Zorin OS 16 Linux

Installation of Zorin OS 16 on a Dell PC with a UEFI BIOS, Secure Boot and Machine Owner Key (MOK)

Zorin OS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS that has a Windows like Desktop Environment. This makes it very easy to use for both traditional Desktop and 2 in 1 Touchscreen Convertible Laptop/Tablet Devices.

As Zorin is built upon Ubuntu, the mainstream support provided in Ubuntu from chip manufacturers such as Intel, AMD and NVIDIA and OEMs such as Dell and Lenovo is ported over to Zorin OS. Therefore in the vast majority of cases (unless your device is absolutely bleeding edge) all the required drivers will be inbuilt into the Linux Kernel or obtained via Software Updates. Zorin OS supports a UEFI BIOS with Secure Boot and uses a Machine Owner Key to configure Secure Boot for multimedia audio codecs and proprietary NVIDIA drivers.

Zorin OS is open source software meaning you can download, install and use it without any payment (however you can optionally pay for a token Ultimate version to give financial support for Zorin OS software development). There are no product keys or activation mechanisms which are commonly found in commercial products such as Windows.

Zorin OS 16 isn't as heavy as Windows 10/11 and is likely to perform better on than Windows 10 on older computers manufactured in 2012-2015 which can be a bit sluggish running Windows 10 and below minimum system requirements for Windows 11.

Zorin OS can be used as a Windows replacement particularly for PCs that are just used for simple tasks such as web browsing, streaming and basic office work.

Video

Create a UEFI Bootable USB

UEFI has been the standard since 2012 and is an upgrade from the Legacy Basic Input Output System (BIOS). The words UEFI and BIOS are however often used interchangeably, to prevent confusion I tend to explicitly use the terms UEFI BIOS and Legacy BIOS. Secure Boot is a Hardware Security Feature that only allows a Bootloader with a Secure Boot Signature to proceed. Secure Boot is designed to prevent Ransomware from hijacking the Bootloader and compromising the Operating System and Operating System Security features before the Operating System Boots. Secure Boot has also been a standard since 2012 however there was a major Grand Unified Bootloader 2 (GRUB2) Security Exploit in 2020 which compromised the integrity of Secure Boot allowing smarter Ransomware to bypass Secure Boot. For Security your UEFI BIOS should be patched to the latest version available from your computer manufacturer before installation of Zorin OS. All UEFI BIOS Updates from May 2020 should be patched for this GRUB2 Security Exploit. In addition newer UEFI BIOS Updates often resolve installation issues commonly experienced with the updated GRUB2 Bootloader.

The Zorin OS ISO has an updated GRUB2 that allows for installation on a computer equipped with an UEFI BIOS with Secure Boot Enabled (2020 GRUB2 Security Exploit Patched). A Machine Owner Key (MOK) is required for installation of additional (NVIDIA) drivers and multimedia codecs.

This guide will only cover installation on a PC with a UEFI BIOS and Secure Boot. Instructions for optimising the UEFI BIOS setup will be given before installation instructions.

Create a UEFI Bootable USB in Windows 10

You will need to download the Zorin OS ISO from:

In Windows 10 use Rufus to make the Bootable USB:

Launch Rufus:

Rufus and Zorin OS 16 ISO.

Accept the User Account Control Prompt:

Windows 10 User Account Control Prompt for Rufus

Select, select:

Rufus, select ISO.

Load your Zorin OS ISO:

Rufus Load Zorin OS 16 ISO

Select the ISO Checksums button:

Rufus Zorin OS 16 ISO Check ISO Checksums

The SHA256 will be listed. Copy and paste the SHA256 and perform a Google search with it. For a complete ISO the checksum will be listed, likely giving the Zorin OS website as the top search result. If there is no match your ISO is unique meaning it is likely corrupted.

Rufus Zorin OS 16 ISO Checksums.

Insert your 16 GB USB flash drive. It will be listed at the top:

Rufus GPT Partition Scheme.

For a UEFI Bootable USB ensure the Partition Scheme is GPT and the File System is FAT32. The target system should be UEFI and the cluster size should be 8192 Bytes. Once these options have been selected, select Start:

Rufus UEFI Bootable USB.

Select Write in ISO Mode and select OK:

Rufus Write in ISO Mode.

Select OK to format the USB Flash Drive:

Rufus format USB warning.

When Finished it will say Ready. You can now close Rufus:

Rufus Zorin OS Bootable USB Ready.

Create a UEFI Bootable USB in Ubuntu or Zorin OS

You will need to download the Zorin ISO and then you can use the inbuilt utility to make the Bootable USB:

If the Startup Disc Creator (or equivalent) is not preinstalled on your Linux Distribution. Open up Software and search for USB:

Startup Disk Creator Software Store

Select Startup Disk Creator and select Install:

Startup Disk Creator select Install.

Launch the Startup Disk Creator:

Accept the Warning to Format your USB Flash Drive.

Select the ISO from the Downloads folder and select your USB and then select Make Startup Disk:

Make Startup Disk with Startup Disk Creator.

Select Yes to confirm that you want to format the USB Flash Drive to make a Bootable USB:

To perform the operations to make a new partition table and new partitions your will be prompted for authentication. This is the Linux equivalent of the Windows User Account Control Prompt and requires your password to be input:

We require elevated permissions to create a new partition table and new partitions. Authentication is the Linux equivalent of Windows User Account Control.

Select OK:

Your Zorin OS Bootable USB should now be created.

You should now have your Bootable USB.

Unified Extensive Firmware Interface (UEFI)

Update your UEFI BIOS

All Computers Manufactured in 2012 or later have a Unified Extensive Firmware Interface (UEFI). Make sure your UEFI BIOS is updated to the latest version before attempting to install Zorin OS as a number of UEFI BIOS Updates resolve some common Boot Issues.

To enter the UEFI BIOS setup power up your Dell and press [F2]:

Enter the Dell UEFI BIOS Setup.
The Dell UEFI BIOS Setup.

Select System Information. This will tell you your BIOS Version. In this case it is an OptiPlex 7040 and the BIOS Version is 1.18.1. If your system was manufactured in Late 2015 or later it should have a UEFI BIOS Update to patch the GRUB2 Security Exploit:

The Dell UEFI BIOS Setup System Information giving the BIOS Version.

To the bottom you will see the Processor and Video Controller:

The Dell UEFI BIOS Setup System information giving Processor and Video Cotnroller.

The Video Controller is Intel and not NVIDIA meaning the normal option will be selected opposed to the NVIDIA option during installation.

For Dell systems manufactured in late 2015 or later you can update the UEFI BIOS from a Non-Bootable USB Flash Drive within the UEFI BIOS Boot Menu. This is discussed below.

For systems manufactured in 2012-mid 2015 which are no longer actively supported by Computer Manufacturers as all systems are out with the warranty period it is easier to install the systems final UEFI BIOS Update within Windows however a FreeDOS Bootable USB can also be used. These older systems will not have a GRUB2 Security Exploit patched Secure Boot however it is still recommended to use a UEFI Boot with Secure Boot as the earlier version of Secure Boot will still prevent a lot of Ransomware.

Create a Non-Bootable USB Flash Drive (Windows)

In Windows we will use Rufus to make a Non-Bootable USB flash drive. Launch Rufus:

Accept the User Account Control Prompt:

To the top select your USB, then under the Boot selection dropdown, select Non Bootable. Select the GPT Partition Scheme and FAT32 File System. Optionally provide a USB volume label:

Select OK to format the USB Flash Drive:

When Finished it will say Ready. You can now close Rufus:

Go to the Dell Website, select your model and select BIOS:

Check the version, if it is newer that your current version (in this case 1.20.1 > 1.18.1) download the latest UEFI BIOS Update:

Now copy the UEFI BIOS Update to the blank USB flash drive:

You can deleted the Autorun files that Rufus creates by default on the USB Flash Drive.

Create a Non-Bootable USB Flash Drive (Linux)

In Linux we will use GParted to make a Non-Bootable USB flash drive which we can copy our UEFI BIOS update to.

Insert your USB flash drive and launch GParted from the Start Menu:

Launch GParted from the start Menu.

As we will be making changes to the partition table on the USB Flash Drive we will need elevated permissions and therefore get an Authentication Prompt. The Linux equivalent of Windows User Account Control Prompt. Input your password and select Authenticate:

Accept the GParted Authentication Prompt.

To the top right, select your USB Flash Drive:

Select your USB Flash Drive in GParted.

Select Create Partition Table:

Create a New Partition Table on your USBDevice in GParted.

Select the GPT Partition Table and then seelct Apply:

Create a blank GPT table on your USB using GParted.

You will now have a blank Partition Table. Right click it and select New to Create a New Partition on it:

Create a new partition on your blank GPT partition table in GParted.

Select Create New Partition:

In GParted. Name your Partition USB1, use the FAT32 File System and call the Label USB.

Select Apply:

To format the USB select apply in GParted.

Select Apply confirming that you will lose any data on your USB Flash Drive:

GParted select Apply,

The blank USB is now created, select Close:

Open your blank USB:

Open your Blank USB.

Go to the Dell Website, select your model and select BIOS:

Download the Dell UEFI BIOS Update fro the Dell website.

Check the version, if it is newer that your current version (in this case 1.19.1 > 1.18.1) download the latest UEFI BIOS Update:

Downloading the Dell UEFI BIOS Update.

Select Save File and then OK:

Save the Dell UEFI BIOS Update to File.

Now copy the UEFI BIOS Update to the blank USB flash drive:

Updating your UEFI BIOS from USB using the Dell UEFI BIOS Boot Menu

Insert your USB Flash Drive with the Dell UEFI BIOS Update and then power off your Dell. Power it on and press [F12] to get to the UEFI BIOS Boot Menu:

Dell UEFI BIOS Boot Menu press F12

Press [↓] and select BIOS Flash Update and then press [↵]:

Dell UEFI BIOS Boot Menu BIOS Update

To the top left select the open button:

Select the Open Button to access files on drives.

To the top select your UEB Flash Drive, this is normally File System 0 (FS0). Then select your BIOS Update and select OK:

Select your BIOS Update from your USB Flash Drive.

Select Begin Flash Update:

Select Begin Flash Update.

Select Yes at the warning acknowledging that your system is plugged in and will be left undisturbed during the update:

Dell UEFI BIOS Update from USB power warning.

The Dell UEFI BIOS Update will begin:

The Dell UEFI BIOS Update will begin.

