|Courtesy: Ubuntu Official Website|
For all of you whose blood begins to boil at the very mention of Windows, its time for a change. And the most user-friendly alternative out there is Ubuntu. I would even go the extent of saying that Ubuntu is, in fact, better than Windows in terms of stability, security and cost. The Ubuntu community is vast, helpful, and constantly developing better alternatives. If you really cannot let go of Windows, you can always try a dual boot, which is made easier by installing Windows first and then using wubi.
For first timers, the Ubuntu website and the Ubuntu wiki, together form a great way to get started. The installation process is trivial, and most of it has already been documented. At this point I would just like to add that Ubuntu Desktop should be the one you should be aiming to install. Go for the Ubuntu Netbook version ONLY IF you don't have a decently powerful laptop or are really looking for that extra juice out of your battery.
What I intend to discuss here is the installation of Ubuntu using a pen drive, for which you should follow the steps below:
1. Download the version of Ubuntu you want to install. Get it from the official website or download via torrents. I prefer to download torrents as the chances of downloading a corrupt ISO are minimal.
For Ubuntu Desktop Edition:
For Ubuntu Netbook Edition:
2. Check the md5 sum of the downloaded file. The md5 checksum is a sure way of verifying if the downloaded file is error free.
More information and utilities to check md5sum:
3. If your pen drive is larger than 1 GB, you would want to partition it first. When I tried installing Ubuntu on my Dell Inspiron 1420, it would get stuck on "Preparing to install". It took me a while (a whole night, in fact ;)) to figure out that it was because of the pen drive itself. After making a primary partition of about 700 MB, the installer worked just fine.
An excellent guide to partitioning your USB drive:
4. Now download a suitable software to write the downloaded ISO to the primary partition of the USB drive. I used the Universal USB Installer from my Windows 7 machine.
More information on writing ISO to USB:
5. Now fire up your computer and enter the BIOS setup. Change the boot order to increase the priority of the USB drive to highest.
Guide to changing the boot sequence in your BIOS:
6. And you're done! Reboot with the USB drive plugged in and choose Install Ubuntu. You can also try Ubuntu as a Live OS, before installing it on your computer. The best part of this is that you use your computer and browse the internet normally during the install. Now, that is cool!