Old Computer still useful?

Using Ubuntu-Linux to breathe new life into your old PC

by Carl James | BLOOMINGTON, IN | Nov. 21, 2020

circa 2010 Lenovo desktop now running Ubuntu

You made a big investment purchasing a new PC say eight to ten years ago. It used to be back in the day, the PC was your main gateway to the internet. Mobile devices have supplanted the PC in that role and due to rapid development and weakening batteries, you find your tech money goes down the smart phone rabbit hole.

The PC still has it uses, however. A smart phone is not great for writing documents or keeping records. There are somethings you still want the larger screen, and separate mouse and keyboard for. You are running an outdated operating system or other applications and your computer is remarkably slow. What do you do?

First, here is what you do not do:

Do not keep running unsupported software.

Yes Windows 7 was a great operating system for it's day, but it is no longer receiving security patches and is just too much of risk. Even if Microsoft knows about a vulnerability, they will just let it go with Windows 7.

Do you ditch your PC for a new one? Perhaps. This is especially the case if you have disposable income or need a computer that can handle a lot of work load. Windows 10 is a really nice OS, and a modern PC can accomplish a lot. On the other hand, let's say that all you want is a decent computer to browse the web and edit simple documents. You bought your PC 8 to 10 years ago and it was near the top of the line at the time. Do you really want to spend more money now and throw this away?

This is where Ubuntu-Linux might come into the picture. Several years ago I would not have recommended this option, especially if you were not into getting your hands dirty in the nitty-gritty managing a computer. Now, however, Ubuntu-Linux is easy enough to use out of the box for simple computing that it is truly a viable option.

I caution that it is not as easy as macOS or Windows 10. It is a decent amount of work. However, this is about extending the life of your computer. The work is possible and mostly just following along step-by-step. It is easy enough at this point that many basic users are capable of doing it, or at least try it.

The most important thing when dealing with any changes to a computer's operation system is ensuring the safety of your personal data. The best way to do that these days is by storing that data in a reliable cloud service. I always tell clients that your own computer's hard drive should be treated as temporary storage. Hard drives can fail. Cloud services have backups and redundancies to ensure the safety of your data.

One example is Microsoft's OneDrive. I know that sounds weird that I'm saying to use Microsoft's cloud services on a Linux-based operating system, but why not? In order to use Office 365 all that you need is a good web browser. You can get the major features of Office 365 in the web and Linux-Ubuntu can provide a working platform on older hardware to make that viable. It may not be quite as seamless as on a Windows PC, but this is a lower cost alternative we are talking about.

Once you are confident that your data is backed up, look into Ubuntu's instructions and determine if you are comfortable enough to install this on your computer.

Carl James is CompTIA A+ ce Certified

See a complete list of all jovian34 blogs

As always, I'd love to hear you're thoughts and questions, so feel free to shoot a tweet to @jovian34 and I will gladly respond and perhaps write a blog post on a topic you suggest.