I’ve had a lot of people ask me lately to help them with something because they “don’t have Linux”. I always have to ask, how can you NOT have Linux when virtually every Linux distribution is FREE? Most of us geeks realize that the average computer user is scared of the unknown. Average users aren’t interested in partitioning their drives. A common myth is that you’ll lose your windows installation. The past few weeks I find myself constantly pointing people to WUBI, so alas, a blog post with a bit of explanation.
When I hear these sorts of things, I point people to WUBI. Wubi is not a Linux distribution of its own, but rather an installer for Ubuntu Linux that installs under windows, without formatting or partitioning your hard drive. It also uninstalls just like any other windows program. So basically if you can install Yahoo messenger, you can install Linux.
Once installed, reboot your machine and you will be presented with a boot menu that lets you choose your Windows installation or Ubuntu. It runs Ubuntu not as a virtual machine, but creates a stand alone installation on a disk image stored on your windows file system. The only serious limitation of running Ubuntu in this manner is the lack of hibernation support.
A side note from Wikipedia:
While Wubi does not install Ubuntu directly to its own partition this can also be accomplished by using LVPM, the Loopmounted Virtual Partition Manager, to transfer the Wubi-generated Ubuntu installation to a dedicated real partition, including a bootable USB keydrive. The advantage of this setup is that users can test the operating system and install the drivers before they install it to a dedicated partition (and avoid booting and functioning risks).