Help me use an old laptop to play music on
November 10, 2011 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Help me use my malware-d laptop as a music storage device with minimal investment.

I have a 4 year old Acer laptop that, despite my best efforts, is a rat's nest of malware. I don't have the Vista boot disks and do not want to spend $250 to buy new OS disks. I'd like to give it a new OS, maybe Ubuntu? although I have no Linux experience, and play songs/Pandora through it to the stereo. I don't want to put it online before I wipe the OS.

I'm not super knowledgable at the OS level but am computer literate, familiar with the concepts that lurk below the application layer, and ace at following instructions. Is this a worthwhile project, even? Has anyone done this successfully? How would you approach?

Music is all on iTunes, all backed up elsewhere.
posted by chesty_a_arthur to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Do you have any iTunes music purchases, or is it all "other" sources?
posted by odinsdream at 6:46 AM on November 10, 2011

It's about 50/50 iTunes and Other.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:00 AM on November 10, 2011

Installing Ubuntu is very simple, but I don't think you're going to have an option for playing the iTunes purchases on anything but iTunes, which isn't available on Linux.
posted by odinsdream at 7:31 AM on November 10, 2011

Unless you install a paid OS (windows in this case), you won't be getting your iTunes music back from the store. They don't make clients for free OS's for obvious reasons. As to whether you can backup your existing iTunes songs to external media... that's outside my realm of experience.

What I'd do is find someone who can answer the iTunes backup question (or google it to death). Back up the music to a thumb drive. Then I'd boot from a bootable CD (ubuntu, kubuntu, knoppix, etc.) Copy your non-iTunes library to a thumb drive, too. Nuke laptop to the bare earth from said CD, install OS, boot up, copy music back to local drive. Suffer that you no longer get to / have to use iTunes.
posted by introp at 7:37 AM on November 10, 2011

You might have luck finding an ISO of the Vista Install disc and then using your product key to activate it. I just went through this process with Windows 7 when my brother's hard drive failed and the laptop didn't come with the installation discs.

Alternately, if you can get Ubuntu worked out, I've had a really good experience with Plex as a media server.

Keep in mind, many iTunes purchases now don't have DRM, so you might be able to play some of your music elsewhere.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 8:32 AM on November 10, 2011

Thanks, all. The music's all backed up elsewhere, so I'm not concerned about losing it - worst case is I won't be able to play it on the Ubuntu machine, right?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:38 AM on November 10, 2011

Two possibilities you might want to think about:

Does the laptop have a recovery partition? You might be able to wipe it back to factory settings without having to mess about with finding install media. Some quick googling suggests that ALT+F10 while the computer is still in the BIOS is the magic key to enable to recovery partition, if it exists. You might want to give that a try.

Alternatively. as hankscorpio83 mentions, if you can get your hands on some install media (*cough* bittorrent *cough*), you should just be able to use your existing product key to activate it. In the past I've had trouble using retail edition ISO images with an OEM edition product key (which is almost certainly the type of product key you have) so be sure to get the OEM version of the ISO if you go that route.
posted by jcreigh at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2011

It sounds like you want to play with Ubuntu; downloading and burning the install disc and setting this up should be well within your capabilities. I've done similar and would describe my expertise level similarly to the way you did yours. Just make sure *everything* you might want to keep from that laptop is backed up in at least two other places, because the first step is to reformat the disk.

worst case is I won't be able to play it on the Ubuntu machine, right?

Music bought from iTunes before early 2009 won't play because of DRM (except if you paid extra for iTunes Plus - those songs have no DRM); music bought from iTunes later than that will play just fine, as presumably will your other stuff.
posted by nowonmai at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2011

Are the iTunes music files DRm free? Don't forget that Apple stopped adding that to their music a few years ago and for files you bought with DRM, you can "upgrade" for a small fee per file.
posted by reddot at 5:15 AM on November 11, 2011

Thanks, all -- the recovery partition, while not the sexiest solution, was the easiest. I'm embarrassed to say that for all by spybot log sharing and registry setting hooha it never occurred to me to google that (since it wasn't available via Windows. Der!)

Looks like I may donate it to my husband in any case, for his couch-sitting Office needs.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:02 PM on November 12, 2011

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