Supercharge an Old PC with Linux Mint Cinnamon

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Don’t trash that aging computer, breathe new life into for free!

I’m writing this on an 8 year-old Dell desktop that looks and feels like Windows 7, but actually runs faster. There’s nothing special about the hardware, which was just okay when new. What rejuvenated this aging PC was a new open source (yes, free) operating system (OS) – Linux Mint Cinnamon.

Linux Mint Cinnamon start menuLinux has always been trumpeted as a Windows competitor. But it is only recently that a Linux OS has appeared with a desktop environment emulating Windows. Linux Mint, based on the robust Ubuntu version of Linux, comes closest with its Cinnamon desktop (see screengrab of Mint’s start menu).

Mint has the speed, power and efficiency that has made Linux the OS of choice for back office networks, Google servers and Android smartphones and tablets. But unlike older Linux releases, you don’t have to be a geek or techie to love Mint.

Mint comes with a full complement of software ready to serve your needs for reading, writing and arithmetic, browsing, graphics, music, videos, email and chat. Using Wine WINdows Emulator, you can also run that Windows program you just can’t live without. You probably won’t want to use Mint professionally – for CAD, publishing, database design, etc. – but that’s no drawback for most users.

Some Linux Mint pluses: frequent updates and improvements;  a large library of open source programs in all categories; and no viruses or malware.

Mint will work with almost every desktop and laptop made in the last half-dozen years, including Apple PCs using Intel processors. It will work with many older machines, too. The minimal system requirements are famously easy: a 32 or 64-bit 700 MHZ processor with 512 MB, a 5 GB hard drive, 800 X 600 graphics, a DVD or USB port, and Internet access.

To get started, download the 32-bit Mint installation disk or the 64-bit disk then burn it to a DVD or USB thumb drive. Start your PC in Windows, insert the DVD or USB drive, and run mint4win.exe. From the opening menu, select “Demo and full installation.” That will let you try out Linux Mint before installing it. (Running from DVD or USB will be slower than normal.)

The minimal hardware requirements, full complement of software, Windows-like environment, all coupled with Linux speed, power and efficiency make Linux Mint Cinnamon almost a no-brainer for transforming an older Windows PC bogged down by resource-hungry programs into a useful and fun Windows-like Linux machine. And you can’t beat the price: free!


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