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What's the best?

freebuddy asked
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Last Modified: 2013-11-15

Dear experts,

I need your help here. I'm planning to switch operating systems. I have Windows XP home edition and I want to change it to LINUX. The reason for this is because I read and informed myself that LINUX is the best choice when it comes to work on networks and accesing internet.

Now, I'm not very informed what's that best LINUX version, I'm out of date. I went to ebay and typed " LINUX OS" and get results but I dont know which one to pick.

Please advise me here, I'd appreciate that :)

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Why did you go to ebay?  You want to buy it?  It's free you know...

I suggest you go to www.distrowatch.org and pick one to download (they sell CDs but they also have links to download).

Most people recommend Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora, and Mandriva... but what you use depends on you.  There are MANY flavors out there and frankly, there is no "BEST" linux - they all have benefits and drawbacks which person A might find annoying but person B doesn't care about.

If you've never worked on linux, you're probably better off downloading a live version that runs entirely off the CD - this way you need not install it and you can just run it directly from the CD (making sure your BIOS lets you boot first from the CD drive).  Ubuntu and Knoppix have live versions (the Ubuntu Workstation (or it might be "desktop" - basically the non-server version) is a live version as well as a version you can install).  Knoppix is available from www.knoppix.net.

If you have a high-speed internet connection, pick a distribution, download the ISOs, and use software to burn the ISO images to CDs, using software suitable for burning a CD image (like Nero) open the file as Image, pick burn to CD.

If you just want a desktop/server, Fedora Core, SuSE, should be your first stops.

Not all distros are free, and sometimes versions you have to pay for do have some marginal value (like commercial software).

If you want to learn all about Linux, start with a more basic distro like Slackware, Debian, or Ubuntu, and start learning the command line -- then try out Gentoo, after a year or so.

Ubuntu is also a popular distro.

You only need one distro, or you can try them all.  It's very subjective as to which one's best.
However using a popular distro is recommended, as you may find more people are familiar with it, if you
should need to ask someone a question about it, later -- few people may say much about  Joe Schmoe's Xyzabc distro.



So guys, sorry I've never used LINUX before. So, once I download it, is like any other program where you follow install process, etc? do I need to burn it in a CD and then but on disc?? will all my desktop appearance change?? will all my data be preserved?? what changes will occur?

Apologize to give you this pool of quest!

Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Linux is not a program... it's an operating system.  What it does to your system is going to depend heavily on how you use it.  If you use a Live CD like I mentioned earlier, then it does NOTHING to your computer - you can still boot windows if you want and all your files will be there and probably accessible (though probably NOT writable) when you run Linux.

If you want to install Linux on the machine, then you will either need to use partitioning software to repartition your hard drive(which can be dangerous so make a backup of your important data) or you'll have to format your hard disk (erasing everything on it) and installing Linux from scratch.

As another option, you can get yourself a copy of VMWare Server from www.vmware.com or Virtual PC from Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/virtualpc (they are both free now).  These programs create a virtual computer (as if you had another computer right next to your current one, only it runs in a window, like a program) where you can then install Linux and effective run Linux on top of Windows - using both at the same time.

When you download the ISO images, you'll need to burn them properly - if you're not familiar with burning ISO images, you can follow the instructions in this link:

For a comparison (and hopefully better understanding) of Windows and linux, see this link:

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i will suggest ubuntu for you, ubuntu is a live cd and install cd in the same time, by it you can check linux without installing it
first you have to burn the iso into cd using any good windows software like nero but i suggest a program called ISORecorder its small and easy to use see there page on this link:
after that you will have to restart and then make your CDRom is the first boot in the BIOS, put ubuntu cd in the CDROM
>>>will all my desktop appearance change?? will all my data be preserved?? what changes will occur?<<<
in this way nothing will change. i.e you will use linux from the cd without installing it, if you would like to install it then you will find a installer application on the Desktop to install it and from now the changes will happen like:
you have to create a partition --> its the area where you will install linux, and this partition type must be one of the types linux can install in (like ext2,ext3)
create another partition for swap
partition creating can done from windows by using one of partitioning tools like Acronis Partition Manager also can be done it when you start ubuntu installer
but please note: you have to know what you are doing when partitioning the HD you maybe will lose all the data by something like deleting a fat32 partition that you need its data.

