Introduction: Lets Give Linux a Try (aka Lets Get That Old PC Going Again)

About: Old timer ... Still learning

Are you one of those people who shrink and hide from the word "LINUX"? I know there are still some of you out there. Don't worry, your fear is treatable. Believe me. I was one of you!

This Instructable is for people like us.

I am going to show you a way to easily get over your fear while at the same time learn some new skills, create for yourself a computer tool and also get that old obsolete computer or laptop working and useful again - all in one go.

The instructions seem a bit long, but it is just a one time setup and you will see after you have read the details that you don't really have much to do to get started.

Step 1: What We Are Going to Do in This Instructable

In this Instructable we are going to:

  1. Make a USB drive bootable and install a "Live" version of a Linux OS (Operating System) on it.
  2. Boot up your PC with it ("PC" from here on will mean "Windows PC or Laptop").
  3. Check out some of the features of your new OS.

You will be happy to know that running this "Live" version of Linux means that we don't install anything on your PC, so your original Windows system is absolutely safe.

Step 2: What You Need

  1. Access to a PC (your regular home PC).
  2. An internet connection for downloading the software.
  3. A 2GB or 4GB Thumb drive/USB drive/ Flash drive/Pendrive - whatever they call it in your country. I will use "USB drive". Your old 2GB micro-SD card may not be much use on your new smartphone, but you can load and run Linux off it using a USB card reader (see the picture).
  4. Optional - Your old laptop or PC that was made redundant by the arrival of Windows XP or Windows 7. We will revive it with Linux.
  5. A basic understanding of how Windows works, file handling copying files and filenames, moving files, etc. Knowledge of how to enter the BIOS for your PC would help speed things up.

Step 3: Which Distro Are We Going to Try?

In Linux terminology, "distro" is "distribution", similar in meaning to "version" or "variation".

There are a huge number of Linux distros ( ... there, you see? We've already started using the terminology!), variations of distros and variations of variations.

A number of the currently available distros are based on the most popular and widely used "Ubuntu", designed, developed and supported by Canonical Ltd ... and yes, you are right, it originates from South Africa.

This means that if you have tried one of these distros, you will find that others that use Ubuntu as the base will be much easier to adapt to though the interface or appearance may be different.

For this Instructable, we are going to try out the distro that has the closest resemblance to Windows XP, which anyone who has done anything with PCs should be familiar with.

It is called Ylmf OS. It was developed in China. That explains why the browser opens up to a China website (you can change that, of course), but aside from that, all the applications are in English, and you basically feel like you are in XP ... a very fast XP. You can see a screenshot of the desktop above.

Step 4: Getting Started With the Installation

You are going to have to download two files to any convenient folder on the HDD of your regular home (or office) PC. For easy location of the folder, I recommend making a new one directly on your C: or D: drive and calling it "Linux".

Downloading Ylmf OS

We will first download the Ylmf OS file. This is quite an old distro, so it is no longer available from the developer ( ... no point clicking on the link; there's nothing there), but I found the original on CNET.

Here is the link:

I have checked this link out. It's safe. All you need to do is click on the green "Download" button (see the picture).

Please note that the file size is around 693MB, so unless you have a fast internet connection, it may take some time to download. Save it to your Linux folder.

Downloading the Installer
The best and easiest to use installer is the Universal USB Installer (UUI) from the Pendrive Linux website. You will find it here: The file size is just around 1MB.

The USB installer doesn't install itself on your PC. It is a stand-alone application. Save it to your Linux folder. You can activate it by double-clicking it from there.

Step 5: How to Install Ylmf OS on Your USB Drive

The Installation Procedure

For this procedure you are again using your regular home (or office) PC.

Installation of Ylmf OS to the USB drive is very straightforward.

  • Start off by plugging in the USB drive that you want to do the installation on. It is going to be formatted so you should be sure that there is no important data on it. Also, take note of the drive name (D:, E:, F:, etc.). It is needed during the installation (Step 3).
  • Double click on the Universal-USB-Installer- to start it up. The USB Installer is called "UUI" for short. I will explain each step on the UUI.

