This post concludes my short series on Linux as a possible post-XP use for your PC. OK, so you’re convinced that you want to give Linux a try. What next? You could, of course, download a copy of  Ubuntu or some other distribution, burn an installation CD, wipe your hard drive and start over fresh.

The problem with starting with an empty hard drive where your XP (or Vista) installation used to be is that you lose everything to do with Windows: all your software, all your data, everything. Most of us like a phased-in transition where we have a foot in both worlds – at least for a little while.

There are three possibilities here:

  1. Install Linux – in this case Ubuntu – within windows. Once you do that, you’ll get a menu every time you boot your machine asking if you want to start up Windows or Ubuntu.
  2. Install Ubuntu in a virtual machine so that you can run Windows and Linux side – by – side at the same time. There are a number of free virtual machine programmes that will handle all of this. Just keep in mind that your PC does need to have enough horse-power to carry this off.
  3. Finally, you can try what I did which is to buy a second hard drive, install Linux on that drive and make adjust your BIOS so that it goes to the Linux drive first when you boot. Linux is smart enough to realize that there is a Windows installation on the same physical machine and will present you with the boot menu mentioned above. This way, you can use Linux or Windows on the same machine. Once you’re done with Windows and comfortable with Linux, you can wipe the Windows hard drive and use it as additional space for your machine.

The first 2 are explained in an article from PCWeek. If you’re still a bit leery about switching from Windows to Linux, you can burn what is known as a “Live CD” and boot your machine from the CD rather than your hard drive. You get to test drive Linux but you will lose any applications you install as well as any files you create. You can get around this last bit by saving your data to a flash drive. This approach is also described in the PCWorld article.

Finally, there is the problem with your MS Word & Excel files. There are some very good office suites for Linux such as OpenOffice and Libre Office that will read and create documents that are compatible with the Windows analogues.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this very brief introduction to Linux and that you will at least consider it as an option when Windows XP goes the way of all operating systems.


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