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How to Try Ubuntu without Leaving Windows

Ubuntu would be neat to try, but for many of us, having to leave Windows and boot into a whole different operating system is a full day project.

So that's why I created this tutorial. So you don't have to leave Windows to try ubuntu. I'll be showing you how to setup a "virtual machine" inside Windows that will run Ubuntu inside a tidy little window. So you can launch it from the Start Bar. And have Ubuntu running in the background just like any other Windows program like the internet browser or your game of solitaire.

Above: Having Ubuntu running inside Windows is just cool. Plus, it's a great way to try out all of Ubuntu's features .


Multiple Operating System Advantages

Besides the benefit of being able to try out Ubuntu within a Windows environment, having another operating system on your machine can be a tremendous advantage in testing websites & software. As a developer, it's important to ensure your work is compatible with as many different configurations as possible.

With this tutorial, in addition to being able to run Ubuntu, you can take the concepts here and install even more operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, their corresponding 64 bit versions, or other Linux distros (sorry no Apple OS support yet) and have them all available to you at the same time.


Drag and Drop Files

A really neat feature that this setup will allow you to do is to Drag and Drop files from one operating system to another.


Get Ubuntu (691 MB)

The first step is to download Ubuntu. Currently the 8.04 beta is available. Download this at

Proceed to the download page and get the 32 bit i386 version. Currently I would advise you to avoid the 64 bit versions, even if you have a 64 bit processor, because there are a ton of compatibility issues with this at the moment.

You can download it direct OR you the fastest method is actually to download by torrent. On any given day there are hundreds of Ubuntu seeders so with the torrent you should quickly reach the highest possible download speeds on your connection.

Above: You'll notice a list of the torrents at the bottom of the Ubuntu download page. You're going to want to download i386.iso or i386.iso.torrent as shown above.

While this downloads, continue to the next step.


Nerds & Virtual Machines

The magic tool that brings this altogether is a program called VMware Workstation. With it, we will create a hardware virtual machine, install, and run Ubuntu on it. A Virtual Machine (VM) is a software environment that emulates the hardware of a computer. The OS can't tell the difference between running inside a VM or in an actual computer so you can do almost anything you can do with a real PC.

This type of virtual machine there are loads of other neat advantages. One is that everything inside of your VM including the emulated hardware specs will reside in a single encapsulated file. So you can transfer it from computer to computer without any compatibility problems. Want to take your Ubuntu with you on the go? No problem, just copy the virtual machine file from desktop to laptop.


Download VMware Workstation (322 MB)

Before installing Ubuntu, we'll need VMware Workstation. Goto or click here to go straight to the download page.

From here, click the "Evaluate" button to proceed to getting a 30 day license key. Although it technically is just a 30 day trial, at the end of 30 days you can easily login and request a new evaluation code to continue using it for another 30 days. Since you can do this for as long as you need, it's essentially a free program as long as you don't mind generating a new evaluation code each month.

Once you have completed the Evaluation form and have setup an account, it should confirm everything by email. Login here with the account you just created to proceed to the download page.

Download the main installation file and copy the serial key displayed on your page.

Once you have VMWare Workstation downloaded, proceed through the installation and enter your licence key when it first load up.


Creating a Virtual Machine for Ubuntu

After VMware is installed, creating a virtual machine is easy. All you need is some extra hard drive space (I recommend at least 8 GB). Just follow the steps outlined in the below tutorial movie.

The longest process here should be the disk space allocation. Once that finishes and the virtual machine is created you are now free to install an operating system.


Installing Ubuntu

Assuming your download is complete, burn the Ubuntu ISO to CD. Since our virtual machine uses the actual CD drive in your system, to install Ubuntu we just need to have this freshly burned disc in the drive and Vmware will boot the disc just as a real computer would during a normal installation.

With the Ubuntu installation CD loaded into your disc tray, click on "Start this Virtual Machine" from your new VMware Ubuntu tab.


Above: click on the green arrow to start the virtual machine to install Ubuntu

At this stage, the virtual machine will boot from the Ubuntu install CD.


Above: from here you basically just need to press "Next" a few times and wait for the install process to compete.

Above: the Installation of Ubuntu is super easy, no special steps are required besides creating a username & password for your user account.


You are now Using Linux

Congrats, welcome to the Ubuntu experience. Feel free to poke around and explore what's included in the OS or read on to find out my next recommendations.


