Just looking for information


I know very very little ICT. I do know that I am getting tired of Microsoft and I have only heard good things about Linux, but I need some advice before doing something as serious as changing an computer operating system.

My problem is as follows: I bought a msi notebook for my children at Christmas and have recently bought a DVD/CD drive for it, but it doesn’t work because of some problem with Windows Media Player which cannot get updated properly and now seems to be causing a problem with Windows updates too.

I have tried to fix the problem in all the ways I could think off: installing a different media player and set it as default failed, unistalling Windows Media player failed, trying to re-install it failed, trying to update Windows properly has failed too. And to be honest, I have decided I have no interest in keeping it at all.

But my question is: with my very little technical knowledge, will I be able to replace Windows XP for Linux on my own? And if I do, will that mean using all the other programs installed in the computer?

Thank you in advance to whoever is interested in answering my question.


Installation of most Linux distributions is pretty easy these days… if you can install Windows, you shouldn’t have any difficulty installing Linux.

May I suggest Ubuntu or Linux Mint, if for no other reason than you’ll find help easier to come by.

Yes you will have to use different software (though some of it may be familiar such as Firefox), as Linux doesn’t run Windows software natively, but most of what you will need will be installed for you when you install Linux, ie. office software, media players, internet browser, email client, torrent client, CD/DVD burning software, photo mangement apps, chat client, etc.

Any other software that you may need that isn’t installed by default, is easily installed from within the your Linux distributions Package Manager, without the need for manually searching and downloading from the internet… the VAST majority of the Linux apps (260,000+ apps listed on sourceforge) are free too.

You won’t need any anti-virus software or anti-malware software as long as you are connecting to the web from behind a NAT router… viruses and malware will be a thing of the past.

Here is a look at how the installer for Ubuntu looks (same for Linux Mint):

Here is a list of Linux alternatives to popular Windows software:

The Ubuntu and Linux Mint homepages:
Linux Mint:

(try Mint 10 main edition, with the GNOME desktop)

The only “common” problem that we come across with some laptops is getting the wireless drivers installed, so it might be a good idea to let us know the make and model of your laptop, then we can give instructions.
(I’m going to make a guess here… if your “notebook” is an MSI Wind U100 “Netbbook”, then it uses the Ralink RT2860 WiFi chipset which IS installed by default in Ubuntu and Mint)

You can also “test drive” Linux without installing it to your hard drive, by running it from either a LiveCD, or a LiveUSB, I’d suggest a LiveUSB for testing as you can’t save configuration changes to a LiveCD.
(this will make NO changes to your hard drive at all, but don’t expect it to boot as quickly as it would from a hard drive)

Instructions for creating a LiveUSB (on a Windows PC)…
Download the Ubuntu or Linux Mint LiveCD ISO image from their homepages, then follow the instructions from “Step 2” on this page:

(will work for Mint too)
Just make sure you set a “persistence” file during creation of the LiveUSB… see pic below


Then all you have to do is boot from the USB stick, by either setting USB as the first boot device in the BIOS, or hitting the “boot device selection key” when you switch your PC on then selecting the USB stick… usually the F10 key but varies from manufacturer to manufacturer… and when asked, select “Try Ubuntu” (or Mint) rather than “Install Ubuntu” (or Mint).

One last thing… if you decide on Ubuntu, you will need to install a “few” extra software packages, for mp3 and flash support… Linux Mint installs these for you by default, but it’s VERY easy to install these in Ubuntu.

That said, I personally prefer Ubuntu :slight_smile: … though there’s nothing in it between the two.

Thank you very much for your very detailed response, Mark.

Linux certainly is a very attractive option.

The thing is, I have never installed Windows either: It usually comes already installed when you buy a computer.

As I mentioned in my previous post I lack the technical knwoledge: you probably can see it by the fact that I cannot even manage to sort out the problem with the Window updates.

I would like to try using a LiveUSB as you suggest, althouth I am a bit worried about another post mentioning some kind of mistakes in phases 1 and 2 which may stop you from being able to boot your computer. Anyway, how much memory does the USB device need to have?

Thanks again for your help,


If you create the LiveUSB on a Widows PC, and make sure you select the correct drive in the “Step 3: select your USB drive” box (ie. not your C: drive or whatever windows is on… I don’t even think it will let you select the Windows drive), there should be ZERO chance of you harming Windows during the LiveUSB creation phase.

And when you boot to the LiveUSB, as long as you select “Try Ubuntu” and NOT “Install Ubuntu”, then you shouldn’t harm Windows there either.

Can you post a link to the thread, and I’ll explain what was meant.

There is a third option… you can use WUBI to install Ubuntu “inside” Windows… it can then be uninstalled (if you want) through the Windows “Add/Remove Programs” control panel applet, the same as any other Windows application.
(similar to installing any other piece of Windows software… though really it runs from a “virtual drive”)

Again, this makes no changes to the Windows file system, but may rely on Windows working correctly for it to install properly.
(as long as it installs properly, it should run fine)

It would certainly be no more likely to do any damage to Windows than installing any other piece of Windows software.

