“Isn't it ironic that the proprietary software developers call us communists? We are the ones who have provided for a free market, where they allow only monopoly. … the only way to escape from monopoly is to escape from proprietary software, and that is what the free software movement is all about. We want you to escape and our work is to help you escape. We hope you will escape to the free world...Everyone is welcome in the free world, come to the free world, live with us in freedom.”
Richard Stallman “Free Software in Ethics and Practice” 2008
Five Steps to the Freedom of Linux Mint
In previous versions of this book, we have recommended setting up Linux Mint in a Virtual Computer on your home home computer to learn more about how Linux Mint works. Then once you realize that it is not much different from Windows, we recommended setting up a “dual boot” with Microsoft Windows on half of your hard drive and Linux Mint on the other half. This way, you could log into your computer and choose which operating system you wanted to use at the “Start” screen. Sadly, Windows 8, Windows 10 and UEFI have made these options more difficult. It is not merely the difficulty of getting past Microsoft's new startup program, UEFI and “disabling” Secure Boot (which can still brick your computer even after it is disabled). It is that Microsoft has placed “booby traps” that can make it difficult to safely partition your hard drive. At the same time, it has become substantially easier to run Windows programs in Linux using a free open source tool called WINE with Play on Linux. There is thus virtually no rational reason to continue using the Windows operating system. We therefore no longer recommend keeping Windows on your computer. Whatever computer you have, we recommend simply replacing the Windows operating system with Linux Mint.
There are five steps to this process. First, copy any documents and programs you want to save onto a USB stick. Second, download a free copy of Linux Mint in a version compatible with your computer and use it to create a “Live USB” or “Live DVD.”
Third, set the Boot Order for your Start up program to boot from the USB or DVD. Fourth, insert the live USB or DVD into your computer and turn on your computer – then start the Linux Mint Install Process and click on the option called “Take entire computer.” This will wipe out Windows and any programs and documents left on your computer. Fifth, after Linux Mint is installed, add all of the documents and programs you copied over to your USB stick. The entire process should take less than one hour. We will now review each of these steps in more detail.
Note: These directions are intended mainly for Windows XP and Windows 7 users. However, there the process is similar tools for Apple users. We recommend that you either avoid or throw away Windows 8 or Windows 10 computers (all of which have the UEFI startup program). UEFI computers are so bad that they cannot be trusted even after installing Linux Mint.
Step #1: Make a Copy of Your Data
In this section, we will show you how to back up your data using a 64GB to 128 GB USB Stick. When you go to the store to buy your 64GB USB stick, you should also buy a 4GB to 8 GB USB stick to create a “Live USB.” It is possible that both sticks will cost less than $50. You can also use any USB sticks you may already have.
Make and follow a Plan to Safely Copy all of your data
This includes the following 3 steps:
#1.1: Gather your backup tools.
#1.2: Organize your files into folders.
#1.3: Copy your data on a USB Flash Drive.
Once we have backed up all of our data, in the next section, we will delete the Recovery partition and shrink the C drive partition in order to create space to add Linux. We will use the free space to create an Extended Partition for Dual Boot of Windows XP or Windows 7 and Linux using a Linux installation tool. In the final section in this chapter, we will discuss how to install a dual boot with Linux if you have the misfortune of owning a Windows 8 computer. This includes overcoming the latest obstacles Microsoft has placed in our way, a nightmare called Secure Boot – which is not secure but makes it more difficult to add Linux to a computer.
#1.1: Gather your backup tools
While Windows has a backup program, it does not work that well. In case your computer completely crashes and you cannot even restart it, you really want to store your important data in some other place besides on your computer. You also want a system where you can do at least monthly backups and preferably even weekly backups. In the past, we would use DVDs to back up our data. But these tend to get scratched and many computers, such as Chromebooks, no longer even have DVD drives. So instead, we will use USB drives.
#1.2: Organize and consolidate your files into folders.
To back up your images, documents, files, folders and other important data, first, go to the office supply store and pick up a reliable 32 GB Flash Drive. This is generally enough to hold all your images, videos and documents.
If you are like most Windows users, your files will be stored in three or four different places. First, you will have them stored in My Documents. But you may also have images stored in a folder called My Pictures – and more documents on your C Drive. Create folders and consolidate all files and folders inside of just a few folders.
