The challenge was as follows: provide a handson workshop environment – consisting of nothing more than a browser connected to our office’s Wifi network – for visitors to the Open Day we organized at my company. However, all I had to work with was a bunch of really old laptops – 8-10 years – originally running Windows 7 (and one still does). I could not even start up two of them: during boot routine they complained about an invalid Partition Table. Not good.
Then my colleague Chris pointed out what was to him a simple solution: make them run Linux (and forget about that old Windows environment). He also explained how that could be done – and it turned out to be really quite simple and very well documented. The key tool I used in addition to the Ubuntu operating system: Rufus.
The steps I had to go through:
- download and install Rufus – go to Rufus website (rufus.ie).
- download Ubuntu installation disk image – an ISO image file of over 3GB – and save locally. Ubuntu Downloads Page.
- arrange for a 4GB (or more) flashdrive – I got that from yet another colleague (Mark)
- run Rufus to have it create a “bootable USB device” : make Ubunutu bootable (startuppable) from the flashdrive using the Ubuntu ISO image
Run laptop with Linux
There are two possible scenarios:
- install Ubuntu on the target laptop to make it always boot in Ubuntu (I used that on one laptop)
- boot a laptop from the flashdrive (by interrupting the boot process and explicitly selecting the USB Device as boot source) without changing the configuration of the laptop (I used that on two other laptops – one that I could not install Ubuntu on and one that I did not want to make changes to) Note: once Ubuntu has started up, it seemed to do just fine without the flashdrive, so I was able to get multiple laptops going from a single flashdrive
The latter option can be used on any laptop to allow workshop attendees to use a machine without getting access to the (Windows) contents of the device – almost like an extended Kiosk mode.
The instructions I followed for installing Ubuntu from the flashdrive are very clear and the steps are simple as well. In a few minutes, the laptop is running Ubuntu Linux as if it has never done anything else. The most tricky part is pressing F12 a few times at the very early moments of the boot sequence. We have to get the computer to get into the BIOS menu where we can divert the boot process from the default (hard disk boot sector) to the flashdrive. Once that is done, everything is straightforward.
Note: it may not be F12 for you. As the instructions state: F12 is the most common key for bringing up your system’s boot menu, but Escape, F2 and F10 are common alternatives. If you’re unsure, look for a brief message when your system starts – this will often inform you of which key to press to bring up the boot menu.
The main decision: install Ubuntu onto the laptop’s hard drive or just run Ubuntu (try) without touching the hard drive.
In this case I only run Ubuntu – not install it – so I pick Try Ubuntu.
Before too long my very old seemingly good for nothing laptop is running a great operating desktop:
Very well written, comprehensive Step by step instructions for creating the bootable USB device for Ubuntu Desktop from a Windows environment.
Rufus Website – https://rufus.ie/en/
Ubuntu Downloads – https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop
Workshop Environment: runjs.co