This looks good: Wubi – The Easiest Way to Linux.
From the Wubi FAQ:
How does Wubi work?
Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the windows file system (c:\wubi\disks\system.virtual.disk), this file is seen by Linux as a real hard disk.
Is this running Ubuntu within a virtual environment or something similar?
No. This is a real installation, the only difference is that Ubuntu is installed within a file as opposed to being installed within its own partition. Thus we spare you the trouble to create a free partition for Ubuntu. And we spare you the trouble to have to burn a CD-Rom.
Dare I try this at work?
If you do try it, can you let us know how it goes?:)
It works very well. It was how I got introduced to Ubuntu. Do be careful about having the computer shut down without properly shutting down, or you can get errors.
When I started dabbling, I used Wubi to install. It worked, though before long I started getting some odd errors. So I repartitioned and did a clean install of Ubuntu in a dual-boot setup. That was in June, and now I’m typing this on a laptop with only Linux installed, and will probably be buying a laptop from a Linux OEM shortly.
But before you go to the (relatively modest) trouble of Wubi, have you tried a Live CD? Most distros these days allow you to burn the OS onto a disk, and boot the computer from the disk. This will NOT affect your regular Windows (or Mac for that matter) install at all. You can shut down, take the disk out, reboot, and all will be normal.
Aside from being a tad slow (since the computer is running off the CD drive rather than the HD) and the fact that you can’t save configurations (because it’s running off a CD-rom) it will look and feel just like running Linux. Great way to test drive.
Hey thanks for the info Steve, i got a Ubuntu sent to me but have been too apprehensive to try it in case of messing up. I will have a look at these Live CD’s considering i can’t break anything.
Sound like a good way to get my feet wet without the migraine.
Ubuntu is linux for users done right and inexpensively (if cost isn’t an issue, Mac OS X is BSD Unix with a GUI done right). I cannot recommend Ubuntu enough; their user forum is a godsend for new linux users with questions and their interfaces for a lot of the windows-centric stuff is easy enough that it makes tears well up, especially the GUI interface for accessing SMB/CIFS shares or X-Window GUI adjustments. If the machine running it is beefy enough to handle it, the beryl desktop stuff handily trumps Vista’s eye-candy (cf: here and here) although be aware that like a lot of “neat!” stuff on computers, it’s annoying after 15 minutes of working with it (virtual desktop cube being an exception in my case — something about being able to differentiate spatially between desktops and their contents was Seriously Useful for me).
re: Steve’s comment above, if you have enough RAM you can usually copy the contents of LiveCD’s to your RAM; this allows the use of the disk drive (I know other distributions do this, i don’t know ubuntu’s “cheat codes” — on knoppix, it’s “linux toram” at the boot: prompt — ubuntu’s cheat codes for advanced features of their liveCD will likely be different) and many distributions (knoppix and mepis, for e.g.,) allow you to create and save a /home/ directory on a USB drive.
If you got a Ubuntu disk sent to you by Canonical, in all probability it is a Live CD. Set your computer to boot off the CD drive and reboot, it should run.
David, that’s interesting, all the reading I’ve done on Ubuntu I never knew about the ability to copy the Live CD to RAM. I do have a USB stick set up as a bootable device, as this here laptop I’m using now doesn’t have an optical drive, so I needed that to install the OS.