Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A New Lease on Life

Your Windows XP machine may be bogged down and security updates may be ending, but Linux can fix that. I have assumed that you’ve resisted the allure of a new machine and have at least skimmed my last post.
Now we will try out a Linux distribution on your machine. Linux is so incredible that it can run on a USB thumb drive.
First we need to discuss distributions or distros. These are “versions” of Linux, and some of the most popular ones are Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, and Fedora. Each of these come with various desktop environments to suit your needs. In this case I chose Xubuntu, the Xfce desktop for Ubuntu, because I have successfully installed it on a number of Windows XP era laptops.
Okay, you have already backed up up your machine according to my last post, if not, do it now. For the first step Xubuntu will only be running on the thumb drive, but something could go wrong so BACKUP!
First, ensure you have a thumb drive that can be overwritten. If it has been used previously, format it using FAT32. Right click on the USB drive in Windows Explorer and click Format. Now you should see your drive letter appear in the Drive box then click OK.
Second, in Windows download the distribution you would like to try. Here I'm using latest Xubuntu Long Term Release, 12.04, so click on the torrent or mirror nearest your location and select the version recommended for your machine, xubuntu-12.04.4-desktop-i386.iso. The MD5SUMS files have a check sum that ensures the integrity of your download. Consult this tutorial to do so for your download.
Third, download UNetbootin and launch it. Click on Disk image and browse to your downloaded .iso. Alternatively, you can select a distro from the list, but I prefer to download it first.

 If you don't see a drive letter as above and get a this message:
Format the drive and then close and re-open Unetbootin. Your drive should be listed. You should then see the following after pressing OK:
And lastly,

Click Exit (Reboot Now will reboot your computer, only press if you're ready to reboot, i.e., no other programs are open). 
Now keep the drive plugged in and restart your machine. The first screen you see should have the motherboard manufacturer's logo plastered on it and some options below. If you see an option to Enter Boot Menu or similar press the key indicated. (All options on this first splash screen can only be accessed through the keyboard.) Then look for the USB drive manufacturer's name in the list under Hard Drives. Select your USB Drive and press the key to proceed. Now your computer is booting up from the USB drive rather than the hard drive containing Windows XP.
If you do not see Enter Boot Menu option then press Delete or the indicated key to enter the BIOS. There you will find a brightly coloured screen. Scroll through until you find the option for Boot Sequence or similar. Then select it and again look for your USB drive or USB/removable drives and move it to first, usually using PgUp and PgDn. Now save and exit and then your computer should be booting from the USB drive. 
First you will see a UNetbootin Menu screen. Click Default and Xubuntu should start loading. Remember that Xubuntu will be slower on the USB drive than when installed on your machine. If you like what you see then press Install Xubuntu icon on the desktop. Click Install Xubuntu. Now if you opted to re-partition your drive and dual boot with Windows XP on the previous blog post, follow this tutorial:  (It is for Linux Mint but most of the screen look the same. Ensure that you select Something Else on the third screen labelled Installation type.
If you want to replace Windows XP on your machine follow the steps in part 2 of this tutorial (scroll down past Part 1).
Voila! Restart and you should see a Grub menu that looks like this. Select Xubuntu 12.04.

To customize Xubuntu you can follow the steps on page two of the above link.

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