A Free Windows XP Alternative
Okay... you know that sticking with Windows XP is like driving with bald tires on an icy highway. But you don't want to spend even a dime on another version of Windows. Fortunately, there's a free alternative operating system that will do pretty much everything that Windows XP does. Read on to learn if it's the right choice for you...
Can Ubuntu Replace Windows XP?
I have urged everyone still using Windows XP to upgrade before April 8th, 2014 when even security patches will cease to be available. By continuing to use that obsolete operating system beyond that date, you endanger yourself and everyone with whom you come into electronic contact. (See Windows XP: Game Over)
“But I can’t afford Windows 7 or 8,” I keep hearing in return. Well, all right; but still you must get rid of XP! So here is an operating system whose price you can’t refuse; it’s free.
Ubuntu is a Linux “distribution” – a free and secure version of the open-source Linux operating system. Open-source means that the programming code is publicly available, and in the case of Linux, developed and supported by a vast community of volunteers. It’s one of the more successful evolutionary paths that Linux has taken, and one of the most consumer-friendly.
The current Ubuntu distribution includes a solid core of apps: Libre Office for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and graphic images; Firefox for Web browsing; Thunderbird for email; Skype; a music player; instant messaging client; games; and a whole lot more. There’s also the Software Center, your link to a cloud-based warehouse of free apps compatible with Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.
Replacing Windows XP with Ubuntu could not be easier or safer. The Ubuntu Windows Installer does not disturb your Windows system at all. Instead, it creates a virtual partition on your hard drive and installs Ubuntu there. When you reboot your PC, you get a choice to load either Windows or Ubuntu.
Finding Your Way Around Ubuntu
The first time you start Ubuntu, you'll see a desktop that's similar, but somewhat different than Windows. The Ubuntu logo on the top of the desktop sidebar is called Dash, and is the equivalent to the Windows Start button. Shortcuts to frequently used apps will appear there, and a search box lets you quickly find any file, app or setting.
The Firefox web browser is pre-installed, but if you prefer, you can install the Google Chrome browser. (In the Ubuntu Software Center, Chrome is called Chromium.) And here's one pleasant surprise: If you sign in to either Firefox or Chrome, all your browser settings, stored passwords and bookmarks are magically transferred. You should also find that all your favorite websites look and work the same way. So if you've already made the move to cloud-based apps and file storage, moving to Ubuntu won't be such a big deal.
If you prefer to store your files locally, no problem. You don’t even have to deal with migrating your documents, images, videos, and other user-generated data over to Ubuntu. In the Ubuntu File System is a folder named “host” which is your gateway to everything on your Windows "C: Drive" partition. To give Libre Office access to everything stored in Windows’ My Documents folder, you simply point it to your Windows documents path, which is found at: /host/Documents and Settings/<username>/My Documents (Replace <username> with your actual Windows login username.)
You can work on a given document or spreadsheet while in Ubuntu and again after switching to Windows, or vice versa. Changes made to a file in one operating system will be there when you switch to the other, if the need arises. Any file left behind in the Windows world can be found by navigating the host folder.
Your Music, Photos and Email
Worried about leaving all your iTunes music behind? RhythmBox comes pre-installed on Ubuntu, and with a few clicks, can import your iTunes library. Your Windows XP iTunes folder is found here: /host/Documents and Settings<username>/My Documents/My Music/iTunes/iTunes Music
Your photos are covered as well. Fire up Shotwell, tell it to import all your pix from /host/Documents and Settings<username>/My Documents/My Pictures and you're good to go.
If you use a webmail service for your email (such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail), there is nothing you need to do when you migrate to Ubuntu; just log into your webmail account using Firefox or Chrome. All your email, folders and contacts will be there.
If you use a desktop email client such as Thunderbird, Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, etc., then you may wish to move your account settings, contacts, and messages over to a client on Ubuntu. The simplest way to do this involves the Thunderbird email client.
While in Windows XP, download and install Thunderbird if you don't already use it. During the installation process, Thunderbird will ask if you want to import your account settings, contacts, and messages from whatever other email client it finds on your hard drive; let it do so. Then export your account settings, contacts, and messages from Thunderbird to EML files using the Export feature built into Thunderbird. Store the exported data to a folder under My Documents, e. g., “MyMail,” so you can easily find it again after switching to Ubuntu.
Restart your computer and select Ubuntu at boot time. Start Thunderbird and use its Import feature to import account settings, contacts, and messages from the EML files in /host/Documents and Settings/<username>/My Documents/
There’s a bit of a learning curve to Ubuntu, of course. It does not use the same names for landmark features that Windows does. But with a bit of practice you’ll soon get the hang of the new names and subtle differences in functionality. If there's a Windows program that you really miss, look for a replacement in the Ubuntu Software Center. If you don't find something similar, explore Wine, which makes it possible to run many Windows programs on your Linux desktop.
If you decide that Ubuntu is not for you, you can uninstall it via the Windows Control Panel and reclaim the disk space that it and its virtual partition occupied. Windows XP will act as if Ubuntu was never there. But then... what?
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Apr 2014
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
HOWTO: Securing Your Laptop
The Top Twenty
Windows 8 File History
There's more reader feedback... See all 84 comments for this article.
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- A Free Windows XP Alternative (Posted: 4 Apr 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved