How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu: the cheapest way to upgrade from XP

Upgrading to a new operating system is an upheaval, and if it’s a new version of Windows you’re moving to, it’s an expense as well. So it’s understandable that some individuals and businesses haven’t yet migrated their old computers away from Windows XP, even though security patches and support have finally been cut off for good.

There’s no need to stick with a dangerously vulnerable operating system. Upgrading may be much easier than you think – and if you switch to a Linux distribution, rather than hopping up to Windows 8, it won’t cost you a penny, since the OS and major applications are free.

On these pages, we’ll illustrate how easy it is to move an old XP PC over to the latest version of the user-friendly Ubuntu Linux OS – and suggest which programs to use in Linux for your everyday tasks.

How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu: Planning for your upgrade

You'll want to free up some space for your new Ubuntu installation

Before you start making plans to move to Ubuntu, the first thing to do is check that the newer OS will actually meet your needs. Below, you’ll find our guide to Ubuntu’s various applications: most everyday computing tasks are well covered, but if you need to work with a particular file, you may find that Windows is your only option.

Assuming Ubuntu is suitable for you, the simplest way to approach the upgrade is to set up a dual-boot system, leaving XP intact. We don’t recommend that you make a habit of booting up your old Windows XP installation, since this will expose you to security risks. But you’ll be able to directly access all your Windows folders within Ubuntu, so doing it this way means you won’t have to worry about losing any personal data in the move. You’ll also have an emergency fallback if a task comes up that can’t be done in Ubuntu (or on another PC).

Since XP and Ubuntu will both have to squeeze onto your hard disk, we recommend having a bit of a clear-out to make space for the new OS. Use the Windows Disk Cleanup tool to remove unneeded temporary files and uninstall any unwanted large applications. This is also a good time to get rid of any large personal files you don’t need: use a tool such as WinDirStat to identify what’s eating up the most space on your disk. Don’t forget to empty the Recycle Bin when you’re finished.

If you can’t free up more than 10GB, consider wiping your Windows installation to give Ubuntu space. This is easy to do during the installation process, but if you plan to take this route, back up your files to an external disk first – and be very careful not to miss any.

How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu: Choosing and downloading a version of Ubuntu

Ubuntu comes in a variety of versions, but the latest desktop release can always be downloaded from the main Ubuntu site. The newest version – 14.04 LTS, nicknamed the “Trusty Tahr” – is a “long-term support” release that’s guaranteed to remain stable, with continued security and support updates, until April 2019.

The default downloads are 64-bit, but unless you have more than 4GB of RAM, we recommend you select the 32-bit version. This limits you to around 3GB of usable memory, but it supports a wider range of software and drivers, so you can expect a smoother ride. If your PC’s really old, the CPU may not support 64-bit computing anyway.

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