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Possible Duplicate:
How do you setup your parent’s computer ?

My parents have never used a computer. Not many left of them in the rich part of the world...
But lately despite of their age they have got really curious and want me to arrange a computer for them so they can learn to use the internet. It think it's kind of cute but it does give me a headache.

I have an old Dell with winXP that's good enough but it desperatly needs "Format c:".
All they need to use is a browser, nothing more.

I'm looking for a super-simple setup, my dream would be: push the on-button, wait 10 sec and click on the only icon there is (256x256px)...
Security is important, but they shouldn't have to do or know anything about it. I do need to setup remote desktop so I can take care of updates and give them live support.

I have left windows for mac myself since a couple of years and as a web-developer tasted some linux.
I'm thinking maybe a stripped XP or investigate if there is some Linux out there.

My goal is simply to give them an dead simple "net desktop" that doesn't take too much time to setup for me as a non-professional but most important, I don't want to spend my spare-time giving them support and maintain their PC.

Any suggestions?

Thanks :)

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migrated from Aug 9 '09 at 23:03

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

marked as duplicate by TheTXI Aug 9 '09 at 23:32

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Dupe. – Richard Hoskins Aug 9 '09 at 23:08
Those are not really dupes, as this question is linux specific, unlike those questions. – voyager Aug 9 '09 at 23:43
@voyager: I agree, I believe me question was also about usability, not so much security.... – user4875 Aug 9 '09 at 23:48
linux specific ? "maybe a stripped XP or investigate if there is some Linux out there." Anyways, my question was also closed :( – Manu Aug 10 '09 at 10:32
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I recently reinstalled my mother's laptop with Ubuntu and haven't had any issues.

Originally she was running Windows XP and my brother (who lives closer to her than I do) finally refused to do "tech support" any longer.

She was constantly getting viruses, malware, etc. Basically just your typical parent who doesn't really know what she's clicking on... not to mention letting others (who equally don't know what they're doing) use her computer.

I installed Ubuntu on it, made sure everything was working, and set it up with a password.

Neither my brother nor myself have had to do tech support since.


While this worked for my mother, your mileage may vary. My mother is the type of person who only surfs the web, checks her email, and writes the occasional letter. Ubuntu with OpenOffice, Picasa, and Skype installed was able to pretty much handle everything she does.

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I'm not normally a Linux advocate, but +1 because it makes more sense than Windows in this case, if all they need is a browser and maybe a word processor. – Sasha Chedygov Aug 9 '09 at 23:29

I would recommend just using the bare bones XP install with a few tweaks to keep it running.

Enable Remote Desktop
Load antivirus package
Load Firefox or Opera browser and set to default
Hide icons for IE
Set them up as users and not administrators

This should be a good supportable configuration as long as you leave yourself a back door to get in should they do something truly awful to it.

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if all they need is browser (and maybe email and "standard" applications like word processing, spreadsheet, drawing/charting sw etc) then they're MUCH better off with Linux than with Windows. Ubuntu is a good choice for a desktop linux system for newbies.

you get better performance out of old hardware on linux, it's much more secure, you can manage it remotely via VNC (graphical) or ssh (text CLI), and it will Just Work.

Until recently, i thought that the only thing the average home user actually needs Windows for rather than Linux is 3D games - there are very few games that run natively on linux, and getting them to run in Wine is a hit-or-miss affair (some work, some don't, some partially work)....but with VirtualBox 3's support for accelerated 3D graphics cards, I think that even gamers would be better off with a linux base system running VirtualBox for games and any other software that won't run on linux.

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I'd recommend that you get them an older iMac (personally I'm not a MAC guy, but this sounds like a perfect case for one).

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If you've left Windows for Mac, you might want to investigate a Mac Mini or iMac, if for no other reason than keeping things similar to what you're using. A Mac guy myself, I recently bought my parents a used Intel iMac, and the screen sharing feature makes it really easy to remotely troubleshoot from 2000+ miles away.

The best part is not having to worry about rampant viruses, spyware, and the like. A Mac setup is, of course, a little more expensive from the outset, but the time and hassle it saves me is worth it.

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Guys, I'm a Mac guy too. But I would never buy a new mac in this situation. Wouldn't wanna waste it.... – user4875 Aug 9 '09 at 23:44