Your UEFI BIOS will flash and your computer will automatically restart:

Dell UEFI BIOS update flash.

Dell Unified Extensive Firmware Interface (UEFI) Settings

Attach your Bootable USB and make sure your Dell PC is powered down. Then power it up and press [F2] to get into the UEFI setup. For a successful install a number of options should be configured.

UEFI and Secure Boot

Look for Advanced Boot Options and make sure Enable Legacy Option ROMs is Disabled.

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Disable Legacy Option ROMs.

Look for Secure Boot and Ensure that it is Enabled:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Secure Boot is Enabled.

This guide assumes the user wants: A Clean Install of Zorin OS and not a multi-boot. If you want a multi-boot do not remove entries from the Boot Sequences or perform the Dell Data Wipe.

Trusted Platform Module (2.0)

Under the Security Tab there should be a TPM 2.0 Security subtab. The TPM should be set to On and it should be set to Enabled. PPI Bypass for Enable Commands, Attestation, Key Storage and SHA-256 should be Enabled:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) On.

Boot Sequence

Next go to Boot Sequence. It should be set to UEFI. Your Zorin OS Bootable USB (in my case the SanDisk USB) should display.

If you have old versions of Windows or Linux they will also display. To remove these, uncheck your Bootable USB.

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup remove Old Boot Items from the Boot Sequence.

Then select Delete Boot Option. You may have to recheck any other items and then select Delete Boot Options again until only your Bootable USB is listed:

Dell UEFI BIOS Boot Sequence Remove Old Boot Entries.

You should now have a single entry, your Zorin OS USB Flash Drive. The Boot List option should be UEFI with the Legacy Option greyed out:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Boot Sequence Botoable USB.

SATA Operation

In order to install Zorin OS, the SATA Operation must be AHCI. Installation will fail if a RAID configuration is used due to lack of storage controller support in the Linux Kernel.

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup SATA Operation must be AHCI for Linux.

For best performance it is recommended to install Zorin OS on a >250 GB Solid State Drive (SSD). If you have a system with a mechanical Hard Drive (HDD) you should consider replacing it with a Solid State Drive (SSD). On a practical note, drive replacement is only really feasible when your computer can be opened up easily to access the Drive to swap it out.

For systems that have a mechanical Hard Drive (HDD) that can't be easily replaced. Zorin OS should give better performance than Windows 10 which tends to lock up with 100 % Disk Usage on HDDs.

Your installed drives will be listed under Drives. In this example a 256 GB SSD is listed:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Drives. Check if you have a 250 GB or greater SSD.

ThunderBolt

On Laptop systems with a Dell Type-C Dock you will also need to select Dell Type-C Dock Configuration and paradoxically disable the setting "Always Allow Dell Docks":

Select USB/Thunderbolt Configuration and Enable all Support and set the Security Level to No Security:

It is recommended to remove the Laptop from the Dock while installing Linux and to attach it post install. You should use the Linux Vendor Firmware Service to update the Docks firmware during the first time use as this may alleviate some issues experienced with the Dock on Linux. I demonstrate this with a WD19TB. Note that some older Docks such as the TB16 have firmware updates which are only available in Windows.

Secure Erase Internal Drives

Dell Business Models (OptiPlex, Latitude, Precision, XPS ranges) manufactured in late 2015 include the Dell Data Wipe utility within the Dell UEFI BIOS Setup. This utility may also be included with newer Dell Home Models (Inspiron range).

We can use Dell Data Wipe for a more through wipe of all internal drives than the Format within the Zorin OS install. The Dell Data Wipe will not touch any USB Devices such as the Zorin OS Bootable USB. To do this select the Maintenance Tag and then go to Data Wipe, select Wipe on Next Boot.

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup start a Dell Data Wipe:

Select OK:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Dell Data Wipe Warning 1.

The next question is phrased as a Negative. Select No not to Cancel the Oepration:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Dell Data Wipe Warning 2.

To Apply the changes select Apply:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Apply the changes.

Select OK:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup confirm changes:

Select Exit to Exit the Dell UEFI BIOS Setup and begin the Dell Data Wipe:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Exit.

You will see the Dell UEFI BIOS splash logo:

Dell UEFI BIOS Setup Exit.

To proceed with the Dell Data Wipe use [←] to highlight Continue and press [↵]:

Dell Data Wipe Continue dialog.

Then use [→] to highlight Erase and press [↵]:

Dell Data Wipe Erase Confirmation.

The Dell Data Wipe will begin to wipe all internal drives. It will take approximately 2 minutes for a SSD. It will take several hours for a mechanical HDD:

Dell Data Wipe Progress.

When done you will be prompted to Reboot. Press [↵]:

Dell Data Wipe Reboot Prompt.

You will see a black screen which will inform you that the Data Wipe is complete. Press [F1] and then immediate after press [F12]:

Booting from the Zorin OS Live Bootable USB

Insert your Bootable USB Flash Drive into your Dell and press [F12] while powering up to get to the Boot Menu. The Boot Mode should be set to UEFI and Secure Boot should be Enabled.

Select your USB Flash Drive and press [↵]:

Dell UEFI BIOS Boot Menu. Zorin OS 16 Bootable USB.

