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3 easy Linux alternatives for Windows XP refugees who don't want a new PC

Ian Paul | March 17, 2014
Windows XP's refugees have two choices on April 8, when Microsoft stops supporting the decade-old operating system (for consumers, anyway). This is assuming a new PC with a new operating system (even Windows 7) is, for whatever reason, out of the question. They could cling desperately to their old Windows XP system and face what could be a hacker feeding frenzy, something we don't recommend even if you take precautions. Or they could keep the old PC but install a new, free, and safe operating system--otherwise known

In XP mode, The "Z" button in the lower-left corner mimics an XP-style Start menu, organized similarly to Microsoft's OS — including the all-important option to power down the PC. Zorin's Start-menu doppelganger also has an All Applications option, along with quick links to your Documents, Pictures, and Music.

Likewise, the panel at the bottom of the screen behaves like the Windows taskbar, complete with a notifications area that shows the time, battery power, current keyboard language, and other system functions. All of these interface clues should comfort XP refugees as they arrive in this foreign environment. Zorin uses Google Chrome as its default web browser.

But Zorin, like all other Linux distributions, is definitely not Windows XP. The file system is not organized in the same way. Traditional Windows software doesn't work on Linux (though our guides to popular Ubuntu software,Linux Office alternatives, and Linux gaming can help you find all the programs you need for work and play alike). Finally, though Ubuntu's user-friendly Software Center helps — it lets you install apps with just a few clicks — installing apps using the Linux-style package system is nothing like installing via a Windows EXE or MSI file.  

Our Ubuntu guide for displaced Windows users can help you get over the learning curve if you wind up needing help with any of these Ubuntu-derived operating systems.

LXLE

Official system requirements:

  • Pentium 3 processor or better
  • 512MB RAM

LXLE's claim to fame is that it's capable of reviving an old PC by minimizing the demands it puts on system resources, and it has even more accommodating hardware requirements than the already-lightweight Zorn. LXE is based on Lubuntu, which is the official "light" variant of Ubuntu.

Just like Zorin, LXLE offers a Windows XP mode that you can choose right from the login screen, though LXLE also includes options to mirror OS X and an interesting netbook mode. In XP mode, LXLE doesn't go quite as far as Zorin does in replicating the Windows Start menu, but it collates all the options you'd expect to find.

The LXLE panel serves admirably well as a stand-in for the taskbar. LXLE's simpler interface lacks the flashiness of Zorin — a trait that may appeal to some. LXLE hands web surfing duties over to Firefox by default.

Ubuntu

Official system requirements:

  • 700MHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • Minimum display resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels

Of the three distributions covered here, Ubuntu is the least similar to Windows XP. In fact, it's pretty much nothing like XP at all. But since it's the most popular Linux distro around, Ubuntu's certainly worth including in this discussion — especially since it's free and has minimal hardware requirements, just like Zorin and LXLE.

 

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