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How to Install and Try Linux the Absolutely Easiest and Safest Way

In this follow up to Replace the Retiring Windows XP with Linux we're going learn the easiest and most foolproof way to install and run Xubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS on your old Windows XP computer. The only requirements are that your old computer has USB ports, and that it supports booting from a USB stick. If your computer is too old for USB, then it's pretty darned old and you really need to think about getting a newer one.

There are but four steps: one, go to OSDisc.com and order Xubuntu Linux on a 32-gigabyte USB stick. Then insert the USB stick into your computer, boot up, and start playing with Linux. It is self-contained and doesn't change anything on your computer. You can create and save files on the USB stick, install and remove Linux software, and it's completely portable so you can plug it in and use it anywhere. If you ever get bored with Xubuntu you can delete it and use your USB stick for something else.

Booting to a USB Stick

Ideally your computer is already configured to boot from removable media like USB sticks, CD/DVDs, and even floppy disks if it's old enough. Boot devices are listed in order in your computer's BIOS (basic input/output system), for example CD/DVD, USB, and then hard drive. Your computer BIOS is a little program installed in a microchip on your motherboard, and it performs the initial startup before handing off to your operating system. The BIOS goes down this list of boot devices until it finds one that is present, and then uses that.

Bios-screen

Watch the boot messages that appear when you first start up your PC and they will tell you how to enter your BIOS, like in figure 1. Then you can see how startup devices are configured. There is no standard way to do this, so you'll need to press the F1, F2, F11, or Del key to get into your BIOS settings, or possibly even something else; but don't worry, the startup messages will tell you. Then explore your BIOS settings until you see where to configure the boot device priority (figure 2).

fig-2-boot-order

Don't worry if your screens don't look exactly like my examples, because they're all a little different. Save your changes, if any, and exit, and when your system re-starts it should boot to your Xubuntu stick. The first screen has two choices: Try Xubuntu and Install Xubuntu.

fig-3-try-xubuntu

Click "Try Xubuntu" to run it from the USB stick. When it's finished booting you'll see something like figure four.

fig-4-desktop-xubuntu

Xubuntu recognizes any other installed operating systems, like Windows and system recovery partitions, and there will be icons for them on your Xubuntu desktop. If you have a recovery partition leave it alone. You can click on the Windows partitions to see your files.

Click the little mouse at the top left to see your application menu (figure 5).

fig-5-app-menu

Hover your cursor at the bottom to see your Xubuntu dock (figure 6). This auto-hides itself when you move the cursor away. If you want it to always be visible, right-click anywhere on the dock, then left-click Panel > Panel Preferences and uncheck "automatically show and hide the panel."

fig-6-panel-prefs

Now that you're up and running, you're ready to look at some documentation and learn how to run your nice Linux system. Linux uses right-click menus a lot, so remember this while you're exploring Xubuntu. Visit Xubuntu.org/help for how to's and other help resources.

Take your time and be patient. There is no such thing as a dead-easy, no-knowledge-required personal computer. It doesn't matter what computer you use, whether it's Microsoft, Apple, Android, Chromebook, Linux, or anything else. They all require knowledge and study. You should know basic computer terminology and components, and basic networking concepts. We still need keyboards, and there are lots of free typing tutors if you need a tune-up. There are zillions of great YouTube videos and online how to articles, and all kinds of books, and maybe some classes in your community. Linux and the free/open source software world offer a vast wealth of high-quality software for free. We've had affordable, sophisticated personal computers for over 30 years, and there is a world of knowledge literally at our fingertips. It's not hard once you move past "I can't do this."

About Xubuntu

I chose Xubuntu because it is part of the excellent and popular Ubuntu family of Linux distributions. The 12.04 LTS (long-term support) release, codename Precise Pangolin, receives updates and security fixes until April 2017. The interim releases are supported only for 9-18 months. It's nice and lightweight for older computers, and it has a good straightforward user interface. The Ubuntu installer is the easiest and most streamlined of any distro, and Ubuntu updates and upgrades are reliable. Ubuntu is popular and has the backing of its parent company Canonical, so it's not likely to disappear anytime soon. Xubuntu doesn't look much like Windows XP, but it has the same basic layout: an applications menu, and a panel that shows notifications and open apps. You can find everything with just a little bit of poking around and clicking stuff.

