Summary of Our Top Picks
Xtra-PC Ultra – Best Overall Choice
Xtra-PC Ultra is a simple and affordable way to upgrade to your old, slow or dead PC while keeping all your existing files.
A unique desktop environment that is easy to get used to, this is the perfect general-purpose Linux distro for any user.
After a few years, our laptops begin to slow down in performance or are sometimes even unusable because of their weak components. In addition, they can’t perform well with the new updated OS systems unless you buy an expensive, top-of-the-line laptop. So, in the end, you are left with one choice: buying a new laptop or PC, or if you’re like me, scouring the internet for a cheap solution.
What I ended up finding is that people who are tech geeks already have a solution for this problem. They replace the OS on their computers with a lightweight yet easy-to-use Linux OS for people who are used to having Windows and Mac computers.
These operating systems are pre-installed on a USB drive. When plugged in, they refresh and speed up your old PC and laptop without requiring additional knowledge and can easily be done by yourself even though you don’t know much about computers.
In this article, we’ll cover our top pics and see which is the best solution to speed up your old computer. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Mac and PC
Mac and PC
Mac and PC
Mac and PC
Mac and PC
Keeps your existing files
Include pre-intalled programs
Runn OS over USB
Can store data on USB permanently
Use with no HDD
Processor - 64-bit Intel or AMD chips running 700 MHz processor or higher.
RAM - 512 MB (minimum), 2 GB (recommended)
USB port - USB 2.0 or 3.0 port
Network - Wi-Fi or Wired
Graphics - VGA, DVI, or HDMI supported
2 GHz dual-core processor or better
CPU: 1 GHz Dual Core – Intel/AMD 64-bit processor
Recent Intel i3 or comparable dual-core 64-bit processor
2GB RAM (4GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
1) Xtra-PC Ultra – Best Overall Choice
- Easy to adapt and use
- It comes with exclusive and essential software
- Compatible with Mac and old Windows computers from 2004 onwards
- Xtra-PC Pro comes with file rescue software
- Doesent touch or modify your existing files
- The file rescue software is only available on the Pro version
Xtra-PC Ultra is our number-one choice for fixing your slow or dead computer. It’s easy, quick, and requires no complicated installation process. In addition, it works on various desktops, notebooks, and laptops made in 2004 or newer, whether Mac or PC.
You have a broken, missing, or corrupted hard drive, and the computer cannot start. That is not a problem, especially with the Xtra-PC Ultra Pro version, which provides storage for your photos, files, music, and movies. It even comes equipped with file rescue software.
You can keep all your existing files because Xtra-PC Ultra does not touch or modify them, whereas, with other products or solutions, you might need to transfer files to access and store them.
When you compare Xtra-PC Ultra with other Linux OS versions, you need to know that with others, you are only getting the OS that you then need to download and install on the device manually. After all that, you still have to install applications to prepare your old computer for everyday tasks.
This sounds easy, but for those who did not work previously with Linux, that could be a challenge. However, this problem is solved with Xtra-PC Ultra, which makes launching and using it easy and similar to the Windows system.
How Xtra-PC Works
Xtra-PC Ultra is a USB drive that you insert into a free available USB port on your PC or laptop. It is built on the proven Linux operating system, bypassing the old and slow Windows operating system.
It’s surprisingly simple to get started with Xtra-PC. Simply plug it in, restart your computer so you can boot into Xtra-PC Ultra, and you’re ready. For a detailed explanation of how to use Xtra-PC Ultra, read our review, where we cover each step.
2) Ubuntu OS – Best for Beginners
- You can try it without installing first
- Easy-to-navigate interface
- Great software availability
- Easy to install on an old computer
- It takes time to get used to it
- Some programs are not available
If you’re looking for something different than the status quo regarding desktop operating systems, consider Ubuntu. With its sophisticated user experience and reliable performance, Ubuntu has a lot to offer.
With a wealth of features, user management tools, and an accessible yet unique desktop environment that is easy to get used to, this is the perfect general-purpose distro for any user.
Although in most cases, you need to download Ubuntu from the official site and make your own bootable drive, there is also a USB option that is ready for booting from USB or installing to your computer.
What we like about Ubuntu is that you can try the OS without installing it, and you don’t even need a hard drive. However, remember that you can’t store any files or data on the USB. So to be able to store the data, you would need to install Ubuntu to your hard drive or SSD first.
Regarding software availability, Linux is known to be hard to install on a computer, and you need to do it manually using code. However, you can forget this with Ubuntu because it has thousands of apps available for download and can be installed with a few clicks.
So it won’t be a problem to find and install all your favorite software.
