They always told me that it was possible to rescue old laptops too feeble by now to run Windows by installing Linux. Despite being a Linux convert, I always took that with a fair bit of salt. I was wrong. Here’s the background.
My brother-in-law has a friend who is, to say the least, a bit naive when it comes to computing. He is also a very impatient person, whom we’ll call John. The laptop was bought around ten years ago, with XP installed. Over the years the laptop became increasingly slow, probably because its owner could never be bothered to wait for it to shut down cleanly and just shut it off with the on/off button.
About a year ago, a friend persuaded John to let him install Windows 7. Fair enough. XP was no longer supported and the box took an age to do anything. And Windows 7 installed and ran OK. For a time. Even though he only really used it for web browsing (including WebMail and video streaming). As before, shutting it off with the on/off button was probably not helping here.
A couple of weeks ago, John bent my brother-in-law’s ear about how slow his laptop was and asked if he knew of anything to make it better. Now, I’d recently supplied my brother-in-law with a Linux laptop and he’s very happy with it. So when he rang me up for advice about John’s machine, I suggested he brought it over to me to install a Linux distribution on it.
The first thing we did was to make sure that John understood that he would lose everything stored on his computer (there really wasn’t anything), and that what we were going to do might just possibly not work and leave him with a machine fit only for the rubbish bin. I didn’t think this was likely, but I did want to know that if everything went badly pear-shaped we could at least point to the get-out clause.
John agreed. The machine was useless in its present state and he was happy to bin it and buy a new one if that was the only course of action. Excellent!
So my brother-in-law and I checked out a few lightweight distributions in Virtual Box on my laptop and settled in the end for Lubuntu. This evening, my brother-in-law brought the laptop over and we checked it out, thinking that if we could get Windows 7 working better we might just leave it alone.
The first things we noticed was that no updates had been applied in the last six months and that the anti-virus software had expired. So we installed a free anti-virus application and checked out the updates. There were quite a few to do so we set them off.
After about three quarters of an hour the laptop simply fell over. Genuine Microsoft Blue Screen of DeathTM. Memory allocation problem, it said. We decided to go for Lunbuntu.
We installed Lubuntu in less time than it took to boot into Windows 7 and try to do the updates. And once installed it’s fast. I mean it’s screamingly fast. It boots to a useful desktop in hardly any time at all. It’s fast in operation and it shuts down very quickly. My wife’s brand new Windows 8 box can’t compete with performance like this, with a chip that’s many times faster and eight times as much working memory.
Maybe this will persuade John to shut down properly rather than with the on/off button. But even if he doesn’t, I don’t think Linux will care.
Just for the sake of it, I uninstalled Abiword and Gnumeric and installed LibreOffice, just in case John wanted to write a letter or something. Still screamingly fast.
I can’t believe how easy it all was, and how little time it took. Most of all I can’t believe that the system runs so quickly. Did I mention that it’s screamingly fast? So if you’ve got an old laptop that runs Windows as though lubricated with treacle, bring it to me. I know just what to do with it.