Warning /!\ This document is my (Philbull's) working copy of the Switching From Windows document. Please don't use this document! I'm using it to test various layouts and new sections without disrupting the 'proper' copy. Feel free to make alterations, but please make a note of changes in the Braindump section at the bottom of the page.


Structure ideas

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Ubuntu Migration Guide

For users of Microsoft Windows

Version 0.1

21 June 2006


This document is released under the default license of this wiki. If released in document form, the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) is likely to be used. A copy of the GFDL can be obtained from http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.


Welcome to the Ubuntu Migration Guide for Microsoft Windows users. This document aims to provide information and instructions on replacing a Microsoft Windows installation with an installation of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is an open-source operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Why switch?

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS can offer you many advantages over Windows:

The list below is preliminary and requires consultation:

  • Improved security - virtually no viruses or spyware, secure by default

  • Faster - Ubuntu often feels faster to use than Windows

  • Community-based - the community is here to help

  • Free - use it however you want, without cost or restriction

  • etc.

Preparing to Migrate

This section provides information on preparing your computer and its users for the migration process from Windows to Ubuntu.

Trying-out Ubuntu

It is recommended that you first try-out Ubuntu to see if you like it. You can download an Ubuntu Desktop CD and run a 'live' copy of Ubuntu directly from the CD without having to install it and without altering your existing Windows installation. Or, if you know a friend or relative who uses Ubuntu, or have a local Linux User Group, why not ask if they will let you try it out on their computer?

Ways of trying Ubuntu

An Ubuntu Desktop CD is available to be downloaded. It is possible to run a 'live' copy of Ubuntu straight from this CD, without any installation required. It is recommended that you try the desktop CD, as this will give you some idea of what Ubuntu is like and will also allow you to get used to the difference between Windows and Ubuntu.


Windows and Ubuntu are two very different operating systems, and it is worth researching the differences and their implications for yourself. By making an informed decision to switch to Ubuntu, you will feel better prepared for any difficulties which you may encounter and should be able to adjust to using Ubuntu as your operating system more comfortably.

Checking hardware compatibility

Ubuntu supports a great deal of hardware devices, but due to a lack of support from some hardware vendors, certain devices may not function correctly, if at all. While most common hardware should be supported without problems, you are advised to test Ubuntu with your hardware in case something doesn't work.

Making a migration plan

By making a migration plan, you will have a document to refer back to during the migration process. This helps to keep things organised and reduces the risk of forgetting to perform an important action before completing your migration. For most users, such a plan will be quite short and will serve only as a quick reminder. However, more complex installations of Windows wishing to convert to Ubuntu may like to produce a more complex and comprehensive document to ensure a successful, problem-free migration.

Important considerations

When migrating to Ubuntu, it is advised to make a list of priorities when switching. Foremost in this list of priorities is likely to be the preservation of your data. Below is a list of a few things you might like to consider:

  • Does Ubuntu support my hardware?
  • Does Ubuntu support the software and file formats I use, or are there alternatives available?
  • How can I transfer my files and settings between Windows and Ubuntu without losing any of them?
  • What can I do if something goes wrong?
  • How can I seek out help if I run into a problem?
  • Should I migrate in stages?

Example migration plan

Below is an example migration plan for a home user.

  1. Download and run Ubuntu Desktop CD
  2. Check the hardware support for my scanner, broadband modem and webcam
  3. Check if there are any good astronomy programs available
  4. Make a list of alternative programs I can install and use
  5. Check if my word processed documents are supported
  6. Save all of my web bookmarks and e-mails
  7. Get together all of the files I want to keep in one folder
  8. Export all of my accounting files into a spreadsheet
  9. Copy all of my data (bookmarks, files, etc) onto a DVD
  10. Test the DVD to make sure everything was copied across
  11. Make a list and print out of all of my mail and Internet connection settings, user accounts (and passwords)
  12. Install Ubuntu from the Install CD
  13. Use System --> Preferences to set everything up how I like it based on my list of settings and account details

  14. Install everything I need from my list of available programs
  15. Copy all of my data across into my Home directory
  16. Import my e-mail into a mail client


Backing-up is the process of storing all of your data in a secure location, from where it can be recovered in the event of a problem. Backing-up is very strongly recommended for anyone attempting to switch to Ubuntu.

