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Windows to Linux Mint

Get two blank flash sticks 4GB or larger

You need two blank USB flash sticks. One is for saving your files. The other is for the Linux Mint installer which you will download. I suggest 4GB capacity each as a minimum and, if you can afford it, get one of them much bigger than that.

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The first task is to save everything you want to keep. The process of installing a new operating system loses everything on your computer so take this step very seriously. Use the larger of your two flash sticks and identify it as your Windows backup stick. Don't worry that the files will be saved in a Windows file format. Linux Mint can read all Windows file formats.

Copy all your private folders: Documents, Photos, Music etc

Copy all of your private top level folders to the flash stick, usually by just dragging and dropping them. Don't copy any system files or any files in directories whose names start with "Windows".

Record all licence keys and account settings

Create a simple text file or Word file and use it to make a note of all of your licence keys and any other special information for the programs you use. You may first want to check that those programs are available on Linux Mint. Also make a note of all your account settings for connecting to the Internet and to your email server. Save the file to the flash stick.

Save internet favourites/bookmarks

Go into your web browser (possibly Internet Explorer) and export your favourites or bookmarks. If given the option, save them as a "CSV" file.

Save email addresses

Go into your email program (possibly Outlook Express). Click on your address book then export all of your email address folders. Again, if given the option, export them as "CSV" files because they are most likely to be importable. Save the files to your flash stick.

Is there anything else to save?

Have a hunt around your favourite programs to see whether they have anything you might want to keep that can be exported.

Have a hunt around your computer to check there isn't anything you might have missed. For example, you may have some files saved directly on the desktop.

You should also consider doing a separate complete disk image backup in case everything goes wrong. Then you can at least get back to square one.

Eject the flash stick and insert the other one

When you are sure you have saved everything you want to keep, remove the flash stick, remembering to click on Eject first to prevent data corruption.

Insert the smaller flash stick. This will be used as a bootable drive for Linux Mint. Don't worry, when you have finished, you will boot from the hard drive on your computer as normal. Booting from a flash stick is just part of the process of changing operating systems.

Download Linux Mint installation file

Download Linux Mint. At the time of writing, you get it from https://linuxmint.com/download.php. If you don't know which desktop edition then you certainly want the one called Cinnamon. If you don't know whether you want 32-bit or 64-bit, Look on your computer for folders called "Program files". If one of them is Program Files (x86), you want the 64-bit version, otherwise the 32-bit version. This is a ".iso" image file which means that your computer can boot (start) from it instead of launching Windows.

Make the flash stick a bootable Linux Mint image

The Linux .iso file must be written to the flash stick as a disk image. Unfortunately, you probably need to download an app/program to do this in Windows such as Rufus, but it is free.

Note how to get the boot menu on your computer

Find out how to get "boot options" or "boot menu" when your computer is started. The easiest way is to google search using your computer's make and model name followed by "boot menu". Typically there is a key to press at start up such as F12. Some other computers have a special mini button hidden away near where the power lead connects.

Shut down completely then start with boot menu

Shut down your computer with the Linux Mint flash stick still in place. Give it time and make sure it has completely shut down. Switch back on doing whatever is needed to get the boot menu. If this works, from the boot options select the option that mentions USB or flash drive. Definitely don't select Windows. It should now launch from the flash stick in Linux Mint. If so, skip the next paragraph.

If you have to, alter the BIOS

On some computers, the manufacturer has made it difficult for you to launch anything but Windows. If you could not get the boot menu, yours is one of them. You need to access the BIOS. If you don't know how, google search using your computer's make and model name followed by "access the BIOS". As with the boot menu, it may involve function keys or a special hidden button. Once you have got into the BIOS, make sure the option to show boot menu is enabled. You also need to disable "secure boot". If it won't let you change it to "disable", its usually because the BIOS is not password protected. Usually just above the "secure boot" line will be another option that lets you enter a password to protect BIOS access. Do this but make sure you use a password you won't forget. I suggest your compter's make for example (Acer, Dell, Lenovo etc). You may have to save & exit and reboot before you can disable "secure boot". Now go back to the previous paragraph.

Check you really want to change!

You can practice using Linux Mint with it running from the flash stick though this is not a good way to keep your options open indefinitely. Click the "menu" button at bottom left to see what software comes as standard. In the left column, one down from the top usually, is the button for the software manager. Click that and see the many other programs that are either pre-installed or can be installed easily.

Take the plunge: Install Linux Mint

When you are sure you have all your old data backed up and you really want to change:

Eject and remove flash stick

That should be it. Remove the flash stick before restarting the computer and it should boot up in Linux Mint from the hard drive.

Recover your backed up data

Insert your backup stick and copy the files over to your new home directory.

If you used to use Windows programs for internet and email, I suggest using Firefox (usually pre-installed) for Internet access and Thunderbird (install via the software manager mentioned earlier) for email. However, there are other choices for both functions.

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