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GQ-08: How To Migrate from Windows to Linux

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GQ-08: How To Migrate from Windows to Linux


OK, this is it. I've been meaning to, and now I've finally gone and done it. The definitive guide, remember that as you rip this to shreds.


Prep Work


This guide was made under the assumption that the people reading this are solely Windows XP users who want to switch to or try out the Gnu/Linux operating system (OS). All this means is that the instructions are XP-cific. Heh, I made a funny. The users of other Windows OSes can still follow and generally be guided in the right direction.

The first thing to do is to get some info on your system's innards.

  • Boot up into Windows. When you're finally logged in and on the desktop find the My Computer icon.
  • Right-click the My Computer icon and from the menu that pops up select Properties (on the bottom).
  • When the System Properties window pops up click on the Hardware tab and then the Device Manager button.
    You should now see a tree view of all the hardware that is recognized by the OS.
  • Write down the name and model of the
    • Video Card
      Sound Card
      Modem/Ethernet Card
      Monitor - You should also have/get the horizontal and vertical frequencies of your monitor (available in user manual) although you may not need it.
      Any hardware you stuck in there. e.g. TV Card.

  • Now I've heard that you should defrag your hard drive because unless you have a second, you'll have to partition your drive. I usually skip the defragger and just use Partition Magic. There are also other alternatives (more on this later).
    If you choose to defrag, depending on the size of your hard drive, you'll have a (long) while to wait.
  • After you finish defragging do it again. This is just because the provided Windows app never does it totally properly the first time. Speaking of the defragger it can be found in the Start Menu at All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter

Obtaining Linux


If you have a dial-up connection I suggest you buy or borrow a copy from someone.

If you have high speed Internet access and a CD burner you may download ISO files which can then be burned as CDs. As always I recommend starting with Mandrake Linux because its easy to install and use (and looks good). Redhat and SuSE are other downloadable options.

If you like it after you try, then by all means buy a boxed copy when you see it in a store. Boxed versions have more software than is available for downloabable edition,come with support and for good documentation (in the case of Mandrake and SuSE). I've never bought a boxed Redhat product :-/ Let's recap.


  • If you can afford it, get thee a new hard drive. A 20 gig 5400 rpm Hard Drive probably is around $40 now. It's pretty cheap.
  • If you can't afford it then you'll have to repartition. If you use Mandrake (MDK), they have a partition app that works with NTFS and FAT32 formatted disks. Be careful however. Defrag then back up all essential data. Shit can still happen.
    There are also commercial and free partition resizing programs available. The best IMO is Partition Magic, but there is also the Ranish Partition Manager, which is free.
  • Set aside at least 1 gig for Linux, 2 if possible, 5 at best.
  • If you can get that 20 gig HD I'd recommend 9.x gigs for Linux and 10 for a FAT32 formatted disk (you actually only get 19.something gigs from a 20 GB HD).
    The FAT32 partition is for stuff like Documents, Movies and Music to share between Windows and Linux. You see, Linux can see Windows data but Windows can't see stuff in Linux, (it's just not that advanced, and 'cuz windows sucks!)

Installing Linux

  • If your computer is old, you may need to go into the BIOS and enable the computer to boot from a CD-ROM first (as in before anything else). The motherboard/computer manual should tell you how to do this. In case you've lost it, the manuals are usually available online as well.
  • Pop the burnt CD into the CD drive and wait for the magic to happen. On the MDK CD1 are webpages walking you through the install process. You can view these in Internet Exploder (IE), or a proper browser like Netscape, Mozilla or Opera.
  • Once you've started the install just read carefully and follow the instructions. The installer will ask for confirmation before making any earth shattering changes to your PC.
  • Don't bypass adding a normal user account and password for that account, even if you don't want to have to type it in everytime you log on. That would kind of defeat the whole security aspect of Linux. You can always select to automatically log in when booting up, thereby bypassing the log in screen, but those not physically on your computer will have a hard time getting in without that :)
    Also don't forget to add a root user password.



