How to install Linux Mint on a PC

Here are the steps I took to install Linux Mint on a PC (ThinkPad X200T), with assistance from my MacBook.

Note: You’ll need a USB stick.

Get a Linux Mint disk image

First, get a Linux Mint disk image, which includes a bootable version of the operating system and the OS installer.

You can get a disk image on the Linux Mint download page. Here you’ll decide which desktop environment you want to use. I didn’t think about this too much and went with Cinnamon. You’ll also have to figure out whether your PC runs a 32 or 64 bit processor.

The disk image is about 1.5 gigabytes, so downloading in the browser may take a while. I used the torrent download and got it in about 5 minutes.

You should now have a disk image file on your computer that resembles the filename “linuxmint-18-cinnamon-64bit.iso”. The exact name will depend on the version number, desktop environment and PC processor architecture.

Mount the disk image on the USB stick

Plug the USB stick into your computer. First we’ll format the drive so a PC can read it. On a Mac open Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select the USB drive, and click the Erase button. Under Format, select MS-DOS (FAT), and then click Erase.

To mount the ISO image on the USB stick, I use UNetbootin. Download the application and open it. A dialog box will pop up saying”osascript wants to make changes” and ask for an administrator password. Fill it out and continue.

UNetbootin can download a Linux distribution itself, or you can supply a disk image to mount. Since we downloaded one, select the second option and show it where the disk image file is on your computer.

Make sure the right USB drive is selected for mounting, and click OK. The mount process takes about 3 minutes. Afterwards, you can look at the content of the USB drive and see all the files that make up the Linux Mint trial/installer disk.

You can eject the USB and put your Mac away, we won’t need it anymore.

Give USB drive priority boot order

You may need to configure the PC’s BIOS to boot from a USB drive before the hard drive. Otherwise, the system ignores the USB and boots from the hard drive. On my ThinkPad X200T, I press the ThinkVintage button at startup and enter the BIOS setup utility. Then select Startup > Boot, and move the USB drives to the top of boot priority order.

Now, whenever I insert a bootable USB stick, it will load first.

Boot Linux Mint from USB

Plug the USB stick into your PC and restart the computer.

A UNetbootin boot menu will display. Select Start Linux Mint, which boots the OS. This hasn’t installed anything yet, the operating system is just booting from the USB. You can poke around this “trial mode” of the system and see if this is what you really want.

Install Linux Mint

On the Desktop of the booted-from-USB Linux Mint, click the Install Linux Mint icon. This opens an install wizard which should be straight-forward. I check off the “Install third-party software for graphics etc.” I select “Erase disk and install Linux Mint” because it’s all I want on this computer.

Let the installer run. Afterwards, reboot the computer, remove the USB and voila! You are a Linux user. Have fun!

A few extra niceties

Install drivers and multimedia codecs

When you start Linux Mint, a Welcome Screen opens that includes links to install drivers and multimedia codecs. Do both of these tasks if you want to have a good time.

Install Chrome

Install and use Chrome on Linux if you ever want to watch Netflix and chill again.

Disable annoying system beeps

My computer woke me up at 4am making a horrifying sound because it was low on battery. I have a hard time just watching scary movies so this was terrifying.

Disabling the beeps will depend on what computer and BIOS you have. On my ThinkPad X200T, I press the ThinkVintage button at startup and enter the BIOS setup utility. Then select Config > Beep and Alarm and disable all.

Don’t dual-boot Linux on your Mac

I have configured my Mac to dual-boot with Linux. When I turn my computer on I can choose to enter the Linux operating system or Mac OS X.

Having gone through this process, I would now suggest against it.

Most folks who run linux on a desktop only run the one operating system on the computer and don’t dual-boot. If you configure a Mac for dual-boot, you are the exceptional use-case in the Linux community.

If you want to learn to ride a bike, would you buy a pennyfarthing? I’d guess not. Most likely you would get the common bike design of today, the safety bicycle. If you ride a pennyfarthing in 2016, you are an exceptional use-case. Your friends don’t ride pennyfarthings so you can’t share riding tips with them and benefit from theirs. Bike shops don’t have the know-how to repair it. Drivers may not understand how to drive safely around your contraption of antiquity.

When you are the exceptional use-case, you don’t benefit from network effect. When you are the common use-case, answers to your problems are quick to find.

Here is what sucks:

I just bought a ThinkPad X200, which is a $150 laptop that can run 100% free software. I’ll install GNU-linux on it. The X200 with Libreboot pre-installed is one of three laptops that are certified by the Free Software Foundation (basically Richard Stallman). More soon!

Update (August 4th 2016): Turns out installing Libreboot is very hard. I’ll stick with an un-free BIOS until I’ve met someone else who’s installed it.