Recently, I tried PCLinuxOS via the "live CD" route. I downloaded the .ISO image of the CDROM and then used Nero to burn the image onto a CDR.
Many Linux versions are distributed as .ISO imagea, but most of these images are just Install Disks. In the case of PCLinuxOS, and a few others like SimplyMepis, the CD image is actually a bootable, runnable version of Linux. That’s right. You can download it for free. You can burn it to a CD. You can boot your computer from the CD. And, you can see what PCLinux is like without ever installing it on your computer.
As I played with it some more, I discovered something that I had missed when I first tried it. PCLinuxOS will start booting and then will stop at a menu that gives the user a number of choices. Like many boot menus, though, this one is on a timer — if you don’t respond in time (and I didn’t, since I had started the boot and walked away), it selects the default and runs PCLinux from the CD.
I mentioned last week that running any kind of OS from a CD is s l o w. There’s a much faster option, though. On the menu, you get the option to load PCLinuxOS into your computer’s RAM and run it from there. You’re not installing it on your hard drive. Effectively, you’d have a much faster system with a solid state hard drive, at least until you reboot.
PCLinuxOS was amazing and blazing running from memory on my notebook (a three-year-old 1.7GHz Pentium M). After using it for a couple hours, I took the plunge…
PCLinuxOS, like most Linux versions, assumes that you will probably be installing it on a computer that currently runs Windows. Of course, you get a choice to use the entire hard drive, but it also has a wizard that handles shrinking a Windows partition to make room for the main Linux partition and the swap partition that Linux needs (similar in funciton to the swap file that Windows uses).
While I could have followed the wizard through the process, I had done a little Google searching first, looking for how to resize an NTFS partition (they type that Windows XP usually uses). I probably would have done the resizing myself using Partition Magic as I used to, except that I found I had not reinstalled Partition Magic after last year’s hard drive failure.
The Google searching turned up, not just information on resizing NTFS using Linux, but I found a perfect article at PCLinuxOS Magazine. I found an article that walked me though the installation step-by-step: Installing PCLinuxOS on a Windows XP hard drive.
The installation went very smoothly. I chose to set up an 8 GB partition for PCLinuxOS. The wizard shrunk my Windows data partition which I had as D: drive (it let me choose between my C: and my D: drives). Then, it created and formatted the newly-freed space to be my new Linux partition.
I was also able to choose which of the Linux boot manager programs I wanted to use — GRUB or LILO. I chose LILO, since I’ve had more experience with it.
Now, when I boot my computer, the first thing that comes up is the LILO boot menu, which lets me choose between booting PCLinuxOS and booting Windows XP Professional.