Linux Mint – Creating Boot Media and Installing Linux Mint

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During the installation process, you’ll need to make various decisions about how to configure your system. These decisions might include determining your partitioning scheme and deciding whether or not to encrypt your home folder. Linux Mint, like most distributions, offers several ways in which you can configure it during installation. Mint can be installed on your hard drive by replacing the operating system that came with your computer, or it can be installed alongside existing operating systems or even on USB flash drives and virtual machines. In fact, Linux Mint can be used from bootable media (such as a DVD or flash drive) without wiping your hard drive. In this chapter, we’ll go through most of the common installation scenarios and best practices. By the end of this chapter, you’ll have your very own Linux Mint installation that you’ll use to follow along with the remainder of the tutorial.

In this chapter, we will discuss the following topics:

  • Which version to download
  • The different methods of installing Linux Mint
  • Creating a bootable DVD
  • Creating a bootable USB flash drive
  • Testing out your live media
  • Planning your partitioning scheme
  • The installation process
  • To encrypt or not to encrypt

Which version to download

As mentioned in Chapter 1, Meet Linux Mint, there are several versions (or spins) of Linux Mint. The primary difference is that each version features a different primary user interface (Cinnamon, MATE, KDE, and Xfce), but the differences don’t stop there. The preinstalled applications also differ a bit between them.

Before you decide which spin to download, the first decision you should make is whether or not to install the 32-bit or 64-bit version. As a general rule, you should choose the 64-bit version if you have 4 GB or more of RAM. Considering that almost all computers sold at the time of writing this tutorial shipped with 4 GB or more of RAM, the majority of readers should download the 64-bit edition. If you have an older computer with less than 4 GB of RAM and you have no intention of upgrading beyond 4 GB later, go with the 32-bit version of Mint. The version you choose will not impact your ability to follow along with this tutorial in any way whatsoever.


The general accepted benefit of a 64-bit distribution is that it is able to support 4 GB or more of RAM. However, there is a work-around that supports more than 4 GB of RAM even in 32-bit distributions, though it is beyond the scope of this tutorial. For now, just choose the 64-bit version unless you have an older machine.

After deciding on which architecture to download, the next decision is which spin to use. The recommended version of Mint to be downloaded in order to follow along with this tutorial is the Cinnamon edition, which is the closest thing to a default that Mint has among its different spins. However, most of the chapters will still be compatible with the other versions. What follows is a brief description of the different editions of the Linux machine.

The Linux Mint KDE edition

The KDE edition features the K Desktop Environment ( KDE) instead of Cinnamon. KDE is considered to be a more Windows-like environment, though it has evolved quite a bit over the years and has taken on a look and feel of its own. KDE is one of the most customizable user interfaces available for Linux, thus allowing the user so much control that some may find it intimidating. For example, you are able to customize the desktop by adding various widgets ( Plasmoids) in any number of combinations to create a desktop that is truly unique. KDE at one point was considered bloated and slow, but nowadays, it runs well even on modest hardware.

The KDE edition features some applications, such as Amarok (the music player), Dolphin (the file manager), and Ktorrent (the BitTorrent client), that are not installed by default in other spins. The following screenshot shows the desktop of the KDE edition:

The desktop of the KDE edition

The Linux Mint Xfce edition

This edition features the Xfce desktop environment, which is geared primarily toward those with older hardware. The system resources needed to run the Xfce environment are less than any other version of Mint. Additionally, even those with powerful hardware may run the Xfce spin in order to benefit from as little software overhead as possible. The Xfce edition largely features the same software selection as other spins, but the Thunar file manager and the Whisker application’s menu are the noticeable differences. The following screenshot shows the desktop of the Xfce edition:

The desktop of the Xfce edition

The Linux Mint MATE edition

The MATE edition (pronounced Mah-Tay) is similar to the Xfce edition in the sense that it’s geared toward those with older systems or those that just want an environment that runs lighter, though it’s not quite as light as the Xfce edition. The MATE desktop environment is a fork of the older GNOME 2 desktop and is for those who are not impressed with the newer GNOME 3 desktop. The MATE desktop environment appears functionally similar to the Cinnamon edition.

The Linux Mint Cinnamon edition

Linux Mint Cinnamon is the recommended edition for use with this tutorial. In fact, the following chapter is dedicated to it. Cinnamon is a full-featured desktop environment that runs fast and is full of exciting features. Like the other versions, it includes everything you need to be productive right away. Cinnamon is a visually appealing environment that is easy to learn and use. For quite some time, Cinnamon has largely been exclusive to Mint, though this environment has since made its way to other distributions of Linux as well. Don’t let my recommendation of the Cinnamon edition of Mint stop you from trying the other spins. One of the things that makes Linux so amazing is the number of choices it gives you. If you have the time, check out the other spins as well. One of the most important milestones for a new Linux user is discovering which desktop environment you prefer.

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