So Windows XP lived for around 12 years. Which means a lot of computers shipped with XP out of the box which is now no longer supported. With many consumers moving on to new devices utilising Windows 8, or more latterly, Windows 10, the question of what to do with their now aged and defunct laptops looms large. Why not try revitalising your old machines with a new operating system – yes, others do exist. Read on to learn more about our Linux Mint OS experiment!
Since support for Windows XP ended on the April 8th 2014 most people just went out and brought new PCs or laptops. Sure, some people upgraded to run Windows 7, and then upgraded them to Windows 10 with the free upgrade but on older machines, resources would prove to be an issue.
This was the case for this little Samsung netbook so I decided to try something a little…different.
Purchased second-hand around May time last year for about £80, this incredibly affordable little machine proved to be the guinea pig in my adventure.
So the device specifications on the Samsung NC10 purchases are:
- 2GB RAM
- Intel Atom N270 clocked at 1.6 GHz
- SanDisk SDSSDP064G 64GB SSD
- 10.2″ (25.9 cm) 1024×600 LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
- 1.3 megapixel Webcam
- 10/100 Mbit Ethernet
- 802.11b/g wireless LAN
- Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (standard configuration)
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- 3-in-1 Flash Memory card reader (SD, SDHC, MMC)
When purchased it had had a new battery fitted as well as a 64GB SSD to replace the old original 160GB HDD. It also had Windows 7 Starter pre-installed and according to the seller it had been upgraded from 1GB of RAM to 2GB of RAM.
Running Windows 7 the unit ran at a fair steady pace, but as time went on it began to slow down. Boot up times became longer and crashing was more frequently. Now this unit was rarely turned on as it was brought to be used occasionally when that person needed Windows but obviously if performance was to be sluggish and crashing was to become more and more routine, its use would only be all that more infrequent.
When the Windows 10 upgrade was released, the device seemed to once again run well. In fact it booted up faster and the crashes became less frequent. “Great a new lease of life for this ageing machine” I thought during my first use. However history once again repeated itself. Boot times increased once more and crashes once again crept in. This left me with with a couple of options for a replacement operating system in order to prolong the life of this device:
- Chrome OS
- Remix OS
Now, my initial plan was to try Chrome OS. Something simple and light. After all the Chromebit has 2GB RAM and an ARM processor so the Atom processor in this NC10 netbook should be fine. However for some reason I couldn’t find the official ISO image so that plan went out of the window quite quickly. So next on the list was Remix OS but that required a 16GB USB 3.0 flash drive and I didn’t have one lying around so that plan also died a quick death.
So that left Ubuntu. Well lets just say this wasn’t plain sailing. When running Ubuntu from the USB thumb drive it performed brilliantly. Sure there was a couple a stutters here and there but this was to be expected. After all I running a full operating system from a USB 2.0 stick!
So to combat those little niggly performance issues I decided to “install” (you’ll understand the quotations later on) and over-write the Windows partition. Following all the on-screen instructions all was going well until it locked up and just stayed on black screen. Very odd indeed. Hard-rebooting the netbook was my next step, and once again I tried installing Ubuntu. It turns out that the device was using low powered graphics. I tried using standard graphics. No success. I wasn’t prepared to use command line. So out the window with that plan also.
I was running out of options as quickly as I was thinking of them!
Speaking with Dom and Mark, both of them suggested trying Mint with the Cinnamon UI. Mint is a version of Linux-based on Ubuntu and Debian which is, first and foremost, free, has an active and large community base, and is, best of all, lightweight in its deployment to ensure a smooth experience.
So that’s what I did. Running Linux Mint from the thumb drive proved to be smooth sailing. There was only one quick crash. The next step? Installing Mint on the device itself. This time installing another operating system was successful, installing first time without any hiccups. After a brief test run it was clear to see that Mint was here to stay.
After installing and updating some packages I was ready to go. The one thing I was surprised with was the amount of programs that I use daily on other operating systems, that were available in the application store. I picked up the Chromium browser, Audacity, Skype and TeamViewer. Mint includes software such as Libre Office 5 and VLC. Whilst there is no Microsoft Office the replacement Libre Office 15 is not a bad option and will open and edit office files. Most-everybody knows about VLC the media player. VLC basically plays almost any/every file type you can think of in the world of video. As you can see there are a lot of main stream applications for Linux which was something of a surprise to me.
Mint has a lot of little things that are very similar to Windows which helped the transition also. Familiar friends such as a desktop, start menu, control panel, system etc, all helped the intuitive nature of the operating system use. It was so very similar to Windows. Considering most people who used XP until the day it ‘died’ clearly didn’t like change and that was the reason why they stuck to it for so long, Mint provides a nice alternative without a jarring user experience.
Being a strong Windows user myself I had virtually no problems using Mint. Also considering that most of the software I use is available for Linux I could easily use Mint on a secondary device. The fact it uses fewer resources than Windows is an added benefit. When idling on Windows 10 the CPU sat at about 48% – 50% usage but since switching the device to Mint it sits at around 10% – 20%. A huge difference you’d have to agree. The best thing is that this CPU usage difference is noticeable to the user.
Like I said at the beginning of this editorial, this machine is for a family member who very rarely used the machine but when they did use the device with Windows on it, they quite frequently got frustrated with it. This probably explained more of its sporadic use in effect! After installing Mint however and getting it up to date, I handed them their device back and they instantly commented on how quick the device had suddenly become. They were also impressed with the fact they still had most of the programs that they had become accustomed to on the Windows platform. Microsoft Office’s absence seemed like it would be a show stopper, but after 5 minutes of playing with Libre Office, they found all the required features and functionality they needed existed.
So in short, Linux Mint is a great OS to install on your old XP machine, if you still have one lying around. The fact that it doesn’t use much CPU to deliver a Windows-inspired desktop is a key benefit and it is quite obvious that Mint is a great way to breathe life into that old machine of yours. Whilst I have only tested Mint OS on one device and to get a better result I should have tried it on more systems, it is clear that Mint OS will now be my go to option when looking for something to replace old Window OS’s both for me, and for family and friends.
Not only was this experiment a blinding success in terms of delivering new-found performance to an old machine, but Linux Mint, one of the Linux distributions with the most worldwide usage, became a firm favourite, fast.
Edit: I also wrote this entire review on Mint OS on that very netbook. The photo editing was also completed on it to, using Gimp.
Click here to download the ISO file.
Click here to download to download the burner, to burn the ISO to a USB flash drive
Let us know in the comment section if you’ve used Mint and what your thoughts on it were, or if you’ve used any other Windows-alternatives that provided similar results for you.