Time to try Linux?
Many of us have been using Windows XP for years—after enduring several previous, problematic Microsoft releases. But when Microsoft discontinued support for XP we found ourselves wondering what to do next. If you are reluctant to totally leave your Win XP and are not ready to buy a new computer, or to install Windows 7, 8, or 10 perhaps it is time to consider installing a version of Linux along side your beloved version of Windows on your existing computer, and over the next year or so, ween yourself off Microsoft for good! (Anyone remember all the grief that Windows 95 and other versions of Windows caused over the years?) There are several reasons to consider setting up your existing computer for dual booting:
- There are many excellent versions of Linux now available that guide you through the process of partitioning your existing hard drive so that you can choose to boot into Windows or Linux each time you turn your computer on.
- Most “core versions” of Linux for home use are totally free! And most come with just about everything that versions of Windows offer and more, including a complete office suite (Open Office or Libre Office), extensive photo and video editing software, music and video capabilities, Internet browsers, and a host of free programs.
- Many consider the Linux operating systems more stable and secure than Windows, and the LTS (long term service) ones are continuously updated.
- You may find that your computer will run faster on Linux than on Windows.
- There are several versions of Linux that can be made to look and feel very much like Windows. One such version is Zorin, the Linux program that I choose after extensive research into the competing versions of Linux now available. (See details on zorin-os.com)
- Many Windows applications will run on Linux using WINE, a compatibility program. (Comes with Zorin and most Linux distributions.)
- Ubuntu is perhaps the Cadillac version of Linux. It continuously updates itself just like Windows and is available as a LTS (long term service) version, completely free.
- There are many, many versions of Linux out there. Some are designed to run on older computers. Some are much more streamlined and compact than others. One very elegant and “small” version is Precise Puppy. It will boot and run directly from a cd. (Many of the larger distributions must be burned to a DVD.) Almost all distirbutions must be burned as ISO images. If your burner does not do that there are several free ISO Burners on the internet.
How do you get and install Zorin?
- Go to http://zorin-os.com for the free, basic version. (Some of what follows below may have been modified since I first downloaded Zorin OS 7 and 8. There are now up to version 12 I believe. Just follow the on-line instructions carefully!)
- Select either the 32 bit or the 64 bit download, depending on your type of computer. (Go to http://pcsupport.about.com/od/windowsxp/ht/windows-xp-32-bit-64-bit.htm to find out whether your computer is a 32 bit or 64 bit system.)
- The Zorin installation file is large―about 1.5 gigabytes. After it is successfully downloaded it must be burned as an ISO image to a DVD. If you do not have a DVD drive or a DVD burner, follow the suggestions at the Zorin site. (You can buy a brand new internal or external DVD drive/burner for as little as $20 on sale!) The important thing to know and remember is the downloaded file must be burned as an ISO image. It cannot simply be copied to a DVD. If your burner will not burn ISO’s there are several free ISO burning softwares on the Internet. Or you could get a friend to burn it for you. You can also purchase a Zorin OS DVD directly from Zorin for a reasonable amount.
- Follow the installation instructions on the Zorin website. You can actually try a “live” test drive of the Zorin OS to see how you like it by running it from the DVD, but it will be slower. If you decide to do a full install on your hard drive, you must decide if you want to do a dual install by partitioning your hard drive, or a full install that obliterates your Windows version. Be sure to read the options before you continue.
- It is perhaps advisable to defragment you hard disk before you attempt to partition it.
- If your computer won’t boot from the Zorin DVD perhaps your computer is not set up to boot from the DVD drive. You may have to go into your bios setup (usually by pressing the “del” key during boot up) and set it to boot from a DVD first before it boots from your hard drive. Alternatively, there are usually ways during early boot up to force your computer to boot from the DVD. Look for such commands as F12 or other instructions during the early boot up.
- Ample support exists on zoringroup.com/forum for issues and problems. (You will have to setup a user account and password.)
- When Zorin first boots up it will offer a Guest user login. You can log in as a guest user without a password or a login name. Just click on the “login” button. From there you can set up “real” user accounts. Once logged on, click on the Zorin menu button (the large Z in the lower left hand corner of your screen similar to the XP Start Menu). Then click on system settings and then on user accounts. You add new users by clicking on the “+” sign in the lower left hand corner of the user accounts’ pop up menu. You should only set up one administrator account (usually for yourself). You should then set up a standard user account for yourself and all other users. These will not have administrator privileges. Use only your standard account for daily use. Using your standard account for your personal work maximizes your computer’s security. If you try to do something that requires administrative privileges when you are logged on in your standard account, Zorin will ask for your administrative password.
- Good luck with your new adventure into the world of the Linux operating system. Be patient. Even though Zorin can be set up to mimic various versions of Windows, it is often different, especially “under the hood.” There will be a learning curve.
- There are some cases when a particular distribution of a Linux OS will not load properly on some computers. Sometimes the support forums can help solve those problems, sometimes not. Zorin installed beautifully on two of my computers but would not install on a third computer. Often choosing a different Linux OS will solve the problem. Also, be careful with partitioning your hard drive. It can be trickier on some distributions than others. Zorin guides you very successfully through the partitioning procedure. Some of the Linux releases are not as friendly about partitioning the hard drive.
- Ubuntu and other Linux versions have similar requirements. Check their websites for details.