Why Linux Mint is a worthwhile Windows XP replacement

Why Linux Mint is a worthwhile Windows XP replacement

Summary: XP's support life is quickly coming to an end. Fortunately for Windows XP users, there's a Linux desktop--Linux Mint--that has the same look and feel but with far better security and speed.


On April 8, 2014, Windows XP's come to the end of its support life-cycle. After that, it appears 37 percent of you are planning on continuing with XP without support. That's foolhardy.

Linux Mint 16
Why replace Windows XP with Linux Mint? For starters it looks and works a lot like XP.

I get it though. You know XP like the back of your hand and Windows 8.x has left you as cold as a penguin in the Antarctica ocean. You may also have considered switching to a Mac and gotten hives from just the thought, or contemplated a Chromebook but couldn't get past the idea of relying so much on the Internet and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). I suggest an alternative you may not have considered: Linux Mint.

Windows XP and Linux Mint: Brothers at the interface (Gallery)

Yes, I'm serious, and not just because I tend to use Linux desktops a lot and Mint in particular. I'm suggesting it for XP users for several specific reasons.

First, Mint's Cinnamon interface can be set to look and act a lot like XP. Yes, you'll have a learning curve, but it's nothing like the one you'll face if you move to Windows 8 or Mac OS.

Second, Mint is free and even the latest version, Mint 16 Petra, can work on almost any XP system you already have in house. All Linux Mint needs to run is an x86 processor; 512 MBs of RAM (albeit you'll be happier with 1GB); 5 GBs of disk space; a graphics card that can handle 800×600 resolution; and a CD/DVD drive or USB port. That's it.

Next, you don't have to commit to Mint. You can try it before installing it by using a live USB thumb-drive.

To do this, you just need to download Mint and install it on an USB drive with at least 8GBs of room. With that drive, you can boot your XP box to Mint and give it a try without making any permanent changes to your PC.

Let's say you find that you do like Mint, but you don't want to replace XP with it. You want to try it for a few months before saying good-bye to XP. No problem. You can dual-boot Mint and XP without any damage to your Windows XP setup.

Six Clicks: 2014's top Linux desktops (Gallery)

Another reason to move is that the vast majority of software on Mint, or any other Linux distribution, is free. True, many popular Windows programs, such as Outlook, Quicken, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer are not available on Mint, but there are good replacements for each, such as EvolutionGnuCash,LibreOffice, and Google Chrome.

Besides, Microsoft and other Windows vendors are now making their programs, such as Office 365, available as Web-based SaaS programs, which can usually run on Linux. I'll go into more details about running applications on Mint in a later part of this series.

You might think that these, and other Linux applications, might be hard to find or install. That's old FUD. Installing programs on Mint is as simple as using the Software Manager—a built-in program that's similar to CNet's Download.com.

In addition, you won't need anti-virus software. Once every blue moon, instead of several times a day in Windows' case, a virus will come along that can impact Linux. For all practical purposes, there are no viable Linux desktop malware programs. If you really can't live without an anti-virus program, you can always download the free, open-source ClamAV. It's all I've ever used and, closing in on 20 years of using Linux desktops and servers day-in and day-out, I have yet to get any kind of virus.

Need support? There's corporate support from companies such as Pantek. You can also get free support from the Linux Mint forums or general support sites such as the outstanding LinuxQuestions.

Let me be perfectly honest with you. I'm a long-time Linux user. That said, I've also been using Windows since 1.0 came along, and XP SP3 has long been one of my favorite versions of Windows. To quote myself from back in 2008, "XP SP3 … in my opinion is easily the best Windows desktop ever. " So, I know what XP SP3 is like and I can tell you with assurance that if you too like XP, you'll probably like Linux Mint 16 with Cinnamon too.

Next up in this series, I'll tell you in detail how to install Mint for a try-out, as a dual-boot, and by itself.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, PCs, Windows

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  • Win7

    You make it sound like Windows 8 is the only other option besides changing from XP to Linux... but Windows 7 is actually pretty great & not too much different from XP, especially if you customize everything. You still can have a great amount of control. I'm just saying that even though windows 8 is the worst OS ever made besides osx & ios, & an atrocity, people don't have to switch to linux if they really want to still use Windows. I think it's actually a pretty underrated operating system.

    Btw fix your damn sign-up. Sites who tell me my email address isn't valid just because it doesn't recognize my personal domain make me absolutely livid. If you need to, put up a verification method which can test the email address domain or something, but don't proceed to keep people from being able to sign up just because they don't have an address at Yahoo or Gmail, just to comment!
    • Why not Win7

      3 minutes to boot up and nearly 4 minutes to shutdown.
      Cannot run Yahoo Site Builder on it without downgrading Java and Win7 Won't let Java stay downgraded so after every Win7 update, Site builder stops working.
      • Maybe a niche argument

        For people just migrating from xp?
        • I replaced XP with Linux Mint already in 2008...

          .... and since those days Mint has become even much better. I have replaced several sick and tired Windows 7 machines with Linux Mint 13 during the last 2 years too. And people - they really have liked their fast, stable, secure and decent Mint system.
          • Just one mistake SJVN made...

            ... he should not have recommend installing Linux Mint 16 because it's not long term support release. Instead he should recommend either installing Mint 13 with 3 years support time left or wait 2-4 months and then install new coming Linux Mint 17 LTS.

