Below is a selection of common questions with answers that may help you if you are new to Ubuntu. Choose a topic from the table of contents or search this page by pressing Ctrl+F in your browser and entering a search term.
Ubuntu and Debian?
What is the relationship between Ubuntu and Debian?
Who or what is Canonical?
Which Ubuntu based distributions are supported by the Ubuntu community?
The following projects are recognized for their immense contributions to the Ubuntu community. See also the official derivatives page.
Kubuntu uses the Ubuntu base and the KDE4 Desktop Environment; it combines ease of use, contemporary functionality, and outstanding graphical design.
Xubuntu uses the Ubuntu base and the Xfce desktop environment; Xubuntu is light, but has enough features for efficient, daily usage. It works well on older hardware too.
Edubuntu provides a customized school environment with an Ubuntu base; though it uses the GNOME desktop environment, it includes applications from both GNOME and KDE by default.
Ubuntu Studio provides an enhanced GNU/Linux application suite for the processing of audio, video and graphics.
Mythbuntu provides a customized Ubuntu version designed for creating a home theatre/MythTV based PVR system.
Ubuntu with the GNOME desktop environment.
Ubuntu localised for China.
Ubuntu that uses LXDE. It works well on older hardware.
Ubuntu Releases and Version Numbers
What is the numbering system of the releases about? What is the next release of Ubuntu?
The version number comes from the year and month of the release; the version names are made by Mark Shuttleworth.
LTS stands for Long Term Support; these versions of Ubuntu are supported for longer than usual - 5 years on the desktop and 5 years on the server. LTS releases before 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) were supported for only 3 years on the Desktop. If you are unsure of the version you are using, go to System > Administration > System Monitor, and go to the System tab or open a terminal and type:
~$ lsb_release -a
A list of development, currently released and past releases can be found at the Releases page on the Ubuntu wiki.
Release announcements are posted on the ubuntu-announce mailing list.
How can I get a copy of Ubuntu?
Copies of Ubuntu can be obtained by downloading the disc images directly from the internet http://www.ubuntu.com/, Internet mirrors and via Bit Torrents.
Orders for delivery can be placed in case of slow Internet connection or bulk deployment.
Install CD's can also be be requested via mail, free of charge. Be aware the requested discs can take as long as 6-8 weeks to arrive at their destination. Ubuntu and Kubuntu uses see here and here respectively. Xubuntu users refer the the Xubuntu home page. Edubuntu uses must request a standard Ubuntu install CD and download from the Internet the edubuntu-desktop package to complete an installation.
How can I verify what I am installing is authentic?
To verify the integrity of the install media, to ensure all is as it should be, one has the option to compare md5sum hashes. See here for instructions on md5sum checks.
What is the difference between the Desktop and the Alternate installation?
The Desktop install CD image contains a graphical installer as well as a live session of Ubuntu, that runs directly off your computer memory and the install media without installing anything to hard-disk. Using the live session installer you have the opportunity to begin using Ubuntu immediately, get an idea of system performance and install if and when ready.
The Alternate CD has an old style, lightweight text-based installer with no Live session available. It also provides you with extra options and configurations not offered by the desktop versions.
What do the DVD images contain?
The Ubuntu DVD is a conjugation of the Alternate and the Desktop CD. At the boot prompt, you can select to either go into the Live session with a graphical install, or do the old classical install.
What methods of installation are there?
Refer to the Ubuntu Community Installation page for complete guides and instructions on different methods of installation.
How do I install things on Ubuntu? Why shouldn't I compile? Why does ./configure give errors?
For the vast majority of applications that you will ever use, you should never need to compile them. Ubuntu provides over 20,000 packages in all of its repositories. Please see the SoftwareManagement (and, specifically the InstallingSoftware sub-category) page for instructions on how to gain those packages, and the CompilingSoftware if you are convinced (after viewing the previous page) that you do indeed need to compile.
Repositories and sources.list
What is a repository? What is the sources.list file?
