If you’re one of those old school Windows users who loved Windows XP, but found yourself missing many things about it as the world progressed onto Windows 7, 8 and now 10 — have I got a treat for you!
Introducing Zorin OS, the alternative Windows XP.
Okay, Zorin OS isn’t officially affiliated with Microsoft in any way. Nor is it even marketed as a Windows XP alternative, but the truth is that it is just about the nearest Linux Distro you’ll find to Windows XP anywhere.
Zorin offers both a full featured version and a “lite” version meant for older hardware. If you’re running this on a PC that used to run Windows XP, then odds are good you’ll want to go with the lite version.
Installing Zorin OS
Installing Zorin OS is about as easy, if not easier, than any other Linux Distro you might have installed in the past. The process is pretty much the same.
Once you’ve got the OS on a DVD, turn on your target XP box, put in the CD and enter the boot menu to tell the computer to boot to the DVD drive.
At this point, it’s just a matter of stepping through the usual installation procedures. First, make sure to move the cursor to Install Zorin OS, press F6 and enable “nomodeset”.
This will avoid the typical blank screen issue that occurs on most PCs when installing many Linux distros. Once selected, hit Enter to start the install. If your computer already has an operating system installed, you’ll see the option to dual boot. If you’re replacing Windows XP with Zorin, then you’ll have the choice of keeping a Windows XP partition if you like, just to play it safe.
Click Install Now, and let the installer do its thing.
Once it’s finished and the PC reboots, you’ll see this text based screen showing some processes going on. Don’t panic. Everything is alright. Just press Enter and keep waiting.
Eventually, the installation will complete and the desktop will appear. The first thing you’ll likely notice is how much like Windows XP the layout is – that is no accident.
How Zorin OS is Like Windows XP
Just about everything you liked about Windows XP can be found in Zorin. Clicking on the “Z” icon in the lower left corner (your new Start menu), you’ll see the good old Start Menu that XP enthusiasts came to know and love through the years. This is complete with the old Accessories, System Tools and Preferences program groups.
Obviously the System Tools group will contain a lot of differences from your old Windows operating system, but a lot of things have been named to match what you’re used to seeing. You’ll find Network settings, Printer settings, and even a Task Manager here. Of course you’ll also find the typical Linux utilities like GParted and the Software Center. The Software Center is where you’ll spend a lot of time finding new (free) software to install on your new system.
The Preferences program group contain the rest of the things you’d expect to find in the Windows Control panel. Things like your monitor settings, firewall, drivers, power management, keyboard and mouse settings, and more.
Want to “Run” commands like you could do in Windows? No problem – there’s a Run option in the Start menu as well.
Want the convenience of right-clicking on the desktop to set up your desktop preferences. Go ahead – it’s in the right click context menu, just like you’re used to seeing in Windows XP. Choose whatever PNG file you want to use as your desktop background, or download whatever picture you’d like to use.
It won’t take long for you to get your new Linux PC looking and behaving just like your old XP machine used to, but with a whole lot more security available than the outdated and unsupported XP machine.
Running and Installing Applications
Want access to the same Notepad application that you’re used to on Windows? Not a problem!
Click on the Wine menu, click Programs, Accessories, and finally Notepad. The application is literally a perfect clone of the Windows Notepad that you know and love.
The File Manager also looks a whole lot like the Windows Explorer file manager that you’re used to. Windows are set up with minimize, maximize and close buttons in the top-right corner, and the folder structure is laid in that warm, familiar XP style too.
Zorin comes with your favorite browser, Firefox, pre-installed. So long as you’ve got a network connection wired to the machine (or you’ve set up your wireless connection), you’ll find yourself instantly online with Firefox, and surfing the web in no time.
Of course, you aren’t just tied down to what’s already installed. This is Linux after all. Meaning, you have a complete library with hundreds of apps and utilities ready to install at will. Just open up the Software Center from the System Tools menu, and you’ll find those free applications sorted by category.
Navigate through these to find the software you need. For example, in the Internet category you’ll find Chrome, desktop Gmail applications, IM applications and anything else you need to connect to your favorite sites and social networks. Not to mention your choice torrent applications, Internet security tools and more.
I literally spent an hour just installing all of the applications I wanted to use on this system like Audacity, Office applications and the Pidgin Instant Messenger.
The Desktop Layout
The look and feel of this desktop is so much like XP it’s uncanny. Of course there are a few enhancements as well.
In the toolbar you’ll find pinned application icons, similar to that introduced with Windows 7. Plus you’ll have access to two desktops that you can alternate between, not just one.
On the right side of the toolbar, as you’d expect, you’ll find volume control, a keyboard configuration menu, the time display and the network status.
It didn’t take long before I had the system looking just like my old Windows machine, complete with a galaxy background and a growing collection of icons scattered on the desktop.
You can quickly add any application you want to the desktop by right-clicking it and selecting to add it to the desktop.
And by the way, if you’re not exactly a Windows fan, and prefer Mac instead, just choose the Zorin OS Look Changer from the Preferences menu and select the Mac OS X theme instead.
In addition to the layout, I found Zorin OS Lite runs quick and snappy on my old Dell Optiplex (which formerly had Windows XP installed). While reviews from Linux users are mixed across the web, most agree that Zorin boots up and shuts down faster than distros like Mint or plain Ubuntu, but it also uses slightly more system resources if you install and run the full version.
The bottom line is that Zorin OS is a good alternative if you’re looking to make the migration from Windows, but don’t want to lose the kind of GUI environment that you’re accustomed to. It’s a great foray into the Linux world. Personally, I was intending to install and test Zorin before moving on to some other Linux distro, but after seeing how feature-filled, easy to use and fast Zorin runs, I may stick with it after all!
Are you a Windows XP holdout, but looking for something a bit more secure? Are you a Mac OS X enthusiast but have always wanted to try a Linux system? Zorin OS may be for you. Why not download it and give it a shot? Let us know what you think about this Linux distro in the comments section below!