Why back-up?

Backing-up safeguards your data from loss or corruption.

Backup methods

You can back-up using a variety of methods, on to such media as CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, ZIP disks, tape drives, external hard disks, network shares and Internet storage locations.

Creating a backup

This section provides a short guide on how to back-up a typical standalone Windows system.

Testing your backup

It is imperative that you test any back-up files which you have created in order to ensure that they have stored your data correctly and in such a form as to be easily recoverable in the event of a problem.

Installing Ubuntu

When you have finished preparing for your migration, you can go ahead and install Ubuntu. This section provides a step-by-step guide to installing Ubuntu.

Obtaining a copy of Ubuntu

There are many ways of obtaining a copy of Ubuntu:

  • Downloading a Desktop CD image from the Ubuntu website

  • Using the Shipit system to order packaged CDs
  • Requesting a CD from your local Ubuntu or Linux user group
  • Asking a friend or relative with a fast Internet connection to download an ISO image for you
  • Buying a packaged CD from Amazon or another retailer

Warning: Ubuntu CD images are very large files of around 700MB, and so may take a long time to download using your Internet connection. If you have a slow dial-up connection, it may be more practical to obtain a packaged CD rather than attempting to download the image.

If you obtain a packaged CD from Shipit or a retailer, then the CD is ready for use and you can skip to the next section, Things you need to hand. If you obtain a CD image, you must then write that image to a blank CD.

Burning ISO images onto a CD

To burn an ISO image as a CD, you will require CD burning software.

  • Ahead Nero (commercial)
  • Roxio EasyCD (commercial)
  • Others

Things you need to hand

Before you start the installation process, ensure that you can easily access the following items:

  • Ubuntu CD
  • Your backup CD
  • Migration procedure, if you made one
  • List of personal details, settings, passwords and user names which you created
  • A Windows CD or recovery disc (optional, in case you need to reinstall Windows for some reason)

Installer walkthrough

This section provides a step-by-step guide on installing Ubuntu using the graphical installer provided on the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Desktop CD.

Booting from a CD

Most computers are able to start ('boot') an operating system from a CD, providing that they have a CD or DVD drive attached. The easiest way to check if you can start your computer from a CD is to simply insert an Ubuntu CD and restart the computer. If an Ubuntu screen appears and Windows does not load, you have successfully booted from the CD and can skip to the next section to begin installing Ubuntu.

If Ubuntu doesn't start and Windows is still loaded, don't worry. When your computer starts up, it goes through a short list of devices called the boot order or boot sequence. The computer checks each device in turn and, when it finds an operating system on one of those devices, will boot from that device. To boot from an Ubuntu CD, your CD drive must be first in this sequence, or at least come before the device on which Windows is installed. By changing your boot order, you can start your computer from an Ubuntu CD.

Warning: the following instructions involve editing your computer's basic configuration. Please follow the instructions carefully, as it is possible (though unlikely) that you could damage your computer by adjusting a setting incorrectly.

The boot order of a computer is stored by its basic system software, the BIOS. The BIOS for each computer model is generally different, so only very general instructions can be given here. If you received a system manual with your computer, details of how to use the BIOS may be given there. General instructions are given below:

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. When the computer first starts up (before Windows loads), you will probably see some text. Look for text similar to F2: Enter system configuration, Press Delete to enter setup or Press F10 to change boot order. This text gives the key which you need to press to enter your system's BIOS.

  3. Press the key which is given in this text. Generally, a function key (F2 or F10, for example) or the Delete key is used.

  4. On pressing the correct key, the BIOS's main screen will load. It is generally black or blue, though it may be any colour. Using the arrow keys, navigate to an entry such as Advanced CMOS Configuration or Change Boot Order and press the Return key to select it.

