There are a few ways you can try out Ubuntu Linux without making any physical changes to your computer’s hard drive, or risk deleting files on your Windows or Mac hard drives. The few ways are using the Ubuntu Linux LiveCD or Live Flash drive, Installing Ubuntu onto windows with the Windows Ubuntu Installer (WUBI.exe) which is found on your Ubuntu Live CD, and Virtualization software.
With the LiveCD or LiveFlash Drive which you have Ubuntu burned to, all you have to do is tell your computer to boot into the LiveCD or Live Flash Drive which is inserted into your computer’s CD drive or USB port. In many cases, all you have to do is leave the CD or flash drive in your computer, and your computer will boot your computer into the Ubuntu Live CD or Live Flash Drive. Now you can try out Ubuntu without making changes to your computer’s hard drive. A Ubuntu LiveCD is easier to make then a Ubuntu Live Flash Drive. However, the Live Flash Drive is faster, and more stable then a Live CD in many cases. You may need to set your computer to start up from a CD disc or USB flash drive in the boot manager for your BIOS/CMOS or your start up manager. Check your computer manuals or the startup screen to look for help on how to set up your computer to look for a CD or Flash drive to start up from before it looks for a hard drive to start up from. If you are planning to burn your Ubuntu Live CD, you need a CD-R disc with 700MBs of free space. For making a live Ubuntu Flash drive, you need a USB with at least 1GB of storage space.
The Ubuntu Live install CD also has a Windows program called Wubi.exe which is the Windows Ubuntu Installer which you can use to install Ubuntu along side Windows by making a dual boot. You need at least 5GB of free space to install Ubuntu with WUBI on your Windows based computer. Wubi.exe will install Ubuntu Linux on your computer like any other Windows based software like Microsoft Word. Wubi will leave your hard drive and master file table untouched, so there is no risk of hard drive curroption. Ubuntu will be run from a virtual hard drive file within your Windows hard drive. You may experience some slowdown when running Ubuntu, and writing files to your Ubuntu virtual disk. If you want to remove Ubuntu from your computer all you do is go to the add/remove programs program in Windows, and remove Ubuntu like other Windows programs like MS Word. The disadvantage of using Wubi to install Ubuntu is it can use up a lot of your hard drive space, and it is not as fast as an actual Ubuntu installed on a real hard drive partition. However, WUBI installed versions of Ubuntu are faster then LiveCD and Live Flash Drive versions of Ubuntu since the speed won’t be slowed down by a slow CD-ROM drive or slower USB flash drive. However, disk fragmentation, disk errors, and other disk problems in Windows can affect the reliability and speed of Ubuntu Linux runnig on the virtual hard drive file.
Virtualization is an other way to learn how to install, update, upgrade, and use Ubuntu. Virtualization basicly lets you use Windows to run Ubuntu Linux or any other operating system within a window in Windows. VirtualBox, and VMware are two popular brands of virtualization software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. However, if you are planning to run Ubuntu Linux, in Windows Vista or 7, I recommend at least having 2GBs of RAM, a 2GHz CPU, 5GB of free hard drive space to install Ubuntu Linux onto. The main disadvandvantage of using a virtual machine to run Ubuntu Linux is it can be slow on less powewful computers with only 1GB of RAM running Windows Vista or 7. Plus, the virtual hard drives like WUBI installs of Ubuntu can be slow and use a lot of space on your Windows computer. The stability of your Virtual Machine can be less reliable if Windows is infected with a virus, or Windows got currupted for whatever reason. If your Windows or Mac operating system which is running the Virtual machine is not running well then Ubuntu will also run less stable on your computer.
The two methods I recommend newbie computer users tryout first is the Ubuntu Live CD and WUBI installer since they require the least amount of technical knowledge compared to making a Ubuntu Live Flash Drive, or using a Virtualization program to run Ubuntu Linux within a Window in Windows or Mac.