Installation from the Internet with Wubi

If you're not sure the full Ubuntu installation is for you, but you're after something more usable than the live desktop, there is a middle way. Wubi is a program that runs inside Windows and installs the Ubuntu operating system as if it was a Windows application. If you decide later that you want to proceed with the full Ubuntu installation, you can remove the Wubi install just like you would any Windows program.

To get Wubi up and running, you need a Windows 98, 2000, XP, or Vista PC with an Internet connection and at least 256MB RAM. You also need a minimum of 5GB disk space free to make room for Ubuntu. If you don't have an Ubuntu CD available, you can point your web browser at www.wubi-installer.org and download the wubi.exe program, which is very small (about 1MB); see Figure 2-13.

Figure 2-13. If you don't have an Ubuntu CD handy, the first step is to download the small Wubi program.

I recommend defragmenting the Windows drive on which you intend to install Ubuntu, because NTFS drives can get to be a real mess, just with everyday Windows use. You can do this in Windows XP by right-clicking the drive icon in My Computer and selecting Properties. Then, select the Tools tab, and click the Defragment Now button.

When that's done, run the Wubi program, ignoring the warning that Windows offers about Wubi potentially harming your computer (see Figure 2-14). This warning isn't based on any detailed analysis of the file other than it being an executable (a binary program).

Figure 2-14. Windows displays a security warning about Wubi.

Next, a window appears that asks for the target hard drive for the installation, such as the C:, D:, or E: drive in Windows-speak (see Figure 2-15). You have to set up a username and password here, and you can also choose a language other than the default of English.

Figure2-15. Choose the target hard drive and initial Ubuntu user account.

Some accessibility options are available, such as running the install with high-contrast fonts or magnification, for the benefit of partially sighted people. There are also keyboard aids for people with impaired mobility (see Figure 2-16).

Figure 2-16. Some accessibility options are available to help people with disabilities.

Click Next, and the download of Ubuntu begins (see Figure 2-17). Because the install image is just under 700MB, this step can take half an hour or more on a domestic broadband connection to the Internet. On a dial-up connection, it may take several hours.

Figure2-17. The Wubi installer downloads the Ubuntu install image.

When the download has completed, you're prompted to reboot the PC (see Figure 2-18).

Figure2-18. Now it's time to reboot into Ubuntu.

After the reboot, instead of the machine booting straight into Windows, a bootloader menu offers a choice of Windows or Ubuntu. This is the Windows bootloader, so it's not quite the same as GRUB. Select Ubuntu, and the Ubuntu logo and orange progress bar are displayed as Ubuntu boots. After this, you can log in to Ubuntu using the username and password that you entered in the Wubi dialog.

An Ubuntu installation based on Wubi has to use a different filesystem from the tried-and-tested GNU/Linux standard of ext3—a filesystem that isn't as robust as ext3 against sudden power failures. It also depends on Windows to some extent, because it lives in the same partition as the Windows installation (see Figure 2-19) and uses its bootloader. For these reasons, I don't recommend using Wubi for a long-term installation of Ubuntu. But it does represent a very low-risk method for Windows users to experience the GNU/Linux desktop.

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Figure 2-19. The Wubi installation of Ubuntu can easily be managed usingXP's Add or Remove Programs dialog, as if it were a Windows application.

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