Tiring of a distro? A user's guide to changing (not an admin's guide!)

I’ve made some posts, but I want to clarify a few things. I am a computer USER. I am past 50 years old and while I have worked “with” computers all my life, the complexities of the issues I’ve dealt with pale in comparison to many others here. Once about 25 years ago I had the brilliant idea to get a static IP number for my business and set port forwarding on the router to direct traffic to the internal office server (which had password protections in place). It worked (ftp connections were the best!). But I did that as a small shop manager, a guy who worked on budgets and sales and office efficiencies over IT issues (we had like 10 employees, so I was basically IT).

Story time over. I know how to do a few cool computer things, but I have spent most of my time just using computers. In my Linux phase, I have worked to install various incarnations of Linux on 3 laptops I have. I have said before and say again, I am running Pop! OS (Gen 8 i3, 8GB RAM), Zorin (full version) on a Gen 8 i7, 8 GB of RAM, and the one I am typing on… Solus Budgie (Gen 4 i3 with 12 GB RAM).

I have exclusively used USB drives for my distros. This means you 1) have to download a distro in your current OS, 2) Burn the ISO image to a thumb drive you have in your possession (most need to be about 8 GB+), 3) Boot to the computer BIOS to change boot order and 4) run the distro from the USB drive or install it permanently either partitioned alongside your current OS or erasing your current OS and moving totally to the new distro.

From Windows:
I don’t care how you do it, and I am not affiliated with ANY links I am sharing. I’ve just used them and found them helpful compared to others I have used and have NOT found helpful.

I like this method: How to Install Linux on Windows 10 : HelloTech How

Note: basically works the same way with Windows 11.

I also like this if you’re a Linux Mint fan. NOTE: I’ve tried the flavors of Mint and Cinnamon is the one I like best. YMMV:

If you’re on Linux already:
I have used Zentoy (good) and Balena Etcher (better if you ask me) and both work fine. Some Linux Distros come with software that will create an ISO image from a downloaded OS already without Etcher or Zentoy. Here are some resources. Note Mint allows you to create a bootable USB from what is already in the system:

So here’s where we are. You have 1) downloaded the new distro and 2) downloaded and/or launched an ISO imaging app and 3) Used that app to load the ISO distro file onto a USB stick to make it bootable.

The final trick is to learn how to work in the BIOS. Problem: different computers use different commands to enter the BIOS. One of my Dells requires me to tap F12 at boot (if I remember right) while my ASUS requires me to tap Escape at boot. Another Dell requires me to press and hold F2 at boot. So… tap, hold, Escape, F2, F12 (F8 for some)… it varies.

I can’t solve your problems here, but if you Google how to enter the BIOS on your particular computer model, you should be able to troubleshoot your way to a solution. Once in the BIOS, change the boot order so that the USB stick is the FIRST selection. Save changes and exit. I can’t go through every computer here and how it works, but a search engine is your friend and even if you stumble here, it can be done. Stay calm and work through it. Ask on some forums. Somebody will be able to help you.

Once booted from the USB stick, decide if you like the look and feel of the distro. If so, install it. It’s an easy thing to do. Poke around and the option will be in plain sight. I ALWAYS suggest running it alongside your other partition at first until you’re comfortable cutting the cord. Remember to always back up your data if you play with this stuff and have priceless files. Cloud storage/backup is my recommendation, as no matter what hard drive fail occurs, you can get to your data.

I know this probably won’t help, but I hope it can. Stay calm. Don’t fear the Terminal. Use Google a LOT. Go slow and steady. Ask questions if you get stuck. It’s not hard, but it may take some time and tweaking to get your system where you want it. But you CAN get there.

Good luck.


Good guide. Wil probably help users.

Minor nit-pick:
I would change the title from “[…] (not a programmer’s guide!)” to “[…] (not an admin’s guide!)”.

There are tons of programmers who don’t know the most basic Linux stuff. Especially Frontend-only “programmers” who only use Mac GUIs.

What I am trying to say is that System Administration and Programming are two different topics, which often are confused as being one.


