Testing Linux Mint

Here is a simple guideline for testing Linux Mint on your computer, without actually modifying anything in the process. It has the most preinstalled components in its family, and I would say therefore it the easiest to get started with if you are a beginner or just exploring.

1) Download the correct ISO file. This is the complete Linux Mint operating system, contained in a single file. The distinction between the different entries on this page are the “desktop environments”. That is, Cinnamon, Mate, or XFCE. I recommend Cinnamon.

Cinnamon is similar to a Windows “classic” desktop in layout. It is the nicest to look at and has the most features. This is written in Python, an easy-to-maintain high-level scripting language, so it is more resource-intensive than the other two.

Mate is still similar to a “classic” Windows desktop, but fewer features and a bit less clutter.

XFCE is even more simplified, the least resource-intensive, mainly for older or reduced capability computers.

2) Create a bootable Linux Mint USB thumb drive – The idea here isn’t to just copy the ISO file to a USB thumb drive, but rather to unpack and write it to the flash drive using a “raw write” type of program (the USB thumb drive equivalent of a DVD authoring program). This is because the large ISO file contains its own file system, foreign to MS Windows. For Windows you can follow the instructions here for the recommended program “Etcher”.

Once you get this bootable USB thumb drive created, you can use it to boot up into Linux Mint, or additionally run the install wizard once you are booted up into it. Think of this as an Install disc which first boots up into the new OS and allows you to fully test it before you install it.

3) Boot up and evaluate. If it won’t boot up from the USB drive, you may need to press a Function key during bootup (F2, F9, F10, F12, etc, depending on your computer manufacturer) when your BIOS screen is showing, to get into a boot menu. You shouldn’t have to change any of the stored BIOS configuration settings just to boot up off the USB, but on the other hand you may find a setting which is preventing it.

Some things to consider:

There is no risk to your current operating system or hard drive, as long as you don’t run the Install wizard. That is a program you would start from the Linux Mint desktop, once you boot up from the USB thumb drive/Live-DVD session.

It is safe to test the programs which are preinstalled, mainly for the purpose of testing compatibility with your computer hardware. Everything runs off the USB thumb drive and only uses your computer’s RAM (virtual memory) to temporarily store settings. Just be careful with any file, disk or partition management programs (fully compatible with Windows partitions).

Any system settings or programs you customize or change while in the Live Session will be forgotten when you shut it down, as settings are temporarily stored in RAM, not on the hard drive as usual. So wait until you have it properly installed to take the time to really fine tune it.

You will most likely want to enable the network adaptor, using the networking icon to the lower right corner of the screen. Click it and select your internet router from the choices. This is so you can test the networking and programs like Firefox which come preinstalled.