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In this article we will be discussing ways in preparing your computer for Linux. This guide is will assist in installing Linux on a standalone system or in a dual-boot setup with Microsoft Windows.
While installing Linux we will be modifying the partition table on your hard drive. Unless you don't care about the contents of your hard drive, it is highly recommended that you create a backup of your system before proceeding any further.
Please also make note that many desktops and laptops which had Windows pre-installed don't come with recovery CDs anymore, rather they have a hidden partition on your hard drive to store this data. However most manufacturers provide you a utility to create the CDs required, so you may also like to make use of this. Warning: You will likely see this hidden partition when you use a partitioning tool. I would highly recommend you leave it alone unless you know what you are doing.
There are two ways of installing Linux on your computer, either as a dual boot system with Microsoft Windows or a standalone system with just Linux. If you choose the later then you may continue to step 3 as all that is required is to wipe the hard drive clean.
If you have chosen a dual boot system (as you want to use both Microsoft Windows and Linux) then you will need to prepare your hard drive to hold both. It is recommended you leave at least 10GB for both Windows and Linux.
If your system doesn't have anything already installed you should install Windows first and then Linux. Installing Windows is outside the scope of this guide but when configuring your hard drive you should leave some space for the Linux installation.
Another scenario is that many desktops and laptops come with Microsoft Windows pre-installed. It is normal for the entire space on your hard drive to already be allocated to Windows.
Next you will need an application which is capable of resize a NTFS partition. Some Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu 9.04) are now able to resize a NTFS partition in their installer and make it very easy to do so. Another option is to use the open source GParted Live CD as well as the commercial Partition and BootIt NG. How to use these utilities is out of scope for this document, but you should resize the NTFS partition to the size you want leaving space for the Linux partition. Don't create any Linux partitions just yet, let the Linux installer do that.
Many systems will not boot from the optical drive by default so you will need to find how to get your computer to boot from it. You should read your laptop's manual for this information but you normally need to push either the ESC, F1, F10 or F12 key when you turn on the system. Insert your installation CD/DVD into your optical drive, press the correct key to bring up the boot menu and select the optical drive. You should now be booting from the Linux installation CD.
You should now be ready to install Linux. You may like to read our Distribution Specific Guides for details on how to install a number of different Linux distributions.