#1.3: Copy your important data to a USB Flash Drive
Then insert the 64 GB USB drive in a USB port. Then right click on these folders to copy them to the USB Drive. Transfer each folder to the USB Drive. You should also check the C Drive to see if you want to copy any of those folders. This includes any programs you may want to copy. Next check the Pictures folder and the Videos folder and the Downloads folder and the Programs folder. When you have all of your folders copied, then safely remove the USB drive and label it with the date of the copy. It is useful to have two USB drives so that you can copy a second one later and then delete the current one – alternating periodically between two USB drives.
Step #2: Download a free copy of Linux Mint Mate in a version compatible with your computer and use it to create a “Live USB” or “Live DVD.”
To visit the main site for Linux Mint go to: https://linuxmint.com/.
Here you will see that the Linux Mint project offers several operating systems. The two most popular are Mate and Cinnamon. The difference between them is that Mate is the stable version and Cinnamon is the cutting edge version. Linux Mate is incredibly easy to use. We will therefore download Mate instead of Cinnamon. Even with Linux Mint Mate, there are several versions. We want the version with the codecs. The codecs option comes in two versions – 32 bit and 64 bit. Older XP computers use the 32 bit version. Most newer computers with 4 GB of RAM use the 64 bit version. You can also download the PDF instructions to read. Unfortunately, the instructions are not very good. To download the free Linux Mint operating system, go to the following page:
Download the MATE to your Downloads folder. It is a large file so you should be at a high speed Internet connection and even then it may take a while. Be patient. The download may take up to 30 minutes and can be found in your Downloads folder when you are done. After clicking on the Download link, you will be taken to the “mirrors” page. Scroll down to the US and pick one of the mirror locations to actually download the file. Select Save File. Then click OK. Now the download begins. Give it a full 30 minutes to complete the download.
Create a “Live USB”
The next step is to download UNetbootin to create a Live USB.
Use UNetbootin to create a Live USB Drive
UNetbootin allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Linux distributions. You will need a USB Flash Drive which is at least 4 GB. It should be empty and in a format of FAT32. To verify that your USB is FAT32, in your Windows computer, go to Start, My Computer and right click on the USB Drive. Then click on Properties. If it is not FAT32, click on Properties, Format to reformat it. Once formatted, note the Mount Point (Drive Letter) of the drive (in my case it is D:). You will need to know this later. Remove any other USB drive (including external hard drives) connected to your PC except for the one you want to use for the installation.
Download UNetbootin to your computer
Go to the following link to download it. https://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/
There are three different versions of UNetbootin, one for Windows, one for Linux and one for Mac OS X. The resulting USB drives are bootable only on PCs (not on Macs). Pick the version for your current operating system and download it:
UNetbootin (Download Windows Version or Download Linux VersionDownload Mac OS X Version)
Additional dependencies (Linux Only): You will need the packages syslinux and p7zip-full installed. Click on the Windows Download option.
Then save this file to your Downloads folder. You won't have to install it, it will run directly from the downloaded file. Then go to your Downloads folder and find the file UNetbootin Setup.exe. Right click on the file and select Run as Administrator:
Select the Disk Image option. Then browse for and select the Linux Mint ISO which should also be in your Downloads folder. Mark sure the Target Type is set for your USB Drive and that the Drive is set for the Mount point (D). Then turn off all other programs. Then click OK. The bootable “live” USB creation process will take a few minutes. Be patient. When it is done, it will show a screen confirming you have a Live USB. Click Exit rather than reboot as we need to first change the BIOS boot order. Make sure to label your Live USB and do not use this USB drive for anything else. The next step is resetting your BIOS boot order.
Special instructions for creating a Live USB if using the Linux version
If using the Linux version of UNetbootin, make the file executable by going to Properties->Permissions and checking "Execute." Then start the application. You will be prompted for your password to grant the application administrative rights, then the main dialog will appear, where you select a distribution and install target (USB Drive), then reboot when prompted. Our next step is to set the boot order in BIOS to use the USB Live Flash Drive instead of the Windows Boot Manager.
BEFORE STARTING THE BOOT SEQUENCE WITH YOUR LIVE USB, PRINT OUT A COPY OF THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS!
