Migrating From Windows to Ubuntu: The Ultimate Guide

If you are a Windows user and still haven’t made the switch to the latest version, you may want to consider migrating to Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution from Canonical.

Ubuntu has strong support from developers and a massive software repository. It’s free, fast, and safe to use. Like many versions of Linux, it’s easy to install on a wide range of hardware.


If this sounds good to you, here’s how you go about making the switch.

Step 1: Transferring Data From Windows

Before you migrate from Windows to Ubuntu, there are a few issues you need to take care of to ensure a seamless transition. If you follow this advice, you should be able to pick up your work in Ubuntu right where you left off in Windows.

Back Up Your Files

The first thing you want to do before you change your operating system is to back up any files you will want to use in Ubuntu. There are a few ways to do this: you can use a cloud storage service or go with physical media such as a flash drive or external hard drive.

If you decide to use a cloud storage service, make sure you move all the files and folders you want to back up to the cloud storage folder. Ensure your internet connection is on and wait until your cloud service confirms that all files are uploaded before you continue.

Sync Your Web Browser

Migrating to a new operating system can interrupt your browsing experience. To avoid this, you can set up browser sync. All major browsers can sync your data and you only need to enable this feature and wait.

For example, in Chrome, sign in using your Google account. If you aren’t already signed in, go to the Chrome menu and scroll down to “Sign in to Chrome”. After signing in, go to the menu once again, scroll down and click Settings. Next, click on Advanced settings and tick all the items you want to move to Ubuntu.

When you are done installing Ubuntu, all you need to do is install Chrome again, sign in and in a few seconds, all the synced items will be replicated in your new browser session.

If you use Mozilla Firefox, your experience will be even easier as Firefox comes pre-installed on Ubuntu.

Check for Software Compatibility

You may have software that you use on a regular basis and would like to move to Ubuntu. Go to the product’s website and find out if they have a Linux version. Also, read any available documentation on migrating that piece of software. The process is different with each software vendor and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Ubuntu also has one of the largest support forums, which makes it likely that any software issues you encounter have already been solved by another user.

But, in some cases, you may find that your vendor doesn’t support Linux, which then leaves you with three options. One is to check for a suitable alternative. More often than not, there is an open-source alternative available.

Alternatively, you can run the program in Wine, a free and open-source Windows emulator that allows applications designed for Windows to run in Linux. Check the forums and ask questions to see if it is possible to do this with your program. If it isn’t possible, and the application is vital for your work, then the next best thing is to dual-boot Windows or run Windows in a virtual machine. This way, you can use Ubuntu most of the time but switch to Windows when it suits you.

Step 2: Installing Ubuntu

Now that all the housekeeping is in order, let’s get right into the installation process.

Download Ubuntu

Start by downloading the disc image from the Ubuntu download page. You will need a blank DVD or USB stick. If you prefer, you could also download the Ubuntu torrent version which downloads faster.

Create Installation Media

Once the file is done downloading, burn the ISO file to a DVD or create a bootable USB stick on Windows. One way to create a bootable USB stick is to download LiveUSB Install from Pen Drive Linux.

Make sure your USB drive is FAT16/FAT32/NTFS formatted, otherwise it will not boot. If unsure, transfer any contents in the drive to another stick. Go to My Computer or This PC, right-click on the drive and click Format. Leave the file system field at “FAT 32 (Default)” and click Start.

The process should take a few minutes and you can then create the bootable USB stick and proceed to the next stage.

Boot Using the Installation Media

Once you have created your Ubuntu disc or USB drive, insert it into your PC and restart. You may need to manually select which drive to boot from, which usually involves pressing a function key while your computer boots. Which key this is varies depending on your computer model.

Once you boot from the live media you created, you will see the option to either try or install Ubuntu. The former lets you demo the Ubuntu experience without making any permanent changes to your computer. You can play around with Ubuntu before committing to a full install.

For a detailed walkthrough of the installation process, here’s how to install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS on a PC.

Step 3: Getting a Feel for the Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu’s default desktop is known as GNOME.

The Activities button in the top left opens the Activities Overview, where you can launch apps and switch between virtual desktops. This is the closest parallel to the Windows Start menu. You launch apps, search for files, and perform many other tasks by simply pressing the Windows key, also known as the Super key on Linux desktops, and begin typing to search for what you want.

The Ubuntu dock lines the left-hand side of the screen by default, though you can change its location. Here you see your favorite apps alongside your open apps, as you do in the Windows taskbar.

Instead of a system tray, you have a System Menu at the top right of your screen. Here you can change volume, screen brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more.

Inside the file manager (Files), you will see your Home folder which contains several subfolders such as Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos. This is where you store your files.

A Few Post-Installation Tips

Being new to Linux, there are invariably some beginner issues you will encounter. The following are a few speed bumps that you may encounter coming from a Windows background.

Installing Software

Smartphones introduced application stores to many people. But, the Linux community already had an “app store” long before Apple and Google came up with the now popular App Store and Play Store respectively. Linux software repositories have been around for decades. They contain hundreds of free and open-source applications to do just about anything.

To install a program in Ubuntu, you don’t need to search the web and run the risk of installing a malware-laden product. Simply click Ubuntu Software on the dock, which looks like a shopping bag with the letter “A”.

Ubuntu also has a bunch of software that comes pre-installed out of the box. This includes LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird e-mail client, Transmission torrent client, Shotwell photo viewer, and a host of other useful applications. Click the Installed tab at the top of Ubuntu Software to see what’s already included.

For more applications, simply search for what you want, and when you find something that meets your needs, click Install. Every application in Ubuntu Software comes with brief notes explaining what the application does. A good way to find popular software is to browse the categories under Explore.

Learning the Command-Line Interface

If you have never seen a command line, then you may have a bit of a learning curve in Ubuntu. The Windows command line is rarely used by the average user, at least not since the mid-1990s in MS-DOS. In pop culture, the command line is associated with geeks and hackers. When most people think of a command line, the picture that comes to mind is that of a geek wearing thick glasses and typing away furiously at a black screen.

But this morbid fear of the command line is misplaced. It’s actually easy to learn and helps with complex tasks including installing packages. To launch the Terminal, press and hold Ctrl + Alt + T. Learn and practice a few commands daily and within a few days, typing commands into the command line will become second nature.

Read our quick introduction to the Linux command line to begin. After that, take a look at the Linux commands cheat sheet with detailed explanations of what various commands do.

Installing Additional Multimedia Codecs

For many, this may be the first package you want to install. This is because, out of the box, you won’t be able to do a couple of things such as open certain multimedia codecs. This isn’t enabled by default because Ubuntu doesn’t have the legal right to distribute codecs and other copyrighted technology on the installation disc.

Ubuntu Restricted Extra is a collection of software that pulls in support for such codecs and other software with legal restrictions. To install, you will first need to enable the “multiverse” software repository that contains such software. You can do so by opening the Software & Updates app. When you close the window, be sure to allow the app to update your software sources. Then, open a terminal, and enter this command:

sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extra

Is Ubuntu Right for You?

If you run into problems with anything, Ubuntu has one of the largest online user communities. Whatever issue you face, there is a great likelihood that someone else has experienced it before and a solution is available. This is one of the perks of being the most widely-used Linux distro.

But know that Ubuntu is only one version of Linux. Many people love Ubuntu and stick with it. Others begin their journey with Ubuntu and venture out to see what else is out there.

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