Step-by-step beginner's guide to installing Ubuntu 11.10


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In this guide I will cover the installation of Ubuntu Linux 11.10, 32-bit version from a LiveCD. The installation of other 'buntu versions including 64-bit will be very similar to this guide. I will try to explain certain options and provide helpful hints along the way, so rather than just following the guide, you can understand the reasoning behind the decisions.

This guide is drawn from my experience. As some of you are aware, I'm passionate about open-source software and OS', in particular Linux. I'm no professional though, just a person that enjoys spending his spare time using Linux and open-source software in-between dissecting others' computers, and somehow managing to turn my own systems into fireballs of destruction!

If there are any mistakes please draw my attention to them and I will correct as needed. I have tried to make this as simple as possible, whilst covering the vast majority of scenarios users will come across whilst installing this operating system.

Step 1:
The first thing you should do is head to and download Ubuntu 11.10 LiveCD. Just click the big orange Start download box.

Step 2:
Using your disc burning software, burn the .iso you downloaded to a CD.

Step 3:
Before you go any further, ensure all important data is backed up in case of data loss on your drives. This guide assumes you have media backups of your Windows partitioned hard drive and you are safe to proceed.

***Warning: Installing another operating system without first ensuring you have backups of your current files and operating system is a big risk. If you have no data to lose or you’ve backed up important data, you’re ready to proceed. YOU are responsible if you lose data.For those of you using Windows, and installing Linux for the first time I recommend you either use a separate hard disk that does not contain the Windows OS, or create a partition big enough for Linux within Windows using Disk Management in the Administrative Tools menu of the control panel. 30GB of hard disk space is absolutely plenty of space for you to begin exploring Ubuntu whilst at the same time having room to grow.

Step 4:
Ensure you have a network cable connected, restart your computer, and boot from the CD drive.

Step 5:
The LiveCD will load up, and you'll be presented by the following box:


For the purposes of this guide, we will assume you've already tried Ubuntu and want to proceed with an installation, so click "Install Ubuntu."

Step 6:
You'll be greeted by the "Preparing to install Ubuntu" screen, exactly as below:


I recommend you select "Install third-party software" as I have done in the screenshot above. I prefer to do system updates once up and running, but if you have the extra time you can also select "download updates while installing" as well. Then click continue.

Step 7:
The next screen you will see is "installation type," what you see will be dependent on whether you have an existing Windows installation or not.

I'm going to split this into three different sub-steps, to make it as simple as possible.

Step 7-A:
For those installing in a virtual machine or to hard disks without an OS you will see the following screen:


You have two choices:

1. Erase the entire disk and use all of it for installation -- Ubuntu will automatically partition your disk and proceed with installation.
2. Select "something else" and manually create your partitions (which is covered in detail in step 7-C).

If you are choosing the first option, select the radio button and then click continue, proceeding to step 8.

Step 7-B:
Those of you that have current Windows installations or are going to dual-boot with another existing OS will be presented with a screen similar to below:


You have three options available:

1. You can choose the first option and install Ubuntu alongside your existing OS.
2. You can opt to replace your Windows installation with Ubuntu, allowing the installer to format your current partitions and automatically create new ones for Linux.
3. You can choose "something else" and create your own partition scheme and sizing (covered in detail in step 7-C).

Once you have selected which route you wish to proceed with click continue and proceed to step 8.

Step 7-C:
Having selected the "something else" option you will be presented with the following window:


Linux recognizes and assigns IDs to drive in a different manner to Windows. In the above image, you can clearly see my hard disk in the list. It is identified by "/dev/sda." Linux recognizes drives in the following way:
• Sda = 1st drive
• Sdb = 2nd drive
• Sdc = 3rd drive and so on

Partitions are also shown after the drive letters. So if I had 2 partitions on my first disk, they would be identified as:
• Sda1 – 1st drive, 1st partition
• Sda2 – 1st drive, 2nd partition

You will not see the common Windows C: label in the disk menu in the above list. You do, however, have key things to help you recognize your Windows C: drive. Both of these can be used to identify which is your Windows disk.
• The size of the disk is shown
• The name of the drive is shown

This is your current partition layout for your hard disks. If you have more than one disk, they will show up as /dev/sda, /dev/sdb etc.

Firstly, identify your Windows installation. In my case, it's sda1 (which is my first hard disk, first partition). What you see depends on how you created the extra space. I just resized the Windows partition from within Windows, and left the free space ready to install Linux. I recommend using Windows or a free utility from within Windows to resize your partition as most beginners will understand it more.

