Switching to Ubuntu can be a slow process. The whole process - from the day you start thinking about Ubuntu to the day you get rid of your old operating system - can take two or four years. This guide will discuss some of the issues you will face along the way. Other pages discuss issues faced specifically when migrating from Windows, Mac OS X, or another Linux distribution.
Switching to Ubuntu can be hard work at times, and not everyone makes it. But even if you don't complete your switch, you'll learn a lot from the attempt.
Strategies for approaching Ubuntu
The process of switching to Ubuntu pivots around install day - the day you put Ubuntu on your hard drive. The days and weeks following install day can be quite overwhelming, because everything's new, nothing works how you expect, and all your instincts are telling you "I can do this in 3 clicks if you just give up and go back!". The trick to a successful switch is to push as much work as possible as far as possible away from install day. This section will discuss some popular strategies during the months and years before install day.
The apps-then-OS strategy
Switching to Ubuntu is best done in two stages. First, keep your old operating system and switch to applications that have Ubuntu equivalents. Then, switch your operating system and keep your new applications.
Most major Ubuntu programs are available for other operating systems, and learning them ahead of time will let you settle in much quicker after you switch. The official list of Ubuntu programs is available at packages.ubuntu.com, but it's usually easier to search on the Internet.
The purchasing strategy
Ubuntu supports the vast majority of hardware available today, but Linux drivers still aren't available for some uncommon hardware. When you buy new hardware, you should look online and in Ubuntu's official list of supported hardware. Although Linux support might be added by the time you switch, it's best not to rely on it.
The Ubuntu away-day strategy
It's possible to run Ubuntu directly from a "live" CD, without installing it on your computer at all. It's very useful to make yourself use this for a whole day before installing Ubuntu.
During your Ubuntu away-day, you should try customising your desktop, installing programs, surfing the web, and using all the hardware you have (like printers and scanners). Your live environment gets reset when you reset the computer, so this is a safe way to get you past the most immediate issues you'll have when you switch.
The surrogate strategy
If you have a friend that already runs Ubuntu, you should tell them you're thinking of using Ubuntu, and ask for their advice. They will be able to talk about the problems they had, the problems that are unique to your personal situation, and other issues that would never have occurred to you.
You should arrange before install day for your friend to spend a day at your computer about a week after install day. Although Linux-using friends are useful before install day, and can be helpful on install day, they're most important during the week after install day. You will probably spend the week after install day realising how many things you can't do, finding things that need fixing, and trying to follow online guides (often with unfortunate results). It's much easier to write your problems down and wait if you've agreed a day for your friend to help out.
Tactics for install day
The day you install Ubuntu is the pivotal point in switching. You never have enough time, always run into too many problems, and are betrayed by the intuitions you learned from your old operating system. Here are some things you can do during the week before install day.
Get a good install CD
The Getting Ubuntu page describes how to download an Ubuntu CD (or request one be delivered by post). Boot into the CD's live environment a few days before installing, to make sure that the CD is free from defects.
Check hardware support
When you check your live CD, try using all your hardware from it. Print a page, scan it back in, take a picture of it, download the image, dial up and upload the image to your blog. Although Linux supports most modern hardware, missing drivers can be a serious problem. If your hardware doesn't work from the Live CD, try searching on Google for Linux <name of your hardware>.
It's especially important to check printers, scanners, modems, and wireless adapters. Although most of these work fine, those that don't work immediately can be big hassle on install day.
Back your disk up
It's extremely rare to lose data while installing Ubuntu, but the consequences are very serious. Although backups are always recommended, it's especially important to make a backup when installing a new operating system. This can be as simple as burning your personal files to a CD, or saving them to a memory stick.
Strategies for using Ubuntu
After you've got over the initial shock following install day, your Ubuntu experience will follow the normal pattern for any new computer: three to six months of confusion, learning, and finally acceptance of your new system. This section provides some tips about how to get the most out of the period.
Try things out
Ubuntu was built by tinkerers, for tinkerers. Click around things, read the documentation in System > Help and Support, and search the web.
Ask the community
Ubuntu is mainly a community of volunteers. A lot of those volunteers contribute to sites like the Ubuntu forums, where you can ask for help with specific issues you're having.
Help the community
The best way to learn is to teach. As you get better at using Ubuntu, you'll start to see forum questions that you might know an answer to. Volunteering your thoughts might help someone else out, and the forums have enough staff to make sure you can't do much harm. Either way, you'll usually find you gain something by explaining it.
One user notes: Why do you think I contributed to this guide?