My Computer has XP. What should I do?



Procrastinating Member
My Computer has XP. What should I do?

I was listening to a local radio show phone-in and quickly became frustrated by the answers given by the "expert." It prompted me to write this.

If your computer has a Core 2 Duo cpu or the AMD equivalent it's new enough, given enough RAM memory which you can increase, to run Windows 7 or 8. Windows 7 will be familiar enough to XP users not to cause major problems, but Windows 8 introduced major differences to the desktop environment designed to appeal to touchscreen tablet users that have frustrated many if not most users with keyboards and mice. There are add-on programs like Classic Shell intended to restore the functionality most of us are used to. But the cost of a new operating system (and availability of Win7) can be issues to many people. Computers older than these may struggle with Win7 or 8 but there is an alternative.

That alternative is Linux. This is intended to be an overview for those who are not computer experts and are wondering what to do with that older computer running XP. Linux is the name of a different operating system than Windows and refers to the kernel of that operating system that runs the hardware. Sitting on top of that kernel is the desktop environment that operates the programs and gives you the display on your monitor and in linux there are many of these. The flexibility of all these choices can be great but also leads to confusion for newcomers. These desktop environments are then packaged up, sometimes customized or modified, along with other programs, as a distribution or "distro". The Linux world also had its share of controversy similar to Windows 8 when one of the most popular distros, Ubuntu, introduced a new desktop environment called Unity with features favouring touchscreens and it drove other distros to offer more conventional alternatives.

One big advantage of moving to linux is that among all these confusing choices are some desktop environments and distros intended specifically for older, less powerful hardware, like the older computers among those sold with XP. These machines can still be useful for basic computing and may only struggle with certain applications like gaming or playing HD videos.

How can I tell if I'll like linux or it can satisfy my needs?

Fortunately there is a way to find this out before you take the leap. If your computer has a cdrw or cd "burner", or you have a friend who has one that can burn a cd for you, here's what you can do. Most linux distros have a Live version that can be downloaded and burned to a cdr. Then you can boot your computer to the operating system on the cd and try it out, without touching the Windows operating system. You can see if your hardware works with it, or which parts do or don't (there are fixes for most that don't) and more important, whether you like it or not and whether it will answer your needs. There are programs like Libre Office and media players to replace most of the Windows programs you're used to, other familiar programs like Firefox have linux versions, but you won't be able to use your Windows programs directly unless you dual-boot or run Windows in a virtual machine. Nearly all linux distros can be installed alongside Windows as a dual-boot allowing you to choose which operating system you use when you boot.

While you're doing this you can also download and burn a copy of the Ultimate Boot CD. This is a collection of freeware diagnostic utilities, importantly including hard drive diagnostics, ram testing, and hardware component identification, that also boots from the cd with its own minimal operating system independent of the operating system on your computer. Both this and a live linux cd can be useful if your computer is bluescreening or not booting properly and can tell you if the problem is a corrupted operating system, a dead or dying hard drive, a failing stick of ram, etc. With these and the help of the experts at a forum such as this, you can solve many of the simple computer problems that crop up, and get you back in business.

This sounds interesting. Where do I start?

Right here. If you found this forum, you've already taken the first step. These forums used to be very busy but of late are not. However they still have a core of experts that can answer questions and provide help along the way. Some of it may be to direct you to forums or sites more dedicated to linux, but you can get a start here in answering questions specific to your hardware and getting you started.