Open Source Replacements for Windows XP
These are some of the best Linux distributions for former Windows XP users and people who have older PC hardware.
Many people consider Linux Mint to be among the most intuitive operating systems for Windows XP users. It supports several different desktop interfaces, including Cinnamon, which users can configure to look and feel a lot like XP.
Very easy to use, Ubuntu is likely the most widely used Linux distribution in the world. The desktop version offers speed, security, thousands of built-in applications and compatibility with most peripherals.
Kubuntu’s goal is to "make your PC friendly," and it's fairly easy for new Linux users to figure out. It combines Ubuntu and the KDE desktop and includes plenty of built-in software, like a web browser, an office suite, media apps and more.
Because it's fairly lightweight, BunsenLabs is a good option for older or underpowered systems that might be running Windows XP. It's based on Debian but uses the OpenBox window manager, which will feel familiar to Windows users.
If you like Red Hat but don't want to pay for support, check out Fedora, which is the free, community version of Red Hat. It comes in different "spins"—versions that are tailored to particular uses like science, security and design.
OpenSUSE is the free, community edition of SUSE for those who don't want to purchase support. It comes in both desktop and server versions and aims to meet the needs of both beginners and advanced users.
For those looking to replace Windows XP on a PC primarily used by kids, Edubuntu is an excellent choice. It's based on Ubuntu (and supported by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu), so it's very user-friendly. Plus, it adds plenty of software tailored for use by schools or home users with children.
If you just want to give Linux a try without installing anything on your hard drive, Knoppix runs from a Live CD. You can download the code and create your own CD or order a very inexpensive pre-made CD from any one of a variety of vendors.
If you have an older system that doesn't meet the system requirements for Windows 7 or 8, Lubuntu might be a good option for you. It's a lightweight version of Ubuntu that's very fast and energy efficient, and it's a particularly good choice for underpowered Windows XP laptops.
As its name implies, this is another lightweight Linux distribution. Its website states, "The goal of Linux Lite is to introduce Windows users to an intuitively simple, alternative operating system. Linux Lite is a showcase for just how easy it can be to use linux."
Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. That means the company is no longer patching newly discovered security vulnerabilities in the operating system, and people who continue to use it are opening themselves up to security risks.
However, according to NetMarketShare, more than a quarter of all PCs (27.69 percent) were still running Windows XP in March of this year.
Why would people continue using a twelve-year-old operating system that would put them at risk?
No doubt, many are home users who simply aren't very technology savvy and/or may not have the desire or the money to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Some probably have older, underpowered PCs that can't run Windows 7 or 8. And others have specific software—often custom business applications—that only runs on Windows XP.
Fortunately, the open source community has free operating systems that meet the needs of users in all of these situations. This month we've put together a list of 50 different applications that can replace Windows XP. It's organized into several different categories. Those that are easiest for beginners to use come first, followed by lightweight operating systems that can run on old hardware, then operating systems that are particularly tailored for business users and open source operating systems that aren't based on Linux. The list ends with a few applications that aren't complete operating systems but do allow users to run their existing XP software from Linux.
As always, if you have another Linux distribution or other application that you think should have been on this list, feel free to write a note in the comments section below.
Before we get to the list itself, here's a some quick background for Windows XP users who aren't familiar with Linux or open source software. Linux is an operating system that anyone can use free of charge. In addition, anyone can see the source code for Linux and modify it however they like. Because anyone can tweak it, it comes in thousands of different versions, which are known as "distributions." Different Linux distributions use different interfaces or "desktops," which determine how the operating system looks on the screen. Unlike Windows, Linux distributions generally come with lots of free applications already built in, so users don't have to pay extra for office productivity software, security software, games or other applications.
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