Newbie Guide to Installing Linux as a Virtual Machine

This is a guide for installing a virtual copy of Linux and is intended for people who have NO idea what they are doing. Prior to writing this guide, I had absolutely no experience with Linux. As I went on this journey, I took notes so that I may spread my wisdom to others and soften the learning curve a bit. There are a few other guides out there for doing and install like this, but they are all really old and a lot has changed since then. Hopefully this guide will save you a lot of the headache and troubles that I went through.

Ubuntu? I thought I was installing Linux?

Ubuntu is a version of Linux! Well actually it is a Linux distribution intended to be more user-friendly. If you are coming from Windows or Mac to Linux, Ubuntu will be the easiest to transition to. That’s right, kids! Unlike the American presidential selection process, there is a third option! And this option is free.

As of 2012, according to online surveys, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution on desktop/laptop personal computers,[10][11][12][13] and most Ubuntu coverage focuses on its use in that market. However, it is also popular on servers and for cloud computing.

Why a Virtual Machine?

If you are like me and you want to give Linux a try but you don’t want to fully commit a disk partition to an install, consider doing a Virtual Machine! It works as an emulator inside of Windows and you can switch back and forth without having to reboot every time. The whole “machine” is stored as a file in your hard drive, and you can delete it at any time.

What do I need?

First, for this guide you need to be running Windows 7 with SP1. I’m sure you can do this on a mac as well, but that’s not the focus of this guide. Be sure you have all updates installed.

Next get Ubuntu. It’s free. For this guide, I am using version 12.04. Originally I tried using the 12.10 install, but it kept failing. However, updates come out all of the time and there is a good chance these version numbers will be different for your install. I would recommend using the “Long Term Support” versions and not the cutting-edge beta versions. Also, I have an Intel processor, and the 64-bit version of Ubuntu does not like that, so I am using the 32-bit version.

To create the Virtual Machine, I used VMware Player. It’s also free and makes the installation VERY easy. For this guide, I am using version 5.01, build 894247.

Before using VMware Player, I tried using Oracle’s VirtualBox and I HATED IT! It is a pain in the butt to use, it fails for many reasons (like if you have Dropbox installed, for one), it takes down your ethernet and it even clobbered my drivers and gave me blue screen of death a few times. I think it is a piece of crap, but other people like it so use what works.

I also tried using VirtualPC from Microsoft but it didn’t work out either. For some reason, it thought the RAM I allocated to it was the size of the HDD and therefor I could not complete the install. I dunno what was up with that. Anyways, I highly recommend VMware Player.

Getting Started

Now that you have Ubuntu and VMware Player, it’s time to start the install. First, install VMware Player. Just double click the file and install it just like you would any other program.

Main install screen

I have a main Solid State hard drive that my system is on and another 1TB mechanical drive for my media. I installed my virtual machine on the secondary (mechanical) drive, but you can install on your main if you want. Be sure to have the checkbox on the “Download Product Updates” option checked.


VMware Main Screen

Once you start up VMware Player, you get the screen above. Click the button that says “Create a New Virtual Machine”. You will get the following screen:

For the “Installer Disk Image” select the Ubuntu .iso you downloaded earlier

Click the “Browse” button and navigate to the Ubuntu .iso you downloaded earlier. Continue through the install by inputting your user name and password. You will get to a screen that asks you to choose a size for your virtual machine. I have plenty of room on my drive and I plan on installing some games and later on (come on steam beta key!!) so I want room. However, you can use much less depending on your needs.


Since I plan on using this a lot, I chose the “single file” option. I don’t want anything slowing down on me. Continue following directions and watch the magic happen! VMware does most of the heavy lifting for you. It’s a good day to be a noob.


You shouldn’t have to do anything at all until this screen appears:

It’s that easy!


And you’re done! Pretty easy right? Now that you have it installed, poke around and do things. I will be putting together more guides and reviews in the future (one a week!) so keep checking back. Next week I will go over essential apps & utilities to install. I also plan on doing a guide to use your new Ubuntu install as a media server so you can broadcast your videos and music to all the devices in your house, so stay tuned for that. If you have any questions or ideas for guides that I can do, feel free to message me on Twitter @liquidvApor.

Now that you have Ubuntu installed, check out rechosen’s handy command line tips!

If the boot sequence takes too long for you, check out rechosen’s guide for disabling unused daemons!

Have fun!