Linux for Windows XP Holdouts

For those users still running the ancient Windows XP, there are some Linux distributions well-suited to help them migrate.
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After all this time it still amazes me when I see Windows XP used among the public. Some of the most recent examples I've seen in 'the wild' have been with home users and some small businesses.

In this article, I'll look into what the attraction is to continue using Windows XP and which Linux distributions might make the best candidates for a switch.

Change is hard

On the surface, the idea that upgrading your operating system is a hurdle to getting people off of XP might seem silly. But if you're running legacy applications with lost license keys, the idea of upgrading your Windows version might feel a bit risky to the less than tech savvy. In other instances, sometimes the lack of OS upgrades stems from the belief - if it's not broke, why fix it!

For a period of time, this attitude was fine because Windows XP was seeing its share of needed security patches from Microsoft. These days however, this is no longer acceptable. XP has lost its support and rightfully so. It's an ancient operating system that has needed to be put down for sometime now. And for those not relying heavily on legacy Windows applications, the death of XP is a great opportunity to try something new.

Linux Mint

Based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint offers a very familiar experience for anyone coming from Windows XP. The launcher will allow the new user to find pre-installed applications easily and the applets located on the panel will feel natural as well. Mint offers a strong community for support, access to a decent selection of software from the software center, and it provides the user with a real sense of everything just working well out of the box.

It's worth noting that while proprietary video drivers aren't installed by default, they're easily added using Mint's installation tools. Another benefit of using Mint is with their kernel selection tool. For many users, this new feature is truly amazing as it allows you to select the kernel you'd like to use – instead of having one shoved down your throat.

And finally, the Mint updater tool is setup to make sure you're fully educated about the updates you're applying to your system. Each set of updates is assigned a number based on how potentially "unstable" the update might be. I'll be the first to point out that I believe this step to be completely overkill, but I appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

When choosing a Linux Mint release, you should select the one that makes the most sense for your system specifications. Newer PCs will do very well with the Cinnamon or KDE releases. While older computers can run happily with MATE or XFCE editions of Mint.

Ubuntu MATE

Right off the bat, I need to disclose that I'm biased in favor of Ubuntu MATE. I contribute financially to its development through their Patreon page and think the development team walks on water. That said, my initial love affair with Ubuntu MATE was born out of my need to depart from Xubuntu.

Ubuntu MATE offers me a fantastic desktop experience for my older desktop computer. I need to get the most reliable experience possible without being forced to rely on a compositing desktop – Ubuntu MATE addresses this need nicely. I also appreciate the MATE tweak tool provided by default. The ability to completely transform my panel with a simple click under Interface is truly a gift.

For example, I've recently switched my panel layout to the OpenSUSE-like appearance. My entire work flow has now evolved into something that feels more natural and even performs smoother.

Another great performance tweak offered by the MATE tweak tool is the ability to show only a grid of a window when it's moved. This is fantastic for older systems as it allows windows to be resized or moved without dragging down the computer's resources. For me, this tweak has been an instant enhancement based on my usage of this option.

Ubuntu MATE uses all the same packages you would expect to find with Ubuntu. Plus, it's also compatible with Ubuntu Personal Package Archives (PPAs) because its core is in fact Ubuntu proper. I've had great success switching older XP boxes over to Ubuntu MATE and the owners of these PCs took to MATE quite easily. It's logical and it just works well.


Without question, if there is a Linux distribution that "gets" Windows converts, it's PCLinuxOS. Besides being lightning fast even on older "built for XP PCs", the Full Monty release runs a well thought-out KDE installation.

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Tags: Linux, Windows XP

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