  5. Once you have found the boot sequence setting, follow the BIOS's instructions on how to change it. These instructions are generally given in a section to the right of the BIOS screen and may require you to press the Return key, arrow keys, or Page Up and Page Down keys to change the setting.

  6. Change the setting so that your CD drive is listed before any hard drives. The names for these devices vary depending on which computer you have. CD and DVD drives are generally referred to by their make and model number or CDROM. Hard drives can be referred to by their make and model, their capacity, their interface (e.g. 'IDE0') or just HARD DISK or HDD.

  7. After having changed the setting, navigate to the Save and Exit option of you BIOS. Once you have exited the BIOS, the computer will normally restart. Ensure that the Ubuntu CD is in the drive.

  8. Providing that the boot order has been changed correctly, the computer should now start from the Ubuntu CD.

If you are unable to change the boot order in your BIOS, or would prefer instruction specific to your computer, please seek assistance from your computer manufacturer or vendor, or an Ubuntu support channel.

If your computer is still unable to start from a CD for some reason, see Alternate Installation Methods for information on how you can install Ubuntu without a CD.

Partioning Your Hard Disks

Hard disks can be divided into seperate sections.


This section provides details of, and solutions to, problems which are sometimes experienced when attempting to install Ubuntu 6.06 LTS.

Alternate installation methods

From the Internet or network

Dual-booting with Windows

It is possible to install copies of both Ubuntu and Windows onto the same computer, and to choose which one to start each time that you start your computer. This is called dual-booting.

Running Ubuntu for the first time

First boot

Making sure your hardware works

Getting online

Customising Ubuntu

Installing additional applications

Migrating your data

Importing files

Importing your data into applications

E-mail clients

Web browsers


Getting used to Ubuntu

Major differences from Windows

Finding alternative applications

Features not found in Windows

Getting help

Appendix: Quick Guides

This section provides a range of short guides on various migration-related topics which you may find useful.

  • Making Ubuntu more like Windows
  • Getting Windows applications to run on Ubuntu
  • Switching back to Windows (erk!)

Making Ubuntu more like Windows

Ubuntu has its own style and its own way of working. But we appreciate that you might initially feel more comfortable in Windows, so there are a few ways of getting a Windows 'look and feel' from within Ubuntu.

Taskbar panel settings

You can set-up the desktop panels of Ubuntu in a similar way to the Windows taskbar.

There are panels at the top and bottom of the screen, which we can adjust so that they are similar to the default Windows layout.

  1. Click and hold on the bottom panel and move it to the right or left side of the screen.
  2. Click and hold on the top panel and move it to the bottom of the screen. (This is considered the main panel)

  3. You can now move the first panel you moved anywhere, and can even delete it if you desire. Just right click it and choose an option.
  4. If you would like minimized windows to be shown on the bottom bar, on the first panel you moved and to the left side or top of panel there should be a bar separator looking like two vertical rows of dots. Right click on the separator and click the option Remove From Panel. Then, in a blank space on the new bottom panel which you moved earlier, right click and choose Add To Panel. You will be presented with several options (called applets) - choose Window List and click Add. You can repeat these steps and choose other applets that you see in the list to customize the panels any way you like.

On the bottom desktop panel there are 4 small squares, called the Workspace Switcher. This is something new to Windows users but a very handy feature; each square button will open a different desktop with empty panel space. This arrangement lets you manage several desktops (or 'workspaces') at once. For example, if you open graphics-related windows on one workspace and office-related windows on another, they are separated. You can work on each workspace without worrying about the applications from the other cluttering up the panel on that particular desktop. This way you can group applications and keep things out of the way while you're working on something else.

Desktop view

Ubuntu's desktop by default is empty, but if you want add items to it then you can drag and drop folders and application shortcuts onto it to quickly access them. To have desktop icons similar to your Windows environment, follow this procedure:

  1. Click Places on the top panel and drag the Computer icon into an empty space on the desktop. This is equivalent to the My Computer folder found on Windows, and can be used to access your storage devices.

  2. You can also drag the "Home" folder onto the desktop - this is equivalent to My Documents on Windows.

  3. The 'Recycle Bin' on Windows is equivalent to the 'Trash' or 'Wastebasket' folder on Ubuntu. There is a location on the original bottom panel where it is placed by default. If you prefer it on your desktop you can do this from the command line. (You can just copy and paste one line at a time) After which you can change the icon by right clicking on the new folder.

mv ~/.Trash ~/Desktop
mv ~/Desktop/.Trash ~/Desktop/Trash

Start menu

The Ubuntu logo on the main taskbar panel is similar to the Start button of your Windows enviroment. One noticeable difference is that Windows gives you just one button from which you must choose all options, whereas in Ubuntu there are three categories, called Applications, Places and System. Applications contains a categorised list of currently installed applications, Places contains links to common locations and recently used files and System contains preferences, help and power options.

'Run' dialog

In Windows there is an option called 'Run...' on the Start menu, which allows you to run applications by typing their name. Ubuntu has a more powerful alternative, called the Run Application dialog. You can access this by pressing <Alt> and <F2> on your keyboard at the same time.


On the top panel, near to the main menus, there is space for a quick-launch section where there should already be several quick-launch links (called launchers) such as Firefox, Evolution mail and Help. You can add your favourite applications to this area by dragging their icons next to the current icons in that area, or by right-clicking a blank part of the top panel, selecting Add to panel... and clicking the Application Launcher... button.

Windows themes

Changing how your Ubuntu desktop looks is easy, and its possible to make it look pretty similar to Windows 95/98 with only the default packages installed:

  1. Click System --> Preferences --> Theme

  2. Press Theme Details

  3. In the Controls tab, select the Redmond theme

  4. In the Window Border tab, select the Glider theme

  5. Click Close. The new theme should already have been applied

If you would like a more accurate Windows theme, visit http://www.gnome-look.org where you will find a selection of Windows-like themes for everything from window borders to icons. You can make Ubuntu look practically identical to Windows with a little effort.

If you'd like to make Ubuntu look and act more like Windows XP, a project called XPde aims to create a Linux desktop environment which operates like XP, including the XP Start menu. The homepage for this project can be found at http://www.xpde.com.

Of course, there are literally hundreds of different themes available, so why not experiment with something totally original?

Fonts from Windows

Windows includes a selection of proprietary fonts, which Ubuntu distributes Free, high-quality alternatives to. However, these alternatives aren't identical so your existing documents may not look exactly the same under Ubuntu.

It is possible to download and install a selection of the most commonly-used proprietary Windows fonts at no cost:

  1. Enable the Ubuntu Multiverse package repository (see Repositories for instructions on how to do this)

  2. Click System --> Administration --> Synaptic Package Manager and enter your administrator password

  3. Search for the package msttcorefonts and select to install it

  4. Click the Apply button. The package will be installed

  5. The new fonts will be immediately available

(?) Integrate http://wiki.motin.eu/HowToComfortablySwitchFromWindowsToUbuntu here?

Getting Windows applications to run on Ubuntu

(?) Merge in parts of WINE pages?

It is possible to run Windows applications on Ubuntu with the help of some additional software. There are two main approaches to this - installing a Windows compatibility-layer to run the programs from Ubuntu itself, or to install Windows on a virtual machine.

The compatibility-layer option is the simplest to set up, is completely open-source and allows easy access to your files in Ubuntu. However, not all Windows programs are supported and you may find that some applications are unstable with this method. This compatibility layer is called WINE and is available in Ubuntu as the wine package in the universe software channel. See Wine for more information.

Commercial extensions to WINE are available, such as CrossOver Office and Cedega, which make it possible to run some applications which don't run with WINE. CrossOver Office focuses on business applications and Cedega focuses on games.

The virtualisation option requires a full installation of Windows to be made on a virtual machine, which requires a licensed Windows install CD. As such, this option is more costly, but will guarantee Windows compatibility for applications. VMWare offer a freely downloadable virtual machine product which you can use for this. See VMware for more information.

Switching back to Windows (erk!)

We understand that, after having switched over to Ubuntu, you may want to return to Windows for some reason. This quick guide provides instructions on how to 'reverse' your migration and move back over to Windows.

Before switching back, why not let us know why? Ubuntu is always looking to make improvements for its users, and by informing us of the problems you may have experienced we can hopefully fix them and make Ubuntu an option for you again.

*** End of proposed outline ***

Start of original document, to be merged with above

Before you do anything: Backup

When making a major change to your computer (in this case replacing the operating system it is running), it is highly recommended to back-up all of your data. Having a back-up copy of all of your important files, which is known to work and can be restored easily will safeguard you from losing your data should something go wrong unexpectedly. Before installing Ubuntu, be sure to make and test a set of back-ups 'just in case'.

Test Installations

The migration issues for an individual will obviously be very different from those of, say, a business. There isn't one 'right' way of migrating to Ubuntu - its up to you to decide how best to approach migration. However, almost everyone will benefit from running a test installation. This gives you a chance to get used to using and setting-up Ubuntu, which will ultimately make your full migration a lot easier. It also gives you the opportunity to ask yourself questions such as 'is Ubuntu right for me?'.

There are a few ways of testing Ubuntu:

  • Downloading an install CD and installing it on an old system
  • Downloading an install CD and installing it alongside your existing operating system
  • Downloading a live CD
  • Using a friend's Ubuntu installation for a little while
  • Installing Ubuntu into a virtual machine on your existing operating system

Note that apart from installing alongside your existing operating system, these options won't get you the full experience of running Ubuntu yourself - old hardware or a virtual machine will be slower than your current setup, your friend will setup Ubuntu in a different way to you and so on.


You may find that creating a step-by-step plan simplifies your migration. Below is an example for a home user:

  1. Download and run Ubuntu Live CD
  2. Check the hardware support for my scanner, broadband modem and webcam
  3. Check if there are any good astronomy programs available
  4. Make a list of alternative programs I can install and use
  5. Check if my word processed documents are supported
  6. Save all of my web bookmarks and e-mails
  7. Get together all of the files I want to keep in one folder
  8. Export all of my accounting files into a spreadsheet
  9. Copy all of my data (bookmarks, files, etc) onto a DVD
  10. Test the DVD to make sure everything was copied across
  11. Make a list and print out of all of my mail and Internet connection settings, user accounts (and passwords)
  12. Install Ubuntu from the Install CD
  13. Use System --> Preferences to set everything up how I like it based on my list of settings and account details

  14. Install everything I need from my list of available programs
  15. Copy all of my data across into my Home directory
  16. Import my e-mail into a mail client

Differences between Ubuntu and Windows

Ubuntu and Windows are very different in many ways. It's pretty important to be prepared for these differences, as they will potentially have a great impact on the way you initially use Ubuntu. Outlined below are the major differences, and some tips on how to feel more comfortable with them.


Ubuntu is different to Windows in a very important way - we listen to and use our users' input to a massive extent. Remember - Ubuntu is a community project, and you're part of the community. We want you to have your say.

If something goes wrong, tell us by filing a bug report. Whether it's something not working, an unexpected error, weird behaviour, some non-sensical text or just a missing feature, file a bug report. You can find out how to do this on the ReportingBugs page.

Case sensitivity and spaces

Filenames in Ubuntu are case-sensitive. This is mostly for historical reasons, and can be quite useful in some circumstances. But be aware that if you have to type a filename, fileabc is not the same as FileABC. You might like to name all of your files and folders in a consistent case where possible. I name all of mine in lower-case so I don't get them muddled up. It also saves me having to press the shift key when typing a file name.

Also, some characters are considered 'special' in filenames, so while you can use them, you may have to tell the computer how you want to use them. If you want to use one 'literally', you put a '\' before the character. Otherwise, the computer might use the character in a way you weren't expecting. The space is probably the most commonly used special character.

An example, saving a file in a folder called 'my work':

/home/username/my work/abc.file might be treated as two seperate things, /home/username/my and work/abc.file, or it might not. It depends on the way the program you're using works.

/home/username/my\ work/abc.file looks a little weird, but the computer can only interpret this in one way.

This only tends to be an issue in older programs, and most of Ubuntu will be happy to let you use spaces without a '\'. But if you do get some weird results, just think on that it might be a program which is still behaving like this for some reason. If you do use a program which has this problem, consider avoiding using spaces if possible, just in case. An underscore '_' character makes a good replacement.

File system

In Windows, you were probably used to putting your files on a specific 'drive', like the 'C:' drive; your file might be stored in C:\My Documents\Work for example. Ubuntu has a different way of doing things - instead of having individual drives, everything is part of one big 'drive' called '/'. This might seem a little daunting at first - where can you find your floppy drive, for instance?

Literally everything can be found under / (pronounced 'root'). Whether it's a CD drive, a floppy disk or even a network share, it's all stored under the same main location. There are many of reasons why this is 'better' than using drive letters, but you probably don't care too much about that. After all - where is your floppy drive?

Well, if you're after a removable disk (like a floppy disk or a CD), click Places --> Computer on the menu bar at the top of the screen. All of the available drives are listed there, and all you have to do is click one to view its contents. When you clicked the Places menu, you may have noticed a few items above Computer - these are shortcuts to the exact same drives, and they're there for quick and easy access to your disks. Finally, when a disk is inserted into your drive, it should automatically appear on the desktop.

And where should you store your files? Each user has their very own 'Home' directory, where everything that belongs to them is stored. This means everything: documents, photos, music, settings, it's all there. So you shouldn't ever have to save a file anywhere else but in your Home directory (or a removable disk). Click Places --> Home Folder to view your Home directory. It may also be referred to as /home/your_user_name in some applications.

A few notes on using your Home directory; try to store all of your personal files there. If you need to find or back up your files, they are all in one simple location. Also, most applications will store their settings in your Home directory and most system-configuration files are stored in the /etc directory, so backing-up an Ubuntu-based system is quite easy.

Finally, a handy shortcut - your home directory can also be referred to by the '~' (tilde) character. So /home/yourname/work is the same as ~/work.

Hardware support

Most people use Microsoft Windows, so pretty much all hardware vendors release drivers for Windows. Not as many people use Linux, so not every manufacturer will think to release Linux drivers too. This is slowly changing, but there are still many devices unsupported by their manufacturers in Linux. Many of these devices have drivers created by volunteers instead, so they will work with Ubuntu, but not all are perfect. This leaves a few devices that just aren't supported in any way.

On the whole:

  • Popular devices from well-known manufacturers are well supported
  • You can get alternative hardware devices that will be supported if you're really stuck
  • There are only a few types of device which aren't supported too well

The following types of device are the ones you're most likely to have problems with:

If you do get problems, what should you do? Well, try these:

  1. Check for your device in the Ubuntu Hardware Support list

  2. Check to see if the device's manufacturer does provide a Linux driver

  3. Search for "<devicename> linux driver" on Google to see if someone knows how to get your device working

  4. Ask someone on the forums if they have any ideas - see the page GettingHelpInForums

  5. File a bug requesting support for this device
  6. E-mail the manufacturer to ask for a Linux driver, or the source code of their Windows driver

  7. Create a driver yourself

  8. Buy alternative, supported hardware
  9. Use a 'dual-boot' set-up and switch between Windows and Ubuntu

If you get to number 6, it's very unlikely that you'll get your device working, so it's normally best to skip to 8. We don't expect you to create your own driver! We wish we could support all the hardware in the world, but it just isn't possible, so If you do end up having to buy alternative hardware, consider telling your manufacturer they've lost a customer due to poor Linux support! That way, they just might change their attitude to supporting Linux.

Installing software

On Windows, you'd install a file by running an 'installer'. This would guide you through a few options and install the software somewhere on the computer. Ubuntu works differently - you just click Applications --> Add/Remove..., find the package you want, tick it, and click 'Apply'. That's it, everything else is done automatically. And if you want to remove the package, it's simply a matter of unticking it and clicking 'Apply' again.

Ubuntu comes with literally thousands of programs available online, ready for you to install and use. But you can only install a program in this way if it has been packaged and uploaded to an Ubuntu repository. Don't worry about this - you'll normally be able to find the software you need with the default Ubuntu repositories. But if you want to install an application which isn't included in Ubuntu, you'll have to find another repository or install it manually. This can be tricky with some software, so it's best to ask for help in the forums or on IRC if you get stuck.

For more information on installing new programs on Ubuntu, see InstallingSoftware.

Permissions and privileges

Most administrative tasks on the operating system, such as adding users or installing software requires 'superuser' (administrator, sometimes called 'root') access priviledges. This is because if normal users are allowed to do these things, they could intentionally or accidentally cause damage to a system. Superuser is special user account which has unlimited access to the system. If you are the administrator then you are also the superuser. You'll know when superuser priviledges are required because Ubuntu will ask for the administrator password; for an example of this, click System --> Administration --> Synaptic Package Manager.

In Ubuntu, each file is owned by a user, normally the user who created it. The owner of a file has the right to read the file, run it if it is a program, and to change or delete the file.

Access permissions for a file are divided into three types:

  • Permissions for file's owner
  • Permissions for members of the file's group
  • Permissions for everyone else ("others")

You can change the permissions for a file by right-clicking the file, selecting Properties from the menu which appears, and clicking the Permissions tab.

Removable media

If you inserted a CD in Windows, you could press the 'Eject' button on the CD drive to eject the CD. Likewise, you could just pull a flash memory pen out without clicking anything. Ubuntu doesn't let you do this because of the way it handles 'removable media'. The Windows-way may be convenient, but if the computer hasn't finished putting data onto the memory pen, files can get corrupted and become unreadable. You could lose your work. And when you arrive at that important meeting with a presentation you can't open, it doesn't feel so convenient any more.

Ubuntu does everything it can to protect your data. So to remove a removable medium like a CD or memory pen, it requires you to follow a quick, safe procedure:

  1. Click Places --> Computer on the menu at the top of the screen

  2. Right-click the drive you want to remove
  3. Select Unmount volume or Eject, depending on what type of drive it is

  4. Remove the disc or drive

This shouldn't take more than 10-15 seconds at most, and will keep your files safe.


A combination of the way Ubuntu is designed and the lower number of users than Windows currently makes Ubuntu generally more secure. The chances of getting a virus, adware or spyware is greatly reduced, as existing Internet nasties tend to target Windows specifically. This doesn't mean we don't take security seriously though - the exact opposite, in fact. Ubuntu does everything it can to protect you and your computer from harm, and offers many useful security and privacy options by default.

  • While it's not currently vital to have active anti-virus protection, you can download a Linux-based anti-virus program if you want, for peace of mind.
  • Ubuntu comes with a firewall by default.
  • Web-browsers such as Firefox come with privacy options by default.
  • Security updates are released very regularly, and installing them is a breeze. Ubuntu will tell you when it's found new updates, and all you have to do is click a button and type your administrator password.

The Terminal

A terminal (or terminal emulator) is just another way of communicating with the computer - rather than clicking icons using a mouse, you can type commands and have Ubuntu carry them out directly. Terminals are seen as an advanced way of operating a computer and tend to be used very rarely on Windows (where it is called the Command Prompt). However, Ubuntu's terminal is very powerful and can be used to accomplish many useful tasks. Click Applications --> Accessories --> Terminal to start it.

While beginners may want to steer clear of the Terminal altogether, it can be handy for users to have some basic knowledge of terminal commands. Often, help guides will ask you to type a command into a terminal, so it can be a useful tool even if you don't know how to use it properly. See BasicCommands for more information.

Transferring your files and settings from Windows

Once you are ready for your migration, you will have to copy your files and settings from Windows to Ubuntu. There are many ways of doing this, and which method you use depends on how you've decided to migrate.

Migrating data from common applications

You will probably have a small selection of Windows applications which you use most often. You'll want to make sure that the files and information which you've been using with these programs can still be used with Ubuntu, and you'll need to copy it across when you're ready to migrate.

A guide to migrating data from common Windows applications can be found on the page MigratingFromWindows.

Migrating unsupported file formats

Some file formats which you use may be unsupported on Ubuntu, so you'll probably want to convert those files to a format that applications can use. Most people have problems with audio and video files which use proprietary file formats and so aren't supported by Ubuntu due to legal issues. See below for a list of examples of unsupported (or poorly-supported) file types:

  • WMA music files
  • AAC music files
  • WMV and Quicktime videos
  • RAW images from some digital camera manufacturers

Convertors for many file types are freely available. See below for a list of equivalent formats which are well supported in Ubuntu:

  • Ogg Vorbis music files
  • Ogg Theora videos
  • TIFF high-resolution images

For more information on support for Free and restricted file formats, see FreeFormats and RestrictedFormats respectively.

Copying files onto a removable disk

Ubuntu will happily read from most types of CD, DVD and removable storage devices such as memory pens and external hard drives. You can easily copy all of your files onto such a disk using your existing Windows software, install Ubuntu onto the computer and then copy the files back onto your new Ubuntu installation, ready for use.

Important - always thoroughly test your backup files before you install Ubuntu over Windows. If something has unexpectedly gone wrong and files are missing or damaged, there's little you can do to get them back once you've gone through with the install.

Accessing Windows files from Ubuntu on the same computer

Warning /!\ Cleanup - is this still relevant with Dapper?

If you install Ubuntu alonside an existing Windows installation, it is possible to access files from Windows from within Ubuntu. How you do this depends on which version of Windows you also have installed.

For FAT partitions (Windows 95, 98 and Me)

Windows 95, 98, 98SE and Millenium Edition (Me) use the FAT filesystem to store their files. To access your Windows filesystem, you must mount it - that is, connect it to the Ubuntu filesystem so that it can be used. Under Ubuntu, FAT is referred to as the 'vfat' filesystem type. If you can see your Windows drive in Places --> Computer (it will probably be called something like /dev/hda1), simply click its icon and it will be mounted, allowing you to access the files on it.

If it doesn't appear in Computer, however, you must mount it manually. You can do this using the Disks Manager tool - to start it, click System --> Administration --> Disks. Then, select the hard disk which contains the Windows partition and click the Partitions tab. You can then select the Windows partition. If there is no text in the Access Path entry box, type /media/windows and click Enable to mount your Windows filesystem. It should then be available in Computer, or you can click Browse in Disks Manager. After this, simply copy the files you require into your Ubuntu Home directory.

For NTFS partitions (Windows NT, 2000, XP and 2003)

Warning /!\ This section needs to be written.

You can copy files to Ubuntu from within Windows, using a tool such as FS-Driver.

Accessing Windows files from Ubuntu over a network

Ubuntu can connect to Windows network shares, so if you've installed Ubuntu onto a machine connected to a Windows network, it's possible to copy your files off another computer on the network and onto your Ubuntu computer.

For most Windows networks, all you have to do is ensure that you are connected to the network and click Places --> Network Servers and navigate to the computer on which the files are stored, entering your Windows username and password if prompted.

If you have a more advanced Windows network, see the SambaHowTo for more information on how to connect to it.

Migration for specific Windows user groups

If you predominantly use your computer for one particular task (such as graphical design), you'll probably have a list of applications which you use on a day-to-day basis in Windows. Ubuntu offers a wide range of high-quality applications and it is likely that alternatives are available to most of the software you are used to running in Windows. Below is a list of useful resources for particular 'user groups'.

User Group

Information Page

Games enthusiasts/gamers






Office workers




Software developers


System Administrators

CorporateUbuntu, Servers, Ubuntu Server Guide

Additional Guides and Resources


  • Nothing yet

Philbull/SFW (last edited 2008-08-06 17:00:46 by localhost)