Updated: November 22, 2008
You have probably heard about Ubuntu - it's a beautiful, friendly Linux distribution. It is probably the best choice for any Windows user trying to explore the world of Linux.
Still, quite a few Windows users are hesitant to make the move. There's the fear of unknown - and worse - the fear of somehow ruining the working Windows installation and losing precious data.
WUBI puts aside these fears. It is a perfectly safe and incredibly simple method of installing Ubuntu, from Windows, without touching the existing data. While the standard Ubuntu installation requires that you boot from a live CD and prepare partitions for the installation, WUBI install Ubuntu just like any other program, into a folder on one of the Windows drives, eliminating the chance of data corruption. There's even an add/remove entry for it!
Indeed, WUBI is extremely simple: 3-4 mouse clicks and you're done! No need to mess with hard disk and partitions notations. No need to worry about free space. No need to worry about the bootloader. If you like this approach, then read on. Let's review what WUBI does.
All that said, I personally believe that anyone trying to learn Linux should stick with the traditional methods. Nevertheless, I also understand that some people would not use Linux unless it is given to them in the safest and simplest manner possible - and if the answer to this is WUBI, so be it.
First, download the WUBI installer from the official website. It is a small file, serving as a wrapup for the actual installation. Additionally, to make things faster, you should download an ISO image of the Ubuntu flavor that you prefer. You do not need to burn the ISO to a CD/DVD. WUBI will look for the image on your machine. If no source is found, WUBI will download the relevant image from the Web. If you have any other questions regarding WUBI, you may also refer to the FAQ. If you want to get Ubuntu yourself, here are the official sites:
Double-click on the downloaded program. This will launch the WUBI installer.
Now, you have a total of six items that you have to review:
This is the Windows drive letter that you need to choose for the installation. WUBI will automatically limit the options to drives with the sufficient free space (4GB minimum).
If you're wondering where to install Ubuntu, simply review your layout. If you only have a single partition (C:), the choice is obvious. Otherwise, you can try any other available drive with the sufficient space.
You can choose the size of the free space that you want to allocate to your installation. The more there is the better, of course. Again, WUBI will present you with a drop-down list, with all the available options.
You have the ability to choose between several flavors of Ubuntu.
I think this is rather self-evident.
Choose a username for your Ubuntu account.
Provide a password for your Ubuntu account. Choose a strong one.
That's it! You're ready to install.
After you click Install, WUBI will begin installing Ubuntu.
In this stage, WUBI will look for the installation source. If an ISO or Ubuntu CD/DVD is found, it will use them as the source. If not, WUBI will download the relevant package from the Internet. Here's an example for a Xubuntu installation (we did not download the .iso):
After a few moments, you will be asked to reboot. Please note that Ubuntu is not yet installed! This stage was only the preparation for the installation. The actual process will run after you reboot.
Select Ubuntu from the boot menu. If you choose Windows, you will boot into Windows and nothing remarkable will happen. The Ubuntu installation will only be complete after you select Ubuntu from the boot menu and let the process complete.
Now, the installation will begin in earnest. It should take about 15-20 minutes to complete.
After the installation is complete, the installer will reboot. Since the default boot option is Windows, you will end up in Windows after the installation, so don't be alarmed.
Now, reboot again, and this time, choose Ubuntu.
After a few moments, you will reach your new Linux installation. Congratulations! This could not have been any simpler!
We can see that our Ubuntu resides on a Windows partition:
And here's a pair of Xubuntu screenshots:
Advantages of WUBI
WUBI is extremely simple, friendly and (human) error-resistant. It allows just about anyone to master the installation process of a Linux distribution, probably the most difficult part for any new user. WUBI offers the Windows users a real opportunity to try something new, without any risk.
Ubuntu installer also comes in a Linux flavor, allowing you to install Ubuntu Linux (any flavor) inside another, existing Linux installation! This is probably completely unnecessary for most Linux users, but if you feel lazy one day, you may want to consider LUBI.
On one hand, Ubuntu installed through WUBI will run a little slower than if it were installed on separate dedicated partition. Additionally, the installation is visible in Windows, making it theoretically possible for anyone to erase the Ubuntu files and ruin the installation. In a "real" installation, Windows is incapable of reading the Linux filesystems, making the two isolated.
On the other hand, WUBI takes away the thrill of a genuine installation. It also denies the user the need for understanding the Linux internals, which are important if you ever consider using Linux seriously.
These are not critical shortcomings, but they should be considered. If you want to try Linux the old way, you may wish to read my articles Installing (K)ubuntu Linux - Full tutorial and Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex - Review & Tutorial.
WUBI is an amazing tool. If you ask anyone who has tried Linux in 2003 or 2004 what it was like back then, they would tell you of complex (yet pleasant) ordeals of getting things to work. Today, new distributions offer an almost completely transparent experience for new users, with lesser and lesser use of the command line. WUBI is a great bridge into the world of Linux, and I welcome the effort to make Linux as friendly and accessible to as wide range of users as possible.
That said, let us never forget the power of the command line and the real need to know what we're doing. After all, one of the fundamental beauties of Linux is to be able to fully understand and control every aspect of the operating system. Now, have fun with your new distro, whichever way you installed it!