I have laptop – an IBM Thinkpad. It’s running Windows XP. As it’s an old
model, the memory on the laptop is very low, only 50 GB. My question for you is
can I install Ubuntu on my Windows XP operating system? Is there any harm to
In this excerpt from
Answercast #68, I look at technical issues around replacing an older XP
operating system with Linux Ubuntu.
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Disk space and RAM on old machine
So there are a couple of confusions here that I need to clear up before I
address the question.
50GB is not your memory. 50GB is the disk space on the machine.
Memory is referred to usually as RAM and on an older machine, it could be
anywhere from something like 128 or 256MB up to maybe one or 2GB. So, without
knowing exactly how much true memory there is in your machine, I can’t really
make any assumptions about that.
What I can tell you is that the 50GB that is your hard disk can
absolutely be upgraded. You can get yourself a larger hard disk and have more
I do have an article on
the difference between memory (RAM) and disk space. It’s very important to
understand that those are two completely different things.
Replacing XP with Ubuntu
Now, Ubuntu. Installing Ubuntu.
You don’t install it into Windows XP. Ubuntu is an operating
system. The traditional way to install it would be replace Windows
What that means is that after installing Ubuntu on your machine, you would
no longer have Windows XP. You would have Ubuntu Linux. It would be Ubuntu
Linux that would start running when you boot your machine. It would be Ubuntu
Linux that would run the programs:
Not Windows programs (because it’s not Windows);
Linux programs (because it’s running Ubuntu Linux).
So like I said, it’s also an important distinction to understand that when
you install another operating system (unless you’re taking some special
measures that clearly are not going to work on an older machine like this
anyway), you’re replacing the operating system that exists.
Whether that will work for you? My guess is technically it will probably
work just fine.
Will you like Ubuntu?
What’s more important is whether Ubuntu Linux will meet your needs; whether
it will have software that does the things you need it to do.
If all you’re doing is surfing the web and reading email, not a problem.
Ubuntu will work just fine for you.
What I would suggest you do (and I would strongly recommend you do this
before you consider or before you actually install the replacement
operating system) is back up what you have. Create an image backup of the
system as it is the moment before you install a new operating system.
Why do I say that?
Because the operating system replaces what’s on the hard drive.
A backup saves what’s on the hard drive in case you need it
So if you install Ubuntu Linux, and are tearing your hair out, and you
finally decide you can’t use it anymore for whatever reason, you can restore
your machine to the state it was in before doing that. By restoring it to this
backup, that would then replace Windows XP the way it was at the time you took