5 Ways to try LINUX without messing up Windows


There are probably thousands of Windows users out there who have looked at LINUX and thought “I’d like to try that”.

Sometimes though fear and lethargy take over and with so much fear mongering spread by the mainstream press (You know who you are Sky television) it is amazing that any of us ever made the move.

The truth is that people switch to Linux everyday and once they realise the benefits they don’t go back. In fact a large number of those Linux users become evangelical about the wonders of Linux.

This article is for those Windows users who just want to try Linux without making a firm commitment. Lets call it distro dating.

Without further ado here are 5 ways to try Linux without messing up Windows.

1. Live CDs / DVDs

There are a lot of LINUX distributions that provide a live CD or DVD installation.

Using live disks you can try out a large number of different distributions to see which one works the best for you.

This is obviously a very safe way of trying out a Linux distribution without breaking Windows.

If you are running from a CD or DVD then any software you install will be lost the next time you reboot.

Another downside is that not all distributions provide live versions. You will also not get the performance from a live CD that you would get from a full install and there may be bugs in the live version that are not present in the full install.

2. Live USB with persistence

Some distributions provide a live USB version of Linux with persistence which means your settings are saved and you can install additional software.

This provides an extra level of useability that the live CD/DVD does not bring.

A live CD and/or live USB is very useful as a rescue device if your Windows becomes corrupted at any time.

Here is a link to the Ubuntu wiki which provides details of how to install Ubuntu to a live USB drive with persistence. (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent)

3. Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is a fully fledged Linux distribution. It is about 130mb to download and can be installed straight to a USB drive.

The difference between Puppy Linux and a live USB drive with persistence is that Puppy Linux is a fully fledged operating system.

With a live CD or live USB you will get a better experience when you fully install the operating system to your hard drive. Puppy Linux is optimised to run from the USB drive.

Any applications you install are saved to your hard drive under a single file with an SFS extension.

Puppy will not affect your Windows in any way whatsoever so you do not have to worry about the SFS file damaging Windows. The SFS file is just another file in much the same way a PDF, DOC or XLS file is.


Ubuntu Linux provides what is known as a WUBI install.

The WUBI install works like any other installer within Windows. You enter a few parameters such as the username and password you will use when running Ubuntu and the installer will do the rest.

You specify how much disk space is given over to Ubuntu and it creates an area for use when installing and running Ubuntu.

When you reboot the Ubuntu installer will use the space that you gave permission for and install the Ubuntu operating system in that space. When you install any further applications for Ubuntu they are also installed in the space provided.

If you want to use Windows then when you boot your PC choose Windows. If you want to use Ubuntu choose Ubuntu.

This provides the full Ubuntu operating system without the limitations of the live CDs and persistent USB drives.

Whether you would prefer to use Ubuntu or Puppy Linux is a personal choice that only you can make. Reading my reviews of Puppy Linux and Ubuntu Linux may help though.

5. Side by Side Installation

Not all distributions provide a WUBI install. A large number of Linux distributions provide a way to install the operating system side by side.

Before trying this option I would recommend trying the live CD/DVD first because you will be able to see how well your hardware is supported with the distribution of choice.

The installation process is usually fairly easy and if it is a Ubuntu based distribution you will be given a choice to install the version of Linux you chose alongside Windows.

By choosing this option you will split your hard drive in two with one half used for Windows and the other half for the Linux distribution of choice.

Now you can try Linux out in its entirety and when you realise that you are using it more and more and Windows less and less you can then choose to do a full install and remove the Windows partition completely.


This article provides a simple list of 5 ways to install Linux without destroying Windows.

In future articles I will be going more in depth with each option to show you how to actually do it.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Easy to install linx to a external harddrive that is totaly independant of windows – will only boot to linux if the ExtHDD is powered – grub is on ExtHDD not on windows drive.

    WILL NOT MESS with WINDOWS but will read any windows drives (if you want to)

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