How do you install Linux?

The installation methods of distros varies tremendously, so it is not possible to give a comprehensive how-to of installing all of them. Most of them are fairly simple, but some require years of experience and / or technical knowledge.

Assuming you want to install a fairly typical distribution, such as Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, or OpenSUSE, you will first need a CD. Ubuntu will mail free CDs out to anyone to asks The others require you to download what is called an ISO image. This is a single file that contains all of the data that will be put on a CD, in a special format. To create a CD, you will need a CD-burning program such as Nero, or, if you have never burned an ISO image before, try ImgBurn or Infrarecorder. Tell your program of choice that you would like to burn an image to a CD, and select the ISO file you downloaded. Insert a blank CD, and tell it to burn, preferably at a low speed.

Now that you have an install CD, you need to prepare to install. Back up any files that you have in Windows, just to be safe, or if you plan on getting rid of Windows altogether.

Reboot the computer with the CD in the drive. If the computer does not boot from the CD, enter the BIOS and set the boot order to boot the CD drive first. If you have received what is called a "LiveCD", the CD will boot into a fully featured preview of what your Linux system will look like. If it is not a LiveCD, it will probably just have text menus or a simple GUI. Start the install process by resizing the Windows partition to make room for Windows, or just delete if you do not want Windows. Most installers have a "guided" option to configure the partition sizing automatically for you.

Proceed with specifiying any usernames and passwords, timezones, languages, etc... The installer will copy files to the hard drive and set up the system, and then prompt you to reboot. Remove the CD and restart your computer. You will either receive a menu, often called "GRUB" or "LILO" if you are dual-booting, or you will simply boot directly into Linux.