Step 1: Ylmf OS is no longer on the UUI list, but you can select its successor (also from China) StartOS.

Step 2: First go to the Linux folder where you saved the Ylmf OS file that you downloaded and copy just the file name (not the file) i.e. single-click on the file Ylmf_OS_3.0.iso, right-click on the highlighted name and select copy.

Go back to the UUI, Step 2, Click on "Browse", paste the Ylmf OS file name to the search box that appears, click on the full file name Ylmf_OS_3.0.iso and then on the "Open" button. The file name will appear in green in the Browse box in the UUI. Please see the pictures for more detail. I have attached a PDF in case the picture is not clear.

Note: This step is a little complicated only because Ylmf OS is not on the UUI list. For all other distros on the UUI list, just click on Browse and select the file from the folder. However you can use the above trick for any other Ubuntu based distro not on the UUI list. Just select the correct Ubuntu variation.

Step 3: Select the USB drive that you inserted for the installation. Check and recheck that the drive name (e.g. D:, E:, F:, etc.) that you selected refers to the USB drive that you noted above. It's best to be absolutely sure that you are not formatting a drive that holds all your data.

Step 4: Since Linux Live OS will be running off the RAM on your PC, when you power off, you lose everything that you saved or installed. Persistence provides a means of saving all the changes that you made. In my example I have made the persistence file size 3009MB (around 3GB). You will get more file space if you enable the formatting checkbox. Keep in mind that the bigger the persistence file, the longer the installation takes. However, since it is just one time, it should be no problem for all except the most impatient. Just click "Create" and go prepare your snack.

Note (AGAIN): Your USB drive will be completely erased, so be sure that there is nothing important on it.

WAIT: There will be a point in the installation when it looks like nothing is happening. The progress bar doesn't advance at all for quite some time. Don't worry. This is the time when the persistence file is being created. At the end of it, you will suddenly see the "Close" button become active. Click on it to close the UUI.

You can now safely eject your USB drive. Your Live Ylmf OS is ready for use.

Step 6: Now to Setup Your PC

In this setup we will be:

  • Entering the BIOS setup menu of your PC
  • Navigating, using the Arrow keys, to the Boot tab
  • Changing the boot priority to External Drive.
  • Saving the changes and rebooting.

This should be done on the PC that you want to run your Ylmf OS on e.g. that old redundant PC. It's quite easy if you follow the instructions.

Entering the BIOS Setup Menu

To enter the BIOS setup menu you have to repetitively hit one particular key just after switching on (just before booting into Windows). The key varies from one manufacturer to the other.

In the attached file, USB Flash Drive Boot Reference List.pdf you will find a list that was taken off the website We must thank them for this very comprehensive list. I tweaked it a little so that it would be OK to print to pdf.

We are interested in three main columns. The Manufacturer, Models and the BIOS/UEFI Key columns. In the first you find the name of your PC manufacturer; in the second, your model and in the third, which key to hit while booting up.

Example: For Acer, you would repetitively hit the F2 key just after pressing the power button. If this didn't work for your model, you could try the Del (or Delete) button

If the keys mentioned in the list don't work for your model, you will have to google "how to enter the BIOS" for your particular model or check the User Manual if you have it.

For most of the earlier desktop PCs, while booting up, along with the logo and boot info, it is also mentioned which key to press to go into the BIOS menu. Hit Pause to stop the process so that you can read the text. Any other key continues the boot process.

Navigating to the Boot tab

In the BIOS menu, the mouse doesn't work, so from the Main tab. Use the keyboard Right Arrow to navigate to the Boot tab.

The Boot Priority Setup

There are many variations of the Boot menu (depending on the manufacturer), but one thing every Boot menu has in common is a list of devices that you can boot your PC from. The highest priority goes to the device on top of the list. Here's what you do:

Use the keyboard Up/Down Arrows to highlight the external drive. In my example it is called a "Flash Drive". It is also called "USB Storage Device", "Removable Devices", etc. by other manufacturers.