Select either Try or Install Zorin OS for systems without a NVIDIA graphics card (most systems) or Try or Install Zorin OS (modern NVIDIA drivers) for systems with a NVIDIA graphics card. The former will use Intel and AMD graphic drivers created by Intel and AMD respectively which are Open-Source and inbuilt into the Linux Kernel and the latter will use the Closed-Source NVIDIA graphics drivers made by NVIDIA.

Zorin OS Live USB. Try or Install normal or NVIDIA.

You will see the Dell UEFI BIOS logo with the Zorin OS logo:

Dell UEFI BIOS and Zorin OS Logo.

Before starting the Linux Live Environment the integrity of the Bootable USB will be checked:

Dell Zorin OS Check Installation Media File Integrity.

You will be informed once the integrity check is complete:

Dell Zorin OS File Integrity Check Complete.

You will then see an animated Zorin OS Logo:

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Logo 1.
Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Logo 2.

You will now be running the Zorin OS Live USB:

Zorin OS Live USB Try or Install.

Installing Zorin OS

Select Install Zorin OS:

Zorin OS Install Welcome.

Select your keyboard layout and then select Continue:

Zorin OS Install Keyboard.

Select your wireless network and select Connect:

Zorin OS Install Network.

In the Network Authentication screen, input your wireless password and select Connect:

Zorin OS Install Network Authentication.

The Wireless network icon to the top right hand side should show you are connected and give an indication of your Network Strength:

Zorin OS Install WiFi Connected

Select Continue:

Zorin OS 16 Install Network Continue.

Download Updates while installing Zorin OS and Install third-party software for graphics and wi-fi hardware and additional media formats should automatically be checked. Configure Secure Boot should also be checked.

The Zorin OS Boot is signed to pass Secure Boot but some of the codecs used and third party graphics drivers are not. You will get limited functionality without these.

The Zorin OS install can enable these and we can still use Secure Boot. To do this the Zorin OS setup which will create a boot entry that include the media codecs and any applicable third party drivers for your hardware and prompt you to create a Machine Owner Key (MOK). In the setup screen you will need to create a MOK password and confirm tit.

During the first Boot of the Zorin OS install the UEFI BIOS will inform you that there is a new Boot Entry but will only allow it to Boot if you authorise the Boot with the correct Machine Owner Key. This is a single instance verification, after it is initialised the UEFI BIOS will remember the Boot entry and automatically Boot.

Select Continue:

Zorin OS Install Updates and Other Software and creating a Machine Owner Key to Configure Secure Boot.

To perform a Clean Install select Erase Disk. If you are not performing a Clean Install onto an empty SSD, you can alternatively select one of the additional options available for example to configure a dual boot.

To optionally software encrypt the Drive you can select advanced features.

Once you have made your desired selection, select Install Now:

Zorin OS Install Erase Disk.

You will get a warning that you will make irreversible changes to the Disk which can result in data loss. To perform the Clean Install select Continue:

Zorin OS 16 Install Erase Disk Confirm.

Use the map or list to select your Location/Time Zone:

Zorin OS Install Location.

Input your full name, username, password and confirm your password. Your computer name will be automatically generated from your username and computer model. Note a Linux username has to be all lower case characters without spaces or other special characters. Select Continue:

Zorin OS User Account Setup, Computer Name and Password.

The install will proceed:

Zorin OS 16 have a cup of tea.

Select Restart Now:

Zorin OS Install, Restart Now.

You will briefly see the Dell UEFI BIOS splash screen:

Dell UEFI BIOS.

When prompted press [↵] and then remove the installation media… On my OptiPlex 7040 Desktop I had to press [↵] twice. There was no response on my XPS 13 9365 laptop so I had to power off the system and power it back on:

Dell UEFI BIOS Remove Installation Media.

Machine Owner Key (MOK)

You will see the Dell UEFI BIOS splash screen:

Dell UEFI BIOS.

When Zorin OS tries to Boot with the third party codecs it will be blocked by the UEFI BIOS however the UEFI BIOS will recognise a new Boot entry with a MOK and take you automatically into MOK Management. Select Enroll MOK:

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Enroll MOK.

Select Continue:

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Enroll MOK Continue.

Select Yes to Enroll the key(s):

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Enroll MOK Yes.

Input the password and then press [↵]. Note on my OptiPlex 7040 and XPS 13 9365 there is no indication on the screen for character input:

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Enroll MOK Password.

Select Reboot:

Dell UEFI BIOS Zorin OS Boot Enroll MOK Reboot.

First Time Boot

Zorin OS should then Boot. You will see the Dell UEFI BIOS with the Zorin Logo:

You will now be at the Zorin OS login screen. Select your User Account:

Zorin OS Login Screen 1.

Then input your password:

Zorin OS Login Screen 2.

Welcome Tour

You will then be presented with a Zorin OS Welcome Tour. Select Start Tour:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 1.

You will be told that the Desktop Environment has a Start Menu. This Start Menu is a traditional Windows Vista/Windows 7 Style Start Menu:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 2 Start Menu.

You will then be told that you can customise the Desktop Environment with Zorin Appearance. Zorin Appearance is found under System Tools

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 3 Zorin Appearance.
Zorin OS Welcome Tour 4 Zorin Appearance.

There are essentially four options. The top left is the default and mimics Windows 7 using a traditional start menu and taskbar buttons. The top right mimics Windows Vista using a traditional start menu and taskbar titlebars.

