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Downloading a Linux Distro - Links and Guidance

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

Are you interested in Linux, but don't want to purchase Compact Discs (CD's) or Digital Video Discs (DVD's)? Learn how to download Linux operating system files to create your own installation CD's or DVD's. Using these methods you'll be able to obtain a free distro the day you decide to try it.

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    Learning how to download Linux operating system files is not complicated; however, you'll want to become familiar with some terms you may not have heard before. You'll also need to know how to determine if such a task is feasible for you. The number of people interested in a partial or full switch to Linux is growing each year. Although many choose to purchase Compact Discs (CD's) or Digital Video Discs (DVD's), some prefer to download distros that interest them.

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    Deciding When to Download

    As many Linux distros can be downloaded free of charge, why would anyone purchase CD's or DVD's? The short and simple answer is that they may not be able to download the distro of their choice. Some flavors (distros) are very large such as Debian, while others are much smaller in size, Puppy Linux for example. If you have a Pentium III, with a speed of 500MHz and a dial-up connection, downloading a large distro isn't very feasible. Purchasing economical installation disks often proves to be the wiser choice. DiscountLinuxDVD.com sells most CD's containing distros for only $0.99 and DVD's for $1.99. Shipping is fast and the customer service is professional.

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    If you have a Pentium IV with a speed of 2.0GHz and a cable Internet connection, downloading even a large distro is manageable. It also gives you the advantage of not having to wait for CD's or DVD's to arrive. The download of Linux operating system files for a small distro such as Tiny Core (approximately 10MB) or even Puppy (approximately 100MB) can be done with slower Internet connections.

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    The Popular Downloads

    Some flavors of Linux are much more popular than others; consequently, they're frequently downloaded. Fedora, Debian, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, Mandriva, and DSL are all well-known and widely used distributions. The links to download them are found at the official web sites: FedoraProject.org, Debian.org, OpenSUSE.org, Ubuntu.com, Mandriva.com, and DamnSmallLinux.org.

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    If you would like to download Linux operating system files for a distribution not mentioned in this article, the concept is the same. You'll consider what kind of Internet connection you have, and the strength and speed of your computer. The web site of the distro can be located via a Google search.

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    New Download Vocabulary and Other Considerations

    Clicking on the download link for your distro may bring you to a page where you see vocabulary with which you're not familiar. Terms such as "BitTorrent," "mirror site," and "jigdo" may appear interspersed with your download options. You don't need a full understanding of these terms to successfully download Linux operating system files. However, a very general overview is always helpful. Basically, bit torrent is an open source protocol used primarily for downloading very large and heavily requested files over the Internet. In summary, it manages the upload and download of files simultaneously among numerous client computers so that the work of serving files is "shared" among those clients.

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    You probably won't see the term "jigdo" unless you download Debian. Jigdo was designed to accelerate downloads by using several mirror sites. Because of the high demands placed on servers holding the files of popular distros, the costs of bandwidth may rise considerably. Also, the servers may simply be unable to efficiently serve all of the client computers requesting the files. The use of BitTorrent is a solution for such problems. You may also be suggested to download from a mirror site closest to your geographical location. Again, this is another means of reducing the demands placed on servers holding the files. Some mirror sites are reliable, others are not. If there's a problem with the mirror nearest my location, I simply choose another.

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    Also, keep in mind that the same Linux distro may be available in more than one version. Some downloads will give you only the GNOME desktop, while others are for the K Desktop Environment (KDE). Most Personal Computer (PC) users will choose the files for an i386 platform, but remember there may also be another version for an x86-64 bit platform. Fedora is even available for the Power PC and will let you choose to download for the creation of CD's or DVD's. This is why it's a good idea to pay attention to what you choose to download.