Once you have highlighted the device you want to move, refer to the column on the right for instructions for moving it. Some BIOSs (like the example above) use the "+" & "-" keys. Others use F5 & F6.

Move your external drive anywhere above the Internal Hard Drive.

One last thing left to do is enabling booting from an external drive. This menu is usually in the Boot tab, but as in the example shown above you may also find it in the Advanced tab. In the example above I have to change the "External Drive Boot" to "Enable" (i.e. highlight "Disable", hit Enter, use the Arrow keys to select "Enable", hit Enter)

You're all done!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't make any other changes to the BIOS. If you have accidently made changes and you don't know how to correct them, you should go to the Exit tab and select "Discard Changes" (or select "No" when asked to save changes) before rebooting and starting again from the top of this step.

Saving Changes and Rebooting

Following the instructions in the above pictures, navigate (Right Arrow) to the Exit tab, hit Enter twice to reboot.

Alternative Method for Booting from the USB Drive

If you want to avoid making too many BIOS changes to your PC, one of your options is to use the key listed in the Boot Menu column in the attached PDF file. Hit this key a couple of times while booting up and a small Boot Menu appears. You can then select with the Arrow Keys which drive you want to boot from and hit Enter.

I tried this, but I found on the PCs that I tried that it only works if External Drive Boot is Enabled.

Note on Windows 8: The instructions in this step will work with PCs installed with all versions of Windows up to Windows 7. Models installed with Window 8 onwards may have a slightly different way of getting into the BIOS with additional changes to be made. I am assuming that most of you who are attracted to this Instructable want to revive a pre-Windows 7 PC, so I am not going into Windows 8 models. However, you can use any PC, including one installed with Windows 8 (and above) for making the Live USB that is explained in this Instructable.

Step 7: Booting Up Using Your New Live USB

If your Linux Live USB was previously inserted in your PC when "Saving Changes and Rebooting" in the previous step, it should boot to Ylmf OS after you hit Enter the second time. If it doesn't, power down again and restart.

If it still doesn't work, reboot, go into the BIOS menu again and check each tab to see if there is any other option that disables booting from an external drive.

If you have a problem, please send me pictures of each tab of your BIOS and I will try to help you with a solution.

Assuming everything went well, you are now in the Ylmf OS desktop.

Step 8: Getting Started With Ylmf OS

I will just go through a few of the things you need to know to get you started. I encourage you to explore the rest.

You can also check this website which has an excellent overview of Ylmf OS: Please note that the section on Installation refers to installation directly to your PC, not creating the Live USB as I have described here..

The first thing you will want to do after booting up is (of course) enabling internet access. All the details for doing so are in the picture above.

I have taken a screenshot of the File Browser and added comments to show you how similar it is to Windows.

I have also taken shots of some of the menus that may interest you. You will feel very at home if you like the pre-ribbon menu MSOffice. All the Office apps have drop down menus. If you are interested graphics and enhancing photographs, there is also a version of Gimp, a very advanced graphics app.

It is easy navigating through the menus, since every app has a tooltip explaining its function.

If you want to find more software to install to your Live USB, you can access (mostly) free software from the Ubuntu Software Centre. Please read the description before installing. If the word "Gnome" is in the description, you can install it. Avoid apps that have the words "KDE" or "Xfce" in the description. These apps will usually have names starting with "K" or "X". They will not run on this distro.

Have fun exploring.

Step 9: So What Good Is Your New Live Linux

I have installed a number of Linux distros on a number of USB drives (meaning one on each of my 20+ USB drives ... what can I say ... I am a sucker for every new type of USB drive and every new distro that I see). I always have at least one in my pocket. They have been very useful and have got me out of a few jams. Here are some uses:

Accessing your HDD when your PC doesn't boot up: I arrived at my office an hour before I had to make a presentation. The only copy of the presentation, which I had worked all night on, was on my laptop and it wouldn't boot up. I got out my Live Linux, booted up and transferred my presentation from the D-drive to another USB drive ... less than 10 min .. half of that time spent panicking. I made it for the presentation with a loan laptop!

