From crap laptop to serviceable terminal desktop
October 16, 2014 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I recently upgraded my main use laptop, replacing an HP Pavillion G4 that had a dead battery. The HP had lost much functionality as a laptop because it couldn't run for more than 10 minutes without being plugged in. I want to use the HP as a secondary workstation for Google Docs, reading .PDFs, and browsing the web. I have two main questions about this: what's a good OS to reformat onto the system to make this happen, and is the dead battery going to get in the way of it being a serviceable low profile desktop?

Here are the HP's specs:
2.5 GHZ processor,
4gigs memory,
283 gigs storage space,
Onboard GFX.

I'm an Android and Google user for pretty much all of my web services.

The battery is literally dead. Like, the OS shoots me a warning about it being dead whenever I boot the system. Off of the cord it gets 10 minutes or less before it does a hard shutdown.

Batteries seem to be within 20 dollars, so if it's not necessary I don't want to buy one, but if it is necessary I wouldn't mind shelling out the 20 bucks to have a decent little desktop PC.

I'd like to move off of Windows 7 (what it's running now) just to have a clean start, and because of the abysmal specs, to have the OS taking up as few resources as possible. Being an HP, it of course has about a gig of bloat in the form of HP "tools" loaded onto it. Moving to an open source, low demand OS is very appealing to me.

In terms of OS I've considered Chromium, or maybe Mint. I'm not adverse to doing a little work, but I don't feel like learning how to get around a Linux space at the moment, so something user friendly that comes with a simple installer is preferred.

The computer has an optical drive, and I have a CD burner, so that's an option when it comes time to reformat.
posted by codacorolla to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Best answer: I just got a similarly-spec'ed Dell machine to have as a utility living room machine. I used Ubuntu for a few weeks and it ran really, really well and was really easy to figure out (almost everything works like OSX). The only downside is I wanted some features that I couldn't get to work (Airplay being the biggest), so I ended up switching to the Windows 10 beta program, which BTW runs really well on it as well if you're up for an experimental operating system.

tl;dr, Ubuntu is really, really easy to use and runs like a beast on that era machine, so that's my recommendation.
posted by General Malaise at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Considering your needs I'd go with the very lightweight and easy to install and get started LXDE-based Lubuntu.

I'd also replace the battery, they aren't that expensive for what you get.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: Another vote for Ubuntu.

Also, way back when I was forced to do this, I actually physically removed my battery to make the laptop a bit lighter. That worked fine. But if you're still getting ten whole minutes out of the battery, well, you might as well keep it as your very own UPS, I guess.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:59 PM on October 16, 2014

If you really really like Android, you can run it native.
posted by JHarris at 7:17 PM on October 16, 2014

I don't know why you'd need a battery if it isn't going to travel. I have an old laptop that was running too hot, now it serves movies in the living room, on a cooling pad with the battery out.
posted by BinGregory at 10:28 PM on October 16, 2014

Any newish RPM/Debian-based Linux distribution + Google Chrome will do nicely. I like Fedora, but YMMV.
posted by jzb at 4:40 AM on October 17, 2014

Response by poster: Ever since its battery started dying I've noticed sluggish performance. Not sure if that's confirmation bias or reality. Would removing the battery altogether or replacing it up performance?
posted by codacorolla at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2014

The condition of the battery has no impact on the laptop's performance. If you're going to use it as a stationary machine and leave it plugged in all the time, I would remove the battery to prevent further damage to it, and to remove the risk of it causing physical damage should the cells inside decide to leak or short internally.

You've got some good recommendations here for Linux distributions. I would also recommend you take a look at Mint, which is another fork of the Ubuntu project focused on being light and easy with excellent driver support out of the box.

Once you slap a new OS on, it'll be like a new machine. Enjoy!
posted by Capa at 2:38 PM on October 17, 2014

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