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I have downloaded ubuntu and saved it on my external hard drive. I would like to replace Windows Vista and run ubuntu on it's own. I have tried to boot straight on to the external usb drive but it won't do this. I moved the .exe file of ubuntu on to the desktop and it said that the device didn't have enough space. It installed 4GB and would not run.

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The .exe file is for installing Ubuntu inside Windows (most commonly known as WUBI method), which would not replace Windows. If you want to replace Windows you need to use a regular installation. Take a look at this link and also try some good questions on this site. – Anwar Shah May 19 '13 at 15:39

Use unetbootin to "burn" the iso image of ubuntu on the usb drive.

Don't forget to backup your usb drive!

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