How to continue using an almost new laptop
January 10, 2013 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I have an Acer laptop with an i3 chip and the standard amount of RAM, probably 4GB that I bought in 2011. Just over a year after I bought it, and just weeks after the end of warranty, the hard drive died. I'm wondering how hard it would be to buy a new hard drive and install Ubuntu or something like that. Is it possible? If so, how much of a pain is it to set up drivers? Would I have to manually install drivers for nearly everything (USB ports, wireless receiver, etc)?
posted by KokuRyu to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The last umpteen Ubuntu installs I've done have just worked. I can't speak particularly to the i3, but my experience is that you'd boot the live CD, do a cursory check to make sure that your wireless was working, click the "install to hard drive" icon, and you'd be all rockin' out.

You might, at some point, have to select "yes, install the proprietary drivers", but... 7 or 8 years ago my then massage therapist (ie: not a computer geek) girlfriend now wife said "I hate that you're always screaming at my Windows computer, how can I put Linux on it so you can fix it?". I gave her an Ubuntu CD, and except for dual-booting Windows, she was able to get the thing running without intervention from me.

It really is pretty simple these days.
posted by straw at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2013

You could install Ubuntu, or you could continue with your existing Windows license. Replacing a hard drive is not the sort of thing that voids a Windows license. The Ubuntu driver situation is generally painless unless you have a weird graphics or sound card.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2013

What straw said.
posted by zombieApoc at 10:01 AM on January 10, 2013

The hard drive installation isn't going to be terribly bad. You might have to get a couple small screwdrivers you don't have, and you will have to follow static electricity precautions, but the task is about as complex as cooking a simple meal.
posted by krilli at 10:14 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Setting up Ubuntu is a snap. I've never had to search for drivers. Install takes a fraction of the time that it does on Windows. Go to the Ubuntu page and download which ever version you need (32bit or 64bit). Also, find their instructions on how to install from a USB drive or a CD since you can't just put the image on the USB/CD, you have to make it bootable.

If you can install Ubuntu on your drive, it means that the drive is fine and you just encountered an error.

Enjoy Ubuntu & make sure to check out the Ubuntu forums & the Linux Action Show podcast to learn more about Linux.
posted by toddst at 10:14 AM on January 10, 2013

Consider a SSD if you want to wowed by the speed of your machine. I can't talk about Linux and SSDs, but a Windows machine with a SSD is much, much faster.
posted by nostrada at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your quick responses! I've tried to download Ubuntu onto a USB stick a couple of times in the past, but have always run into the same error (which of course, I can't remember, but it's a common error that Internet searches indicate stumps many people).

I guess the procedure is:

1) buy new HDD
2) install new HDD into laptop (I've done this before)
3) use Ubuntu CD to do the rest

I guess I'll have to send away for the CD, since I've had the same issue in the past trying to download and install the ISO onto a thumb drive.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2013

Or burn your own CD/DVD (which seems to be the easiest route. I'm installing from a thumb drive right now, but I have had problems with that).
posted by straw at 10:31 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never been able to boot from a thumb drive, but that's a BIOS issue: older computers generally can't do it, but (AIUI) some newer computers can.

If you have another machine with a CD burner, it's really easy to download the Ubuntu CD image, burn a CDROM, and use that to install the laptop.

I haven't had driver problems (or any other problems, really) with Ubuntu for ages. I don't like the new user interface, though -- they've taken many of the things I hate about Windows and Mac and copied them. Grrr.
posted by spacewrench at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2013

Best answer: I just put Debian (Ubuntu's ancestor) on an Acer laptop two days ago. Only thing I had to figure out after was getting it to recognize the wireless chip - took me 2min of googling, another 5min of copy/pasting into the terminal. Just make sure you're connected by ethernet while you do the installing to save yourself a lot of update time afterwards.

If you want, you can look up your specific acer model here to get an idea of what will and what won't work.
posted by mannequito at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Burning an image to CD with ImgBurn is pretty simple. There are probably tutorials on youtube.
posted by toddst at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

For booting the ubuntu installation from an USB stick, here's the official guide (for windows).
posted by mirage pine at 1:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was a complete linux newbie but I dived in with Mint a year ago, and it was very easy, no fear, no risk from my experience.
posted by wilful at 3:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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