PCs with outdated specs don’t have to be left gathering dust – a lightweight Linux – based operating system can breathe new life into your computer. Read our Best linux for old laptop.
Steve Clark boots up and compares six of the best Linux distributions for beginners to best linux for old laptop.
Table of Contents
What we liked:
Lubuntu is perfect for people who have only ever used Windows. It’s an odd little hybrid: a Linux operating system that’s based on Ubuntu and uses the LXQt desktop environment. When you boot up the operating system for the first time, it greets you with a desktop that’s not a million miles away from Windows. Big user-friendly icons appear down one side of the screen, while the taskbar offers shortcuts for File Explorer and Firefox. The numbers 1 to 4 that appear next to the Start button give the first hint that this is a streamlined operating system designed for efficiency. Click a number to switch to a new desktop.
This OS is instantly appealing and packed with modern tools, apps and even a game – the fiendish puzzler 2048. The default installation includes the LibreOffice suite, email client Trojita is an ideal replacement for Outlook, and the VLC Player software makes a welcome appearance, too. Beyond the basics, Lubuntu provides quick access to a partition manager and tools for updating your software and drivers. You won’t need to fiddle around in a Linux equivalent of Device Manager, either – it’s all right there in the Start menu.
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We even appreciated the colourful desktop wallpaper and trippy screensaver effects.
Yes, it’s incredibly efficient and full of features, but Lubuntu’s real strength is the user experience. Compared with the temporary, quick-and-dirty stylings of some rivals, this feels like a legitimate operating system. You could easily imagine swapping an old, insecure version of Windows for Lubuntu and feeling right at home with it in no time. That’s because almost everything you need is included when it’s installed.
How it can be improved:
There isn’t much to criticise with Lubuntu. It’s speedy, responsive and packed with useful tools. While we didn’t run into any deal-breaking problems, we did encounter a couple of frustrating quirks during our time with
the operating system. The screensaver occasionally kicked in even when the computer wasn’t idle, for example, although that’s easy to fix. More serious was that the software sometimes refused to acknowledge or respond to our PC’s trackpad.
Lubuntu is as close to perfect as a lightweight operating system can get, best for old laptop. It’s ready to use right out of the box, with all the major tools you’d expect. Minor niggles aside, this is an OS you could really get used to.
Lubuntu is the fastest operating system for laptop !
linuxmint.com | 4/5
What we liked:
Linux Mint is another operating system based on Linux Ubuntu, which means it shares many similarities with our Gold Award winner, Lubuntu. Everything about Linux Mint is easy to use. Big bold icons make navigation a breeze, while the liberal use of toggle switches simplifies the process of desktop management.
The Start menu is loaded with familiar programs, such as Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice. Other less familiar tools come highly recommended, too, including the excellent Rhythmbox music app. As well as playing songs stored on your computer, this offers a nice selection of built-in streaming radio stations covering both general pop and rock and eclectic tastes, plus a handful of American college radio stations.
Head to the Start menu’s Administration section for a glimpse of what Windows’ Control Panel should be like. From backups to boot repairs, it offers clean, clear, user-friendly device management.
How it can be improved:
Once again, the Linux operating system proves hard to beat. We’d like to see a few more familiar apps, particularly in the multimedia section, and a game or two wouldn’t go amiss for those moments when you need a quick break. That supposedly ’minty’ colour scheme needs to go. too.
Another near-perfect Windows replacement, Linux Mint is quick, slick and ready to go from the moment you boot it up. Given the similarities between this and Lubuntu, we suggest trying both to see which you prefer, then choose which one is best linux for your old laptop.
TinyCore Linux Lightweight Linux distro
www.tinycorelinux.net | 4/5
What we liked:
TinyCore is positively minuscule. Clocking in at just 15MB, it’s by far the lightest of all our lightweight contenders.
As you’d expect, this means TinyCore isn’t packed with tools. By default, it offers a basic text editor, control panel, run command and the option to mount a file, all from a dock reminiscent of a cut-price macOS.
To expand TinyCore’s abilities, you need to use the Apps tool. The method of adding new apps isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s easy when you know how: select Apps and choose the fastest mirror, then click the Apps button and choose Cloud (Remote), then Browse.
This presents you with an impressively long list of downloadable apps. Click each file name to find out more. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, click Go to start the download.
You can access your apps at any time by clicking the desktop and using the context menu. From here you can also create a New Desktop.
How it can be improved:
Navigation is TinyCore’s biggest issue. True, there’s not much to navigate, but what there is can seem counterintuitive. To compound the problem, apps are confusingly named, making it difficult to find what you want. This is a serious problem when you have to download everything beyond the bare essentials.
TinyCore is the smallest of all the operating systems we’ve reviewed, so it should work on even the oldest PCs, old laptops. By default, however, it lacks most of the tools modern PC users expect, so be prepared to install everything you need manually.
BEST OF THE REST best linux for old laptop
peppermintos.com Peppermint is also based on Lubuntu, although it’s not quite up to the standard of our Gold Award winner. Icons are smaller, making it fiddly to use, and it comes with fewer installed apps. All the Office apps connect to internet
services such as Google Drive and Microsoft Office Online, for example. The built-in ad blocker, which stops advertising sites and services connecting to your computer, is a nice addition, though.
Booting up Puppy Linux is like playing fetch with a tired old sheepdog – it takes far too long. It’s not the easiest OS to navigate, either, and its app-strewn desktop only makes this worse.
The apps are bog-standard, no-name varieties, too. including a text editor called Write and a paint app called – you guessed it – Paint. Despite the lack of big names (Pale Moon is its browser of choice, for example), it comes with perhaps the largest number of apps we’ve seen.
Raspberry Pi Desktop
The Debian-based Raspbian OS is designed for Raspberry Pi, but that needn’t stop you trying it out on other computers. The interface feels like something created for schools rather than the home, but it comes with a host of classic apps, including the Chromium browser and some practical coding tools. You might need to fire those up, too. because installing new apps on Raspbian can be tricky. Oh, and the taskbar is at the top of the screen, which is sure to catch a few people out.