How to Install Ubuntu in Windows

Here at MakeTechEasier, we’ve touched on Wubi here and there but have never really gone into detail on exactly what it can do and how it works. According to the website,

Wubi is an officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows users that can bring you to the Linux world with a single click. Wubi allows you to install and uninstall Ubuntu as any other Windows application, in a simple and safe way…

That sums it up pretty well. You can use your Windows (98, 2000, XP, Vista) Control Panel to add/remove it as easily as any other Windows app.

The key thing about Wubi (Windows based Ubuntu Installer) is that you do not have to do any partitioning. It simply creates a file in Windows that both systems treat as if it’s a separate partition. You can choose the size of that file when you install.

In Windows, download the Wubi installer here. The initial options can be set at the main screen.

wubi-mainscreen

When choosing the drive to host your new Ubuntu installation, try to pick your C drive if possible. I’ve had nothing but bad luck trying to run a Wubi installation from a drive partition other than the one running Windows. Also, when it comes the deciding how much space to allocate to Ubuntu, I wouldn’t suggest going much below 20Gb if you plan to get much done.

Note the Desktop Environment option in the lower left corner. With Wubi, you have the option of four versions of Ubuntu:

  • Ubuntu – With GNOME, the standard option
  • Kubuntu – With KDE, a more “Windowsy” desktop
  • Xubuntu – With XFCE, more lightweight than GNOME or KDE
  • Mythbuntu – A PVR system using MythTV and XFCE

Once you’re ready to install, you’ll have to wait for the full ISO to download.

Downloading Ubuntu ISO

How it works

While we’re waiting for the download, we might as well go over exactly what’s happening. Instead of creating a partition to hold Linux and all its files, Wubi creates a loop device inside a file (typically C:\Ubuntu\disks\root.disk), which Windows treats as if it was a separate partition or hard drive.

When you boot the computer, you’ll see the Windows bootloader asking which OS to boot. If you choose Ubuntu, the Windows bootloader opens the file Wubi created earlier, and the Linux inside thinks it’s running on a typical Linux partition.

Finishing Up

I found that doing the Ubuntu 9.04 install over Wubi was quite comfortable and clear. I’ve suggested Wubi to a few potential converts, and I think I’ll continue to do so. In particular, I like how easy Wubi makes it to choose which of the various Ubuntu flavors to install. I think that makes it a little easier for people to try out something they’d otherwise never think to download. I look forward to seeing what the developers come up with in the future.