Giving An Older Computer New Life

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Older Computers

Now that Windows 7 is all the rage, many who purchase new computers are going to have an older computer that they aren't going to use, or no longer can handle their new computer desires. This could be a Windows Vista, or a Windows XP, or if it's really old school it might be a Windows 98, but I'm fairly certain that's going to be rare.

One of the major downfalls of older computers is that while they seem to run quickly when we first purchased them, over time they slow down.  Another downfall is that they never seem to have enough RAM for the software we wish to run.  In many ways these two problems are related, and also related to the amount of RAM needed to run the OS and the background programs installed.

New Life

My favorite way to give new life to an older computer, is to change it from Windows to Linux. There are many varieties of Linux you can choose from and the choice is as individual as the person using the computer. If you are new to Linux, I would suggest using Ubuntu or one of it's variants including: Lubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, or Edubuntu. The reason I suggest these is that Ubuntu has a large community of support, and is (in my opinion) one of the easiest versions for first time Linux users.

Practical Example

Just before Christmas, my niece and nephew had an older WinXP machine, that was running snail slow. It had expired antivirus software, and was infested with viruses. They needed help. My first question was what did they use it for? They wanted to get online to Facebook and You Tube and play games. I asked if they were willing to try something different as in new web browser and different games. If it could get the machine up and running they were willing.

It was an older machine with only 512 RAM, and I wanted everything to run smoothly for them. To that extend I choose to install Lubuntu which has the very minimal requirements of Pentium II or Celeron with 128 RAM. Once the install was complete, I ran Synaptic Package Manger for the updates and to install more games for my nephew. The computer now boots in under one minute and doesn't need an antivirus. I check with my niece and nephew periodically and everything is still running well, and without a hitch.

What To Do

Now down to the nuts and bolts of the process. The first step is to choose a version of linux, but in the example I had chosen Lubuntu. I downloaded the CD version appropriate to the computer's hardware in this case a 32-bit version. I needed to burn the ISO to cd with a program that handles ISOs. (They need to be handled a bit different than just data files which is why need appropriate software.)

Once I had the ISO I placed it in the CD-rom drive and started the computer. In my case, I reformatted the entire computer for Linux since there was nothing I needed to save on the hard drive. It makes it much easier in the long run.

There are a few questions that need to be answered as you go along but they are all easy to understand and follow. It's actually easier to follow an install of Lubuntu or Ubuntu than it is Windows XP, and you don't have to use a key.

Notes

It is not difficult to install Linux on only part of the hard drive, but it is easier to install it on the entire hard drive. If you are planning on doing this make sure you have removed everything you wish to keep from the old computer to some other type of storage like the new computer or cd-rom or dvd.

If you need to do more than web browsing and game playing with the "new" computer, think of what you need before changing the computer. Ubuntu and all it's variants will automatically install software for things like word processing, spreadsheets, graphic utilities, web browser, email program, IM software, and multimedia viewing. Sometimes you may have needs that aren't covered in the default install, but there are plenty of options available in Linux, you just have to look. For example I have reviewed some programs for dealing with personal finances here.

Another option would be to set the computer up for your children, and here are some options for computers for kids.  And if you find your child likes the education games so much you can limit their time.

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