PC Fault Finding: If a laptop doesn't boot up, you can confirm if it is a HDD problem or a RAM problem by booting up from your Live Linux. The Linux OS is is loaded to and runs from the RAM. If it loads and runs OK, the RAM is fine, there may be a problem with the HDD. If it doesn't load, you can use the "Test RAM" option in the start menu (available in all Live distros) to check the RAM one card at a time.

PC Antivirus Detection: Some viruses/malware can't be detected or cleaned out while your PC is running. For such cases you have special versions of Kaspersky, AVG, Avira, to name a few, which run on Linux and which you can install to a USB drive using the UUI. The procedure is exactly the same as described for Ylmf OS.

You boot up like any other Live Linux distro, with internet access so that the latest virus definitions can be downloaded. Since the PC OS is not operational i.e. the HDD is inactive, all the installed files can be scanned, and hidden viruses/malware can be detected and removed.

You will find the list of Antivirus software that can be installed by the UUI on the download page. Copy the name of the software that you want from the list and google for the download site.

Private Browsing/Personal Data Access anywhere: You can carry around your Live Linus and use it anywhere on any PC, browse any website, including internet banking, without leaving a trace, everything goes with you when you unplug your USB drive. For further safety, all the distros come with the option for password protection at boot up, like any other OS.

Speed up your old Windows PC: After trying out Live Ylmf OS for some time on your old PC, you may decide to permanently install it. Click on the Install Ylmf_OS 3.0 icon on the desktop to start the installation. All distros have a similar icon. You will find that your PC runs much faster installed than off the USB drive, including the start-up and shutdown.

Please google "Linux Live CD" for more info on Live CD and USB Drives

Step 10: Other Distros You Can Try

After trying Ylmf OS, if you are excited enough to see what other distros are like, I have an attached recommended list and screenshots of distros that nearly all have the basic Windows-looking interface (there are a couple of Mac interfaces as well) so that you don't stray too far from your comfort zone. Please note that some of the distros may have the Start button at the top-left instead of bottom-left ... not a problem, once you get used to it.

The text file contains download links. If you copy and paste the text to an MSWord document and hit the spacebar after each link, you can activate the links, so you just have to Ctrl+click on them to go to the respective website.

The procedure for installing them to a USB drive is exactly the same as we did for Ylmf OS. The download file size of these distros range from 132MB to 2GB, depending on the features and applications included. For the bigger size distros, you may prefer to use a 4GB or 8GB USB drive in order to have additional space for persistence.


Step 11: Conclusion & Index of Common Linux Terminology

If you have always been scared of wandering off from your Windows PC or Mac, this is your opportunity to get over your fear and try something different. You will be surprised how easy it is to adapt to and like another operating system.


I don't want to frighten you off with too much Linux terminology, but here are a few common Linux terms I have used or which you may come across in your reading:

distro: distribution, also referring to version or variation

Gnome: This is the desktop environment used in the early Ubuntu releases and also in Ylmf OS. I have found it the easiest and most intuitive for beginners.

Unity: A desktop environment used in all the later releases of the standard Ubuntu.

KDE: A desktop environment used in Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu.

Xfce: A desktop environment used in Xubuntu, the Xfce version of Ubuntu.

Persistence: Allows you to save all the changes that you made to your Live USB.

Ubuntu: One of the major forces in promoting Linux. The standard Ubuntu uses the Unity desktop environment which takes a little getting used to.

Live CD/USB: An environment for testing trial versions of distros. We made one (Live USB) in this Instructable

Mount/Unmount: If you want to see the contents of a drive in Linux, you need to mount it first. In Ylmf OS this is simplified with a single click action. It is better to unmount any USB device before removing it (same as with Windows). Click on the "Eject" icon to unmount. Please note that you can't unmount (or remove) your Live USB while the OS is running.

OS: Operating System e.g. Windows OS, Mac OS, Linux OS.

Terminal: An app that assists in using the command line. Similar to the DOS command line in Windows but more powerful.


I have tried to cover as much as I could here. There is a lot I have left out. I hope by the time you get here you will be interested enough to google for more info on your own.