keep in the Live CD and if you decide to install ubuntu, then take a look at this site it will help you to understand better how to install
installing by pictures : http://abhinay.wordpress.com/2006/08/02/install-dapper/
this is a video training : http://enterprise.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/07/05/1533204&tid=23

if you want to install then BE CAREFUL WHEN DOING PARTITIONING its the step that may will delete your data try to backup ... its easy step try to understand it good


if you have a sufficiently large disk (with 5+ GB space in a single partition that you do not care about losing) then you can proceed to install linux on you machine.  most of the install procedures are intelligent enough to let you keep your existing windows data.  before doing a complete switch, i would suggest that you install linux on a free partition and the installation takes care of giving you a dual boot system (all you will have to do is keep clicking next on most of the screens during install process).  this gives you an opportunity to play around as much as you want. just be careful to read through the install screens as there is quite a bit of info and certain areas where critical judgement is required. do not be a typical CLICK NEXT HAPPY guy doing install.

my suggestion would be to buy some book or download any document on linux and equip yourself with a few of the basic command. have a neighbourhood guy who knows the stuff handy in case of any trouble shooting requirement. if you still want to go ahead and install then go ahead and try out the install.

linux has a near windows desktop kind of user experience in ubuntu and fedora 5.  

BE CAREFUL when you are trying to tell the system as to where to install linux. if you choose your existing windows partition then your current setup might be lost.

good luck




Dear fellows, thanks for your suggestion. I still have some other doubts. What are ISO images? what do I need them for? Once I go to any of the links you guys provided and downloaded ubuntu or any other LINUX kind, I should burn it in a CD?? I have Nero. Once burn in the CD, should I boot in CD from BIOS? I really want to switch to LINUX cause I read all the advantages and I want to experience it, so I'm convinced about it.


peace to all,

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

ISO images - they are exact copies of a CD that need to burned a special way - see my second comment - I posted a link with instructions on how to burn ISO images.

Why are you convinced about linux?  What have you heard?  It's nice... it has some good stuff... but if you've never used it before and you aren't very computer savvy, then its probably NOT for you.

iso image is a image of a cd.  do NOT burn the Cd as a data containing only the ISO file in nero.  there is an option to make a disk from image in nero when you start it.  select and nero automatically prompts you to select a *.nri or *.img file.  drop down in the box and select a *.ISO image and the cd should be burnt using that.  once done you should see numerous folders and files in the cd than only a ISO image.

this gives you a CD to boot from.  probably you need to change the boot sequence in the BIOS screens.  as leew says it is advisable to learn the stuff first than make a headlong jump into the pool.  EDUCATE yourself first in the operations of linux and feel comfortable with it.  if ISO images can pose a question to us, then we need to rethink on the strategy to deploy a completely new flavour of OS which we are not comfortable with.  

educate yourself on dual boot machines.  which means that you can have windows and linux co-exist on the same machine and it gives you the liberty to boot in any one of them to carry out the task at hand.

a simple task like hooking to the internet can pose serious troublesome days if we are not geared with the machinery.  connecting through dial-ups and DSL modems can still be enough trouble even when someone knows the way around in the operating system.

in a nutshell - look before you leap!


There's no such thing as best, but after wading through at least a hundred different 'distros' over the last few years, in the futile search for the ultimate Linux; there is definitely better than others.

What you need is, best for you, or more importantly, what's best for the hardware you're hoping to try it on.  Little niceties like 3D graphics capability, MP3 and DVD playing, which you take for granted in windows - are not necessarily present in every version of Linux.

And if you are struggling on a < 1 GhZ CPU with limited RAM (less than 256 MB) You're going to find some versions of Linux a walk through the treacle instead of a walk through the park.

