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A Beginner's Guide to the Puppy Linux Operating System

written by: Sam OBrien•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/2/2010

Puppy, a very small, free operating system based on the Linux kernel, is gaining popularity among PC users. Learn why in this beginner's guide to Puppy.

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    This beginner's guide to Puppy will introduce you to the computing power of a small, but robust operating system based on GNU Linux. Many Microsoft Windows users are still apprehensive about working with Linux. The truth, however, is that Linux is no longer an operating system for programmers. Everyday, desktop PC users rely on Puppy for all of their computing tasks. In fact, it is sometimes more automated than Windows. Nevertheless, it will take a little time to become accustomed to its differences. Remember, different doesn't mean inferior or difficult.

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    Unlike Windows which is distinguished by various versions released, Linux is distinguished by various distributions, also known as "flavors" or "distros." Puppy is just one of literally hundreds of distributions. It is a very small operating system of approximately 100MB designed by Barry Kauler, who envisioned a system that would operate on a wide range of hardware from legacy to the latest releases. According to the reviews of Puppy, he has achieved his goal.

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    How To Obtain Puppy Linux

    Puppy Linux is open source software; this means that one method of legally obtaining it is to download it free of charge. Even a dial-up connection that is high speed can handle the download. You can simply visit the official site at and click on "Download Puppy." You will then see the option to go the ftp site or to the http site where you'll see a long list of files. Preferably choose the ftp site. Look for one that is named "puppy-4.3.1." It's very important to choose this exact file rather than the earlier "puppy-4.3" due to the bugs that have been fixed. It will be a folder on which you'll click to be taken to another shorter list of files. Choose the one that is named "pup-431.iso." You will know you have the correct file because the size indicated will be 107,464 KB.

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    Once the download is complete, you'll need to burn the iso file onto a disk, preferably a CD/R or CD/RW as the storage capacity of a DVD isn't needed. If you would prefer the convenience of a pre-made disc, you may purchase the latest version of Puppy Linux from for only $0.99. Purchases are secure and orders are promptly shipped.

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    Why Give Puppy Linux A Try?

    There are reasons why Puppy Linux is the distribution of choice for many people. Those who still have legacy computers can now give them new life through this tiny system. I did a full install of Puppy version 4.1.2 onto the 2GB local disk of a Compaq DeskPro Pentium MMX which revived what's now considered an archaic PC. This was after successfully running the distro on-the-fly several times to test how it would perform. The system was stable, the mouse, keyboard, monitor, and modem (controller-based) were all promptly and correctly detected. All programs functioned without problems and computing was quite fast on this old system.

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    A Beginner's Guide to Puppy Linux Cont.A beginner's guide to Puppy Linux answers the questions of whether this distribution is useful for meeting the computing needs of the average PC user and walks a newbie through his first experience with this operating system.
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    This beginner's guide to Puppy also focuses on the versatility of this amazing operating system as it's truly an advantage. It's actually portable because it can be used on practically any PC anywhere that can boot from an optical or USB drive. This gives you the power to take your operating system with you without having to take your computer.

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    Again, Puppy is extremely small in file size making it possible for dial-up users to download it. The entire system can be stored on low storage capacity USB drives (some are still around). It takes between 5 and 15 minutes approximately to set up to run on-the-fly and not much longer if you decide to do a frugal or full install onto the local drive.

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    Is Puppy Linux A Useful Operating System?

    This is a question that should be answered based on individual need. What is useful to one user may not be for another which is why there are so many flavors of Linux. However, Puppy comes bundled with a host of powerful software programs for ordinary and highly technical tasks.

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    There's a wizard to get you connected to the Internet via an analog dial-up modem, wireless network, DSL, or cable. AbiWord is there to handle the most intense word processing needs and has the capability of saving in the .doc format for compatibility with MS Word. The feature-rich browser, SeaMonkey allows you to bookmark your favorite web pages, view source code, manage downloads, open multiple web pages in one window as tabs, has an error and java console for web developers, and even a built-in composer (wysiwyg html editor). SeaMonkey also has a feature-rich email client. There's graphical management for CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) used to easily install, configure and manage local and networked printers.

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    CD and DVD burning software is included for ripping your music and videos. You have free image editing software, called mtPaint, but you may easily download and automatically install the GIMP if you choose. The ability to take screen shots, see and manage system processes, open and work with popular file formats, and even network are all easily accomplished with Puppy Linux.

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    Running Puppy Linux For The First Time

    Barry Kauler essentially programmed his beginner's guide to Puppy into the operating system itself which was designed to run "on-the-fly" (without installation). This provides the advantage of trying this small flavor of Linux without threatening any other operating system you may already have installed.