How to Revive Your Old Laptop With Linux
Computers play an integral role in our lives. Almost all of us use them for work in some way, shape or form, and they’re necessary in our personal lives for shopping, banking, accessing government services, communicating with friends and loved ones, and can even be used to take advantage of free spins and other promotions from the comfort of your laptop.
On average, consumers replace their computer every five years or so, though this will vary greatly on factors like how much they spent on it, what they use it for, and whether their needs have changed.
Sometimes, computers can break after a few years due to them being overworked, damaged, or through faults in the components. However, sometimes they need replacing because the hardware can no longer keep up with the demands that modern software places on it.
For example, Microsoft increased the minimum requirements for Windows 10 in 2019, four years after it first released the operating system. The company continually pumps out new updates, adding new features and improving security. But even then, the minimum requirements don’t deliver a pleasant user experience.
Third-party software adds even more demand on your hardware. For example, Google Chrome is notorious for hogging memory, consuming several gigabytes when you have multiple tabs open.
This means you may be forced to throw away a perfectly usable computer because it can no longer keep up with the growing demands being placed on it. However, there are ways you can breathe new life into old hardware and stop them from going to waste.
The easiest way to do this is to install Linux.
What is Linux?
Linux is an operating system, just like Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS. The main difference between it and its competition is that Linux is open-source, meaning it’s usually free to download, install, and use. Groups of dedicated volunteers and non-profit organisations develop Linux to keep it up to date.
Unlike Windows and macOS, Linux comes in many different flavours. These are known as distributions (or distros), and each is usually developed by a different team.
If you own an Android smartphone or tablet, you already use a Linux distro (possibly) without knowing it. The Android operating system is a specially cut down version that can run on ARM-based chips and consume few resources.
One of the most popular consumer Linux distros is Ubuntu. It’s great for users that are familiar with Windows and are making their first move to Linux as it is very similar. However, like Windows, it can be a bit slow on older and underpowered machines.
So you need to find a specially-designed lightweight distro that won’t put too much strain on your old laptop.
What Linux Distro Should You Use?
There are several great lightweight Linux distros you can install on your old laptop. Some of the best options are:
- Puppy Linux
- Linux Mint
You can install these from a USB drive and each distro’s website usually has instructions on how to do this.
Once you’ve got Linux installed, you’ll need to decide what to do with your new computer. Here are some of your options.
Using Your New Linux Machine for Gaming
Gaming on Linux operating systems has come a long way in the last few years. It’s not impossible to play almost everything that will run under Windows on a Linux distro. However, it’s important to set your expectations at the right level; you’re installing Linux on this old laptop because it’s too slow to run modern versions of Windows, so don’t expect it to run Crysis or Cyberpunk 2077, it’s just not going to happen.
With that said, there are actually plenty of games you can still play on an old laptop that runs a lightweight Linux distro. For a start, most browser-based games should run ok, including popular ones like Runescape and most of Miniclip’s catalogue.
For those that enjoy having a flutter, online casinos that let you play games in your browser will also work, so you get into the betting world. If the casino does require you to install its software, you may still be able to use it with WINE.
Some Linux distros also include an application that works in a similar way to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, giving you a directory of different applications that you can browse and download. In Lubuntu it’s called Discover, but it may vary from distro to distro. Regardless of its name, you’re likely to find some basic games in here too.
Using Your New Linux Machine for Surfing the Internet
Surfing the web on your Linux laptop should be a piece of cake. Most distros come with Mozilla Firefox installed, but you can also download others like Chrome/Chromium.
Being able to browse the web is likely going to be enough for most people as you’ll have access to web-based tools and platforms like Google Docs, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon.
However, if you’re using a really old computer, you may have problems with modern browsers. Instead, you may want to find a lightweight alternative like Midori, Falkon, and Qutebrowser. They may get flagged as being “out of date” by some websites, but you can get around this by installing a user agent spoofing extension.
Using Your New Linux Machine for Work
Old laptops are good for taking on trips away when you don’t want to risk your more expensive machine. While you don’t want it to be stolen, lost or damaged, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to replace if it does.
So if you’re going to want to work on your new Linux computer, you’ll need the right software to do it. Without using WINE, there is currently no way to get Microsoft Office on Linux. However, there are several great alternatives that work just as well.
One of the most popular options is OpenOffice. It is the leading open-source productivity suite that can open and save in the standard MS Office file formats (.docx, .xlsx, etc). Although there are a few differences in the interface, you’ll find it very familiar and shouldn’t struggle with using it.
Alternatively, if you are going to have an internet connection, using Google Docs through your web browser is another great option. It means you don’t need to install any extra applications and your data can be synced across multiple devices.
While it will take a little bit of work to set up, lightweight Linux distros are a great way to breathe new life into your old computers.