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 5 Zorin Appearance Windows 7 Style.
Zorin OS Welcome Tour 6 Zorin Appearance Windows Vista Style.

The bottom right mimics GNOME3 used within Ubuntu having an activities bar to the left hand side and a full Start Screen.

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 7 Zorin Appearance GNOME 3 Style.

The bottom left combines the best of the traditional Windows 7 Desktop Environment and the best of GNOME3 giving a Windows 11 style central dock and a Start Menu that is Full Screen:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 8 Zorin Appearance Windows 11 Style.
Zorin OS Welcome Tour 9 Zorin Appearance Full Start Screen.

Icons can be reordered by dragging and dropping (similar to the Windows 10 or GNOME3 Start Menu). If an icon is dropped on top of another icon, they will be placed together in a folder.

In the next screen you will be given the option to connect to your Online Accounts. I will skip this and select Next:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 10 Online Accounts.

In the next screen you will be able to link up your PC up to your Phone. I wills elect Next here:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 11 Zorin Connect.

You will then be told about the Software Store, select Launch Software:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 12 Software Store Launch.

Then Let's Go Shopping:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 13 Software Store.

I will have a look at the Software Store and third-party Software installation in more detail later.

In the next screen of the Welcome Tour, you will be informed about the Only Office suite for Linux. Select Install:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 14 OnlyOffice.

This will open up Only Office in the Software Store. Select Install:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 15 OnlyOffice Install.

Only Office will now be installed:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour 16 Software Store OnlyOffice Launch.

Finally you will reach the last screen of the Zorin OS Welcome Tour:

Zorin OS Welcome Tour End.

Software

Zorin works similarly to Ubuntu when it comes to Software Updates. There are three applications:

  • Software Updater: Used to Update the Operating System (This can be thought of as the Linux equivalent of Windows Update)
  • Software & Update Settings: Used to Change the way Zorin OS Updates and the Repositories Available to use in the Software. Zorin OS uses FlatPak by default but the Ubuntu Snap Repositories can also be added alongside Fedoras RPM Repositories (This can be thought of as the Linux equivalent to Windows Update and Windows Store Settings).
  • Software: Used to Install Third Party Software and to Update Third Party Software (This can be thought of as the Linux equivalent to the Windows Store)

As these three separate applications have very similar names and not very well thought out icons, they can often be confused particularly for new users to Linux.

The Software & Update Settings for example has a Download Icon opposed to an Icon one would associate with Settings making it easy to mistake it for the Software Update. The Software Updater has a Refresh Icon (similar to what Microsoft use for Windows Update).

Zorin OS Software, Software and Update and Software Updater.

RedHat, the company behind Fedora do a far better job of combining the above three separate applications into a single application with tabs corresponding to App Updates and OS Updates respectively. It is far easier to follow for a new user who can get the three separate applications as laid above mixed up.

Software Updater

The Software Updater will inform you of the Updates Available. Select Install Now:

Zorin OS Software Updater.

To proceed with the Update you will need to Authenticate.

This is the Linux Equivalent of the Windows User Account Control. Instead of just selecting Yes, you need to input your password and then select Authenticate. Authentication is required when Updating Zorin OS, installing some programs from the Software (Store) which require elevated permissions and launching some Applications such as GParted which requires elevated permissions to Format and Change Partitions on USB Flash Drives for example:

Zorin OS Authentication, the Linux equivalent of Windows User Account Control.

Select Restart Now to finish installing the updates:

Zorin OS Restart Prompt to install updates.

You should then see the Dell logo as your computer reboots, then the Dell Zorin OS logo as the updates are installed and then finally you should return to the login screen.

Software & Update Settings

Under Zorin Software everything except Source Code should be checked by default. You should also have a local server checked which can possibly speed up download speed:

Zorin OS Software and Update Settings 1 Zorin Software.

Under Other Software, you may want to add Canonical Partners, this should give you the Ubuntu Snap packages within the Software (Store):

Zorin OS Software and Update Settings 2 Other Software.

You can select the Updates tab to change the update Settings:

Zorin OS Software and Update Settings 3 Updates.

The Authentication tab will tell you about trusted software providers:

Zorin OS Software and Update Settings 4 Authentication.

The Additional Drivers tab will tell you about any additional proprietary drivers installed i.e. drivers not inbuilt into the Linux Kernel. This is usually only NVIDIA drivers and in the OptiPlex 7040 (Intel Based System) none are listed as expected. This tab will be opened up if the Additional Drivers icon is selected from the Start Menu:

Software (Store)

Linux previously had a bad repetition for third-party software installation due to software installs largely being command line based and one software package requiring multiple dependencies, either dependent on the Linux Kernel itself or another Framework (usually of specific versions) to be installed before hand in order to work properly.

snap vs flatpak

There has been a move (at least for common software) towards each app being sandboxed together alongside all its dependencies allowing it to be readily installed not only in the current Linux Kernels but some previous Linux Kernels and going forward future Linux Kernels as well. There are two main sandboxed application frameworks; snap and flatpak. Most of the software available in the software store is either a snap install or flatpak install and can be installed using a graphical user interface and collectively updated or refreshed to the latest version using the software store. Alternatively software can be installed via a single basic command line. I will discuss the command line based approach at the bottom.

