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1757 posts

Uber Geek

# 233540 20-Apr-2018 15:50
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My old desktop PC is really old, I think I got it around 2005 or so. It still runs the Windows XP that came with it and so I'm looking at replacing it as I'm not comfortable using XP any more.


This PC sits in my office next to my desk. I'm not sure on the processor but I'm pretty sure it's got 4GB RAM and a 512GB drive that's maybe half full (I'm not home right now to double-check). I mainly use it for web browsing and some light-weight image editing. The web browsing I do is a bit heavy, eg often have 10 tabs open running Javascript-intensive sites like GMail, Google Docs, etc. I like using Opera as my browser but I'm also happy with Firefox and Chrome.


My initial thought was to get a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and try to use that as a replacement. I haven't used Linux all that much but I like the idea of getting away from Windows and all the hassles that comes with running Windows. I've got a Raspberry Pi that I use with Kodi as a multi-media machine hooked up to my TV. After some research I found that while some people do indeed use the Raspberry Pi as a desktop machine the performance isn't that great when it comes to heavy web use (eg if you want to have more than 6 tabs open at a time). It seems the Pi's 1GB RAM is the problem here.


My second thought was to get a NUC as I like the idea of the small format. I'd still run Linux on it. I had a look at NUC pricing on PB Tech, which lead me to my third thought...


My third thought was that PB Tech sell ex-lease machines quite cheaply. Maybe I should buy one of those and get more bang for my buck? Again, still running Linux.


My fourth thought was why not keep my existing PC and just switch from Windows to Linux? This would be the cheapest option, not new hardware required!


So what I'd like to do now is download and make some Live CDs so I can try some distros out and see what works with my old hardware. It'll also help me decide if switching to Linux is workable for me. If it turns out my old hardware isn't up to the job then I'll go back to one of my earlier ideas and buy something new or ex-lease.


What distros should I look at, considering I'm new to Linux but pretty experienced with Windows? I'd like a desktop that looks something like Windows 7 (I'm not all that keen on the Windows 8 and 10 look). Good compatability with older hardware would be handy. A good community that I can turn to if I run into problems.


I know a few big names like Ubuntu and Debian (is Ubuntu meant to be better for beginners, while Debian is more for experts? But I've heard that Debian is more stable).


Also, should I expect running a Live CD to give me slower performance than if I installed to a HDD? I'm guessing the boot time and load time for opening software would be a lot slower, but once the program (eg web browser) is running then should it run at about the same performance as if everything was on a HDD?

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Chief Trash Bandit
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Uber Geek

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  # 1999900 20-Apr-2018 16:01
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Ubuntu is based on Debian, so a lot of the commands/features can be used on both, but Ubuntu is aimed to be more user friendly to entice Windows users over ;)


LiveCD will be slower to access programs etc, but once loaded, in theory they should be fine. Another option is fire up VirtualBox on your current system and install Ubuntu - performance wont be "true" as such, but will give you an idea of functionality etc.

XPD / Gavin / DemiseNZ


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  # 1999901 20-Apr-2018 16:02
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+1 for Ubuntu.



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Uber Geek

  # 1999902 20-Apr-2018 16:05
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Running most current distros of Linux on a PC that old will not be a pleasant experience, unless the rest of it is a very high spec.

Ubuntu and anything based on Ubuntu tends to have the best overall install experience. Linux Mint is the best of those imo.

There are some distros optimised for low spec pcs. I've tried a few and was not impressed. The base of Linux has moved and sticks a lot closer to the current hardware compared to the time Linus was beavering away on an old box..

1757 posts

Uber Geek

  # 1999907 20-Apr-2018 16:14
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LiveCD will be slower to access programs etc, but once loaded, in theory they should be fine. Another option is fire up VirtualBox on your current system and install Ubuntu - performance wont be "true" as such, but will give you an idea of functionality etc.



Will VirtualBox run on Windows XP?


Am I right in assuming that trying a LIVE CD won't touch any connected hard drives? Or will I be able to access files on the drives (eg view text files / images / etc)?

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Uber Geek


  # 1999915 20-Apr-2018 16:31
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+1 Ubuntu and Mint, both are good, Mint maybe a bit easier. Ubuntu is the most widely used and best community support. Live CD runs on hardware, doesn't write to hard drives but from memory can read from them. Linux isn't magic, on a slow PC it will be slow, but it'll be a bit better than Windows usually. I quite like Ubuntu desktops, but Windows is more convenient.

