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Over time computers get slow. They clog up with things like temporary files, internet history and the general data that your computer needs to run. Not only that, but applications and operating systems get more complex over time. All of this can mean your computer will eventually struggle to cope with the load.
So what can you do to revive that old, tired workhorse? There are many misconceptions around speeding up your machine: some work, some don’t. You could spend money upgrading your machine, but this will only get you so far. Why not try installing a new, lightweight operating system?
LXLE (Lubuntu Extra Life Extension)
LXLE is a super-lightweight, Lubuntu-based Linux distribution that should breath life in to most old machines. However, the big difference that LXLE offers over many other lightweight operating systems is that it has a focus on eye candy.
Just because you’re running a lightweight operating system, it doesn’t need to look like something from The Matrix!
I decided to install LXLE on an old Compaq Netbook that I had lying around the house. It’s fairly low-powered, having a first generation 1.6 GHz single core Intel Atom CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and a 160 GB 5400 RPM hard disk drive. This should be the perfect little machine to test LXLE on.
The installation of LXLE (available free from LXLE.net) is a pretty straightforward process. If you have installed Ubuntu before, then the steps required will be familiar to you. It’s pretty much a “next, next, finish” affair, except for a few screens were you have to enter user and location details.
I managed to get LXLE installed and running on my little Compaq Netbook in around 20 minutes or so. Whilst that may not be as quick as most modern computers, you have to remember that it’s a seven-year-old netbook we’re talking about here. So I was pretty impressed with that.
Once the LXLE installation finished what it needed to do, my trusty little netbook booted up for the first time, and I had a login prompt after 32 seconds. I entered my password and 10 seconds later, I had a desktop ready to do my bidding. Just 42 from powering on to having a usable desktop is pretty darn good, especially for such an old, low-powered machine.
Navigating around the desktop feels slick, with menus and applications loading with minimal lag. If it wasn’t for the small screen and keyboard, you would think this was a much more powerful machine.
Looking at the task manager that comes bundled in LXLE, it’s clear to see that even on a mediocre machine — such as the one I’m running — there are still plenty of system resources to spare. On my system, LXLE was using just 10% of the CPU and only 160 MB of the 2 GB RAM that I had available. Which means there was still plenty in reserve for when I start running applications.
Unfortunately, performance is one of the reasons why some people switch to Linux from Windows, but LXLE really does take this one step further. At one point, I had a spreadsheet open, the web browser, a screen shot tool and an FTP client, but LXLE just kept on chugging along, using just 30% of the CPU and 260 MB of RAM — impressive!
The developers at LXLE have clearly put a lot of thought in to which applications to include within their operating system. After all, what’s the point in having a lightweight system if the applications then bog it down? Unfortunately, you won’t find applications like Google Chrome in LXLE, as it uses up far too much RAM.
But you will find lightweight alternatives for most applications that users tend have on their machines. Among the applications included are:
- Sea Monkey web browser.
- LibreOffice productivity suite.
- An FTP client.
- Multimedia viewers and editors.
I’ve been using LXLE for around a week now and I’m yet to install a single application, simply because everything I need is already installed. To me, that says a lot about the amount of thought that has gone in to bundling the correct applications with this fantastic operating system.
What Can LXLE Run On?
Overall, I thought LXLE ran perfectly on my little netbook, so much so that I wanted to see what it was really capable of. So I decided to hop over to my main computer and create a virtual machine with extremely limited resources available. I opted for the following:
- 512 MB RAM.
- Single-core CPU.
- 8 GB hard drive.
- 16 MB graphics (no 3D acceleration).
Even running on my teeny weeny virtual machine, LXLE still pulled it out of the bag. The performance was obviously slower than my netbook, but honestly, it was marginal. Everything still felt super slick and with a browser running, I still had over 50% of RAM available!
What Are You Waiting For?
Overall, LXLE is a fantastic operating system that will allow you to increase the life of that old machine — and it will look good whilst doing so. Personally, I’m so impressed with LXLE that I’m going to permanently replace Windows 7 Starter edition with LXLE on my netbook.
If you have a machine that’s less than 3 years old, then LXLE may not be for you, as your machine is likely to run the latest version of Ubuntu just fine. But LXLE does fill a niche, and it fills it well. If you have tried other lightweight operating systems and decided against them because they’re too drab, or because they lack functionality, I’d recommend you try LXLE.
Have you tried LXLE yourself? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.