Canonical, the team behind Ubuntu (which Zorin OS is based upon) have been developing snap installs. The snap install is the easiest and will go right ahead and install most applications and additional perquisites such as application services when the user clicks install. flatpak on the other hand will look at the application and prompt you for additional permissions for application services. The snap install also tends to push software auto-updates giving you the latest version of the software. This is important for something like a browser where you will want the most current version as it will have the most recent security patches. flatpak does not automatically update software meaning it is more likely that you continue to use an outdated or unpatched version of software, this can sometimes be an advantage in terms of stability. Although snap installs on one hand are more likely to be patched giving a security advantage, there has however been a bit of concern from other Linux developers that snap installs would firstly mean that all software was locked to the company Canonical and their distribution and secondly that the snap installs could instead of installing only the required dependencies could possibly install/prebundle unwanted bloatware/application services which is pretty common in software installs for Windows for example. The Linux Mint (another Linux Distro also based on Ubuntu) team for example have blocked snap installs and tend to bundle everything in the flatpak format.

The snap package is the most common application format on the Zorin OS store as Canonical have a bigger team working on snap packages than most of the other distros that favour flatpak. Many applications will have two installers; one flatpak and the other snap. Usually as discussed the snap install is more up to date as it is updated more frequently. If your installer is available as a snap package and a flatpak in the vast majority of cases I would recommend installing the snap (unless its software version is severely outdated with respect to the software version of the flatpak).

Since Zorin OS is a Windows like Desktop Environment it is worthwhile mentioning equivalents to the most commonly used software in Windows.

Browser

The FireFox Browser is preinstalled and with Secure Boot configured correctly during the Zorin OS installation all the multimedia video and audio codecs for the browser to correctly work should be preinstalled. These multimedia codecs don't affect video playback from open access websites like YouTube but are required when accessing a video from a paid subscription service for example Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon etc.

FireFox multimedia video and audio codecs.

The Chromium Browser is one of the most popular browsers used within Linux and is the open source project which Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are based upon. Chromium also relies on the multimedia video and audio codecs installed alongside the Operating System.

Software Store Chromium Browser.

Chrome is also downloadable as a Deb package. Chrome prebundles multimedia video and audio codecs from Google (which can only be used with Chrome). These are signed by Google and will pass Secure Boot and work properly for video playback even on a Zorin OS install where no MOK was configured.

Office

There are two noticeable Office alternatives; Libre Office which is preinstalled and Only Office which is mentioned during the Zorin Welcome Tour and can be installed from the Software (Store).

Free Office has improved compatibility with Microsoft Office over Libre Office and a Modern Ribbon User Interface similar to modern versions of Microsoft Office (2010-Current). Libre Office uses the Outdated Menu User Interface and looks similar to Microsoft Office (1997-2003). Free Office is however slightly less feature rich than Microsoft Office or Libre Office and does not include a Visio Alternative (Libre Office has Draw). Despite the lack in some advanced features and the emission of a Visio like drawing program, Only Office does include the most commonly used features of Word, Excel and PowerPoint and users familiar with these programs should feel comfortable using Only Office.

Zorin OS Start Screen OnlyOffice.

To the left hand side you will have Document (Word alternative), SpreadSheet (Excel alternative) and Presentation (PowerPoint alternative):

Zorin OS OnlyOffice Suite.

When launching the Only Office Applications for the first time, they will take a couple of minutes to load.

You will see that the User Interface is very similar to Word, Excel and PowerPoint covering the most commonly used features of the Office Suite. This will cover the needs of most users however it is still a bit stripped down compared to the Microsoft Office suite:

Zorin OS OnlyOffice Document an open source alternative to Microsoft Word.
Zorin OS OnlyOffice SpreadSheet an open source alternative to Microsoft Excel.
Zorin OS OnlyOffice Presentation an open source alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint.

Paint

The photo-editing software GIMP is preinstalled which is often used as an Open Source alternative to Adobe PhotoShop. It is however normally overkill for a simple task such as annotating a screenshot which is commonly done in Microsoft Paint within Windows. KolourPaint is an Open Source alternative to Microsoft Paint.

Software Store KolourPaint.

Snipping Tool

Screenshot is inbuilt and is an equivalent to the windows Snipping Tool:

Editing a screenshot in KolourPaint exhibiting most of the tools of Microsoft Paint and a similar user interface:

Screen Recording Software

VokoScreen New Generation (VokoScreenNG) is a useful simple to use screen recording software. Unfortunately a search for this software displays multiple entries.

Note only the SNAP package is kept current, make sure you select this, it should be version 3.0.9 or later and the snap package will install all the required dependencies. The older installers did not install the required dependencies and the software did not work correctly making installation slightly problematic.

Note also that VokoScreenNG will only work if multimedia codecs were installed i.e. Secure Boot was configured during the installation with a MOK.

As a rule of thumb it is usually more reliable to install the SNAP package on a Ubuntu 20.04 (or later) based distribution where possible.

VokoScreenNG Software Store, make sure you install the Snap version 3.0.9 or later the others are older discontinued versions.