Great point, as always. Fixed per the suggestion. Thanks!

You know… I am more computer adminny than I am programmy. I never thought about the difference, but I have done a bit of administrative/management/IT work in computers. That said, I am self taught and I have other roles/functions in my MANY job responsibilities. Still, I am comfortable to “administer” a small group of computers and users, but if you start talking package delivery processes, building a server, or creating a Linux router, I am not your guy. More like the dude who can install memory, program a router to accept FTP connections and ensure that people in the network don’t go loading a bunch of fonts in that other people can’t work with (pet peeve of mine in a graphic design environment… somebody downloads and uses Meuslix font and it looks like Courier when PDF’d from another computer and throws text lines out of whack). And I can download and install Linux distros (becoming a pro at that, as if there is such a thing given the relative simplicity).


Yeah, hands on is really the only way to learn computing. I spent years setting up computers in scientific labs. What you learn that way sticks.

When you wrote about putting distros on USB drives, it seemed you were talking about putting an ISO file on a USB drive. That is the common method
There is another option - you can make a full install to a USB drive , just like to an HD. You need a bigger USB drive ( because it is not compressed) , but there is the advantage that you can make changes and they will be preserved on the USB drive filesystem because it is writeable.

There are also options called ‘permanence’ to make ISO USB drives writeable, but they have limitations. If you used Ventoy, you probably know about those.

You can write. Why not try writing some guideline documents for new users.


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There was a time when the only way to use a computer was to be a programmer ( and it had to be Fortran or assembler)
Users never got near the computer, and systems ( such as they were then) were not really managed, they just ran… in between breakdowns.
System admin is a more recent idea, and is a consequence of making systems too complex.


People with such attitudes are usually very helpful and worth a lot. They never say “I cannot do it”, they always say “I can do it or I will learn how to do it”. I try to be like that, too. I’m the DIY type of person and try to learn whatever needs to be done. Actually, this is also the way I learnt all the things I know about Linux. Years of hard DIY work, being alone in front of the PC and trying to get things to work. Just like everyone else, there was a time, when I struggled to accomplish my first apt-get install command… :laughing:

Many of those “I cannot do it” people are often too arrogant to do something they are not paid for or an expert in. They are too afraid of looking like they are stupid, after all their arrogant behaviour implying they are so smart.

Just recently, I read about a fine example regarding such type of “I cannot do it” person…

It’s just a matter of attitude. If someone is a “I cannot do it” person, there is not much to expect in terms of performance or innovation.

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Absolutely right… was referring to putting an ISO image on a thumber. I agree there are other options and they’re pretty good options. But for <$10 USD, you can fill up a lot of thumbers with sample software to test drive.

I have used Ventoy a few times and it works. I am not familiar with what happens on the back end, so this idea of “permanence” is new to me, though I could clearly see that Balena Etcher and Ventoy skinned the cat differently. I seemed to find Balena to be easier to load and use, though I think what you’re telling me is that Ventoy is more robust and does a more complete install in the beginning rather than at the end (which is why some Etcher distro installs take an hour). I will explore this… innate curiosity.

I appreciate the writing compliment. I have an undergrad degree in English/(minor) Communications. I was once a reporter and editor before entering media operational/executive management. I work in a communications role nowadays, though I do miss the days of running properties. My strength was always in finding profits through the margins. Cut expenses, leverage sales. Those things are hard to do, but I learned that it’s best to let a few folks go and shift responsibilities if the alternative is closing down the shop.

At the risk of talking too much, my dad (who’s suffering with dementia now) ALWAYS was the most inefficient human I ever knew. Folding towels? One at a time while walking to the bathroom closet on each one. He would make 10 trips on a single load of towels and bathroom rags. Once he had a top post car battery but a side post cable in an inherited car. He planned to take a butcher knife and whack off the side post attachment and find a way to rig the cables to wrap around the top post. I had just gotten my driver’s license and made a quick trip to our small town hardware store. $5 and 30 minutes later, I was home with a side post to top post adapter. Poor guy never understood that his problems were not new ones and solutions had been invented for them. He thought every single problem was unique to him and he had to take a hammer, a knife or a hacksaw and destroy whatever it was. I love Dad and laugh about it now, but it really was a tremendous (and at times excruciating) childhood that required one to find operational efficiencies and “off the shelf” solutions to avoid mass destruction of perfectly suitable property. Anyway, mom and grandmom were English teachers, so the writing thing was also pretty natural. Story time is over again! Sorry for that.

