Learning Center Guides The Kickstart Coding Linux Setup Guide

The Kickstart Coding Linux Setup Guide

How to install Linux on your Windows computer

This guide is for total newbies who want to learn to code.

Linux is a fast, powerful, and free operating system (OS). It's the third most popular one, after Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS. Just about anything you can do with Windows or macOS you can also do with Linux. If you have a Windows computer, you can also install Linux on it, for free, while keeping Windows. Once installed, it's easy to use -- fans of Linux say it's easier than Windows or macOS -- although ultimately which OS is easiest comes down to familiarity and personal preference. That said, unless you buy a computer with it pre-installed, converting a Windows computer to use Linux can be a time-consuming process.

At Kickstart Coding, we do not support Windows as a development environment, but only support the operating systems GNU/Linux and macOS. This is because we've found that installation of Linux, however time-consuming, often saves time compared to installation of the various programming software we use on Windows. Notably, bash, git, Python 3, Node.js, NPM, and many other tools are either pre-installed on Linux, or 1 simple command away to install. While some of these tools can be easily installed on Windows, others can take hours to configure, and many have limited or no Windows support at all. So, think of it this way: It might be annoying at first, but you'll save time in the long run to just use Linux!

Three options

  1. Virtual machine -- in this mode, Linux will exist within "VirtualBox", which is a program you run on Windows.
  2. "Dual-boot" -- Every time you reboot the computer, you'll be able to select either Linux or Windows. This is the fastest way to use Linux. If you like Linux enough, you might also consider deleting Windows. Although dual-booting Linux is faster and a better experience, each PC model requires different steps to take, and in some cases even it might require changing "BIOS settings" that can "void your warranty"
  3. Buying a new computer for Linux -- this option in some ways is the simplest, but obviously costs money, anywhere between 150-1000 depending on how much you splurge.

For beginners, we recommend the first option.

Option 1: Installing Linux on a Virtual Machine

Step 1: Enabling Hardware Virtualization

Click here for the guide on how to enable "Hardware Virtualization Support" in Windows.

Step 2: Download Ubuntu and Oracle VM VirtualBox

Make sure you download both of these before you move forward:

Note where you save the files. By default, most files end up in a Downloads folder.

Download Ubuntu disc image

Ubuntu is the most popular distribution or variety of Linux. We recommend the current version of the OS with long term support (LTS): Ubuntu Linux 20.04. You can download it from the link above. It may take a while, depending on your interenet connection speed. It's a fairly large file (2.6 GB).

Ubuntu 20.04 Download Page

Step 3: Install VirtualBox

Oracle VM VirtualBox is a free and open source virtualization application. You might be wondering: What does that mean? It means it lets you run another operating system inside of a window in your existing operating system like it was any other program. The only limit is the disk space and memory you have available. If you have the resources, you can run several virtual machines at a time.

From the VirtualBox download page:

  • Click Windows hosts
  • Open the .exe file that is downloaded and click Next to begin
  • Leave each custom item selected custom setup
  • Click Yes to continue installation with network warning network warning
  • Start VirtualBox after installation completes installation complete

Step 4: Install Linux in VirtualBox

Click here for the guide on how to "Install Linux" in VirtualBox.

Option 2: Installing Linux as Dual-Boot

The previous options run Linux within a virtual machine. Since you'll be running both Windows and Linux at the same time, it will take up considerably more resources than if you were to install it directly on your hard drive by either replacing Windows or installing Linux along-side Windows as a "dual-boot". We do not provide a guide on how to perform either of those installations because we can't provide any type of warranty or assurances, and the steps you take are different depending on what company made your PC. That said, there are many guides available online if you search for your particular computer's model number.

If you are interested in this approach, don't hesitate to ask an instructor for help! We've installed Linux on 100s of computers by now.

Option 3: Buying a new computer for Linux

There are some cheap, light-weight computers out there that might not be good enough for playing advanced 3D video games or editing HD video or what have you, but are good enough for learning to code! If you shop around and buy used or refurbished, you can find deals in the $100 or $200 range that are powerful enough for web development.