Preparing your laptop for Linux


Bill Giannikos

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In this article we will be discussing ways in preparing your computer for Linux. While this article is focused on laptops, most of the information presented will be useful for desktop computers as well.

Step 1: Backup Your System

While installing Linux we will be modifying the partition table on your hard drive. Unless you don't care about the contents of your hard drive, it is highly recommended that you create a backup of your system before proceeding any further.

Please also make note that most laptops don't come with recovery CDs anymore, rather they have a hidden partition on your hard drive to store this data. However most manufacturers provide you a utility to create the CDs required, so you may also like to make use of this. Warning: You will likely see this hidden partition when you use a partitioning tool. I would highly recommend you leave it totally alone unless you know what you are doing.

Step 2: Preparing Your Hard Drive

There are two ways of installing Linux on your laptop, either as a dual boot system with Microsoft Windows or a standalone system with just Linux. If you choose the later then you may continue to step 3 as all that is required is to wipe the hard drive clean.

If you have chosen a dual boot system (as you want to use both Microsoft Windows and Linux) then you will need to prepare your hard drive to hold both. Since most laptops come with Microsoft Windows pre-installed, it is normal for the entire space on your hard drive to already be allocated to Windows.

First, decide how much space you would like to allocate to each operating system. I would recommend leaving a minimum of 10GB for both. Since most Windows installations supplied with modern laptops are using the NTFS filesystem which Linux can not write to, you may also like to consider leaving room for a small FAT32 partition. FAT32 is the only file system both Windows and Linux can easily read and write to, so a small partition may be useful in transferring files from Windows to Linux and back.

Next you will need to purchase or download an application which is capable of resize a NTFS partition. The most popular one is Partition Magic but I like to use BootIt NG. How to use these utilities is out of scope for this document, but you should resize the NTFS partition to the size you want and create the FAT32 partition if you would like one. Don't create any Linux partitions just yet, let the Linux installer do that.

Step 3: Booting from the installation CD

Many laptops will not boot from the optical drive by default so you will need to find how to get your laptop to boot from it. You should read your laptop's manual for this information but you normally need to push either the ESC, F1, F10 or F12 key when you turn on the system. Insert your installation CD/DVD into your optical drive, press the correct key to bring up the boot menu and select the optical drive. You should now be booting from the Linux installation CD.


You should now be ready to install Linux. You may like to read our installation guides for details on how to install a number of different Linux distributions.


Danny Ronen, 2015/02/07 16:04

Easy and understandable method.

samantha, 2009/04/17 08:26

I installed ubuntu 8.10 but I can't install any software. There is error message mentioning “permission problem & check /etc/apt/source.list”. pls advice.

Merson, 2009/05/05 14:22

Are you trying to install software from the internet using apt-get or aptitude?
Perhaps the laptop didn't have internet access when you were installing linux. When this happens apt-get would look to the source CD to install new software. Just do a google on how to solve this problem…..I think changing the installation source in /etc/apt/source.list . Else…if its a fresh install just reinstall with internet connection on. Hope this helps.

Nishu, 2009/04/10 09:56


I have recently bought an HP laptop (HP Pavilion dv 4-1211 TU) with preloaded Windows Vista Home Basic. I am trying to dual boot it with linux.

Configuration of my system:
Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU T6400 @ 2.00 GHz

I have tried SLC4.5 and 4.6. It was installed successfully but while booting it stucks at:

Initializing hardware……… network

I have also tried uBuntu8.04 and 8.10 but the system hangs while installing it.

Which linux operating system would be compatible with this system?

karin, 2009/04/02 18:32


I have just bought the M70VN-X6 laptop pre-installed with Windows
vista. I want to use this laptop for my work and install linux on it.
My first question. Can I replace Windows Vista with linux opensuse without
interfering with the Asus software? It seams that some of it is incorporated in Windows. I also bought a second hard drive and installed it in the empty hard drive bay. Can I use this second hard drive and install linux as dual operating system?

David Madison, 2009/04/15 12:26

The M70VN-X6 laptop is the system I want. I hate Train Wreck Vista with a passion, so I will either figure a way to put XP on it or Linux. I have extra hard drives, so my safest preparation is to put the Asus Vista operating system on a dinky 80 Gig drive, see if it works, wipe the 320 Gig drive in the new system, and then install Linux only. Anything goes wrong and I just re-format and try again.

David Madison

Blanca, 2009/03/20 21:54

I successfully installed Ubuntu 8.10 in 2 hp elite 8530p.
The initial glitch, which scared me but then it was fine,
is that the initial splash screen has the wrong resolution
for the screen, so it looks segmented. Does anybody know
where can I get a new splash and where do I copy it?

Buchvi, 2009/03/04 12:39

I have troubles with installing Ubuntu 8.10 - when I try to boot live version or when I start the instalation, it says:

[76.138228] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 1431184
[76.138275] Buffer I/O error on device sr0, logical block 178898

It shows that two sentences seven more times and than it offers me a command line. Can you help me?

Bill Giannikos, 2009/03/04 12:47

This is likely to be a problem with the Ubuntu CD itself or your optical drive. Try getting another copy of Ubuntu.

Buchvi, 2009/03/04 17:52

So I tried to download another iso, burn it and boot it and…. It's almost the same situation, now it shows only two double-lines of errors (nothing else) and stops. So, where's the problem?
EDIT: But now checking CD is OKay… So where the hell is prob?

EDIT II: Problem solved. I've booted Ubuntu 8.04, installed it and than updated. Wooha! :o)

artila, 2009/02/17 14:07

I have a problem with instaling ubuntu it gives me this error (336.612000) sdhci:slot0 what it mean and how can I resolve it

Simon, 2009/02/11 04:07

I have a quick question, i have a copy of ubuntu for my 'hp 2133' laptop. My laptop is pre installed with Win Vista and i want to remove it and install linux. But of some reason when i put in the ubuntu disk and once if prepared the configurations my laptop goes to a white screen and linux won't bring up the desktop preview of ubuntu. Is there a way around this that anyone knows.

Bill Giannikos, 2009/02/12 03:44

Try booting Ubuntu with “safe graphics mode”. To do this press F4 when you first boot from the CD and select the safe graphics mode option.

Nick, 2008/11/01 05:35

Partitions question


A naive question. I want to run a dual-boot system, and I want a lot of files (music and so forth) to be available to, and editable in, both OSs. So do I need to make sure that there is a FAT32 partition big enough to accommodate all those files if I want to do this?

Bill Giannikos, 2009/02/12 03:45

That would be the easiest method. Some Linux distributions also support ntfs-3g which will let you read and write to ntfs partitions.

marco, 2008/09/06 19:42

can some body tell me what I need to do with my laptop. Because for accidet I desconected de hard drive and now I can't login to windows . my laptop is a dell d400

Krishnan, 2008/06/16 01:37

Installing Linux

The best option to install and explore the features of Linux is to replace your hard disk with a new one. This will not erase any of your data and any time you can be back to your old OS. Just I installed Ubuntu 8.o4 in my Lenovo 3000 N100 laptop and trying to solve some problems.

bode,lagos.nigeria, 2007/10/23 03:09

cant install linux

i have a toshiba satellite l30-l50 that came with windows vista preinstalled.the problem i mhais
i have is that i cant install linux on it even when i have partitioned it.please any one wh
know wat i can do should please mail me on

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preparing_your_laptop_for_linux.txt · Last modified: 2009/03/04 12:46 by billg
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