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The difficulty of installing Linux all depends on what distribution you get. The newer popular distributions (like Mandrake 9.0 and Redhat 8.0) are quite easy to install - easier, I would say, than installing Windows. Most of the time you don't need to know any obscure stuff about your hardware.
Most of the installation difficulties you allude to come from trying to do a dual Windows/Linux boot.
Also, most PC's come with hard drives formatted for DOS/Windows. So, even if you don't want to do a dual boot, you still have to create a filesystem for Linux.
About the only thing you need to change in your BIOS is to make sure you can boot from a CD, if you are trying a CD install.
My first Linux install was Red Hat 8.0 and it went without a hitch. After some time with Red Hat I installed Slackware and its installation went without a hitch as well. You do need to do some preparation on your hard drive (create new partition and overlay file system) but once that preparation's done the installation programs are pretty good about automatically detecting your system's components.
You might also want to try out linux without having to do an install at all. You can download Knoppix, which is based on Debian, burn it to CD, and run from the CD without having to install it to your harddrive. I have read that it is very good at autodetection of hardware. Might be a good way to get your feet wet without having to take the plunge. Here's a link to their website:
I drive trucks for a living and the only real problems that I have had have been getting a few thing's working, e.g. when I first tried linux, I tried suse 8.0 and the install when straight in - the pc was reasonably new and had 3 partitions for windows - the main xp (ntfs), the "recovery" partition (fat32) and the one (can't recall what they called it but it was a fat32 partiton that had nothing on it). The suse found the 3rd one and installed fine. but it was an absolute "SOB" to get my dsl modem working. I switched to mandrake 8.2 because it was supposed to have "out of the box support" for the modem - it didn't work and again, was an SOB - but booting backwards and forward between windows, I managed to get it sussed!.
since then I have changed to mandrake 9.0 - the download version required me to install the "microcode" for the modem, but it told me where to get it - and that was reasonably straightforward. I have been impressed with mandrake and bought a boxed set - everything (except scanner) have been auto detected (even the modem - though since then I have changed to a modem/router and ethernet NIC) and have found that the boxed set gave me some of the commercial software lacking in the d/l version and gives me a more "windows like" experience without the hassle of locating d/ling and installing various app's/facilities.
I have now "pre-ordered" a 9.1 dvd powerpack version of mandy.
As far as "difficult" is concerned, as long as you still have net access and aren't in a mega rush to get it up and running, then you should be able to sort out any difficulties that you may experience here. If you want it up and running "yesterday!" then you would have to do a fair bit of researching to find the "right" distro for you, and then fork out for "support" of an appropriate type to meet your needs (or impatience for that matter) which would probably mean one of the "mainstream" distro's.
But hard, it ain't. If a "wagon" driver like me can manage it, anyone can.
p.s. since doing the above, I have replaced my hard disk and the only thing that was a little bit of a trial, was reading and understanding the instructions for partition magic 8 - and I can still write my linux knowledge on the back of a very small postage stamp!
Linux install hard? Come on! I think it's pretty easy. No, Windows, now that's hard! After 10 driver-cds, 4 seperate web-updates and 20 reboots, I finally have a working system, but I still need to hunt the web for software, or work hard to earn the money to buy commercial software. No really, in my experience Linux is easier.
suse is easy to install, this is what i use, and may use mandrake 9.1 on another rig i have
i don,t like red hat that much, there web site is tough to get around, espicallay when you try to do updates. suse with yast makes online updates very easy. also, i am not fond of red hats bluecurve desktop, sucks.
red hat is easy to install, along with suse and mandrake. personally, i believe mandrake 9.1 is probably the easiest to install.
some distros are not to easy to install, had a tough time with free bsod 4.5 , did finally get it installed, not for the novice
just a few quick questions,
First do I need to keep windows on my computer?
Second if my hard drive is already partioned into three seperate drives, will that do?
Is it better to get a boxed set if this is my first time installing Linux (I'm going w/ Mandrake)
with the boxed set, you will get some manuals which are helpful.
don,t need to keep windows on rig, unless you are going to dual-boot.
this works best for me installing any type of linux. this is what i do -
1.boot with wind 98 boot floppy
2.i delete all partitions, non-dos, dos
3.make one active primary partition
4.don,t forget to do this, format the partition or you might have some problems.
after this, go to bios and select 1st boot as cd-rom, place the linux mandrake install cd-1 into cd-rom and boot.
I would say that you should check out what's on the 3 partitions and how they are formatted.
If it's like mine was, the main partition was NTFS for the xp, with the recovery partition formatted FAT32 and the third (can't remember what it was called) was also FAT32 - but in my case there wasn't anything on it so I just put the linux install disc in and told the installer to put it there (just remember whatever wind0w$ has called it and what size partition it says it is for ease of identification).
Then let it do "it's thing". The current SuSE is only available for purchase, the download version is a little older (that's just the way they seem to do things). I would heartily recommend mandrake though the 9.0 is excellent and I'm just waiting on the dvd for 9.1 powerpack - and yes, I would say that from a newbie (and nugget in my case) point of view the boxed set is definitely the way to go as the included commercial software makes life a lot easier - I don't want to do that much with my install - just replace the desktop wind0w$ install (and yes I do dual boot, but that's so "er in doors" can carry on and do the stuff from her work without stressing me out trying to teach her the differences).
The manuals aren't always as helpful as they seem, because I have found that linux documentation is largely written by nerds for nerds (well that's how it seems to me!) but they do make things easier if you don't want to have to keep digging into the info on the disc (same as the manuals anyway, though I prefer to read paper and absolutely hate trying to follow on screen instruction!)
Apart from that - just go for it - if you have the recovery/installation disc(s) for your wind0w$ then you could trash the entire wind0w$ install and reformat the entire hard drive - if you have the info to set up your net connection straight away, then screw wind0w$.
i have mandrake 8.2 power-pack, get 3 manuals i believe , not to bad for a boxed distro. i just red hat 9, it,s basically a install manual, that,s it.
have thought about mandrake 9.1 , suse always gets back on my rig, quess i think it,s good-looking.
installing red hat 9 and giving it another shot, will probablly try mandrake 9.1 , may even get the powerpack version. nice thing is i can get suse 8.2 prof, red hat 9 personal, and mandrake 9.1 powerpack for total around $180, or cheaper if you don,t get the retail boxed versions.. that,s the cost of one windows operating system
Ok well my drives are just partioned into 25/26 GB parts (three of them) And I just use them for different things. If I cleared off one whole part and put Linux in there would that be fine? Or would I have to format it differntly somehow?
Thanks again (total newbie)
Erm not quite sure on that one only using the 1 drive myself, but I would have thought that as long as you note which part of which drive you want to put it on, then it should find the available partition. As far as I recall, with mandrake, it should ask you where you want to put it during the install as part of the basic installation, or if you selected "expert install", then it gives you graphics of the drive(s) and you tell it where you want it put.
You could always go for the partition magic option. I have version 8 and that offers the options of formatting as ext2 or ext3 or making it "linux swap". And the only thing that I understand about that is that the first 2 are types of linux file system
someone else may be able to offer something more in depth??