Ex-XP? What should I do with my old XP running laptop?
March 28, 2014 3:03 AM   Subscribe

I have an old laptop running XP. The laptop actually dates from the Vista era, but I chose to have XP installed given the lousy rep that Vista had. I have seen this question. I have a newer laptop that I use for most of my word processing and internetting needs. I can retire the old laptop, but it still works so I'd rather not ditch it. Assuming I am not going to attempt to run XP on anything connected to the outside world, what can I do with this old laptop?

These are the options I'm thinking of:

1. Permanently disconnect it from the internet. I currently mainly used it to watch videos and DVDs on. I'd be reasonably OK just using it for this since I do have another laptop. If I go this option, how do I make sure it really is permanently disconnected?

2. Install Linux. I'd prefer this, since then I'd still have a computer instead of a glorified media player. I have no clue how to go about it. Do I install it on top of XP? Do I have to get rid of XP? And if so, how?

I can see a lot of information out there on the net, but I'd prefer some advice from Mefites. I can use a computer fine, but am fairly clueless about anything under the hood. I probably won't attempt a Linux install without idiot-proof step-by-step instructions. Help please?
posted by pianissimo to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: With regard to installing Linux, you might be interested in this video from Computerphile which deals exactly with this.

Although they have problems with using UNetbootin, it worked perfectly for me when I did something similar recently.
posted by oclipa at 3:56 AM on March 28, 2014

Best answer: Option (1): disable network card in BIOS or use physical switch (many laptops have one) to disable wireless. Do not attach a network cable. Done.

Option (2): Ubuntu or something is about as challenging to install on an old laptop as Windows XP, i.e. boot from the usb and follow instructions to click through a few screens. It gets harder on newer laptops - but you don't have that problem.

You want to install instead of XP - you get rid of it by clicking 'yes, format the disc' when it asks you during installation. NOTE: move any data you have to another computer first - e.g. photos and such! This will delete them!
posted by Ashlyth at 3:57 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to keep XP Ubuntu will automatically set up a dual boot when you install it.
posted by COD at 4:45 AM on March 28, 2014

Best answer: You can download Ubuntu (or other distributions) as a LiveCD/DVD. Burn the image off to a CDROM, put the CD in and reboot your laptop. It'll run Ubuntu from the CD and let you get a feel for the UI and applications, but without any changes to your hard drive. This is a good way to see if there are any glaring hardware issues, but I don't expect you'll find any.

There's usually an "Install to the HD!" button somewhere on the desktop, so after you've poked around for awhile and you want to keep it, hit the button and let 'er rip.
posted by jquinby at 5:01 AM on March 28, 2014

I have a 2007 era laptop. It came with Vista but I ran XP on it for years. I haven't replaced it because it still does pretty much everything I want. These days I have it dual boot Ubuntu and WIndows 8.1 and it works just fine.
posted by DarkForest at 5:44 AM on March 28, 2014

I'm not exceptionally tech savvy and I've installed Ubuntu on several old laptops with no problems; in fact I've found it easier than some Windows installs. It's a great way to get a few more good years out of them. I have a nineties Dell running Xubuntu that was totally useable, at least it was a few years ago, before the keyboard crapped out on me. I've dual booted with Windows in the past so I could play some games, etc but for a backup laptop I probably wouldn't bother. Just back up your files. The live CD will walk you through.
posted by hairy terrarium at 6:12 AM on March 28, 2014

Best answer: You might want to check out Lubuntu and Xubuntu. I asked a somewhat related question in this question and got loads of good advice.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2014

Best answer: Most of the mainstream Linux installations come with their own install wizards that are essentially "idiot-proof step-by-step instructions." For an older laptop, I recommend a version of Ubuntu called Xubuntu. It comes in the form of a DVD disc image that you burn to a DVD (or potentially a USB key) that you then boot from on the laptop. It will boot into a fully graphical environment that will let you play with Xubuntu before you commit. You will also perform the installation in this environment.

It's fun! It's a great way to teach yourself a new system, too, because this is a secondary laptop and you're not worried about breaking it.

You can download it here:


The version you want will be the 32-bit version, called i386. Download via torrent or directly. The correct filename will be xubuntu-13.10-desktop-i386.iso.

Assuming the burning process goes smoothly, and your laptop has no issues booting off a DVD, you'll find yourself playing in Xubuntu and the guide it provides will be even easier to follow than the words I'm typing right now.

I hope you let us know how it goes. Feel free to message me if you have any specific questions.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:49 PM on March 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you so much everybody. Your advice got me to not freak out over installing a new OS. It really was as easy as everyone said. For the record, I went with xubuntu.

tapesonthefloor thanks for identifying the file name for me - I had looked at that download before you commented and nearly gave up. This is what I meant by needing step by step instructions! Thanks!
posted by pianissimo at 9:03 PM on April 4, 2014

In case Ubuntu doesn't do everything you were accustomed to doing with XP: I have just found out about a way to keep XP up to date with security patches until 2019.

Sounds too good to be true, but I just fired up an XP SP3 virtual machine that was already as up to date as officially possible, merged the registry file as described and launched Windows Update - which is now in the middle of downloading and installing 28 more updates including a Malicious Software Removal Tool for January 2015; so it might well be the real deal. I will update this thread if I notice any Windows breakage before it closes.
posted by flabdablet at 2:39 AM on January 29, 2015

All patches to January 2015 are now installed; XP rebooted and appears to be working fine. Windows Update history lists one new update for product "Silverlight" and 27 for "Windows XP Embedded". Cool beans!
posted by flabdablet at 4:06 AM on January 29, 2015

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