I know, my fellow Linux fans, I know, what about Linux Mint? Mint is a wonderful distro. And so is Mageia, and Fedora, and PCLinuxOS, and openSUSE, and Bohdi, and so many more. Linux is a feast of riches. OSDisc.com offers many Linux distros on USB sticks, so feel free to go nuts and use whatever one you want.

 

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  • portaro Said:

    Ver ygood simple guide is perfect for new Users I think, ver good work.

  • Imroz Towhid Said:

    this is what called "Live from Bootable disk/ pen drive"....... please show us a easy way to install xubuntu.......... i am looking forward to use it.

  • jean clement Said:

    Run the live CD/DVD or USB live. If all works well with your hardware click the install icon on the desktop; follow the instructions, its easy and bombproof; good luck.

  • Imroz Towhid Said:

    Thanks Jean Clement, I will follow your instruction...... :)

  • Shawn Said:

    Kind of out-dated already, and it was just posted yesterday. I was looking at the screenshots and didn't see Whisker menu. Why not Xubuntu 14.04? Maybe look into release information and plan your article accordingly.

  • NickTh Said:

    Why not Xubuntu 14.04 is a good question, but 12.04 LTS is still supported and it's not outdated. Someone can install 12.04 LTS and using it until 2017.

  • portaro Said:

    The description above is the method after you have an properly ISO bootable on USB already prepared, If you need info about how you can burn the ISO of Xubuntu on a PEN-Drive I suggest to you search about Unetbootin, - Unetbootin is the tool more used to burn ISO 's of Linux System on a USB to then boot on a machine. The method to make a ISO on USB Bootable is very easy on Unetbootin.

  • Gonzalo Montes de Oca Said:

    Very good distro for old machines

  • Taher khan Said:

    its really great that we can instal ubuntu this much easily.. thnx for guiding...

  • philipz Said:

    Thanks for the continues great articles, but i wanted to bring somethings to your attention. Firstly, i think you should have waited a few days and released this with Xubuntu 14.04, as its more up-to-date and supported to 2019. Secondly, i think it is wrong to suggest users of windows xp upgrade their laptop/desktop because they dont have usb booting, because if they are likely to upgrade their pc, why wouldnt they continue using windows as it will most likely be pre-installed anyway. Instead it would have been better to guide them to Plop Boot Manager which has bootable floppy and cd images. Thirdly, i think it would have been good that in addition to giving them the option to get a usb pre-installed with xubuntu, that you had instructions for them to put it on a usb they already have.

  • robb Said:

    +1 philipz Why on earth make a blogpost for a replacement OS that already is 2 years old. (x)ubuntu 14.04 has just been released the 17th and from experience (I run ubuntu 14.04 beta (and now 14.04 without beta) for almost 2 months now and it is rock stable and VERY smooth. I think you should rewrite your post and use 14.04 instead of 12.04

  • Erinn Said:

    A brand-new release full of brand-new bugs. What could possibly go wrong.

  • James Said:

    +1 on Xubuntu 14.04. Also consider the even lighter weight Lubuntu.

  • philipz Said:

    @Erinn: well that is the cycle of software development, new releases, new bugs, fix bugs, and repeat. For those who want to turn a linux iso downloaded from the internet into a bootable usb on windows, the best tools are YUMI, LinuxLive USB Creator, and Rufus. I have tried Unetbootin a few times and have had very bad results from it.

  • Erinn Said:

    @philipz, you (and some of the other commenters) seem to have completely missed the point.

  • RUKidding Said:

    Please STOP adding something to that coffee you been drinking. Try doing a linux install with GPT partitioning and Windows 7 OEM on an ASUS K55a. It can't be done. Easy BCD doesn't work with GPT. And windows either won't boot or will destroy linux bootloader repeatedly. You can only dual boot with a retail copy of Windows and NO Gpt. And even if linux did work with gpt easily, it will NOT tell you where to install a bootloader nor will if fix squat if something goes wrong. It defaults to /sda and that is NOT where it should go. You would have to reformat and reinstall linux multiple times to change the location of the bootloader and HOPE it works. The only easy way to install linux is to install it by itself and no windows, Then it will choose the wrong partition sizes, add a swap file even if it isn't needed, or just put everything on one big partition. While less user interaction than windows, it is NOT easier than windows (about the same hassle really). Easiest way to install it is to either take the defaults (whole disk) or have someone with experience do it for you.