676 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 2000278 21-Apr-2018 12:43
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Ubuntu. Simply for the fact that it has the best support. What to do something in Linux chances are someone done it with Ubuntu and written a guide/blog about it.

2118 posts

Uber Geek


  # 2000364 21-Apr-2018 17:30
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Mint / Ubuntu / Fedora all have great community support.




Ubuntu is about to push out Ubuntu 18.04 which will have a lot of updated device drivers and technology, plus "Long Term Support" meaning you don't need to upgrade every 6 months.

Generally known online as OpenMedia, now working for Red Hat APAC a Technology Evangelist and Product Manager. Still playing with MythTV and digital media on the side.


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Uber Geek

  # 2000389 21-Apr-2018 18:38
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Linux Mint Cinnamon if you had some newer hardware.  Xubuntu for older hardware.  Lubuntu is another option for older computers.  Once installed update the software which takes at most 30 minutes if you have  a decent connection. Then install synaptic package manager & install all your extra software using this. Once you learn to use it synaptic is very easy to use. For example you can mark several programs for installation, click apply once, & away it goes. And stick to the Long Term Support versions (LTS) such as Ubuntu 16.04.3 and Linux Mint 18.3. Some printer brands such as Brother and Epson work quite well, but HP is by far the best brand for Linux.

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Uber Geek

  # 2000410 21-Apr-2018 19:27
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I agree with Mint, its GUI is similar to XP. Elementary OS, also based on Ubuntu, is a nice contender too, as the GUI is simple and the OS whizzes along quicker than most of the newer Linux distros.

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Ultimate Geek

  # 2000426 21-Apr-2018 20:33
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Do you have any IT savvy mates that run Linux?  If you do I'd run what they run, then they can help you if you get stuck.


Ubuntu is the biggest name in "consumer friendly" distributions so there's a lot of stuff out there to help you.  Having said that, I'm typing this on a Debian machine, but I did start using Linux in 1997 back when "user friendly" wasn't an afterthought, it wasn't a thought at all...


What do you use your PC for, mostly?  Obviously web browsing will be fine and LibreOffice will fill in for Microsoft Office, but are there any other applications you need?

171 posts

Master Geek

  # 2000468 21-Apr-2018 21:50
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I started with a user-friendly well configured Linux distro many years ago, and after getting some experience I now go with Debian on most occasions.  It could be good for a beginner if you like to thoroughly research documentation and guides before taking a leap, but it can still be tricky with some hardware, chipsets needing firmware patches etc.


I have a low powered old netbook that I like to keep going for simple tasks, which I most recently refreshed using Xubuntu, which gives you a light and fast desktop with a good set of features.  It's hard to make the choice between Xubuntu and Mint, they both offer a really smooth installation and nice desktop options, but I would recommend either of these.



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  # 2000500 22-Apr-2018 01:22
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I run Mint and I'm not in IT.. There is alot of information out there and support if you hunt for it. But it's helpful if you are interested in learning something new.


But not sure the mainstream Linux distros will run on something that's 13 years old though.


There are minimal distros aimed at old machines.


Would it be worth it for hassles vrs getting a ev lease machine that's 4 years old and running a more recent Linux version? 


(there is a Raspian desktop for PC)



273 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 2000535 22-Apr-2018 10:17
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Suck on Linux Mint - It is just what you need!

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Ultimate Geek


  # 2000540 22-Apr-2018 10:43
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If your PC is circa 2005 you may find Unity (the GUI for Ubuntu) far too slow for example when I ran Unity on a Pentium4 it hardy  worked


My personal preference on very low spec PCs is Lubuntu or Xubuntu as you get the Ubuntu base and support but a light weight desktop/GUI




...and LibreOffice will fill in for Microsoft Office...


Yes I use Liberoffice too on Linux and Windows at home, excellent alternative to MS for Office










10899 posts

Uber Geek

  # 2000541 22-Apr-2018 10:50
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xlinknz: If your PC is circa 2005 you may find Unity (the GUI for Ubuntu) far too slow for example when I ran Unity on a Pentium4 it hardy  worked

Unity is gone - from 17.10 and later.

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