Luckily there's a 'distro' suitable for nearly any PC from a humble P II 300, right up to a 4 GhZ+ 'mean machine' with buckets of RAM and silly amounts of HD space.

That's the reason there are so many 'flavours' of Linux. Ones meant to run on older systems, ones for *really* ancient PC's, others designed to be as near the windows experience as possible, some deliberately the opposite, others designed to be servers, or firewalls or thin clients, or anything you could use a PC for basically.

For newcomers I'd recommend Kanotix (more polished than Knoppix IMO) or PClinuxOS
The over hyped Ubuntu even comes into the reckoning, thanks to the 'automatix' crew
It adds all the multimedia bells and whistles that are sadly missing from the default install www.getautomatix.com   

If you're using less than up-to-date hardware, I'd recommend Puppy or DSL (Damn Small Linux)  

And if you want the real idle/foolproof way of trying Linux, try this....

It's an embedded version of DSL that runs within windows - just click the .bat file after you've unzipped it to a suitable folder.  It's obviously limited in what it can do, because it weaves it's magic in 50 MB ! but it will give you a quick taste of life without Mr Gates.

And best for me, in case anyone's wondering after trying so many distros is.....
Vector, but I have soft spots for several others

PClinuxOS also do a 'supergamer' DVD which if you've got the hardware to run it, is a nice one to show your doubting Windows friends that Linux is pretty good at games after all




About the microsoft virtual machines...where can I get one that is compatible with XP home Edition, cause this ones are not.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Didn't realize you had XP Home - try VMWare instead (it generally has a better reputation though I use VPC without issue).




I'm sorry to interrup this thread. But leew, I got Linux SUSE 10.1. I install partitions and everything. I explored it and it was great, everything is excellent, graphics, etc. But, I found that most of my old softwares from windows are not compatible, also hardware, I have a lexmark printer and it doesnt work in Linux and when i place the installation CD it doesnt allow me. Also, i have a question, my Wireless connection dont work either, I have a PCI card that came with the installation software and in LINUX it wont work. Could you please provide me with list of software I must get for SUSE. Does that mean that my PCI card will be useless in SUSE.

Sorry for interrupt the thread again, I jsut needed to ask this as emergency.


Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Linux is not Windows.  Windows software will not run on Linux unless you use an emulator like WINE or setup a virtual machine using Xen or VMWare to run Windows within the Linux install (essentially the opposite of running Linux in a Windows system using Virtual PC or VMWare).  Just like a Mac can't run Windows software, neither can linux (without taking those added steps).

Hardware is tricky under linux.  Some companies are not linux friendly (meaning they don't have linux drivers and they do their best NOT to help those in the linux community write a linux driver).  Wireless is one of the most difficult things to get working in my experience (and I'm no expert in the area of Linux Wireless networking!)... Your best bet might be to replace the wireless card.  

Also, there are instances where hardware works on one linux distro and not on another.  Changing the linux distribution (reinstalling a different linux) might have different results.



Thanks leew, I appreciate it.

So, basically once you get a computer say Dell under Windows, thats it? no way back, right? you cant add another OS. So, if I want to work with Linux, basically I need to buy a whole new equiptment thats set up with Linux, right?

This endeth the question.

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Not true... but not entirely a bad a idea.  If you bought a Dell, they do offer LIMITED Linux support (they offer SOME drivers on their web site).  Generally, OLDER hardware will work well - but this could mean hardware thats 1-3 years old.  By then, someone in the linux community will likely have developed a driver and if it's common enough (and it doesn't usually have to be VERY common), then it likely work well.  Your BEST bet is to buy linux on a prebuilt system... but there aren't many vendors that ship Linux preinstalled... especially the version(s) of linux you might want to use.  When something doesn't work, it's USUALLY one or two components that can be relatively inexpensive to replace with a linux compatible one.  But typically, before you buy hardware for linux, it's a good idea to research it to ensure Linux will support it.

If you can, I would encourage you to join a Linux User Group if there's one in your area.  If you post your city and state/nation where you live, we can do a google search for you and see if/what we come up with.
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