Step #3: Change the Boot Order in your computer BIOS settings
Now that we have created a Live USB with UNetbootin, leave the Live USB in the USB port or if you took it out, reinsert it. Before you start or restart your computer to change the boot order, you should first print out the instructions below for creating four partitions during the Linux Mint installation. In other words, print out the rest of this section (2.3). This will help you remember what settings to use with each screen that will come up during the installation.
The next step is to change the BIOS Boot Order so that the Live USB is the first item selected. Restart your computer and press the appropriate button (usually F1, F2, F12, or ESC) while your computer is starting to get to your BIOS menu.
Then use the right arrow on your key board to select System Configuration.
Then use the Down arrow to select Boot Options. Then press Enter on your keyboard to start the Boot Options screen.
It may appear as if the only options are CD ROM or Floppy Disc. However, select Boot Order to bring up another screen. Then select USB Diskette on Key/ USB Hard Disc. Click F6 to raise it to the top of the list. Then click F10 to save and close the settings. This will change the startup order to boot USB by default. On Restart, the USB screen appears and starts the Linux Mint installer.
Step #4: Install Linux Mint on your computer
We will use the Linux Mint installer to create install Linux Mint. Insert the live USB or DVD into your computer and turn on your computer – then start the Linux Mint Install Process and click on the option called “Take entire computer.” The first screen you will likely see after your computer restarts will be the following.
This will start the Linux Mint operating system installation process and bring up the following screen:
Click on the circular disc which says Install Linux Mint. It is in the upper left side of your screen. This will bring up the Install Welcome screen. Choose the language and click on Continue. The next screen recommends that you connect to the Internet.You do not really need to be connected to the Internet as you can add updates later. But it does help. Either way, click Continue.
Installation Type Screen and Options
Be aware that the Installation Type screen options will be different depending on the operating system you currently have on your computer. Below is the Installation Type screen which appeared when we installed Linux Mint into Windows 7. The first option is called “Install Linux Mint alongside Windows 7”.
The reason this is the default option is that if you leave it set for this option, Linux Mint will automatically create your new partitions for you and install Linux Mint in whatever free space you have on your hard drive, leaving the Windows system still in place. The problem with this is that Windows has gotten so unreliable that your computer will work much better if you simply delete Windows. To do this, click on the second option. Click on the “Erase Disc and install Linux Mint” option. This will erase all of the data on your C drive. Then click Install Now.
Finish Installing Linux Mint
After clicking on Continue a few times, you will get to this screen:
Now we get the slide show which you can read while Linux is being installed. The slide show explains some of the features that come with Linus Mint Mate such as a web browser, file manager, word processor, software download center, customization options and a help center. There is an entire community of users who can help you solve problems – in addition to lots of tutorials.
Close the Help screen. Below is what your desktop looks like:
Click Menu which is in the lower left corner:
Linux Mate has two Start Menus
With Mate, there are two start menus. Above is the Favorites Menu. Click on All Applications to reach the Applications Menu.
The first step after installing Mate is updating all of the tools that come with Mate. To do this, click on the Menu icon in the lower left corner. Then click on the Control Center which is in the left column. Next click on System, then Update Manager
Enter your password. Then the following screen will appear:
These are already selected. Click on Install Updates. Click OK to all questions. This one time update will take about 5 minutes to complete. When they are done, you will be returned to the Start screen. To insure there are no more updates, click on Menu, Control Panel, Update Manager again. This time the list should be empty. Close the Update Manager and the Control Center. When the upload is done, it is a good idea to restart Linux. To do this, click on the Menu:
Click on Restart Now. Then while your computer is temporarily off, remove the USB Live stick. Otherwise, it will try to install Linux Mint again instead of going to the Linux Start screen.
Step #5: After Linux Mint is installed, add all of the documents and programs you copied over to your USB stick.
These are added by inserting our USB Documents stick (not our Mint Live stick) into a USB port on our computer and then copying the documents back into our new Linux Mint File Manager. Copy and paste them one folder at a time.
Congratulations! You now have the freedom of Linux Mint. No more Microsoft Endless Updates and Blue Screen of Death.
Because so many people have made the mistake of buying a Windows 8 or Windows 10 computer, In the next section, we will describe the process for installing Linux on a Windows 8 or Windows 10 computer – along with a summary of concerns about the UEFI startup program that comes with all Windows 8 and Windows 10 computers.