This guide to installing the popular open source operating system, Ubuntu has everything that you need to know, covering installing from USB or in a Virtual Machine using VirtualBox.
Once your OS is up and running, we’ve also given you a handy list of must-do steps to secure Ubuntu and make sure that everything that you need is ready and installed. We’ve got a step-by-step walkthrough for the whole setup of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS “Bionic Beaver”, and there’s even a terminal command guide to help you start working more efficiently and with a greater scope of control.
Contents: How to Install Ubuntu
- Download Ubuntu
- Boot from USB
- Create an Ubuntu Virtual Machine in VirtualBox
- Updates and Graphics: What to do after installing Ubuntu
- Handy Ubuntu Tweaks
- Post Install Clean Up
For an Ubuntu beginner or curious Windows intermediate user, there’s no single, simple source of information when it comes to getting started. One thing I have noticed is that there’s a lot of technical jargon and sometimes unnecessary terminal commands in lengthy forum posts, but no simple “how to” guides, which I think might put some people off! A shame, when you think about how easy Ubuntu is to install, use and tweak to look really cool!
Download The Ubuntu ISO
Download Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 LTS “Bionic Beaver” directly using this link from Ubuntu.com. We highly recommend downloading using a torrent instead of a direct download as this will guarantee the complete transfer of the Ubuntu ISO despite any potential connection issues. The torrent is available here. The server addition doesn’t come with a graphical interface at all and is only required by advanced users.
Create a Bootable Ubuntu USB Flash Drive
There are quite a few tools at your disposal, but we’ll be using Rufus to prepare our flash drive for the Ubuntu installation.
- Head to: https://rufus.ie/
- Download the latest version using any of the on-page links or click here to download the Rufus installer directly.
- Click on ‘Select’ to locate and open the Ubuntu ISO.
- Select ‘Start’ to begin preparing the boot device.
Preparing to Boot Off USB
If you’re going to be installing of a USB drive prepared with Rufus, then you’ll need to configure your BIOS appropriately. Entering the BIOS requires pressing the correct key combination upon boot.
You’ve typically got two to three seconds to press the key that sends you into your BIOS configuration instead of continuing with the preconfigured startup process. Common keys to enter the BIOS include Delete, Esc, F1, F2, and F10. Observe as your computer boots and press the key relevant to your setup just after powering up your PC.
Once in your BIOS, navigate to either your boot order or (if your BIOS supports it) select the USB as the next primary boot source for your next restart.
While every BIOS is different, here’s an example of what to expect when changing your boot order:
If you can opt to boot off the USB for the next boot only instead, as shown below:
Certain computers will give you an alternate option to boot into a boot menu without needing to enter the BIOS at all. If this is possible, press the corresponding key just after powering up (well before the operating system boots) to launch the menu and then select your USB drive.
The installation instructions for Ubuntu remain the same for physical computers/laptops booting off a USB flash drive and virtual machines. We’ll prompt you concerning any slight differences as they arise.
When your computer boots successfully off your USB installation media or the mounted virtual machine’s disc, you’ll be met with the language select screen. If you wanted to test out Ubuntu before installing, this is where you’d select ‘Try Ubuntu’ instead.
Pick your preferred language and click ‘Install Ubuntu’
Select the correct keyboard layout and locality appropriate to your installation before clicking ‘Continue.’
If you have an active internet connection available, ensure that ‘Download updates while installing Ubuntu’ and ‘Install third-party software for graphics and wi-fi hardware and additional media formats’ are checked before selecting ‘Continue’ to proceed.
Unless you want to encrypt your disk or setup logical volume management, check ‘Erase disk and install Ubuntu’ before selecting ‘Install Now’ to proceed.
Select ‘Continue’ to confirm the changes to the partition of your virtual disk and proceed.
Configure the correct time zone for your installation, and select ‘Continue’ to proceed.
Configure a name, computer name, username, and secure password. For optimal security, it is best to memorize your password, making sure to select the ‘Require my password to login’ radio box before clicking ‘Continue’ to proceed with your installation.
You will be presented with an installation prompt indicating the status and progress of your setup.
In a couple of minutes to perhaps as long as an hour, depending on the speed of your hardware and connection type, you’ll be rewarded with a prompt concluding your installation. Select ‘Restart Now’ to finish your brand new installation of Ubuntu.
Some users may be presented with an error from Virtual Box at this point. This is no cause for alarm. Instead, all you need to do is close the error and manually start the virtual machine from Virtual Box.
Remove your USB flash drive if it’s in use, and Press the ‘Enter’ key to continue booting your fresh installation of Ubuntu.
Congratulations! You’ve now got Ubuntu up and running. It’s time to configure, customize, and optimise your operating system while setting all your favourite applications.
Feel free to continue at this point, using ‘What’s new in Ubuntu’ to configure your first few settings. Alternatively, skip through the prompts and close the wizard to be met with your default desktop.