Therefore, we now need create a minimum of two partitions:

Click "Add" and the following box will appear:


You will notice I have already filled out the example above to create a 10GB root partition.

You can have a maximum of 4 primary partitions, or 3 primary partitions and 1 logical (which allows for another 64 partitions)
The size above is 10.00GB. e.g 1,000 = 1GB 10,000 = 10GB (Remember to leave enough free remaining space to create your SWAP partition!)
Location for new partition: e.g. do you want it at the start or end of the free space. Select beginning.
Use as: Ext4 is the recommended file system for Ubuntu, much the same as NTFS is Windows. SWAP is for SWAP space.
Mount point: This is where you want the partition to mount. E.g. we need a root partition, which in Linux is denoted by a "/".

Click OK once you have finished setting the partition information and you will return to your partition screen, now showing the root partition you just created. Using the same methods as before, create a SWAP partition.

I recommend you set the size of your SWAP partition to at least the size of your available RAM. If you have plenty of hard disk capacity I would suggest you use double the size. So if you have 2GB of RAM, set it to either 2GB or 4GB. For best performance it is recommended you have your SWAP partition at the beginning or end of your drive.
Once you have done that, you should be looking at something like below.


So to re-cap the above, (in my example) we have the following:

• /dev/sda1 is your Windows partition.
• /dev/sda2 is your new root partition (Windows equiv. of C:).
• /dev/sda3 is your SWAP space.

Once you are happy with the changes you have made, click install now and proceed to the next step.

Step 8:
As the installation starts to copy the required files to the hard disk, you will be presented with a screen to select your locale. It should automatically find where you are, as it has for me already:


Just double check it is correct, and then select continue.

Step 9:
The next screen to appear will be keyboard layout:


Ensure the correct option is selected, above you will see the correct (and default UK) selection has been automatically made for me.

Step 10:
You will now be greeted by the "who are you" screen, ready for you to fill out with your user details:


The computers name and username will automatically populate when you type your full name. You can however edit them as you please. Fill in the details and then click continue.

You can opt to have Ubuntu automatically log in for you -- even with a password set -- or you can choose the traditional option requiring a password to log in. You really don't need to choose the encrypt option unless you're installing on a laptop and are dealing with highly secure information.

Step 11:
The installation information screens will now appear as Ubuntu continues the installation:

Step 12:
Once installation has finished, you will be presented with the following box:


Select "restart now" and when requested, remove your installation CD, then press enter to reboot.

Step 13:
For those of you that have Ubuntu as the only OS the computer will boot directly into Linux. If you're dual-booting, you will see the GRUB menu appear similar to below:


Hit enter, to select the first option and load your newly installed Ubuntu OS.

Step 14:
For those that elected to automatically log into Ubuntu, you will go straight to the desktop in Step 15. For everyone else, you will be greeted with the new login manager for Ubuntu:


Enter your password, and hit enter to login to your desktop.

Step 15:
Your desktop should look like this:


Step 16:
Before we proceed further, let's check for updates. Click on the power button on the top right corner of the screen and select "check for updates," or words to that effect.


I'd already run updates on this install so the example above is displaying "software up to date," but the picture highlights where you need to select anyway.

Upon selecting the update option, the update manager will appear, as below:


If it comes up with no available updates, just select "check" again to verify that it is correct. Having done the same thing myself, I was presented with the updates you see above. For those that opted to install updates during installation it is unlikely there will be further updates required.

You might be asked to enter your password to confirm changes. If prompted, enter your password and click OK. The same is true of any notifications that may appear during updating the OS.

Once complete select close, and restart Ubuntu.The power button is located on the top right corner of the screen. Click this and select shutdown.
Step 17:
No install is complete without full support for mp3s, core MS fonts, DVD playback codecs, Flash and Java, so let'sgo ahead and sort this now.

Click the black Ubuntu menu button at the top left corner of the screen and in the menu that appears, type "software centre" and select the Ubuntu Software Centre. Once open, click the search bar, type "restricted" and the following should appear:


Select Ubuntu restricted extras, and then click on the install button.

Authentication is much like UAC (user access control) in windows Vista and 7. It is required to elevate your user privileges to that of root (Linux administrator).

Ubuntu restricted extras will now download, sort any dependencies and install. You can check its progress by viewing the progress bar above the install button. Once finished the In Progress tab will disappear -- restart Linux.It's not strictly necessary, but I always do it after installing this package so everything can start up properly.

Now you can enjoy your new OS and begin exploring its features.