  • Linuxmint Said:

    Just try Linux Mint 13 maya with cinnamon desktop for newer computers or with xfce for older computers,much better than ubuntu or xubuntu lubuntu....

  • Tombie75 Said:

    With Ubuntu 12.04 LTS version I had problem with full screen flash videos on Youtube, Slow and blurry videos. After I installed 14.04 LTS - version full screen video problem is gone.

  • Bernie Victor Said:

    Loaded Xubuntu 14.04 yesterday. Easiest and quickest disco I have tried. No snags or bugs yet. easy to customize. I tried ordinairy Ubuntu 14.04 before. It installed OK but much more slowly, then immediately locked up when I ran it. Did two installs bth 64 bit and 32bit versions, and the same thing happened.. Xubuntu no problems. Also tried Lubuntu bot no so easy to customize.

  • will Said:

    I just had the same problems. I down loaded ubuntu 14.04 both 64 and 32 bit yesterday did crc cks and both gave me the m$ blue of death on both versions on 2 computers a I7 8 gig ram and a Q6600 4 gig ram.

  • ic3d Said:

    We realized a Xubuntu 12.04 called "Xubuntu XPocalypse Remix" with full multimedia support (MP3, AVI, DVD, ...), LibreOffice for better doc xls compatiblity, and something else. It's available in italian and english and it can be free (as a beer AND as a speech) downloaded from www.xpocalypse.org/download.html. Enjoy it!

  • AS Said:

    I'm not sure what the author means by support "supports booting from a USB stick." The BIOS does not have to even state anything about USB as a boot option. My experience is that a properly created flash drive plugged into a working USB port will be recognized as an additional "hard drive" to choose from as a boot option and it works!

  • ty Said:

    I'm confused... where is the "Install" part of this guide? All I see is a live boot. The moment you reboot / shutdown, everything will reset to default. Fact is, the moment you start installing (writing to disk) there are risks. I would consider renaming this title to "How to Try Linux the Absolutely Easiest and Safest Way for Xbuntu 12.04"

  • kirk Said:

    From where this "install guide" stops: --click the network icon and connect to your network. --play a while and make sure that things work and installing this is what you want --click the "Install Xubuntu" icon on the desktop --choose how you want it installed --answer questions during the installation (enter time zone, username, password, additional codes if wanted) --reboot when prompted that install has finsished

  • Jorma Said:

    Dear Carla, thanks very much for another great article. Please note that nowadays it is possible to boot Linux from USB even if there is no Bios USB support in the machine. PlopKexec is a Linux Kernel based boot manager for auto detecting and chain loading Linux distributions on USB drives. Have a look at http://www.plop.at/en/plopkexec.html

  • jamatt Said:

    @philipz: 1. Support for Xubuntu 14.04 is three years-so to 2017 as the article stated rather than 2019. 2. Your second point suggests that people continue to use computers that don't support booting by usb. I actually do run a couple of computers that won't boot to usb (one an old version of Mint (from 2010, no longer supported) that came on a CD, the other one on SolydX) and don't know anything about PLOP. I suspec the writer's reason for her comment about upgrading the computer was that installing on a computer that won't support booting from USB is twofold-one is that it would complicate her really simple article, the other a belief that a computer of that age is in need of upgrade, at least for those not computer literate enough to switch a hard drive, a battery, a RAM stick etc as well as for those whose for whom an old computer won't do well with some uses.

  • sandeep kumar Said:

    along with windows8 is it possible to put linux version os

  • Richard Palmer Said:

    Nice article. For all those wondering why Xubuntu 12.04 and not 14.04, I believe it's because 12.04 is the last Xubuntu distro to support a non-PAE CPU. Many older computers have CPUs that do not support PAE and this is potentially big negative for the Linux developers.

  • richard xx Said:

    when i have instaled xubuntu can i switch back to windows? because i only need repair my computer from blue death

  • richard xx Said:

    when i have instaled xubuntu can i switch back to windows? because i only need repair my computer from blue death

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