Bring New Life to an Old Laptop With Ubuntu!





Introduction: Bring New Life to an Old Laptop With Ubuntu!

1.7 GHz processor. 512 MB of RAM. 40 GB hard drive. If you know about computers, that sounds like the specs of a tablet or a netbook computer. However, this is from a Dell Latitude D600. Back in the day, this was a top of the line laptop. Thin and light, it was new technology. That was 7 years ago.

This was given to me by my dad; it was an old computer that had been sitting in a drawer for a few years. I tried running Windows, but it was too slow. Then I remembered Linux.

This Instructable will be showing how to put Ubuntu, a form of open sourced Linux, as the main OS on a laptop that desperately needs rebirth.

The recommended minimum system requirements are:
-1 GHz x86 processor
-1GB of RAM (It works with 512 MB though, although it is a little slow)
-15GB of hard-drive space
-Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768
-Either a CD/DVD Drive or a USB port
If you are missing some parts see step 7.

(By the way, it is either pronounced u-bun-too or oo-boon-too)

*Please note that some of the pictures are from Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx, not the latest 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. However, there are not many changes, and it will still work.

Step 1: Why Ubuntu?

A brief explanation:

Ubuntu is a free, open source Linux operating system. It is named after South African ethnic concept meaning "humanity towards others". Based on a quick search, I found out that an estimated 12 million people are using Ubuntu worldwide.

Why Ubuntu?

1) it's free! No strings attached. Also, almost all applications (thousands) are free too (I have not found one that you have to pay for yet). For example, it comes pre-installed with Firefox, but I prefer Google Chrome, so I installed it.
2) No viruses! There is no need for ant-virus software, as viruses aren't typically designed to run on Linux. If you download one, it will just stay in your computer and do nothing.
3) It is open sourced! If you want to design your own app, or modify a key part of your system, you can.
4) It is fast! Even on my laptop booting takes only a couple of seconds.
5) It looks pretty! It has a really nice appearance, and almost everything is customizable.

If you are still not convinced, or want more information, go check out their website at

Step 2: Downloading

First of all, you need to go to Ubuntu's website. Download the latest 10.10, 32-bit version of Ubuntu. You download it to a place you will remember, like the desktop. It is necessary to burn it as an ISO image to work. You can use various programs; I used Roxio, but Ubuntu recommends InfraRecorder, probably because it is free. Hereis the link for the download. However, feel free to use whichever you want.

Please burn the newly created file onto a CD, DVD, or USB.

Step 3: Testing the System

To start Ubuntu, enter the BIOS. (F2) Select boot order. If you saved to a CD/DVD, move  Diskette Drive to the top of the boot order. If you saved to a USB, move USB storage device to the top of the boot order.

It should bring you to a menu where you can choose your language, and chose to either try Ubuntu, or install it. For right now, let’s just choose Try Ubuntu. When it has loaded, try doing some basic functions.

Open some programs, like Open Office (The free version of a word processor) Firefox, Rhythmbox (a music player) or other applications. See if you like it, as this will be your operating system. If you want more programs, you can download them either through the Ubuntu Software Center, or online. However, only some programs have a Linux version. After all, it's just more programming for them.


Step 4: Do You Like It?

Now's the time where you decide whether or not this operating system is right for you. If it is, reboot you computer (top right corner) and restart the computer. You are going to want to go into the BIOS again, and boot from your device.

This time you will select Install Ubuntu. Make sure all of the requirements are met, then press Forward. Install over the previous disk if you don't care about Windows :) If you want to dual boot, either select Install alongside other operating systems or specify partitions manually (advanced). I have not yet tried this, so you might want to consult somebody on the Ubuntu Forums.

Don't forget to change the BIOS back to normal when you are done or it will always boot from the USB or CD.

Step 5: Stickers!

I didn't really like having a laptop that runs Linux advertize Windows XP. I decided to go on the internet and print out stickers to replace them. To get the previous ones off, use a sharp fingernail or maybe a razor blade. to get the reside off, some soap and water will do just fine. For the images, you can do a quick search on "Ubuntu Stickers".

Does anyone have an idea about how to cover the DELL in the front? I thought about a sticker but I still would like my laptop to look sleek. Please comment below if any ideas come to you.

Step 6: Favorite Programs

Ubuntu comes pre-installed with many programs, including OpenOffice, Firefox, an email program (I cannot remember which specific one as I have many installed), a music player, games, accessories, and much more! However, if you are like me, you want to get the most out of your OS. Here are some of my favorite applications to do so.

A cool application that was shown earlier was called Avant Window Navigator, or AWN for short. It is a sidebar that you can pin various things to, like shortcuts, search bars, local weather, and much more. Here is a direct download link.

Themes, icons, buttons and wallpapers are completely customizable in Ubuntu. To change them go to System-> Preferences-> Appearance. You can download some more at I once had a Mac look-alike theme, in an Ubuntu OS, on a dell computer. I really confused some people!

GIMP Image Editor is also a great program. It is similar to Photoshop CS, but free. It might come automatically with the Ubuntu however. Here is the link if it doesn't.

When I was learning basic JavaScript in XHTML, I used a program called BlueFish Editor. It is similar to Notepad ++ in Windows, but it has some of the tags available across the top. It is available through the Ubuntu Software Center. It does not come pre-installed.

Also, I prefer Google Chrome over Firefox. I am not sure why, I just do. You can download it here. It automatically detects your operating system and chooses the right version for you. Pretty cool, huh!

When you download Ubuntu, you get 2 free GB of online (Cloud) storage with Ubuntu One. It is a neat program, and if you need more storage space, you can always purchase more. 

If you have any favorite programs, mention it in a comment with a few reasons why and it might get added here!

Step 7: Computer Not Powerful Enough?

If you have a really old computer, there are other Linux alternatives.
I had a slideshow of this computer up a while ago and I got some comments about Ubuntu alternatives. I did not change because I didn't want to go through the whole process again.

Here they are:

mrmath recommended Xubuntu.
wirah and Computothought recommended Lubuntu
ron2470 recommended Linux Mint
absolutekold recommends Damn Small Linux
EdurusFas recommends  Wary 5.2

Thanks guys/girls/robots!

I do not have experience in these programs so you might want to seek help either on the Ubuntu Forums, Instructable Forums, or the Instructable Answers.



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    I have this SAME Latitude, exept with a 1.3-ish GHz chip and 20GB HDD!! Runs XP, but it's still a runner!

    You could use a sheet of cardstock to create a linux penguin logo

    Where did you get your desktop background from?

    I wanna get a D830 and put Xubuntu on it

    we still use them at school, but i dont because my class is a laptop class and we have latitude E5400s. but then the next computer class got better than us :( (still latitudes though).

    for the dell thing if it does not pop out higher then the rest for the front of the lap top you could cover it with car body filler and sand it down smooth.

    Nice solution! Where would one by car body filler?

    well im not sure where you are from but i know wal-mart sells it

    It's just fast-setting epoxy with a lot of talc powder filler so it's easy to sand down. If you don't want to buy a whole can of body filler just use a glob of epoxy.

    my cpu is so old it has a 4gb hard drive... this wont work...