P.S. It goes without saying, that neither TechSpot nor me are responsible for any errors or damages made to your computer during or after installing Linux. It's up to you to ensure proper backups are made of important data.

Comments and feedback, including other OS' you'd like to see guides written for are appreciated.
Problem with disc partitioning

Thanks for this detailed guide to installing Ubuntu 11.10. However, for me, it breaks down in step 7-C, partitioning of the disk.

I am trying to install a dual-boot system on a rather new HP Pavilion sd5 that came with Windows 7. That should be pretty standard, I thought. (I have installed Ubuntu several times before, but things seem to have changed radically.)

In Windows, I shrunk the C drive to make plenty of room for Linux, but when I got to step 7-C, I found the liberated space marked as "unusable" and the partitioner refused to do anything with it. So I rebooted Windows and made the freeded space Drive F and formatted it as NTFS. I now started up the Ubuntu installer again, and when I got to step 7-C, I found the new partition as sda4; sda1 and sda2 are small partitions apparently used by Windows 7, while sda3 seems to be the C drive. I formatted sda4 as ext4, saving 5GB for a swap disk. But then the 5 GB showed up as "unusable" and I was unable te get a swap disk.

Back to Windows I went, reduced Drive F by 5 GB and created a 5 GB drive G and formatted it as NTFS. I tested that drive G was really there in Windows. Then reboot the Ubuntu installation disk and get to Step 7-C. sda4 has been reduced by 5 GB, but there is no trace of drive G, and so still no chance to get a swap disk.

I think the problem may be the sda1 and sda2 that Windows goobles up, so that we run into the limit of physical divisions of the disk.

Any suggestions?

I might add that I think it was pretty irresponsible of the Ubuntu folks to hit us with this new partitioner with no guide to using it. Thanks for your help.
If I'm reading this correctly, you have the following existing Windows partitions:

1. System reserved (~100MB)
2. OS restore partition used to restore OS to factory settings (~several GB in size)
3. Windows C Disk (lots of GB's).

You've then used Windows to make a forth partition (and then fifth) when trying to get Windows running.

Partitions 1-3 (Windows) will be primary hard disks. The issue here is you can only have 3 primary partitions (and a logical partition which allows for 64 more) or 4 primary partitions.

So you need to make your new partitions for Linux logical partitions.

Below is an example of the problem your experiencing:


Solution is below:


So from the disk menu in the installation:

1. Remove both your Windows partitions you created (F and G)
2. Create a logical partition (select logical tab when creating a new partition) and set it to the desired size of the root partition leaving enough space for SWAP.
3. Create new partition again (now you've made one logical partition it won't give you the option to choose which type), this time for SWAP.

Then continue from step 8 as per the guide.

Hope this helps. :)
Partitioning problems

Very good clear tutorial. I ran into the following deviations running Windows 7 on an HP g7-1075dx notebook, with ubuntu installer on a USB drive

Step 7-b I do not get the option for installing Ubuntu alongside Win 7. I do get the other two options.

Step 7-c if I select the "something else" option at 7-b I get the installation type screen OK but it shows 3 ntfs partitions, one fat32 partition, and the rest unusable space. I found advice to make new partitions logical type with the Add button, but the "Add" button is inoperable.
Thank you.

That will be because you are currently using four primary partitions (3x NTFS + 1 FAT32), which is currently the maximum you can have. In order to successfully install Ubtunu (or any Linux) you will need to remove one partition, and create a logical partition for the fourth partition, will will then allow you to create the partitions you need for Linux.

Your problem is similar to reply #6 above, except you have a FAT32 partition taking up the fourth partition and not Linux root. The solution will work for you as well, and there is nothing stopping you making your existing FAT32 partition a logical one.
A question or two about partitioning

Leeky, That's a seriously good introduction - many thanks.

But I've run into a slight problem. I want to try out Linux in parallel with my existing Win7 installation. When I installed WIndows (some time ago) I created 3 basic partitions for the OS, swap and data leaving some blank space in case I wanted to do something later like plasying with Linux. I then found that Windows had created a fourth all for itself which I didn't know about. So there aren't any basic partitions left for Linux.

I assume therefore that the only thing to do is to delete one of the partitions, create a logical partition, and restore the data. Or (question 1) is there an application, preferably free which will do this without losing and restoring the data?

But (question 2) can you boot off a logical partition? I've read otherwise but that may be out of date.

Assuming I can, I'll have a play.
Sorry for the late reply.

Linux does not care if the installation is on physical or logical partitions. It will work equally well. The only requirement is the boot loader being installed to the MBR or a primary partition, due to the way the MBR works.

