What’s the best distro for learning Linux on an older Windows XP computer?

Stephen Lestik June 16, 2013
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I am a skilled at using Windows operating systems but I have never had a chance to play around or learn anything about Linux. My family has an old Desktop computer that has been running XP service pack 3 that they have finally quit using. It is a very basic system they bought in the early 2000. They are allowing me to play around on it before we get rid of it. I would like suggestions on a distro that would allow to get my feet wet without immediately jumping in over my head and be able to run on an older computer. Any other suggestions that could help during this learning experience would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Declan L
    July 1, 2013 at 4:58 am

    I would try lubuntu, xubuntu, linux mint, or puppy linux

  2. susendeep dutta
    June 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    After deciding which distro to use,you can simply test them by using LIVE CD/DVD which means without installing it into your system directly,you can use some of the few features of your chosen distro.

  3. adrian mores
    June 25, 2013 at 1:30 am

    seeing that you will spend long hours of tweaking and tinkering, I recommend you wattOS.
    or you can just take a look here:

    http://distrowatch.com/search.php?category=Old+Computers

  4. Ramesh Krishna
    June 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    You can try Ubuntu and Fedora for learning LINUX

  5. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    June 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Lightweight distro for old computer - Puppy is my favorite. It has several variants but I suggest you to download Racy or Wary for the best compatibility with your hardware. It should run just fine.
    Depending on your hardware you might need to try other variants. For example, in Wary no sound come out from my laptop but with Slacko everything's alright.
    Slitaz is another tiny, simple Linux distro just around 30MB. Both are designed for simple, daily use case. I myself is total beginner at Linux, but I had no difficulties playing around with them. Puppy was my first distro, my pathway of learning Linux.
    Why must you get rid of that system? I suggest to use it as your 'tinkering box', playing with various distros, software test sandbox...

  6. Freud Iomc
    June 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Ubuntu live CD's are a good starting place if you just want to test drive, test the radio, wipers, etc.

  7. Chirag Shah
    June 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    1 Mageia 2 PCLinuxos 3 opensuse education

  8. Chirag Shah
    June 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    My Preference for you is (1) Mageia (2) PclinuxOs (3) Opensuse education.

  9. null
    June 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I would recommend Ubuntu LTS edition for new user, because its a LTS(Long term support). Then slowly slowly move to CentOS!

    Linux Mint Based on Ubuntu, so why use the remix edition when you have the original! Moreover , Linux Mint is not for old hardware . Yes i Know ubuntu based on Debian

  10. Alton
    June 18, 2013 at 3:01 am

    For a tiny and efficient linux, Puppy Linux and its variants are hard to beat.

  11. Michael Earley
    June 18, 2013 at 12:21 am

    ubuntu 11.10 is what i started with when windows wouldn't connect to wifi . love it and never will go back to windows linux os rocks!!!!!

  12. Darren Shipp
    June 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I would go with Ubuntu or Mint

  13. Manide
    June 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    If you are going to try out some distros, take into account Zenwalk either.

  14. dragonmouth
    June 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    What exactly do you mean by "a chance to play around or learn anything about Linux"?
    Your choice of distribution depends how deep you want to immerse yourself into Linux.

    If you just want to get your toes wet by running Linux apps, just about any distribution will do.
    If you want to wade in up to your knees by starting to learn about the inner workings of Linux, Debian, SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS are good.
    With siduction you will be in Linux up to your waist. siduction forces you to learn some command line.
    With antiX Core and TinyCore you are up to your shoulders. Installing hese two distros provides you with a basic bootable command line system. You then add the apps you want to build the rest of your system.
    If you want to swim in Linux waters, there is Arch Linux.
    For the ultimate learning experience and total immersion, there is Linux From Scratch. You start with a blank hard drive and the Linux From Scratch book, and step by step you compile a working Linux system. LFS is not for the faint of heart and casual dabblers in Linux. Once you build a working LFS system, there is very little you do not know about Linux.

    The one big advantage of the DYI distributions (anitX, TinyCore, Arch, LFS) is that you can tailor them to the capabilities of your hardware. Since you did not provide the exact specs of your system, it is possible that Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, MEPIS, PCLinuxOS may prove to be too big and will run sluggishly on your system.

  15. Oron Joffe
    June 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Linux Mint and Bodhi Linux are both good choices. I have no personal experience with PCLInuxOS, but if Bruce recommends it, I'd listen to him!

  16. Chinmay Sarupria
    June 17, 2013 at 4:24 am

    Check out this best Linux Distros page from MakeUseOf
    http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/best-linux-distributions

  17. Junil Maharjan
    June 17, 2013 at 4:18 am

    I would go with Ubuntu or Linux Mint. I started learning with ubuntu, which is a great linux distro and much more stable than any others i have used. linux mint is great and a much easier to use and really looks great.

  18. Bruce Epper
    June 16, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Ubuntu, LinuxMint, PCLInuxOS all provide decent jumping off points. For older hardware, PCLinuxOS generally provides the best driver support (they keep older drivers available longer). If there isn't any kind of unique or rare hardware, any recent distro should work fine, but you may want to work with a lightweight desktop instead of Unity, MATE, Cinnamon, Gnome, or KDE. Environments like LXDE and Xfce tend to be better suited to older machines that have weak graphics subsystems.

    • Patrick J
      June 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Don't go for versions of Ubuntu higher than 12.04 because they would require more graphical 'needs' and would not work with old desktops. I too had the similar problems with Ubuntu 12.10.

    • Bruce Epper
      June 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Patrick J, Ubuntu 12.04 & later will still work fine if you don't use the Unity (or Gnome) interface. Just switch to LXDE or Xfce & you will be golden. That's one of the great things about Linux, you can use a less resource-hungry desktop if you wish just by choosing the window manager and desktop you want to use instead of accpting (or simply putting up with) the default.

  19. ha14
    June 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm
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