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I've been trying for weeks to install Ubuntu (or any other distro) on an old XP Pro laptop.

Problems:

  • The CD/DVD RW drive will no longer recognise anything but commercial audio CDs. New drivers etc don't help. The drive model has many reports of serious failure from its original installations (10 years ago). So I can't boot from it.

  • The BIOS doesn't support USB booting.

  • As for network booting... life's too short - the "instructions" look fiendish.

  • So I try Wubi. It installs, sort of but the version 14.n won't run properly. Reports a couple of mount problems on booting then launches an unresponsive psychotic desktop. The uninstall won't work properly either (during a couple of repeat installations on different partitions.) Dragging a 32 bit 12.04.5-server-i386.iso onto the Wubi launcher launches but still tries the same network installation.

Anyone got a solution? I know a few people who have redundant XP boxes that would serve some impecunious people well if I could get simple systems up on them.

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  • What laptop do you have? Without that, it's kind of hard to figure out what's going on. Nov 6, 2014 at 23:19
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    So your hardware deficiencies are making Linux obscure?
    – Tony
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:39
  • @neon_overload Your edit is too severe. You changed the entire tone and some of the intent of the question.
    – Tony
    Nov 7, 2014 at 3:32
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    I disagree. I don't think preserving the "tone" was necessary or helpful for getting good answers to the question, and by removing the irrelevant rambling the question was improved and will be more likely to get better answers. Nov 7, 2014 at 3:40
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    @PanoRoya You can't come on here insulting Linux and Linux experts and then demand that we solve your ridiculous problem. "The hardware limitation is what it is" - absolutely true, which is why this situation is going to be tough no matter what solution we come up with.
    – ErlVolton
    Nov 7, 2014 at 15:28

3 Answers 3

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You are asking for a way of installing an OS on a machine that does not boot from CD nor from USB and complain that it is not easy. Do you think installing any OS on such a machine would be easy? Even Windows (which is backed by Billions of Dollars) has pretty much nothing it could do at that point.

But you are lucky, Linux has solutions for pretty much everything, all you need is some expertise and some time:

  1. I would not recommend installing regular Ubuntu on any machine that old. Get Lubuntu, it uses a different desktop called LXDE which is way more lightweight than Unity.

  2. If the desktop gets unresponsive, hitting Ctrl+Alt+F1 will give you a console where you can enter commands like "top" that will tell you which process hung up, etc.

  3. If you don't have enough experience with Linux and try something as tricky as you are describing, maybe it is best to find a Linux user in your area that can visit you and help you with the setup. Local Linux user groups are also generally happy to help you! http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_user_group Another place where you might get help is at your local university. Many CS students use Linux, and some student organizations might help you.

  4. Another place to come looking for help is, of course, the internet. Look for an IRC channel or forum where you might find people willing to help. I am sorry, but your question is way too broad and not specific enough to tell you exactly which steps to follow. You either need a complete guide-through or post questions about which specific problems you encounter. And no, "Desktop freezes" is NOT specific enough.

  5. If you could get a working CD/DVD drive (maybe just "borrow" it from another old PC), you should be out of trouble. Booting from a CD/DVD drive is still the best supported option for installing any OS, and there are plenty of walkthroughs and wiki articles regarding any specific aspect of it.

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    For his crappy laptop, Lubuntu will be problematic as well. I'd go with Puppy.
    – Tony
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:47
  • For number 5: he has a laptop and can't boot from USB, so I can't think of any way to "borrow" a working CD/DVD drive. Nov 7, 2014 at 1:32
  • @neon_overload from another laptop. Some laptops have regular SATA connectors that you could rig a desktop-style drive to. Not sure though based on how old his is.
    – ErlVolton
    Nov 7, 2014 at 15:35
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You could take the hard drive out of your laptop, plug it into a computer that can boot from USB or does have a working DVD drive, install Ubuntu, and then put it back in your laptop. However... Why don't you just try installing Ubuntu on decent hardware? As another user stated, you'd have the same problem installing any other OS, not just Linux...

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There's a possibility that the BIOS on the laptop is upgradable. You may be able to find a firmware download that will enable boot-from-USB.

If you wanted to replace the CD drive on your laptop, you're looking at $60+ for a new IDE unit. Since the cheapest refurb laptop on Newegg goes for about $135, I'd say replacing the optical drive isn't worth it.

The last option is as ErlVolton described. Remove the HD, connect it to another machine, install from there, and then put it back in your POS laptop.

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