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I am brand new to Linux/Ubuntu; still a devoted Win7 fan who is running Linux from a USB just to play around with it. All I can say is WOW!

But here's what I want to do: I have a freind who has a old Dell laptop, not sure if its running Windows XP or Vista; but the O/S is all screwed up. Now, what I'd like to do is to pretty much give her a "brand new computer" in the form of Ubuntu run from a USB flash drive or CD. This would give her full out-of-box functionality of her laptop while at the same time protecting all of her current user files.

My questions: I would assume that using a large capacity USB would be the best way to go for docs, jpgs, mp3, exe's, etc. Would a second USB stick be good for stand alone files? Exe's would have to be on the drive containing the O/S?

(I would also assume that in this case the best idea might be to get a full backup HDD; even a solid state drive - but then again, backward compatibility for 7 yr old hardware?)

Since my own Linux USB is brand new; can I just simply make a copy of the .iso to another USB for her; or would I have to again download the .iso and installer to her possibly corrupted Windows O/S?

What I am seeing is that all she would have to do is to boot into her BIOS, select which O/S she wants to use; in effect a brand new computer for the cost of a USB...

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The most relevant point here is can it boot from USB. Some older Dell BIOS won't boot nix based at all. – RobotHumans Mar 5 '12 at 18:21

The best way to accomplish this will always be a matter of subjective opinion. But in all cases more information will help making that determination.

  • What specific model is the old Dell
  • How much RAM does it have?
  • Is it capable of booting from USB (as aking1012 asked)
  • Does it have a DVD/CD or even a floppy drive if not
  • What video hardware is in the machine (less important Q)

A Wubi install should work though it is limited for later converting to a normal install.

Using a Live CD for more than a little exploration would be painfully slow.

Using a Live USB stick (made w/Startup Disk Creator and persistence) would work nicely but cannot do some system updates.

A full-on install to a sizeable USB stick (8-16 GB) or USB external hard drive would work very well but needs a knowledgeable installer (or good directions). And your friend would have to either leave it connected all the time or use the machine's boot menu (probably F12) on startup.

I hope that helps.

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Using a good 8-16 GB stick is my thought and the BIOS boot menu. This is what I am doing on my Win7 system... However, it seems I am not able to download? I downloaded the Wubi exe from Cnet, when I click on the exe from the Ubuntu download folder, a purple comd promt style screen flashes, then nothing...??? – Dave E Mar 6 '12 at 1:49

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