Here is a list of some of the software that is available that you can easily install:
- Browser: Chromium (a lighter version of Google Chrome), Firefox, Opera
- E-mail: Thunderbird
- Media players: VLC
- Music: Spotify, Google Play Music
- Office: Libre Office
3) Zorin OS – Best Option If You Come from Windows
- Great for beginners and seniors
- Interface similar to Mac and Windows
- Solid and smooth operations similar to Windows and Mac
- Equipped with plenty of pre-installed software
- Some of the functions require customization via command-line tools.
Zorin OS is the premier choice for users looking for a visually appealing and straightforward Linux experience. It’s designed to meet the needs of beginners or older people, which is a great starting point. There are three versions available – Core, Education, and Pro which offer varying levels of tool sets that cost around $39.
It can seem intimidating for first-time users, but this distro helps simplify the transition with its user-friendly interface and features similar to Windows and Mac.
Like with Ubuntu, you have the option before installing to the computer to try the Zorin OS while booting from USB. Keep in mind that when you try Zorin over USB, the system will run slower than when it’s installed on the computer’s hard drive.
When you run the installation of Zorin OS, it gives you a similar feeling to macOS, which is nice. But when you finish installation, the interface is like Windows with a taskbar, a “start button” on the left, and a time/date in the right corner.
For software Zorin OS allows you to install apps from their software store and also from sources like Ubuntu apt repositories, Snap Store, and Flathub. With these sources, you will find your favorite programs or at least an alternative.
Also, if you are into gaming, you can install games from Steam, Lutris, and other sources. Zorin comes with NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel graphics drivers and game optimizations that ensure the best performances.
Here is the list of pre-intalled programs that you can find in the Zorin OS.
- Browser: Mozilla Firefox
- E-mail: Thunderbird, Mailspring and Evolution
- Media players: Rhythm box
- Music: Cider
- Office: Libre Office, OnlyOffice
- Graphics: Krita, GNU Image Manipulation Program, Inkscape
- Sound and Video: Kdenlive, Blender
4) Elementary OS – Best Option if You Come From macOS
- Interface similar to macOS
- It’s fast to get used to
- Clean app center with plenty of applications
- Your computer may not fulfill system requirements
- It doesn’t have the option to try the system without installing it first
Elementary OS is also one of the Linux distros built on Ubuntu, with a clean and easy-to-navigate desktop interface for a convenient experience. Furthermore, with its sophisticated design, Elementary OS offers an impressive range of custom-coded apps and access to a paid app store.
Upon starting up, users are presented with the sleek Elementary OS Pantheon desktop – a great example of how macOS design can be adopted in an inspiring way. This visually appealing and functional interface and the fast transition to this OS will undoubtedly excite people to work on their devices.
The top left corner of your workspace features a convenient Applications menu, the current date and time in the center, and an easily accessible system tray on the right. Finally, at the bottom lies your Dock – where you can quickly launch your favorite apps with just one click, the same as on macOS.
Developers carefully selected default applications to ensure the best user experience possible. Epiphany, a web browser geared towards simplicity and minimalism, focuses on creating an easy-to-use software platform with all users in mind. Although it’s not a bad web browser, you can get market-leading Firefox and Chrome/Chromium browsers.
For the applications, AppCenter is the answer to all your needs for additional programs. You can check the list of the available applications that can be installed without coding. (https://appcenter.elementary.io)
As for using the OS, you can download it from the Elementary website for free. It will ask you to pay what you can, but you can put zero in the custom price field, and the download link will show up. Installation is simple and similar to all other Linux options from our list.
5) Linux Mint
- A great option for old computers with weak hardware
- It comes with basic programs pre-installed
- Interface looks old compared with other Linux os
- Hard to manage software center
Having browsed a range of Linux options, the Linux Mint is also a great choice if you need Linux that doesn’t ask much from your computer system hardware. This operating system strikes an ideal balance for Windows users transitioning to Linux.
LinuxMint offers an easy-to-understand overview of each program in the application menu, similar to Windows, making it effortless for users to find a solution suitable for their needs.
For installing new software or deleting the old one, you can go to “Software Manager,” which has a collection of programs you can easily install to your computer by just clicking “Install Package.”
Different Linux distros serve different purposes, so not every one of them will be ideal for your needs.
When selecting the best USB bootable distros for yourself, you’ll want to ensure the distro is stable; up-time is critical. Since we are talking about people who are not tech geeks but want to start using Linux on their old computers, these Linux distros should be easy to deploy, configure and manage. The solid support of original and alternative software from Windows and Mac should cover all your everyday tasks without a problem.