VokoScreenNG Screen capture settings:

VokoScreenNG Screen capture settings

VokoScreenNG Audio Capture Settings:

VokoScreenNG Audio settings

VokoScreenNG video frame rate and file format settings:

VokoScreenNG Video settings
VokoScreenNG Other settings

VokoScreenNG other settings. To Start Screen recording use the Start Button (the shortcut key [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[F10] displays):

VokoScreenNG Start Recording

VokoScreenNG screen recording. To end the screen recording use the shortcut key [Ctrl] +[Shift] + [F11] (this can be seen if you highlight above the Stop Button):

Video Editor

KDEnlive Video Editor

Command Line Software Installation

You can also install software packages using the command line. To do this open up the terminal:

When your run a command in the terminal you will run it as a standard user. To install software or example, you will need elevated privileges. Any command prefixed with sudo will have super user privileges. sudo itself is an abbreviation for super user do.

sudo

The first command in the terminal session prefixed with a sudo will prompt for command line authentication. To authenticate you will need to provide your password and press [Enter]:

The first command we are going to have a look at is snap which is used alongside a subcommand for manipulation of snap packages. snap packages are a response to the multiple installation issues which were typically experienced on Linux due to software having dependencies and there being version conflicts. The snap is supposed to install the software alongside all its required dependencies. snap is a bit more forceful when it comes to keeping the software up to date i.e. at the latest version than other package managers:

sudo snap

The most important actions are install, list, refresh and remove which can be used to install, list, refresh (update installed software to the latest version) and remove software respectively. list and remove are followed by the name of the software to be installed or removed respectively.

If we use chromium (lower case when typed into the terminal) as the example software then to install Chromium we can use:

sudo snap install chromium

To list all currently installed snaps we can use:

sudo snap list

To refresh all currently installed snaps we can use:

sudo snap refresh

To refresh only a single snap package we can name the snap package, once again using Chromium as an example:

sudo snap refresh chromium

To remove a snap, using Chromium once again as an example use:

sudo snap remove chromium

The next command is apt which is an abbreviation for advanced package tool. In order to use the advanced package tool you first need to make sure it is looking at up to date software repositories. To update to the latest version use:

sudo apt update

Otherwise apt has very similar actions to snap. These actions can be seen by typing in:

sudo apt

install and remove can be used to install and remove a software package respectively.

There is an apt package for chromium called chromium-browser. We can install it using:

sudo apt install chromium-browser

Originally the command was "sudo apt install chromium" but Canonical updated the command to be an alias to install the snap package.

We can remove the Chromium flatpak by using:

sudo apt remove --purge chromium-browser

–purge is a flag (optional setting applied to the action) that can be used to not only remove the software but purge the configuration files. Sometimes configuration files are left on a system so when the software is reinstalled some user preferences are maintained. Unfortunately if the user has a bad setting in the configuration files these will make any problem they had with the software persist after a reinstall:

flatpak often prompts for additional confirmation when installing/uninstalling software compared to flatpak:

Note all the commands above were prefixed with sudo. This is only needed when elevated permissions are required i.e. installing/uninstalling software. Commands such as:

snap list

Do not require elevated permissions and can therefore be ran without use of sudo.

Optimising for Desktop (Keyboard and Mouse)

Zorin OS generally works well out of the box and has a similar user experience to windows for a single monitor. File Explorer is very similar to Windows Explorer. Window snapping is similar to the Aerosnap found in Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 and behind the new Snap protocol featured in Windows 11. However Zorin OS does have tabbed browsing one of the most highly requested features in the Windows Insider Program but never implemented in Windows.

Zorin OS File Explorer Open in New Tab.
Zorin OS Tabbed File Explorer.

The multimonitor experience is substantially behind that of Windows. When the Dell XPS 13 9365 (High DPI screen) is attached to a Dell WD19TB01 and standard (Normal DPI) monitor. You'll see the taskbar display only on the primary monitor. Moreover this monitor configuration is not really usable. To work correctly the laptop screen should have a 200 % DPI scaling and the monitor should have a 100 % DPI scaling. The XOrg display protocol cannot use a different DPI scaling on each monitor simultaneously; either they are both 100 % making the text too small on the laptop screen to be usable or are both 200 % making the external monitor text too large to be usable. The Wayland display protocol is in development which addresses this limitation however is still in the testing stage. While Wayland itself largely works, many third party applications rely on the Xorg display protocol and therefore fail to launch with Wayland. Wayland is also part of the feature based Ubuntu distros and not the 20.04 LTS release which Zorin OS is based upon. It will likely be incorporated into Ubuntu 22.04 LTS due for release in April 2022 and it will take the Zorin team at least a few months to make Zorin OS 17 based upon Ubuntu 22.04 LTS. By then most commonly used applications should be updated to use Wayland.

XPS 13 9365, WD19TB and External Monitor
XPS 13 9365, WD19TB and External Monitor

The touchpad on my XPS 13 9365 follows the default behaviour within Windows with the Two Button Area behaviour.

XPS 13 Touchpad.

Linux users have a higher tendency to use a three button click. The option for this is not available in settings however GNOME Tweaks can be installed from the Software (Store) on Zorin OS despite Zorin OS not being configured to use the GNOME Desktop Environment. GNOME Tweaks can be used to give the Three Finger or Three Button Area option. Disabled will return the behaviour to a Two Button Area touchpad.

For the Three Finger option:

  • Pressing down anywhere on the touchpad with a single finger will lead to a left click.
  • Pressing down anywhere on the touchpad with two fingers will lead to a right click.
  • Pressing down anywhere on the touchpad with 3 fingers will lead to a middle click. The middle click is essentially uses as a copy paste button. If you have text highlighted and you use a middle click you will copy it, otherwise the action will be to paste text.

