This article is from the Frequently Asked Questions for Linux, the Free/Open Source UNIX-like operating system kernel that runs on many modern computer systems. Maintained by David C. Merrill with numerous contributions by others. (v1.0).
A: If you can, please dig into your wallet and buy a copy of your distribution. Linux distributions are extremely inexpensive - usually around $30 for a complete system, and anywhere from $70 to around $150 for a larger system with more server software or development tools. Even the $30 "basic" systems contain the equivalent of thousands of dollars in proprietary tools, and are an incredible value. The distributors invest many of your dollars into further development, and most of them fund outside open source projects.
Commercial distributions are available from book and electronics stores, or you can order from their websites.
If you use Debian GNU/Linux, which is a volunteer project and a non-profit, you can donate directly to them instead.
A: There are some websites that sell Linux CD's very inexpensively. Try:
A: Every distribution provides a download on their home page. This is a requirement of the licensing terms of the software, so if you cannot afford to pay for your distribution, you can get a copy this way. Some people compromise between paying and downloading, for example by buying each major release (such as 6.0) but downloading the point releases (such as 6.1 and 6.2).
Also, archives of many of the distributions are on line at: ftp://ftp.tux.org and http://planetmirror.com/pub/linux.
A: Some hardware vendors now ship systems with Linux pre-installed. However, they sometimes make it very difficult to buy them - they offer Linux on only a few systems, which are server machines, or they require you to go to a special "Linux" section on their website.