Done this way, you will be asked during boot up whether you want to boot into Windows, or Ubuntu.

If you want to know more, let me know… or see here:
and the WUBI Guide, here:

The only caveat to running Ubuntu in this way that I can think of would be to NEVER do an installation or reinstallation of the GRUB bootloader from within Ubuntu, or you may be left with an unbootable system (ie. can’t boot Windows OR Linux)… this could be fixed, but it wouldn’t be fun and would require a Windows CD (quite easy to fix in XP, but harder in Vista/Win7).
(apparently an Ubuntu update in april 2010 installed a newer version of the GRUB bootloader to some systems and broke the Windows bootloader… this is supposed to be fixed now, but NEVER do a manual GRUB update from a WUBI installation of Ubuntu)

[EDIT 2]
Also see the above posting (if you haven’t already) for further info on a LiveUSB installation.

Again, thank you very much for your invaluable help, Mark.

I am new in this forum business too, so I don’t know how to post a link to a thread, but the post I was referring to was called “start up advice, please” (posted by Umberto) and it was you who had mentioned the problem about booting Windows in your answer to him.

I cannot say I understand everything you say, specially when you talk about the GRUB bootloader, but I’ll study your instructions carefully (maybe tomorrow with a bit more time) and I think I will use the option of installing Linux within Windows to start with. Even I should manage that much! and once I learn how to use it a bit better I might adventure replacing Windows.

Thanks again ;D,

Good night

OK, I think I see where the confusion set in… he was installing Linux to an external hard drive, not a USB stick, and I was just trying to point out that if he installed Linux “correctly” (ie. clicked “Install Ubuntu” rather than “Try Ubuntu”) but wasn’t carefull about where the GRUB bootloader got installed, the system may always need the external hard drive attached to boot.

This won’t happen using the USB Installer, as the GRUB bootloader doesn’t get installed to the hard drives master boot record… it automatically gets installed to the USB stick (where it should go).

I just didn’t want him to make a mistake, so was erring on the side of caution.

Thinking about it, WUBI probably IS your best bet, specially if the kids are going to use it… with a LiveUSB they might be tempted to click on the “Install Ubuntu” button which will be present on every boot… it won’t be present at all after a WUBI install.

To post a link, just copy the web pages address (URL) from the address bar at the top of your web browser, and paste it into your reply… as in:
(it will automatically become a click-able link)

And you’re more than welcome. :slight_smile:

Hi Mark,

You have had the patience of a saint with me and can see you don’t sleep!

By everything you say the WUBI option is the best in my case. Would it be available for Linux Mint too? By your previous information and other reviews I’ve been reading now I believe it is more indicated for unskilled novices like me and it might also be easier for my children to use.

I have been looking in the link you posted and they only apply to Ubuntu.

Sorry to be a pest :-[

Yes, the Linux Mint ISO image should contain an application called Mint4Win, but AFAIK the only way to get this, is to download the Mint LiveCD ISO image and burn it to CD/DVD

I suppose you could use some kind of “Virtual CD drive” to mount the ISO as a CDROM, then run the Mint4Win installer:

But it would be easier if you have a CD/DVD drive… do you have one?

I’ve just spotted that you DO have a CD/DVD drive… if you want Linux Mint, get the ISO image from here:
burn it to a DVD (its 832mb so won’t fit on a CDROM)

Then just stick it in the PC whilst it is running Windows, and the Mint4Win Windows installer should autostart.

If you are unsure how to burn an ISO image to a CD/DVD, let me know.

No, sorry, the drive doesn’t seem to work in this computer which is why I decided I had had enough of Windows and the whole thing started!

Never mind, I’ll read a bit more about Ubuntu and see if I can manage that one instead.

Thank you

When you have Ubuntu installed, let me know and I’ll talk you through the installation of the extra software you’ll need for flash playback, mp3 support etc.

Or - you could download (free) Daemon Tools Lite:

(click the “Download” link just above the (Dell) advert)

Install it in Windows, then use it to mount the Linux Mint LiveCD ISO image as a virtual CD (effectively your Windows PC will see it as a proper CD/DVD)

This will allow you to run Mint4Win without “burning” the ISO to an actual disk.

Thank you, I’ll let you know when I manage this.

I tried on Sunday and after hours of downloading there was some kind of an error and didn’t finish the process. Then, I wasn’t able to connect to the internet any more. I’m writing from another computer now because I haven’t managed to repair the children’s. In fact, at this rate I might manage to stop everything els from working :-\

I’d say the first thing you need to do is check your hard drive for errors, and run a malware and virus scan from within Windows XP.

I’ve sent you a personal message with instructions and links.
(click the “My Messages” link at the top of any page in this forum to access your personal messages)

Or create a LiveUSB on another PC… it will still work on your MSI notebook :slight_smile:

FYI, if it’s an issue in Windows that’s stopping your CD/DVD drive from working… it should still be able to boot a Linux LiveCD because Windows doesn’t get loaded.
obviously the LiveCD would need to be “created” on another system :slight_smile: