So you’ve heard about Ubuntu and you’ve been interested but when you found out that it (can) completely replace your current operating system you thought better of it. After all, the last thing you want to happen when you try a piece of new software is for you to lose everything.

Enter Wubi. Wubi is a small installer program (about 1MB) that will install Ubuntu on your Windows computer (Mac and Linux versions are coming) that will install the whole operating system into a “container file” on your existing Windows hard drive. What this means for you is that there’s virtually no risk installing Ubuntu as if you don’t like it or if you want to go back to how things were you simply remove the Wubi application through the Windows control panel.

How it works:

  1. Wubi asks you where you want to install Ubuntu and how much disk space you want to give it
  2. Wubi then downloads an Ubuntu 10.04 ISO file
  3. The ISO file is unpacked into the container file along with grub (the boot loader that comes with Ubuntu)
  4. The Windows startup options are modified to include booting into Ubuntu as an option.
  5. Your PC restarts and the installation completes.

The performance of Ubuntu running in a container file is good – there will be overheads far greater than running native file systems like ext4 directly on the disk but as a no-risk introduction to Ubuntu for the Windows user, this is a great start.

As far as I know, the only thing that DOESN’T work in Ubuntu installed using this method is the hibernate support. Attempting to hibernating your Ubuntu desktop environment simply results in the screen being locked requiring your password to continue (presumably the hibernation failed).

Check out this YouTube video of Shawn Powers from Linux Journal installing Wubi (4:24s).