Creating an Ubuntu Virtual Machine in Windows with Oracle VirtualBox
If you want to set up Ubuntu in a more familiar space, you could consider trying it out in a virtual machine.
First things first, you’ll need to enable virtualization in your BIOS if it’s not already running. Every computer uses a different procedure to boot into the BIOS configuration tool. Watch carefully as you turn on your computer or laptop, looking for a prompt that indicates how to enter the BIOS. You’ll either need to hit the ‘Delete’ key, ‘F12’, or ‘Esc.’ Alternate means of entering the BIOS are also possible, but these are most likely.
Once in your BIOS, enable ‘Intel Virtualization Technology’ (also known as ‘Intel VT’) or ‘Virtualization Technology’ (or ‘AMD-V’) depending on your configuration. Save the changes and continue to boot.
Head to your browser and visit the ‘Downloads’ section of the VirtualBox site, and download the appropriate version for your platform.
Windows users can use this link directly.
Run the executable or package and install VirtualBox.
Once the installation is complete, run it to be presented with the following interface:
Select ‘New’ and enter a name for the virtual machine (i.e., “Ubuntu Linux,”) the installation location, type, and version before selecting ‘Next.’ If you type in Ubuntu, it should autocomplete the correct details, and most users would default to a 64-bit installation rather than 32-bit. If not, pick accordingly.
Versions of Ubuntu older than the latest release were often capable of running with 1GB of RAM or less. However, it is common to experience stability and performance issues when allocating anything less than 2GB of system memory to Ubuntu. The more RAM, the better, but remember that this is being shared with your primary operating system’s memory. As a general rule-of-thumb, never use up more than half of your memory on a virtual machine. After allocating at least 2048MB of memory, click ‘Next’.
You’ll be met with the ‘Hard disk’ prompt. Click ‘Create a virtual hard disk now’ and proceed by selecting ‘Create.’
While alternative hard disk file types are possible, for this installation, make sure the first (default) option ‘VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image)’ is selected and click ‘Next’ to proceed.
You have the option of creating a virtual hard drive with either a fixed size or dynamically allocated hard disk space. For this example, and most installations, check ‘Dynamically allocated’ and select ‘Next.’
Allocate any suitable amount of space that you need for your virtual machine’s partition, and select a custom location if you want anything other than the default. The minimum is 10GB, but we recommend allocating at least 20GB. Select ‘Create’ after defining your space.
Now that you’ve got a hard disk created for your virtual machine, it’s time to mount the Ubuntu ISO. This is equivalent to inserting a boot disc or bootable USB prepared with the latest Ubuntu revision when installing off physical media on a desktop PC or laptop.
Configure the installation media by selecting the ‘Storage’ category. With ‘IDE Second Master’ selected (the default), click the icon resembling a blue disc with a black drop-arrow beneath. Select ‘Choose/Create a Virtual Optical Disk.’
Select ‘Add’ to locate and mount your Ubuntu disc image.
Navigate to the location of your Ubuntu ISO disc image file and click ‘Open’ once it is selected.
Click ‘OK’ to conclude the setting up your installation media.
With the newly created virtual machine selected, click the green ‘Start’ button.
Make sure that the right disc image is selected as your start-up disk before selecting ‘Start.’
What to Do After Installing Ubuntu
Before enjoying the lightweight, stable performance that Ubuntu offers, there are a few additional installation steps that will improve the user experience immensely.
By the time that you’re done with these basic post-installation steps, you’ll be able to use the latest distro of everyone’s favourite free Linux as your primary operating system.
Increase Desktop Resolution
Increasing your desktop resolution can wait until you’re ready to install proprietary drivers for your graphics card or chipset, but setting it first makes navigating Ubuntu much easier.
You can do this by either selecting ‘Activities’ from the upper-most left corner of your desktop, or press the ‘Super’ key as the Windows button is known in Ubuntu. Type in ‘Settings’ and then click on the settings button before you.
Pick out the correct desktop resolution to match your display preferences, and click ‘Apply’ confirming the changes if you are satisfied with the setting.
The very first thing that you need to do is make sure that Ubuntu is fully-updated. To do this, press the ‘Super’ key or click ‘Activities.’ Type ‘Software Update’ into the search box, and click ‘Software Update’.
If your installation fails to detect an active internet connection despite one being present, open and close Firefox to sort out the glitch. The Software Updater will detect a few small updates for those who updated during their installation, and larger updates for those who have yet to update for the first time.
Those who prefer Ubuntu’s terminal (Press: Ctrl + Alt + T . This will launch the Terminal.) are free to use the following command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
Those who are doing an update with Ubuntu’s ‘Software Update’ wizard will be presented with a selection of packages to install. All are checked by default. Make sure that they are, and click ‘Install Now.’
Once your updates have concluded, you’ll be rewarded with the following prompt indicating that your software is update-to-date:
Enable Proprietary and Canonical Partner Repositories
Press the ‘Super’ key or click ‘Activities’ before typing in ‘Software & Update’ Select the ‘Software & Update’ wizard from before you.