            Besides i'm not sure is Cinnamon the best desktop. With Mint 13 i found that MATE is still the most stable desktop you can customize while one have to accept Cinnamon as it is.
          • Not having to wait for system updates

            Or put up with Windows rot slowing down the system over the years was a game changer for me.

            Not having an NSA backdoor built in to my OS was just icing on the cake. :-)
          • The system update problem is

            said to be repaired. I don't know, but will be finding out, as I intend to put up a few machines to see how "foolhardy" it is to run with XP hardened appropriately, with AV and Firewall with HIPS.
      • Wow

        Never had any of the issues you described. Sounds like a bunch of hooey if you ask me. Win7 on my EIGHT year old X2 processer with 4GB memory, boots and is at the desktop in about 90 seconds. I have a lot of start apps, so this is to be expected.

        Shutdown normally is about 15 to 30 seconds. Hibernate is normally about 25 to 45 seconds. So not sure where you get your numbers. Win7 is an excellent performer on rather old hardware. That's been my experience.
        • I'd support this.

          Win7 boots in a similar time on my 2008 ATOM netbook with 2gb ram, my 2006 core2duo 1.6ghz 2gb ram and is even pretty nippy on a bog standard hp buisness client machine i have from around 07/08 again with 2gb but no graphics card.

          Start up and shut down times for OS are only good measures on the first day they install - after that how you treat the OS is how fast it'll be (how busy is your desktop looking ;-) )

          I see far more xp machines taking 5+ minutes to boot than 7; why? Because the owner has had the blooming thing for 4/5 years longer, never reinstalled, said yes to everything they ever installed and got themselves in a right mess.

          When i stuck an ssd in my netbook to test it, it booted so fast windows didn't even have time to finish it's coloured dot boot splash before hitting the desktop.

          I'd advise a reinstall to most people taking 3 minutes to get to desktop. All news versions of linux and windows are well in 1-1.5 min on pretty limited hardware.

          Bsd's, now they are typically slow to boot!
          • Long boot times XP...

            Just a short story ... I was a teacher briefly in the local public school district a few years ago. Each teacher had a computer to manage grades. All PCs were XP (Vista just out). My computer had 256MB memory. This computer was in swap-file hell. There should have been a minimum of 1GB RAM to support the background tasks running on the computer. Bottom line, it was a minimum 20 minutes from turn-on to the appearance of the login screen. It wasn't XP's fault, just incompetence on whoever spec'd the computers. I don't miss those days.
        • ....

          I wish My wind 7 machines did that. I have all auto programs not required to not boot on start. It takes about 3 minutes to boot to desktop and to shut down closer to 5 -7 minutes.
      • Win7 should boot faster than XP by a lot...

        One of the the things Win7 brought was faster startup. So you've got a problem if it went the other way.

        Win 8 is even better and requires less resources.
        • Not really. MS simply changed their

          startup order so the desktop appears sooner. The amount of time it takes before you can actually start doing work without system lag as background processes continue to start up is about the same.
        • No, it brought the APPEARANCE of

          faster startup. There is also less being loaded, so naturally it will be slightly faster due to the lessened list of things loaded in.

          Don't get me wrong, I like 7 just fine, hate 8.x, and think Mint is an acceptable Linux. But I also think that much of the problem with XP is HIGHLY EXAGGERATED.
          • The problems are coming.

            Just wait, since it isnt going to be patched the first exploit will never go away. In fact you can bet malware and virus writers have got a lot of exploits just waiting for the day that support ends. Your XP machine will be part of a bot swarm in no time, sending out thousands of spams or dos'ing sites.
      • We must have magical computers in our company.

        Since Windows 7 updates haven't affected Java at all. many updates, same Java

        Our biggest issue is that some of our managers don't update java when they're supposed to, which is a dead giveaway that Windows7 lets Java stay downgraded, so after every Windows7 update, It's still the same version of Java.
      • I'm using Windows 7 right now.

        All of its fancy visuals hog up memory for someone with integrated graphics (I have them turned off) and User Account Control (UAC) is an evil abomination that essemtially sends a message of "Screw you user, we no longer trust you to make even minor changes without messing something up". Sorry. Rant over. I've been using it for two semesters for class, and I've learned what is REALLY under its hood.
        Richard Estes
        • Evil abomination?

          Speak in hyperbole much? With regard to UAC, you'd rather the user drop to a SUDO command line argument, or provide all credentials, rather than having the OS provide that function with a YES/NO decision prompt? Maybe do some homework before posting.
          • Read What He said About It

            Sorry, I find it an unnecessary irritation and annoyance to be Disabled as well.
            The attitude is that the User is incompetent to make any move. Once you'd given permission, as with a Firewall, it should not be asking repeatedly for the same permission forever.
            Maybe do some reading before posting.
        • Well, when you consider that

          the average user IS an idiot, who blames Microsoft for their stupidity... I'm hardly an apologist for MS, but they had to do SOMETHING to keep the idiots safe. Also, there are somethings which simply can occur too quickly for human intervention on today's machines, and having another level of protection is a good idea - a necessary evil if you will. Using a taming product, such as TweakUAC makes things with it much more bearable.