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I have always been a Windows user.

I have a laptop that originally had Windows XP on it and it is currently unused.

I want to install a different OS on it.

What OS can I try, and from where do I get one?

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Tell us the laptop model and specifications, please... –  kmarsh Apr 20 '10 at 17:54
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7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you would like to try linux, Ubuntu is one of the easiest to get started on. You can download Ubuntu here:

http://www.ubuntu.com/GetUbuntu/download

Depending on how old the laptop is there are some lighter versions of Ubuntu like XUbuntu

http://www.xubuntu.org/getubuntu

But, if it it is running Windows XP alright it should have no problem running the regular Ubuntu.

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Having used Linux on various laptops, and for many years now, I would first ask: What do you want to do with it ? Chances are that a generic distribution such as Ubuntu would fit nicely. The advantage of ubuntu is that you can boot off a live CD and test features, such as wireless, network connectivity, sound, and display. That's what I did before buying my current laptop and a refurbished one I want to setup for my son.

If you can get sound, display and wireless working out of the box, in a live CD, chances are that it will work just fine. Keep in mind that the performance you may experience with a live CD are not the ones you would experience with a real install, as everything is in a compressed file, read from a slow device, the CD.

If you want to go further, still without installing definitely, you can install to a removable device, such as USB disk. The performances will be better, and you will be able to actually install packages, and configure them. Their setup will persist, as they will be stored on a writable medium. I often use this as a data recovery tools for those dead Windows machines. Under Ubuntu, change the actual isntallation disk to the USB disk, which would then be something like /dev/sdb.

If you want to make this computer a file server of some kind, look at distributions such as FreeNAS. There are others too for this kind of task.

In any way, i would strongly recommend that you check DistroWatch at:

http://www.distrowatch.com

Hope this helps.

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If you'd like to try some kind of linux, try looking up your laptop model at Linux on Laptops to check whether there are any special hoops to jump through.

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Ubuntu is a good choice, as is openSolaris. www.opensolaris.org As mentioned above try the live CD before installing.

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Since Linux and OpenSolaris were already mentioned, I'll mention FreeBSD, Plan9, and Haiku.

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  • You might find OpenIndiana quite interesting. It's basically a Gnome-based Unix-like system with quite a few graphical tools. And you can use it live from either DVD or USB.
  • On the extremely minimalist side of the spectrum there's MenuetOS written in pure x86 assembly. It's remarkable for how much functionality it provides given its space requirements - single floppy. It's fully graphical and fast. Damn fast. And interesting to discover alternative points of view in OS design.
  • Minix 3 is the "canonical educational OS" which served as a starting point for Linus Torvalds' early developments behind the Linux kernel. Nice, sweet and good for some Unix introduction.
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I loaded Windows 7 Pro on an old Dell Inspiron 6000 made for XP with excellent results. It could use a boost video-wise but in all other aspects it runs nicely.

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@Mitch, I already have a Win7 machine for work purposes. This is purely for fun. –  Raj More Apr 21 '10 at 22:32
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