Ensure that all sources are checked and enabled before selecting the ‘Other Software’ tab.
Enable all Canonical Partners by checking the appropriate boxes before clicking ‘Close.’
Install Virtual Box Guest Additions (VM Users Only)
Virtual Box Guest Additions are essential to getting the best experience and performance out of Ubuntu. It just takes a few minutes to install.
Start off by executing the following terminal command:
sudo apt install build-essential dkms linux-headers-$(uname -r
Once it has completed, restart your virtual machine (this is crucial). If you have been running in full screen or scaled mode, press your ‘Host’ key, which is typically right ‘Ctrl’ and C to switch view so that you can see the options menu.
Select devices followed by ‘Insert Guest Additions CD.’ Switch back to your preferred window mode (CTRL+C for most users)
The ‘Guest Additions’ disc will autorun. Select ‘Run.’ Once the Guest Additions have been installed, press the ‘Enter’ key to close the terminal.
Handy Ubuntu Tweaks
Install Your Graphics Drivers
The latest version of Ubuntu comes with bundled support for Nvidia and ATI cards, but if your chipset is not supported, updating takes only a few commands.
NVIDIA card owners should first add the Nvidia repository using the following command:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
With the new repository added, run an update with:
sudo apt-get update
Finally, install the appropriate Nvidia Graphics Driver replacing the number used below with the series that you need using the code:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-graphics-driver-340
There is a significant gaming performance difference between the preinstalled open-source driver and the Catalyst drivers available for manual installation. The official Radeon driver lacks a lot of support, especially for older cards. Use the drivers that come packed with Ubuntu. Since Ubuntu 18.04, the ‘fglrx drivers’ have become obsolete.
Install Total Multimedia Support – Ubuntu Restricted Packages
Ubuntu Restricted Packages include all the multimedia codecs commonly used to render and stream music and video. Most of the necessary components cannot be automatically streamlined into your Ubuntu installation due to copyright legislation, making it necessary for you to install them manually. Luckily, this is just a small download available by executing the following terminal command:
sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extras
Install GNOME Tweaks
The most popular way to change the look of Ubuntu is to install the GNOME Tweaks tool. Either visit the Software Center and search for GNOME Tweaks as shown below to install, or use the following terminal command:
sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool
Install Commonly Used Applications
Ubuntu’s Software Center has everything that most users need to get the most out of their setup. With your repositories configured and your codecs installed, it’s now time to explore popular software. You will find the ‘Software Center’ under your applications. Here are a few useful applications to consider installing:
VLC Media Player – Arguably the best video & multimedia player
KdenLive – An outstanding easy-to-use video editor
Dropbox – Reliable multiplatform cloud storage
GIMP – Linux’s robust alternative to Photoshop as an image editor
Geary Email Client or Thunderbird – Both are fantastic email clients but Geary is far easier to use
Google Chrome – If you don’t like Firefox, Chrome’s your answer
Franz – Either install Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram or give Franz a try
Skype – The go-to choice for video messaging
Steam Linux Gaming – If you intend to play games on Linux then you can’t overlook this valuable tool
Kazam – Simple screen recording at it’s best
Caliber – eBook reading and management
Atom – Must-have code-editor for Linux
Audacity – The best free audio enter Ubuntu has to offer
Handbrake – No-frills media conversion
Improve Battery Efficiency With TLP (Notebook Users Only)
TLP is an open-source utility that optimizes battery use on laptops running Ubuntu. It’s hands-down the most effective feature-rich tool for improving efficiency, and TLP only takes a minute or two to install.
Start off by updating your repositories as a matter of good practice:
sudo apt-get update
Now install TLP with:
sudo apt-get install tlp
Once TLP is installed, start the utility service with this command:
sudo tlp start
At any point, you can view detailed information concerning your laptop and the effects of TLP. Just enter the following:
sudo tlp-stat -s
To view the default configuration that TLP comes preset with, use:
sudo tlp-stat -c
A detailed battery report is also available via:
sudo tlp-stat -b
If you would like to remove TLP at any point, simply input the following terminal command:
sudo apt-get remove tlp
TLP Graphical User Interface
If you prefer to use a UI for TLP, fire up Terminal and enter the following command:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linuxuprising/apps
Update your repositories with:
sudo apt-get update
After your update, install TLP UI with:
sudo apt-get install tlpui
You’ll now be able to find TLP in your application launcher. It’s also available using the following console command:
Clean Up Ubuntu
The easiest way to keep your operating system clean is to run the following Terminal command once every month or two depending on how much use actively use Ubuntu, installing new applications and their components:
sudo apt autoremove
Advanced users can clear their cache using one of two approaches. Outdated packages and cache components can be removed with:
sudo apt-get autoclean
Alternatively, one can opt to clear Ubuntu’s cache completely freeing more space:
sudo apt-get clean