You would still need to remove one of those partitions, and make it logical during the installation of Linux. The best way would be to make a full backup, and just remove that partition in the Linux installation (you want "choose something else" option during the partitioning phase).


1. Remove 4th partition.
2. Create logical partition for the remainder of the hard disk space.
3. Create NTFS volume to the correct size you need
4. Create root partition for Linux
5. Create /home partition (if you want to keep personal files and settings between different Linux installs -- its not really necessary for testing though)
6. Create SWAP partition at end of remaining hard disk space.

When/if asked, install boot loader to the MBR.

MBR = Master Boot Record.
Thanks a lot, Leeky.

At the moment I'm having problems - I've found that the Ubuntu (and other Linuxes) distro doesn't have a driver for my hard disk controller, so I'm going to have either to plug the disk drive into a different controller or to get old of the driver and find out how to install it with the Linux.
That is very odd, usually they're identified right off of the bat.

What controller is it that's causing you problems? Is it just a default SATA or PATA (IDE) setup, or something a bit more exotic like RAID?
It's a Marvell controller. I've now replugged the drive into the Intel controller on the same mobo and parted -l finds it and the partitions, but haven't had time to do any more yet. Probably not for a few days now (that was my weekend project and it's already Tuesday).
Aye, I know how that feels. I had a rather stressful weekend migrating my server (with loads of sites) from the US to the UK. It should have been a smooth transition planned to take just a long days work at the weekend, but was still knee deep in it most of yesterday. :haha:

I'm surprised it didn't recognise the Marvell controller to be honest, very strange indeed.
Thanks, and bookmarked.
(Though I still don't like Linux much, and don't think it's quite ready for people like me yet)
Thanks for the guide for the installation it will surely help many.
just wanted to add that on some Nvidia cards and or certain Intel chipset combinations some folks may need to append the boot line and add --nomodeset to get the live media for several Linux distros to boot properly to a GUI.
Geez, I might need a guide on helping me to fix a libc6 error I'm getting while upgrading to Xfce 4.10.
Not to mention I need my Kick-off menu from KDE ported.
<sigh...> So much to do, in so little time...
Hi Lee,

Thanks a lot for this detailed description for Ubuntu 11.10. I'm using a dual boot Windows 7/Ubuntu 11.10.

When I tried it on my own: 1 - I forgot to add the Mount point in the new partition and 2 - I didn't know how to leave room for a SWAP space.

Now, if I could figure out how to upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04... I tried it, but I get a GRUB error "[FONT=arial]error: no such partition[/FONT]". Then not even my Windows 7 will boot. I had to reinstall 11.10 to get GRUB back to normal.

Thanks again,

Hi Lee,

I'm back again. As I mentioned above, I correctly installed Ubuntu 11.10m but when I restart my PC, I do not get a GRUB menu and my PC goes directly to the Windows 7 start-up screen. Did I miss something? Or is there a step required to activate the GRUB start-up?


Hey Paul, :)
Appears you are one of the less-fortunate ones. It's quite common I think.

Have you created a separate /boot partition?
Can you give some details on you installation? Partitioning, filesystems, etc?
A shotgun-debug is possible, but not advisable.

As I mentioned I was having problems with my PC - when I installed Ubuntu 12.04 I couldn't get the GRUB to work correctly.

When I re-installed Ubuntu 11.10, I accidentally checked my main Windows partition as a Swap area, After that, only Ubuntu 11.10 would boot. I tried everything to recover from the error, but all I could do was reformat my hard disk.

After that, I re-installed Windows 7, buy no boot partition was created.

Then when I installed Ubuntu no GRUB showed up. Now I'm back to a single partition, since I couldn't access Ubuntu 11.10.

I guess what I need to know is how to do a fresh re-install of Windows 7 with 3 partitions: System Reserved, Recovery and the Main Windows 7 partition.

I have a Win7 ISO install disk and I also have a set of Acer AM3970 recovery disks that I created when I first got my PC.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

Paul :confused:
[LEFT][FONT=Helvetica Neue]Hi again,[/FONT][/LEFT]
[LEFT][FONT=Helvetica Neue]I checked out your links. They are for the case of Ubuntu first & Win7, second.[/FONT][/LEFT]
[LEFT][FONT=Helvetica Neue]My problem is Win7 first, then Ubuntu - I get no GRUB menu [/FONT][FONT=Helvetica Neue]:([/FONT][/LEFT]
[LEFT][FONT=Helvetica Neue]Paul[/FONT][/LEFT]