and back into Windows 10. Let's do that now.

Rebooting into Windows

In the upper-right corner of Unity, you'll see an icon that looks like a gear. The gear icon is the Ubuntu Menu button, also known as the BFB ("Big freakin' button.") Click the BFB and select Shutdown...

Choosing shutdown in the Ubuntu menu

Click the Shutdown button to confirm, and your computer will reboot.

Choosing restart from the Ubuntu Shut Down menu

In the GRUB menu, use the down arrow to select Windows.

Choosing Windows 10 in GRUB

Windows boots and runs normally. When you reboot the computer again, you can select either Ubuntu or Windows depending on which operating system you want to run.

A note about hard disk partitions

Each operating system has its own partition on your hard disk. Windows files can be accessed from within Ubuntu, but unless you explicitly share them, the two operating systems will stay completely separate.

Common Questions

Can I change my boot menu so that Windows is the default?

Yes, but it requires familiarity with the Linux command line. To change your GRUB boot order, edit the file /etc/default/grub as superuser, and modify the line containing the variable GRUB_DEFAULT=0. This number refers to the items in the GRUB menu, and the numbers start at zero. For instance, to set the default GRUB menu choice to the fifth entry, use GRUB_DEFAULT=4. You can also use the value GRUB_DEFAULT=saved to set the GRUB default to the last choice you made when booting. After saving the changes to /etc/default/grub, run the command update-grub as superuser for your changes to take effect.

Can I remove Ubuntu from my computer, but keep Windows?

Yes. You can remove the Ubuntu installation by deleting the Ubuntu partition using a partition editor such as Microsoft's Disk Management tool. The disk space can then be reclaimed by Windows by extending the Windows partition. After removing Ubuntu, GRUB needs to be removed separately. You need to boot from a Windows recovery drive, choose Repair this computer, and run the command bootrec /mbr from the Administrator command line. If you don't have a Windows recovery drive, you can also boot from the Ubuntu Live disk you created, and use the program boot-repair.

Additional information