Got an old Windows PC incapable of upgrading to Windows 10? Never fear, Linux is here!

If you pay attention to tech news and security notices, you’ll know Microsoft have ended support for Windows 7, Vista, and XP by now. Microsoft recommend that you buy a new PC preinstalled with it or upgrade it. But what if your PC doesn’t meet the hardware requirements? How can you stay secure without upgrading to Windows 10?

This is where Linux comes in handy. Linux is a free open source kernel used in open source OSes which could run on a computer from 2004 if you wanted. Sure, some distributions of Linux are heavier in terms of requirements than others, but lightweight OSes like Debian and Lubuntu can help you get more out of your old PC.

You’ll need at least a 4GB USB stick or fairly large (4GB+) CD-R or DVD-R to flash the installer of your desired distribution to. If going with the second option, your PC will need a DVD or CD drive. The CD/DVD-R must not have been written to before as these types of discs are designed only to be written to once.

Start by visiting your chosen distribution’s website and finding the Downloads page where you may be presented with two options: 64-bit and 32-bit. Here’s the difference. A 64-bit OS can work with more RAM and use a 64-bit CPU to its full capability but a 64-bit OS will not work with a 32-bit PC. A 32-bit OS, if installed onto a 64-bit PC, will only work with up to 4GB RAM and won’t make full use of the CPU but will work on a 32-bit CPU. You want to make sure you’re choosing the right ISO. Find out your computer model number either from the box it came in or the bottom of the computer and search it up on a specs website. Find the CPU/processor on the website and search it up. There it will say whether the CPU is 64-bit or 32-bit. Some specs websites say this in the specifications. Once you’ve found out, download the correct ISO. It’s best to choose an LTS release if using an Ubuntu flavour. LTS stands for long term support and means the OS will be supported for a number of years. Lots of Ubuntu variants stopped supporting 32-bit after April 2018’s LTS release, the most recent one, nicknamed ‘Bionic Beaver’ so on a 32-bit PC if you want to download Ubuntu you may find you HAVE to run LTS.

Insert the USB drive or disc into your PC and download the program Rufus from its official website.  Set it up, then open it. You will get a screen looking like this:

[rufus screenshot]

For Device, choose the drive letter associated with your disc or USB stick. For Boot selection, select the ISO from Downloads. Set target system to BIOS or UEFI and then click start.

Once finished, turn off your computer. As in shutdown. Then find your PC’s user manual and find out the key combination to enter the BIOS. It will usually have to be pressed as soon as your PC’s manufacturer logo (eg, Lenovo) pops up. You may have to be very precise whilst doing this. The BIOS will load, there will usually be the functions of keys for the BIOS at the bottom, navigate to boot and select a name which sounds similar to your USB stick or CD/DVD and select it/move it to the top. Then exit saving changes.

Your PC will reboot into the installer. If running Ubuntu or a Debian live image, select ‘Try without installing’ to get a little feel of the OS before installing. Nothing during your tryout session will be preserved, but if you like it, click install on the desktop.

Go through the setup wizard which will be user friendly. Once finished, remove the CD/DVD/USB, and then reboot.

You should be rebooted into a menu which gives you OS options. ‘Windows’, or ‘Windows Boot Manager’ is Windows. When installing Linux, always keep Windows instead of erasing because you might need it for some programs. The name of your Linux distribution will boot you into your Linux distribution. Use the top and bottom arrows to navigate the menu. This menu is called GRUB and it comes with almost all Linux distributions. ‘System Setup’ allows quick entry into the BIOS, so you won’t have to worry about key combinations again.

Enjoy Linux! There are many more aspects to it than at first sight and there’s a big community out there to help you with your problems. Enjoy!

-Chas 😎