This is the fun part! I guess I could've called it "Gettin' the hell outta Dogde!" but I thought that was a bit much. Now that you've used Linux and fell in love with it you'll eventually stop using Windows and want to get rid of it (after all it's taking up valuable mp3 space). Let the migration begin.

  • Once in Linux you can set it up to migrate a lot of (or a little of, or all of, depending on what you have) your important data from Windows. You'll have to be able to read data from your Windows partition. MDK 9 and above will be able to set this up automatically.
  • To learn how to do it manually drop by mandrakeusers.org and use the search button :P It's been asked a couple of times. Also it may be in the mandrakeusers.org faq section now.


  • Practically all major Linux browsers are capable of importing IE bookmarks (Opera, Konqueror, Mozilla).
    The IE bookmarks for XP, 2000 can be found in:
    C:Documents and Settings%username%Favorites
  • If you were using Mozilla, Netscape or Opera in Windows the bookmark files can just be copied to your $HOME directory where $HOME=/home/name_of_user.
    Linux doesn't have Program Files directories instead it has hidden directories where these files are usually stored. These directories have a . before them. e.g. The mozilla directory is

.:.Address Book.:.


It is possible to copy your address book info to Linux. Both Kmail and Evolution are able to do this. To my knowledge KMail (which is a part of KDE) does it better.

Kmail can import from Outlook Express 4 and 5 folders, Eudora's address book and MS Exchange PABs, while Evolution AFAIK can import Outlook Express 4 .mbx files.



Programs, Programs, Programs


Now that you've copied those .doc, .ppt and other files you'll probably need to need to open and edit or at least look at them sometime. Linux has multiple solutions to this problem.

I've found out that there's already a site that does this so I'll link it but give my list too anyways. I spent too much time makin' it look pretty to just let it go like that!

Anyhoo, I'll list the main ones that I use here. Feel free to e-mail to get a prog added to my list. Oh yeah, and just because something isn't on my list doesn't mean that there isn't a Linux analog. It just means I don't know about or use it.

And now, without further ado, THE LIST:

Office Software

Staroffice/OpenOffice (OO.o) Microsoft Office

OO.o Writer  Word

OO.o Presenter  PowerPoint

OO.o Adabas D  Access

OO.o Calc  Excel

Kmail/Sylpheed  Outlook Express/Eudora

Kontact/Evolution  Outlook

Kmail/Evolution  Exchange

Quanta 3.2  Frontpage

Dia  Visio


Audio Player

XMMS    Winamp 2.xx

juK  Windows Media Player (WMP)/RealOne

RealOne/Realplayer  RealOne

Amarok  Winamp

Zinf  WMP/RealOne

and much  much more


Instant Messaging

GAim/Kopete    All in one Messengers, eg. Trillian

Gaim/Kopete  Aim

aMSN/Kmerlin  MSN messenger

Gaim/Kopete/Licq  ICQ

Gaim  Yahoo Messenger



Webbrowser Plugins

Mozplugger  Active X plugins

Flash  Flash

Adobe Acrobat  Adobe Acrobat

Real  Real

Not yet  Shockwave

Video Players

Xine/Mplayer/Ogle  WinDVD

Xine/Mplayer  Quicktime

Xine/Mplayer, et al  DivX Player/WMP


Graphics, 3D Renderers

Blender    Bryce

Gimp/Gimp 1.3  Photoshop/Paintshop Pro


Web Browsers

Mozilla/Opera    Browsers w/ Integrated Mail

Mozilla  Internet Exploder (IE)

Konqueror  IE

Opera  IE

Mozilla  Netscape



IRC clients

XChat/KSirc/Konversation  Mirc

FTP clients

Gftp/Kbear  CuteFtp/WS_ftp/

FTP Servers

Pure-ftpd/Proftpd  War FTP

Web Servers

Apache/Apache2  Nuff Said




Yeah I know, it's a shameless plug.

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