How to install elementary OS on your Windows PC

elementary OS is one of the best-looking distros in Linux available today. The design speaks a high language in elementary OS, and one could easily spot the close resemblance to Mac OSX.

Not just design, but the latest version of elementary OS is light-weight and can run on any age-old PCs. It is derived from Ubuntu but with its pantheon desktop environment. The dev team did a splendid job in making Linux look so special. I can’t believe how pleasant is elementary OS is to work with.

Minimum system requirements

  • Intel i3 or AMD dual-core 64-bit processor
  • 15 GB of disk space
  • 1 GB of RAM

Download elementary OS

You can grab your free copy of the elementary OS directly from the developer’s website. Note that when you go to download, at first, you may get surprised to see a mandatory donation payment for activating the download link. Don’t worry; it’s completely free. All you need to do is enter 0 in the donation box and download link with be available immediately.

I bet many of you are not sure yet if it’s going to your daily driver distro and so first would like to test drive before you think of donation. You should see an ISO file downloaded. For instance, mine is a 64-bit version: ‘elementaryos-0.3.2-stable-amd64.20151209.iso’

Create a USB install Drive in Windows

Grab a USB drive with at least 1 GB of free space. We shall use a free utility ‘Rufus’ for creating a bootable USB installation drive. So go ahead and download it.

It is a portable version, hence download and run the executable. Your USB drive will be formatted during the setup process, so make sure to take a backup of the data in it. Click on the drop-down list in the ‘Format Options’ and select ‘ISO Image.’ Click on the icon next to it, browse through and select the elementary OS ISO file that you download earlier. Other things to see in the Rufus settings are the ‘File system’ which is usually the default FAT system, or FAT 32 should also work too, and the ‘Partition scheme and target system type’ which is typical ‘MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI’ for most of PCs and laptops.

Rufus Bootable USB Creator
Rufus Bootable USB Creator

Once you have everything set right, click ‘Start,’ and Rufus should create a bootable elementary OS installation USB for you. The next step is to plug in the USB drive to your computer before starting Windows and boot into it. There are specific methods of booting into the USB drive, depending on the PC make and model. Pressing F12, F6, or Esc key during startup works for most PCs. It leads to a boot menu. Select USB drive to boot into it. Now begin elementary OS installation.

Installing elementary OS as a dual boot OS with Windows

At the first step of the installation, you will have to choose the language and then click on ‘Install elementary.’ ‘Try elementary’ option is only if you want to test drive the OS without installing it. Like any other Linux Live CD, you won’t be able to save anything in that mode.

elementary OS installation
elementary OS installation

In the following process, you have the option to download updates and third-party software, which is MP3 support. MP3 is most common these days, so you can check this option and updates too if you have faster internet. If not now, you can install it after the elementary setup is complete.

elementary installation preparation
elementary installation preparation

In the next step, you get several options on how you want elementary to be installed on your computer.

  1. Erase disk and install elementary: This option is for those who want to have only elementary installed on their computer. The entire hard drive will be formatted, and all partitions will be deleted. If you are thinking of dual-booting Windows and elementary, this option is not for you.
  2. Encrypt the new elementary installation for security: This will need a security key for installation, and at the end of the process, you get an encrypted elementary installation. This is not a typical installation method used by general users.
  3. Use LVM with the new elementary installation: This option will setup logical hard disk volume for easier partitions management. But since the scope of this guide is to install elementary alongside already existing Windows partition, this option will not work out.
  4. Something else: This is what everyone who wants to install elementary alongside another operating system like Windows/Mac/Linux will have to click through and continue.

elementary installation options
elementary installation options

The next step is the most crucial and should be done with extreme care. It shows you all the current hard disk partitions on your PC. You will see Windows in NTFS type format. For installing elementary, you need to set up three important things in this situation.

Root, Swap, and Bootloader

If you haven’t partitioned the hard disk earlier for installing elementary, you can do so here. Select the partition which you to divide and use for elementary and click ‘New Partition Table.’ You can then specify the bigger free partition as the Ext4 format where elementary will be installed.

Hard disk Partition Situation
Hard disk Partition Situation

Select ‘Use as’ as ‘Ext4 journaling file system’, and check the box ‘Format the partition.’ Specify / as the mount point. ‘/’ implies this is root for elementary, and this is where all its system files go into.

Ext4 File System
Ext4 File System

Next, make a small partition, which is double the size of your computer’s RAM. It need not be exact, but try to be close to it. For instance, in my case, I have 8 GB RAM in my PC, so my Linux Swap size is around 16 GB.

Swap Partition
Swap Partition

You can enter your location to specify the time zone.

Location
Location

You will be asked to create a login. It’s recommended that you rename your computer’s name to whatever you want at this step. Otherwise, you have to go through a command-line process to rename it later.

User Login Creation
User Login Creation

After a few minutes, you will be prompted to restart the computer to finish the installation.

Installation Complete Notification

Enjoy to elementary OS! That’s it.

elementary OS desktop
elementary OS desktop

Kiran Kumar
Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of FOSSLinux.com. I'm an avid Linux lover and enjoy hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. Hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more, and spread Linux love!. If you find a time, drop me an email or feedback from the 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Kieran. I am trying to set up my Dell XPS 13 i7 touch screen with Elementary OS only.
    I have disabled secure boot uefi and installed now 4 times. After reboot the OS is gone and no OS can be found. Where do I go wrong?

    • Harry, Just to clarify, did you say that you are installing only elementary OS? What happened to the Windows partition?
      Assuming that you are NOT dual booting Windows and elementary OS, and that elementary OS is the only OS you want to install, it doesn’t matter whether you install elementary OS in UEFI mode or not. It should boot right into it. Let me know more details on what exactly you had to begin with and what you did, so that I give you exact instructions.

      • Kiran, Don’t underestimate the possibility MS is retaliating eh… I have had a similar issue to that described by Harry. I was required to reset my PC.

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