How to Revitalise an Old Microsoft Computer

So you bought a nice Microsoft machine a few years ago, you did all you were meant to do, and these days it is very slow and takes an inordinate amount of time to boot. You suspect it is choc-a-blok full or viruses and malware. Perhaps you have asked for a quote to have it cleaned, which is expensive. Perhaps you have bought a new machine, or are thinking of doing so as the old one is nearly non functional.

It should be possible to revitalise such a computer with relative ease, and at no cost. Just a little time and a little determination. Once done your machine will work better than ever and will most likely run without issues until the hardware falls to bits (probably the hard drive).

To revitalise your machine you need to change one aspect of the software installed. Get rid of your existing Microsoft software, save your files, and install and carry on with linux.

You can run linux as a “live” system, meaning it will not touch any of the files or your system, and will happily run off a DVD, CD, or a USB thumb drive. Once you have a “live” system running you can test your hardware to see that it is all working (wireless, audio) and indeed try out several distributions to see what you like.

The outline of what you need to do is:

1. Get a “live” DVD/CD or USB ready. (You can always go to a local newsagent as they are usually on linux magazines as coverdisks).

2. Boot the “live” distribution. See if it works and if you like it. If so save out your old personal files off your existing system (MS Office files will work fine).

3. When ready obliterate your old system which will destroy everything on your old system. You did remember to save out all your personal files and the likes of wallpapers? To obliterate your system just install linux and accept all the defaults. Update the new system regularly once a week, add back your saved personal files. Job done.

The detail:

1. Get a “live” DVD/CD or USB ready.

I recommend for a reasonably new machine PClinuxOS or Mint. Both of these are excellent general purpose linux distributions which are easy to use. It is really down to personal preference.

If you have a machine of say 5 years old or more with 500 megabytes of RAM then try the lighter LXDE or XFCE desktops for the same distributions. They use less resources and are good. For even older machines try AntiX or Puppy.

Go to and use the links to get to the home page of the linux distribution you have chosen. Download the file somesuchdistro.iso to your machine. Check you have a good download by verifying the checksum which is a MD5 or SHA1 long string of characters. You do this by going into your file browser and highlighting the .iso file which should bring up an option to display the checksum. If all is well and the checksums match continue.

You now apply the .iso file to either a DVD/CD depending on size or to a USB thumb drive. For a DVD/CD use whatever disk burning programme you have, and make sure the programme checks for a good burn. If you are applying the .iso to a USB thumb drive use a utility such as unetbootin which is easy and painless to use. Or you could try the local newsagents and see what is there (make sure you only use “live” systems otherwise your system will be obliterated).

2. Boot the “live” distribution.

If you have a Windows 8 machine this will not work. They have a UEFI boot system which if running will only boot windows. If you have this disable it if you can.

For all other machines the process is simple. When you start the machine the fist screen you see on any system is the bios screen. This flashes up very quickly, press the Pause key to stop it. They are all similar but different. One of the options on the screen will be F??=Boot or similar. The key to press may be a function key or other key. Press as indicated. Select the device you want to boot from such as the DVD/CD or USB thumb drive (USB HDD). Ensure the DVD/CD is in the drive or that the USB thumb drive is in place. Boot.

Now you can look around a linux system running on your computer. It will not touch any of your files, unless you want it to. Test the wireless and audio. See if you like the look of it. It will work in much the same way as any system, albeit names will vary slightly. Try different distos until you find one you like. I suggest PClinuxOS or Mint.

3. When ready obliterate your old system and install linux.

When you are ready ensure you have backed up your personal files on the old system. Use the old system or a linux “live” disk to do this. Copy your files to an external USB drive or USB hard drive. For most linux “live” systems there will be an icon on the desktop named “Install”. Take a deep breath and click on the icon. For simplicity accept all of the defaults and the one saying “Take Over My Entire Computer” as this makes things easier. Microsoft does not like to play nicely with other systems. After about 20 minutes the install is completed. You will need user accounts and passwords which you will be prompted for. Then update the system, install the likes of Libre Office, put your personal files back on to your home account. Job done.

Your system will now have an unfamiliar linux distribution in it. It will be resilient and resistant to all the nasties out there. All your software will be installed from your distributions repository (usually called the synaptic package manager). Keep it up to date and it will continue to run usually without incident until the hardware falls to bits. Enjoy.

Excellent article on Windows migration here:


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