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Used to see it all the time. “My internet is down.”
“So you can’t load a web page?”
“I don’t know. I can’t get email.”
“You can not be able to retrieve email and still have the internet, you know.”
“Can you just fix it, please?”
“Sure, but how about you pay attention to how we troubleshoot this and let’s solve the problem this time and know how you can solve it without me next time.”
“I don’t have time!”
“I am your boss, and I have more responsibility than you do. I don’t have time either. But I have no time for our people not to be able to retrieve email, so… You want this fixed, right?”
It was nearly always an email server error, often brought on by mailboxes exceeding capacity. It would cook their brains when I would show them that a browser would load a web page and that deleting a backlog of 10,000 emails would suddenly make things work again, or that they could set their email app to auto-delete periodically thus avoiding the problem in the first place.

Some people like to point to problems. Some people like to solve them. I know which I prefer when I make a hiring decision.


Well you have the experience. Why not try . The story format is fine… people like stories. Tell us some computer stories.

I actually dont use Ventoy or Etcher. I just write it with dd from the command line. You need to be careful doing that.


People like to put names on things. “System admin” is probably decades old at this point isn’t it? Still newer than “programmer”.

As far as needing a system admin due to making systems too complex…maybe. One alternative to that is to use a Mac and I’m not gonna do that. Maybe “more capable” is a better description and that normally means more complex too. In rare cases it’s more capable and not more complex.

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That is when we make real progress

Indeed. However, the more out of expertise someone is, the older and more inaccurate the terminology becomes. So, “admin” is fine enough for anyone not being related to techy business in any way.

Another example that comes to mind is BPA-free plastics in end-consumer products.

BPA-free has pretty much become a buzz word, nowadays. You see it all over the place, as if it would change the world.

However, if you dig deeper into the topic and dig out the actual truth, you come to a funny and yet at the same time sad conclusion:
BPA is so old and obsolete, it’s mostly not used anymore anyway, because technology has progressed so immensely since BPA maliciousness was detected, that it’s pretty much a running gag to label any product “BPA-free”.

BPA is short for Bisphenol A. If research goes over every letter in the alphabet and already arrived at Bisphenol S or Bisphenol V or Z, then what do you care if the product is BPA-free? There are 25 more different Bisphenol types you should be aware and maybe afraid of.
Therefore, the “BPA-free” products are just marketing for the sake of artificially justifying higher prices for them. It’s literally just a bait for the uneducated.

Meaningless buzz words like those are everywhere. Especially, on asocial media. I hate buzz words. Luckily, I’m not part of any asocial media.

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System Administrator is one of the most widely abused job titles I’ve ever come across…

I am one…

I don’t think the Windows “clickety-click-click” jockeys should be allowed to use that job title… It makes job hunting a trial too… Having to wade through all the dross for Windows admins, to find the odd UNIX or Linux role…

I’ve also encountered public servants with the job title “System Administrator” - but the WHOLE purpose of their role is to farm out tasks to underlings and contact vendors… that’s it! They’re just piddling middle management dicks! Chuck a CLI or a bit of techy info at them and they’re utterly befuddled and flumoxed at once.

Once upon a time, server mini/micro computing was ALL either UNIX or Novell Netware (and maybe a few other deceased niche players, like Banyan vines, or running Microsoft Netbeui / Netbios SMB sharing on OS/2)- there was no Windows “server”. I still can’t believe it ever materialised into a “product” and management bought it.


In the research world they are called ‘Line Managers’ … people who know nothing about the research being undertaken, but just ‘manage’ it. They are divided into Finance and Personnel. The ones not bright enough for Finance end up in Personnel.

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