Better Virtual Machine Performance

Because of our special virtual machine setup, it's recommended to take an additional step and install Vmware Tools. In addition to significantly increasing graphical performance, VMware Tools unlocks a couple of useful integrations with Windows. Including the ability to drag and drop files between your Ubuntu and Windows desktops. It also removes the need to press "CTRL-ALT" to unset the focus when transitioning between operating systems making for a much smoother experience while using both operating systems at the same time.

This step requires the command line… but trust me, this will be one of the few times you'll need the command prompt to install a program. With Ubuntu, gone are the days of needing the Command Prompt to perform basic tasks. it's now easier to use than ever and installing programs are a breeze. Yet this particular package needs the command prompt.

Installing VMware Tools

Before doing anything in Ubuntu, use the main VMware Workstation toolbar and navigate to VM then "Install Vmware Tools".

Above: click "Install Vmware Tools.." when Ubuntu is loaded up to proceed with the installation

After clicking it, it will have mounted a new CD in a virtual drive within your Ubuntu environment. The files for VMWare Tools are on this CD in an archive, so we'll need to extract them and then compile it to complete the process.

Double click the new "Vmware Tools" icon on your desktop. Then click and drag the tar.gz file to your desktop. From here, right click this package and press "Extract Here" just like any standard zip file.

Above: right click the VMware Tools .tar package and choose "Extract Here"

Next, access the Ubuntu command prompt by going to Applications, Accessories , then Terminal.

Here type:

cd ~

Then type:

cd Desktop

Then type:

cd vmware-tools-distrib

These commands will have navigated you to the newly extracted folder, so now type the following to execute:

sudo ./

From here, verify your password and let it do it's thing. There will be a lot of stoppages throughout the process where you'll be required to press Enter. Just press Enter at every stop until it's completed.

Once completed, give the system a restart and load everything back up gain. You should notice things are looking & running a lot smoother.

Optimize Your Resolution

The handling of resolution is much more effective now too. You can now resize the Window and the Ubuntu screen resolution will automatically re-adjust on the fly. To ensure this feature is activated, in the main Vmware Workstation toolbar, goto "View" and ensure the "Autofit Window" checkmark is enabled.

Sync Your Mouse Speed

And now that your mouse can seamlessly cross from Windows to Ubuntu without interruption, one thing you may want to do is "sync" your mouse speed if it's not already the same. You can do this by accessing the main "System" menu then choosing "Mouse". Here you can adjust the acceleration speed until you find the mouse travels the same speed as it does for you within Windows.

This concludes the tutorial aspect of this article. If you have any troubles setting up & installing Ubuntu, feel free to post in the Comments.


Software Recommendations

Now you can really start using Ubuntu. One of the most powerful features of Ubuntu is the massive selection of apps available that can be installed on your system almost instantaneously. With traditional Windows Apps, you have to actually goto a company's official website to download software and navigate around to find the .exe file.

And in Windows if you goto "Add/Remove Programs" only the programs you want to remove are listed. Yet how come there is no way to actually "Add" programs?

In Ubuntu, the "Add/Remove Applications" menu actually does it's job by listing all programs installed plus the list of all programs available (well not quite, just the "officially approved" apps are listed. For the complete list of available apps goto System --> Administration --> then Synaptic Package Manager).


Install the Basic Apps

Goto Applications then Add/Remove Programs. To ensure that you are seeing a wider selection of available apps, click on the "Show" box and choose "All available applications" as shown below.

Above: Ubuntu allows you to easily install the best applications available from one categorized interface

Now to install Apps, it's just a matter of marking the checkbox for as many different apps as you want to install and choose "Apply Changes" at the bottom. From all of your choices download & automatically install.

Mp3 Playback & Video Codecs

The easiest way to get mp3 playback and the latest video formats to play is to install all of the Gstreamer plugins listed within the Sound & Video category.

Quite possibly the best music software ever made, even better than what is available on Windows. Again you can find this one within the Sound & Video category.


For the ultimate MS Office replacement, OpenOffice is an incredible Open Source office suite. With the ability to edit & save to other formats such as Microsoft's word's ".doc" the transition is easy. Plus it offers a lot of features that aren't available in the standard MS Office such as the ability to export directly o PDF.


Thunderbird is a stand-alone mail client created by the Mozilla team. With countless themes & extensions Thunderbird is quickly becoming the best email software solution available.


Additional Resources