The Three Button Area option will essentially give the Touchpad a Middle Button.

Zorin OS copies many Windows Desktop shortcuts however lacks in some features which increase productivity such as the Emoji Panel/Symbol Input, Screenshot and Clipboard History found within Windows.

[⊞] + [D]Minimise All to Desktop
[⊞] + [M]Minimise All to Desktop
[⊞] + [E]Opens File Explorer
[⊞] + [L]Lock the Screen
[⊞] + [.]Does Nothing (Opens Emoji Panel in Windows)
[⊞] + [V]Does Nothing (Opens Clipboard History in Windows)
[⊞] + [W]Does Nothing (Opens Full Screen Snip in Windows)
[⊞] + [⇧] + [S]Does Nothing (Opens Snip and Sketch in Windows)
[⊞] + [I]Does Nothing (Opens Settings in Windows)
[⊞] + [Q]Does Nothing (Opens Windows Search in Windows)
[⊞] + [S]Does Nothing (Opens Windows Search in Windows)
[⊞] + [T]Does Nothing (Switches through Taskbar Tiles in Windows)
[⊞] + [A]Does Nothing (Opens Notification Area in Windows)
[⊞] + [X]Does Nothing (Opens Power Users Menu in Windows)
[⊞] + [R]Does Nothing (Opens Run in Windows)
[⊞] + [P]Does Nothing (Opens Projection Settings in Windows)
[⊞] + [K]Does Nothing (Opens Connect to Wireless Display and Audio Devices in Windows)
[⊞] + [U]Does Nothing (Opens Ease of Access Settings in Windows)
[⊞] + [F]Does Nothing (Opens Feedback App in Windows)

There is an inbuilt Application Characters however it does not include commonly used mathematical symbols and Greek letters and only focuses on emojis.

Zorin OS Characters.

Zorin OS Text Editor also includes emoji but this does not include mathematical symbols and Greek letters. Although text with emojis can be copied from the Text Editor to other applications, it isn't as convenient as the Windows 11 Emoji Panel which can be opened within a text input field of most applications:

The closest application to Windows Clipboard History for text is GPaste:

Zorin OS Software install GPaste

GPaste however severely lacks behind the Windows Clipboard History when it comes to images:

GPaste text and images.

Optimising for Touch Input

Rotation Sensor

The rotation sensor should be installed by default on most 2 in 1 systems and autorotation should be enabled by default. For example as seen on the XPS 13 9365:

XPS 13 9365 Laptop Mode
XPS 13 9365 Laptop Mode
XPS 13 9365 Autorotation Rotation Sensor
XPS 13 9365 Autorotation Rotation Sensor
XPS 13 9365 Tent Mode
XPS 13 9365 Tent Mode
XPS 13 9365 Tablet Mode
XPS 13 9365 Tablet Mode

Touchscreen Keyboard

On a Touchscreen system. Open up Settings and select Accessibility. Check Always Show Accessibility Menu to display the Accessibility Icon on the Taskbar. You can use the Accessiblity Menu to turn On/Off the Touchscreen Keyboard:

The Touchscreen Keyboard tends to work pretty well and auto-populates when pressing into a text input field. It has lower case, upper case, numeric and some basic symbol input however is far behind the Touchscreen Keyboard within Windows 10 which has far superior symbol input as well as emoji input.

FireFox Touchscreen Response

Unfortunately the preinstalled browser FireFox is configured only for keyboard and mouse use and is awful with a touchscreen user interface. This ruins the Zorin OS Out of Box Experience with Touchscreen.

In essence it has a major issue with scrolling, highlighting text opposed to scrolling:

Enabling the xinput2 setting in your user profile will resolve the issue. Open a terminal and type in:

echo export MOZ_USE_XINPUT2=1 | sudo tee /etc/profile.d/use-xinput2.sh

Authenticate when prompted:

To apply the changes you will need to log out and then log back in.

Linux Vendor Firmware Service

You can use the Linux Vendor Firmware Service on systems manufactured in late 2015 or later that Dell officially support with Ubuntu (recalling that Zorin OS is essentially based upon Ubuntu) to get the latest UEFI BIOS Update for your system and firmware for your Thunderbolt Dock. This is a command line based firmware update utility and more details can be found by opening up the terminal and typing in:

fwupdmgr

You will see the command actions get-devices, get-updates and update:

On my XPS 13 9365 for example, I get details about the XPS 13 9365, its UEFI BIOS, TPM, SSD and Dell Thunderbolt Dock WD19TB:

fwupdmgr get-devices

The command tells me what updates are available. In this case the XPS 13 9365 itself is up to date but the Dell Thunderbolt Dock WD19TB has available updates:

fwupdmgr get-updates

To update I can use:

fwupdmgr update

If you have a system UEFI BIOS you will be prompted to restart.

For the Dell Thunderbolt Dock you will be prompted to unplug the Dell Thunderbolt Dock WD19TB from the laptop and then reinsert it after a minute. After plugging in the Dell Thunderbolt Dock WD19TB you can retry updating and it should report that all firmware updates are complete. You can also use get-devices to check the firmware version on each device.

In my case I get an error report that one Device was not correctly updated but am later told it was updated successfully… I can press 3 to submit the report and get told it is a known issue.