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Try Linux Without Installing: A Guide for Beginners

Try Linux Without Installing: A Guide for Beginners

You may have heard about Linux and the excellent security it provides. Perhaps you are tired of Windows Updates cropping up at the worst time. So, you decide to try the operating system. The problem is that you do not have an extra hard drive to install it on or do not want to erase the contents of your existing drive. Fortunately, Linux allows you to try it without installing it. This is one of its most powerful features and it comes in handy if you want to try different Linux distros before settling on one.

Choosing a Linux Distro

Before installing or trying Linux, you need to choose a Linux distribution. These are colloquially known as distros, and there are hundreds of them. Some are general purpose, others include drivers and features that make gaming on Linux smoother, while some are specialized for tasks like video editing and music production.

With so many options to choose from, choosing one can be confusing for beginners. The good news is that there are online platforms that make it easy to choose the right one. All you need to do is enter your preferences and how you will use your Linux machine, and you will be presented with the best choices.

If you do not want to go through this process and want a simple solution, go with Ubuntu or one of its flavors. It is a user-friendly option with everything you need to understand how Linux works. Options like Mint and Ubuntu are also excellent for beginners transitioning from Windows. Once you are more familiar with the operating system and have installed it fully, you can download themes that make it look however you like. Linux gives you this freedom.
But first, we have to know how to try different distros.

What Do You Need to Try Linux?

You need a few things to install to try Linux. The first is removable media that you will use to create bootable media. In the past, this used to be a DVD, but these days people use USB drives. If you are up for it, you can create a bootable hard drive or SSD, but that means you need another hard drive when installing the full distro.

Ubuntu Install Window

The second is a machine already running Windows, Linux, or macOS. You will need this to create the bootable media. The computer will also help you take backups of your important files if you want to install Linux after trying it.

It is important to note that Linux doesn’t erase your drive(s) when trying it. It will also ask you if you would like to delete the contents of a drive during installation so you can take backups at that time if you forget when creating the bootable media.

This third is an internet connection. You need it to download the ISO file you will use to create the bootable medium. However, you can download the ISO file onto another computer and transfer it to one without an internet connection. Linux will ask you to turn your connection on if you choose to install it but not when testing. The reason is to download some drivers and update your installation once it is done.

Lastly, you need a test machine. These days computers are fast and modern enough to install the latest Linux distros and flavours. However, you need to know the graphics card you are using because some distros like Pop OS require that you download one with Nvidia or AMD drivers. However, you can always install one without the drivers and download them yourself. Because this is a tedious process, it is best to download one that already has the drivers incorporated.

Trying Linux Without Installing It

Once you have chosen a distro or flavour, downloaded it, and readied your computer, you have everything you need to try Linux without installing it. Start by installing software known as Rufus on your machine. You will use this to create the bootable media.

Next, open it and point it to the downloaded ISO and the drive you want to use. Rufus will ask you if you want to erase the drive. If you have nothing important on it, say yes and continue. Once it is done creating the bootable media, insert the drive into the computer you want to use and restart it.
You might have to go to the bios to ensure it is set to boot from the USB drive before your main hard drive or SSD. If not, set the boot order to boot from the USB drive first, save your changes and reboot.

The computer will likely turn on and boot from the USB. If not, it will list all bootable drives, and you will pick the USB containing the bootable media. You will see a logo or words flying across the screen to show that the computer is reading from the drive and setting everything up for you.

You will then get a screen that asks you to try or install your chosen distro. Choose to try and wait a few seconds for everything to load. You will end up in the live testing screen.

What Features Do You Have Access To?

A live-testing Linux environment has everything you need to get started. For example, you can’t use the browser as you would on any other computer. In many cases, that is Firefox. The computer will also allow you to download and save files, but you will lose these files when you restart the computer.

With the browser ready and the ability to save files temporarily, you can do things like using an online PDF or Word converter. You can convert files using SmallPDF’s converter on your Linux machine but remember to save the converted Word file somewhere safe so you do not lose it.

You can also make cosmetic changes to your computer and save them for the current session. Like files, all changes will be lost once you reboot.

You cannot edit the files on a Windows or macOS drive or partition. Linux locks these files so you can see them but not access them. Doing so protects the operating system you might have installed. However, you can delete these files if you wipe the drive when installing Linux. As mentioned above, you will get a warning before doing this.

Other Options

Besides trying the live Linux version, you can try any distro you like using a virtual computer or an online platform. The virtual computer uses your system’s resources and emulates a full installation. The online distribution works on a server installed somewhere in the world. You can find various platforms that allow you to test numerous distros this way.

The best thing about the online option is you do not have to install multiple ISO files, which can be a few gigabytes each, if you would like to try multiple ones.

Linux is a friendly operating system often overlooked by most people. You can see what it offers without installing it by testing it live, using a virtual machine, or trying it online. Once you are happy with a distro, you can create a bootable media and use the easy-to-follow instructions to install it.

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