Introduction: Breathe New Life Into an Old Computer

About: Mission Statement There are two major problems with learning about technology for free on the web today. The first is that there is simply so much material that it can be difficult to narrow down and find w…

Breathe New Life into an Old Computer with Simple Hardware Upgrades and Linux

Do you have an old 'junker' computer lying around the house that you have not gotten around to sending to the recycle plant? Don't get rid of it yet! Breathe new life into an old computer by installing a new (free) Linux operating system on it and making small inexpensive hardware upgrades. This sounds hard but it is really easy. It only takes about 30-45 min and it will have any older computer (suggest 2003 and later) feeling like new.

Oftentimes as a (Windows) computer ages it will become slower and slower. There could be many reasons for this but oftentimes it is because as the computer gets used more files are added that take up space and resources. Also, as new software comes out it may require more memory than older software (think running a highly intensive new a new game program on an old machine, it just does not work). However, one of the main culprits is often the Windows operating system itself that can take up HUGE amounts of computing power. Changing over to Linux is one way to get an old machine going fast again. The computer can have many uses after Linux is loaded including setting up a home server, hosting a small website, simply having another computer to browse the web, file backup and many other things.

This post is from Tech4Noobs (T4N)

Caution: If you do a full Linux install it may wipe your hard drive depending on the exact configuration so make sure that if there are any important files on the computer they are backed up somewhere.

Step 1: ​Finding a Suitable Computer

The good news is that just about any PC will do(I have never tried this with Macs). I suggest using a computer that is not physically damaged and is not made before 2003. If you do not have an old computer at home but are interested in doing this fear not because cheap old computers can be found all over the internet.

Check out this Tech4Noobs post for where to find some deals.

Step 2: Decide What Variation of Linux You Want

If you are a Noob I suggest going with Ubuntu since it is the most popular are arguably the easiest to use. However there are many others such as Mint, Fedora, OpenSUSE to name a few.

Step 3: Check to See If Your Computer Is a 64 Bit or 32 Bit Build

to do this in Windows 7 or Vista click the start button > right click computer > click properties > a window will pop-up and on the screen there will be something that says "System Type" and after that there will be either 32 or 64 bit.

Step 4: Go to and Download the Latest Desktop Version for Your System Type

Or whatever Linux distribution you decided on.

This will download an ISO file to your desktop.

You need to pick the ISO file based on what type of system build you have 32 bit (these are sometimes listed as x86) or 64 bit.

Step 5: Now You Need to Decide If You Want to Use a CD or a USB Stick to Boot From

Now you need to decide if you want to use a CD or a USB stick to boot from. With a USB you will need to download an additional piece of software called Universal USB Installer

Directions to boot from a CD

Directions to boot from a USB

Step 6: Booting Ubuntu

Try inserting the CD or plugging in the USB and restarting the computer. It may boot directly into Ubuntu if it does skip to step #12 below. If it does not follow the directions immediately below for booting into the BIOS.

Step 7: Going Into the Computer BIOS

Once you have a CD or a USB with the downloaded ISO on it (and nothing else) you will need to restart your computer into what is called the BIOS. To do this look at the list below and find your computer type (if it is not in the list just type into Google [Computer manufacturer name] boot to bios.

Dell - When the Dell logo appears on startup hit F2 a few times

Asus - When the ASUS logo appears hit F2 a few times

Step 8: Change the Boot Order for Drives

Once you are in the BIOS you will want to change the Boot order. You will want the CD-ROM or USB to come first in the list. Depending on your computers age and who the manufacturer is this may look a little different but the picture below is what you are looking for.

Step 9: Change the Boot Sequence

Once you are in the boot section re-order the boot sequence so the CD (or the USB aka removable media) boots first. It will look similar to this.

Step 10: Save and Exit

Save and exit with the directions in the BIOS and restart the computer with the option in the BIOS

Step 11: On Restart Ubuntu Will Start Up

If your CD or USB are plugged in it should boot into Ubuntu

Step 12: Install Ubuntu - Guided Directions

Follow the directions to install Ubuntu (there is an option to just try it out as well). The install may take as long as 30 min.

Step 13: Restart the Computer When the Install Completes

Once it is complete it will likely ask you to restart. Once it comes back up you should be done.

Step 14: Upgrade Hardware

There are multiple small inexpensive hardware upgrades that can breathe new life into an old computer to get them running faster. I will break this into Laptop and Desktop upgrades since they can be slightly different. These are not all of the upgrades that can be done to a computer but are some of the easiest and cheapest.


Upgrade the RAM - As applications use more and more memory extra RAM is a good thing to have. However if the computer already has 3 gigabytes of RAM or more you may be okay depending on what you plan to use the computer for. If you have questions on RAM check out this Lifehacker Post .

Get a new Battery - Laptop batteries degrade over time. A new battery can make a big difference.

Get a Mouse - I have found that track-pads wear out after a few years. Getting a small portable mouse can save some headaches.


Upgrade RAM - Same as above if there is less than 3 gigs in the computer it may be a good idea to put in some more.

Get a new Video Card - This can be a cheap and easy way to breathe new life into an old computer that can give an older computer HDMI capability.

Step 15: Limitations

While loading up Linux, upgrading RAM (memory), upgrading video cards and replacing batteries is great, on really old computers or computers that are physically damaged this will only go so far. I suggest looking at the cost benefit of upgrading old hardware vs. buying new hardware before making an investment. I am personally getting to the point where I will need something new to keep up with the times

On a Budget Contest

Participated in the
On a Budget Contest