Linux has been my primary operating system since 1997. When I first started using the open-source OS, it was not easy. There was a lot of command line work to do and keeping my 33.6k modem online was a nightmare. With some serious persistence, I made it work and eventually made a career out of covering Linux and open-source software.
Back in those days, installing Linux on a laptop was something only the most skilled users could pull off. The problem was (at the time) Linux didn’t have a great deal of support for things like Wi-Fi cards, sound, and video. Because of that, it was pretty hit-and-miss. You might try to install your favorite Linux distribution, only to find out it didn’t support your video card. Try a different distribution that did support your video card, but not your sound card. If you were really good with the command line, you could install firmware for the hardware to get it running.
Eventually, Linux caught up to the competition until it found support for most hardware (save for maybe cutting edge graphics and some newer peripherals). Even then, the Linux community has been doing a great job of keeping pace with the likes of Windows and MacOS.
The first thing to keep in mind is that we’re going to wipe away the current operating system on your laptop. Because of that, make sure you’ve saved every file and directory that you want to keep onto an SD card or external hard drive. If you don’t have either of those things, upload those files to a cloud storage account.
Once you’ve backed up all the data you need to keep, you’re ready to install.
To make this work, you’ll need the following:
I’m going to demonstrate by installing the daily release of Ubuntu Desktop, which means it uses the new installer that will debut with Ubuntu 23.04 (Lunar Lobster) that will be released April, 2023.
Insert your bootable Linux USB drive into a USB port on the computer and power on the laptop.
If your machine doesn’t immediately boot to the USB drive, you’ll have to reboot the computer, access the boot menu (how this is done will depend on the make and model of the laptop, so you’ll have to google it), and select the USB as the boot option.
During the boot process, the first thing you must do is select Try or Install Ubuntu and hit Enter on your keyboard.
Once the GUI installer opens, select the language you want to use for the installation and click Continue.
You will be prompted a second time to either Try Ubuntu or Install Ubuntu. If you click Try Ubuntu, you can test out Ubuntu without making any changes to your hard drive. This is what’s known as a Live Linux distribution where everything runs from RAM. Select Install Ubuntu and click Continue.
The installer should automatically detect your keyboard and language. If not, select both from the lists and click Continue.
In my instance, I’m working with a virtual machine (so I can take screenshots).
Since you’re working on a laptop, make sure to select your wireless network and, when prompted, type the password for the network and click Continue.
In the next window, you can choose from a Normal or Minimal installation, as well as select (optionally) to install third-party software, and download and install codecs to support various media formats. I would highly recommend you go with a Normal installation and select both options before clicking Continue.
In the next window, select Erase disk and install Ubuntu, and click Continue.
In the next window, click Start Installing to begin the process.
You will then be presented by a window where you can choose your location and time zone. You can either click on the map or type the location or time zone in the fields near the top.
In the new Ubuntu installer, you get to select from either a light or dark appearance for your desktop. This can be changed once the OS is installed, but it’s a nice touch so you don’t have to bother with it later. Make your selection and click Continue.
The installation will complete and require you to reboot. During the reboot, make sure to remove the USB drive, so the laptop boots from your hard drive. Once you reboot, log in with the user you created and start using your new Linux laptop.
This process shouldn’t take more than 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the speed of your machine and network connection). Congratulations, you’ve just revived that aging laptop with a very powerful, flexible, secure, reliable, and user-friendly operating system.