Repositories are particular locations on the web which contain the thousands of packages (each containing programs, applications, etc) that you would need on your computer. The sources.list file contains the list of all the repositories that will be used to download packages in Synaptic (see SynapticHowto) and APT (see APTPage); it is located in /etc/apt/. Since /etc is the directory for system-wide configurations, you will require root privileges to edit it (see RootSudo).
For a full walk-through on how to add extra repositories please see AddingRepositoriesHowto. For an explanation on the methodology between the different repository components (main, universe etc) please see http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/components.
Can I browse and search the Ubuntu repositories?
You can access the source code of all Ubuntu packages, as well as view which ones are available for a particular release of Ubuntu at http://packages.ubuntu.com.
How can I upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu?
Skipping a release while trying to upgrade (e.g. trying to upgrade to Dapper from Hoary, or from Warty (Ubuntu 4.10) to Breezy), is not supported, except for LTS -> LTS upgrades (eg. Dapper to Hardy).
Administration: Root vs Sudo
I didn't set a root password, what is it? What is sudo?
Ubuntu uses the sudo model for administrator and user actions, in contrast to the traditional user/root bifurcation. Check out the RootSudo page for all the information.
How can I play MP3/Divx/DVDs/Quicktime/Realmedia files or view Flash/Java web pages?
See the RestrictedFormats page.
What is a meta-package? Is it safe to remove the ubuntu-desktop package?
A meta-package is a package that doesn't contain applications within itself, but simply depends upon particular versions of other packages, so that when it is installed, it drags all of them in too. The package manager uses it to know which particular packages to install. For example, the ubuntu-desktop metapackage installs the full GNOME desktop environment, with all the other packages that are in a default Ubuntu install. The existence of meta-packages makes it very easy to install other Ubuntu derivatives on your desktop; see below for more information.
It is technically just fine to remove a meta-package, if required, and this shouldn't necessarily cause any problems. However, it is strongly recommended that you reinstall that package if you decide to manually upgrade to another version of Ubuntu. The package manager requires those packages to be installed for it to successfully perform the upgrade.
A new version of a package I want has been released, but it's not in the repositories. How can I get it?
The stable versions of Ubuntu will only get security updates. This means no new versions of packages. The current development version will get updates until 2 months before release. The last two months are spent solely on improving stability. You may however, be able to find the new package in backports or in 3rd party repositories. Details can be found at UbuntuBackports.
Where can I find out more information on Xgl/Compiz? Can I install Xgl/Compiz on Ubuntu?
Please see CompositeManager for more information and installation instructions.
Problems Booting Ubuntu
I installed Windows (or another Operating System) and now I can't get into Ubuntu!
See the RecoveringUbuntuAfterInstallingWindows page.
What hardware is supported/works on Ubuntu?
How can I view my Windows/Mac partitions from Ubuntu?
Please see AutomaticallyMountPartitions.
How can I get my wireless set up on Ubuntu?
The resolution of my monitor was not detected appropriately, what should I do?
See the FixVideoResolutionHowto page.
I have an AMD64 processor, should I install the i386 ISO or the amd64 one? What are the drawbacks of having an amd64 install?
AMD64 is an officially supported architecture with its respective ISO for Ubuntu and all major Ubuntu derivatives. By installing the amd64 ISO, rather than the i386 (32-bit) ISO, there will be some enhancement in performance.
How do I setup my video card?
Please see the Video page
How do I install ATI/nVidia drivers for my video card?
Please see the BinaryDriverHowto page.
The Ubuntu Community
Getting More Help
Where can I get support from?
The official documentation is at http://help.ubuntu.com.
This wiki start page is here: UserDocumentation.
The forums are at http://ubuntuforums.org.
#ubuntu IRC channel on Freenode. See InternetRelayChat.
See also http://www.ubuntu.com/support.
I think I found a bug, where can I report it?
The Ubuntu bugtracker is at http://www.launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+bugs.
Contributing to Ubuntu
How can I contribute to Ubuntu?