We commend the idea of taking the 'free' route but this calls for a plan of action. First you need to install an operating system - and we suggest using Ubuntu
Q I’ve just taken delivery of desktop computer that doesn’t even include an operating system. I thought this would be a good project, having read about all sorts of free software in Computeractive over many years.
I suddenly feel rather daunted – I’ve never so much as taken the back off a PC. All that’s included are a couple of technical manuals, explaining the specifications and motherboard in the main.
More worryingly, the computer has a ‘Windows 7 ready’ sticker on it. Does this mean that the PC will run only Windows, thus wrecking my plan to try a free operating system? I would be grateful for any advice as to where to start.
A We applaud your adventurous nature, though when it comes to a project like this a plan is also required. We can’t hold your hand all the way, but the starting point is to get an operating system installed. From there, you’ll be able to start installing other free software.
First of all, don’t worry about the ‘Windows 7 ready’ sticker, as that’s all it means – that the computer is ready to run Windows 7 if you wish to install it. But you don’t.
Instead, you want to use only free software and when it comes to the operating system, that usually means some other variant of Linux – and by far the most popular flavour of Linux is Ubuntu.
But this is where the plan bit comes in: a PC with no software is obviously useless for obtaining the software needed to get it up and running.
The first step, then, is to obtain Ubuntu. The easy (and free) way to do this is to download it, but that obviously requires access to an internet-connected PC: if you don’t have one, ask to sit at a friend’s for a while, or try your local library.
Now visit Ubuntu's download page and click the ‘Try it from a CD or USB stick’ option. Select the latest version of the operating system from the dropdown menu and whether you want the 32- or 64-bit version (choose 32-bit if you’re not sure) and click the large Start download button.
While that’s downloading, scroll down the page to read the instructions for burning Ubuntu to CD or creating a USB memory key.
When that’s done, fire up your new, empty PC and pop the Ubuntu CD into a drive or insert a memory key into a USB socket.
Note that while most new PCs are configured to automatically boot (or start) from CDs or USB memory keys that contain operating systems, it may be necessary to enable this feature in the Bios: tap F2, F10 or Delete after switching on (look for a message that tells you which key) and look for a Boot Order or Boot Sequence option, and make sure that the CD/DVD and/or USB drives are included in the procedure.
Exit the Bios (usually by pressing Escape) and save the changes, restart the PC and then follow the prompts to install Ubuntu.
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