I want to learn a bit more about linux and cant decide on ubuntu or debian. I know know Wendell has mentioned Debian in a recent video, and Ubuntu looks more "plug and play" then other distros. I just need help on picking which one, I plan on using the latest stable version for either one.
As for dual booting, I am looking at keeping windows installed. So when cases of I have to get something done happen, I have a familier ground to get it done. I have looked at the official Ubuntu documentation, and i am slightly confused. It states the best order is to do a fresh windows install and partion the drive with room for ubuntu then install ubuntu. Will this work for other distros, and will it auto configure the boot loader for the drive, or is there more steps involved?
If you plan to go the stable version route, then Ubuntu has a more recent kernel which means better performance and hardware support. On the other hand, Ubuntu does some shady stuff like sending your Unity searches to amazon, and me personally I've had the most bugs with Ubuntu out of all the distros (might just be me and an isolated incident). Seeing how your hardware is pretty old, my personal suggestion is Debian.
Ubuntu is pretty different from most distros because it is managed by a company, and not the community. They're also the only distro that uses Unity as a Desktop Environment. They're very newbie friendly, yes, that is true, but I don't believe that Ubuntu is representative of the general linux experience. My first linux distro was Ubuntu, and I really hated it, but it might be a good stepping stone for you.
As for dual booting. You need to have Windows installed first because Windows doesn't care about other operating systems and makes other bootloaders non-functional. So install Windows, make a partition for whatever linux distro you prefer, then install it. Ubuntu uses grub2 as a bootloader by default, grub will automatically detect Windows and make sure you can also load Windows by chainloading its proprietary bootloader. In most cases there's no fiddling involved from the user.
Xubuntu is similar to Ubuntu, but without the shady Amazon/Canonical spying on the user and has an interface that is more traditional.
I'm new to Linux. Installed Ubuntu, found out it was spying on me, then installed Xubuntu instead. The installation was just as easy. If you run into problems you can't solve, people here can help you.
Try it. Most of teh documentation RE:Ubuntu would apply to Xubuntu. I currently run elementary OS because it looks like my Mac.
TIP: make sure you backup your data on a separate drive or something before you install a new OS.
Best is to buy a cheap SSD, and install linux on that. I would really advise against putting windows and linux partitions on the same physical storage device in a multi-boot configuration, for the many reasons I've explained many times before.
A 64-128 GB SSD is super cheap these days, and offers plenty of space for a complete linux environment.
If you put your bootloader (GRUB for instance) on the SSD, the "windows HDD" remains completely untouched, and removing the SSD will give you a standard Windows boot. Adding the SSD and letting the system boot from that, will offer you the multi-boot menu, letting you pick what you want to boot into.
The advantage is that you can still do full windows restores and upgrades, by just disconnecting the SSD from the system. If you perform any system maintenance in windows, it will always destroy your linux install if that is on the same physical storage device, so it's best to disconnect the SSD before doing any system maintenance in Windows.
When learning Linux I recommend doing a little bit of reading into Unix. While Linux is not Unix much of the philosophy of how it works is the same.
I run anything interesting in a VM... Virtualbox and VMware.
After that I run it native if I like it on a USB drive Super easy to do.
Setup a virtualbox with the install ISO you like. NO hard drive !.
boot the VM and add the USB stick using a USB2 port. When it hits the the hard drive step a USB stick wil be fine with enough space.
I have been using a 32G USB3 stick and for the install its on a USB2 port so VirtualBox see's it. When its installed I close the VM and move the stick to a USB3 port to test out.
Liked Elementary OS a lot the last few days. Kicks Unity in the ass all over. Like all linux needs work.
I personally use Debian for most of my projects, it's clean, run down, plug'n'play, and fast. I'm not hating Ubuntu completely love the 64 bit Server version they have. Used it many times. I agree with Marten using a VM is a great way to experiment and find what you want. You could even host multiple versions of Linux. If you have a dual monitor you could watch a movie or the Tek while messing around with Linux in the VM.
this is how I want to due it, but with other things going on I can't right now. If I use the same physical drive what would I have to keep in mind. I do have 2 mechanical drives on in the system as well, but I do not think I could get the data on one at the moment, and if I can do it how much would be reccommened as a minimum for linux.
Would it be possible to use a usb drive to load the bootloader to so when I set up the dual boot it would be the "key" to load linux. since removing a drive every time I want to boot to windows would be difficult every time I need windows.
I thought about this route but, untill I learn a bit more about how linux works, and can get things done with little to no help from guides, this would be impractical for me at the moment.