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How To Install Linux on your Windows 8 PC.

I’m going to play around with a few NoSQL databases and since most of them work best on a *nix system, I needed to install Linux somewhere. My Dell XPS 12 laptop was perfect for the job. But I didn’t want to make an actual Linux partition on the hard drive since the XPS and Linux marriage would only be temporary. Ubuntu is the Linux distribution I’m most familiar with and that left me with two options: Install it on a VirtualBox instance or use WUBI, a Windows based Ubuntu installer. Unfortunately, installing Ubuntu on my XPS laptop turned out to be far from straight forward, so I decided to create a quick write up so you don’t have to waste all the time I wasted.

WUBI

Installing Ubuntu with WUBI is great because everything messy is configured for you: The partitions are created and you get boot options that let you choose between Windows and Ubuntu when your computer boots. But the greatest feature of WUBI is that you can simply uninstall Ubuntu from Windows whenever you like and everything will be back to how it was before you installed Ubuntu. The downside is that, at the time of writing, the WUBI installer doesn’t work properly on a Windows 8 system with secure boot enabled. And as far as I know, all new Windows 8 systems are set up with secure boot enabled. Ubuntu will be installed, but the boot option to start it won’t work.

The only option is to disable secure boot on your computer, use legacy boot, reinstall Windows 8 and then install Ubuntu using WIBU. Way too much hassle. WIBU might eventually support secure boot, but as of right now, it doesn’t.

Ubuntu 12.10 on VirtualBox

Ubuntu 12.10 comes with Unity 3D, which requires 3D acceleration to work properly. Without 3D acceleration support, Unity 3D is unbelievably slow and not usable. The current version of VirtualBox, 4.2.6, and Ubuntu 12.10 don’t play well together when it comes to 3D acceleration. There are ways to fix this, one of them is descried here, but it didn’t work for me. In the end, there was no easy way for me to get vanilla Ubuntu to work on my XPS laptop.

Kubuntu 12.10 on VirtualBox

Thankfully, there are Ubuntu alternatives without Unity 3D. Kubuntu is one of them and it’s possible to get it to run quite smoothly on VirtualBox. There are a few things you have to do, but no biggies.

  1. First of all, if you haven’t done so already, download and install VirtualBox.
  2. Then the download Kubuntu ISO.
  3. Mounting ISO files in Windows 8 is quite easy, simply right click on the ISO file and click mount.
  4. Next, create a virtual Ubuntu computer in VirtualBox with default settings.
  5. Start the new virtual computer and select the mounted Kubuntu ISO as your startup disk.
  6. Follow the Kubuntu installation instructions.
  7. After the install is complete, restart as instructed and log in to your fresh Kubuntu install.
  8. Open a terminal window and install a couple of necessary packages:

    sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r) build-essential
  9. Install the guest additions by selecting Devices, Install Guest Additions from the VirtualBox menu and run this command from the CD-ROM’s directory (most likely a sub directory in /media/):

    sudo ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run
  10. After the Virtualox guest additions are installed, restart Kubuntu.

And there you go, a working Kubuntu installation running in VirtualBox. To enter and leave full screen mode, press right CTRL+F. VirtualBox should automatically resize the desktop. Magic.

Bonus update! Ubuntu 12.10 works great on VMware Player

If you really want to run Ubuntu 12.10 in a virtual machine, you can use VMware Player instead of VirtualBox. VMwarer Player has a 3D engine that actually works with Unity 3D and installing everything was a breeze. Simply download the Ubuntu ISO, start VMware player, create a new virtual machine from the ISO file and off you go. I had to manually tell VMware what screen resolution I wanted my virtual machine to support, but that was pretty much it.

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