Linux Mint is a free operating system. You can download a copy here and then burn it to a disk and install and use it. You may have heard that Linux is very hard to use, but Linux Mint is designed to be very easy. From the leading Linux distribution website: "Originally launched as a variant of Ubuntu with integrated media codecs, it has now developed into one of the most user-friendly distributions on the market - complete with a custom desktop and menus, several unique configuration tools, a web-based package installation interface, and a number of different editions." It is a very good introduction to Linux.
Can I run Linux Mint?
If your computer runs anything faster than windows 3.1 then yes. It uses very few system resources to run. It does not sacrifice much in the way of looks, despite the low requirements, and the standard look without any effects turned on will look a lot like Windows XP.
Linux can be edited by the user very easily, and thus comes in many different designes and looks. My current desktop is this:
Will my software work from windows?
This is the greatest problem people face in Linux. While you can get most programs to run fairly easily in Linux using wine (see below) many you will not be able to. For example for anyone using internet explorer, this will not work. For most software (except games) you will be able to find a Linux version. In this example Mint Linux comes with Firefox installed and there is a Linux version of Opera. For games you will have to install wine (a windows emulator for Linux) and check WineHQ appbd to see if it can run your game and what may not work in the game on Linux. Unless you are trying to run very new games you shouldn't have a problem. Wine doesn't come pre-installed on Linux Mint, but it is very easy to install. Simply open up the terminal (accessed from the 'start' menu) and type sudo apt-get install wine.
What comes installed with Linux Mint?
Everything you could need. It has an internet bowser, an office suite, an MSN program (that also runs aol, irc etc), a torrent client, a media player, text editors, CD/DVD burning software, etc. If you can't find something its very easy to install new software. Instead of hunting the program you want on the internet like you would in windows, simply open the taskbar menu (equivalent of start in windows, and in the same place) then go administration > mintinstall. This will open a program where you can look through all the programs that have been customized especially for Linux mint. There are thousands, and all with ratings and screen shots, so your sure to find what you want.
Can I test Linux mint before I install anything?
Linux Mint Comes on a LiveCD! meaning you can put it in the drive, restart your computer and boot into Linux Mint to try it all out. If you like it you can also do a full installation from this test screen (see below)
Can I run windows and linux?
Yes, using duel boot. Any time you install Linux it will create a menu that boots up when you start the computer called the GRUB menu. From here you choose if you want to load into Linux or into windows. Warning: If you install windows it will not create a grub menu. It will remove the linux menu stopping you booting into Linux and it can be quite complex to change it back.
There are two methods to install Linux mint. I recommend the wubi way for people new to Linux.
This is the easiest and safest way to install Linux mint. All you do is boot into windows, put the CD in and it will autorun with an option to install inside windows. It will take a few GB of your hard drive space (you select how much you will allow it) and it will install. That easy. You can uninstall like any other windows program.
While WUBI is easy it doesn't give you as much power over configuration as a more advanced user would want, and does require you have windows on your computer. The full installation is performed by booting straight into the CD.
Installing Linux Mint is not as hard as it sounds. These steps will help you get going.
1. Put the CD into your combo drive. For many users this may entail turning the system on, putting the disk in and then turning it back off again.
2. Reboot the system and boot your PC from the CD. The exact procedure for this will vary from system to system.
You will need to make sure your BIOS is set to boot from your combo drive. In most cases your PC will already be set to boot from CD by default so all you will need to do is insert the CD into your combo drive and reboot.
If your PC is not set to boot from your combo drive please consult your hardware manual or use a search engine to locate instructions.
Now you will be given a list of choices. Choose the first option (Boot to a Live CD Session) and click on Accept. The desktop will now load. Find the install icon on the desktop and click it. The wizard will start asking you a series of questions including your language and location. Answer them and click on “Next”. It may also ask you about your keyboard layout.
Now you will be brought to the partitions screen, for most users choose the automatic option (labeled Guided partition) will be the smarter choice. The rest of the partitioning and installation should run without you having to do anything more then click on “Next”.
Now you get to setup your preferences in Mint assistant. Mint assistant will allow you to set up basics like a username and password in a simple wizard style. Just answer its questions, and keep clicking on “Next” until you get to the question asking if you want to enable the root account. Unless you have a specific reason to do so it is best to answer no. Once you have gone through the whole setup process you will get a chance to review your choices. Once you have read them over click “Apply”.
Now you have your Mint Linux system set up. Enjoy your new computer. Go ahead and tinker with it for a while and have fun.