Updated on 07.31.14

The Cheapest Fully Functional PC Money Can Buy

Trent Hamm

I get five or so requests a week from people who want a PC at home that they can surf the web and check email from. Most of them don’t want to do anything much more complicated than watching YouTube videos. I usually give them all the same recipe for doing this on the cheap, and thus I thought it’d be worthwhile to present it to all of my readers.

If you want this kind of system, here’s how you can get it for usually less than $100.

Step 1: Get the Basic Hardware You’ll Need
Start off by hitting the yard sales and your social network for the basic pieces. What you’re looking for are the basic components of an old PC. You’ll need a monitor, the computer box itself (which should include a CD drive or – preferably – a drive that can read DVDs, too), a keyboard, a mouse, and perhaps some speakers. Many people upgrade their computers on a regular basis, tossing out old monitors that still work or other peripherals they don’t need, so just ask around.

You won’t need much of a computer at all – anything above 1 gigahertz or with more than 384 megabytes of memory will do. I purchased a computer seven years ago with substantially more hardware than that, so it should be easy to find without much expense at all.

Don’t know much about computer specifics? Your best bet is to simply get ahold of the person you know with the most computer knowledge and tell them that you’re looking for the pieces for a very low-end PC.

If you feel more comfortable, you can simply check out Dell or your local superstore and get the least expensive computer that they sell – this way, you can be sure the hardware is new, at least, though you’ll likely spend $200-400 in this case. Once you get it home, though, you should ignore the version of Windows that comes with it and continue below, because on a low-end system like that, Windows will run quite slowly – there is a better way.

This is the only part that will cost you any money at all. The remaining steps won’t cost you a dime.

ubuntuStep 2: Get the Basic Software You’ll Need
Don’t just install Windows, as Windows will run extremely poorly on that old of a system (and it’s expensive, too). Instead, get a user-friendly version of Linux called Ubuntu. If you have a friend that can burn a few CDs for you, you can download it for free and have your friend make CDs of it. Otherwise, you can request that they mail you a CD of it for free. The free CD by mail takes quite a while, so you might want to get on it if you want to order one.

Don’t let the unknown make you fearful – Ubuntu is easy to use. I would happily install Ubuntu on the computer of even the biggest computer novice without much worry. In fact, Ubuntu is currently running on one of my computers here at home – the only desktop PC in our home is running Ubuntu, not Windows.

When you’ve put together that basic system (plugged the mouse, keyboard, monitor, and speakers into the central unit, then plugged the central unit and monitor into the wall), just put the CD into the CD drive, then power it up. The installation will walk you through the steps – easy as pie.

Remember, even if you have difficulty getting Ubuntu to work, you haven’t invested any money in it at all, so you can always back out and try using something else with no worries.

Once you’re going with it, there’s extensive online help that addresses just about every question you might possibly have on your home computer. You will probably also want to set things up to allow yourself to play restricted media, like DVDs, mp3 files, and so forth.

Step 3: Get the Other Software You’ll Need
Ubuntu comes with most of the software you need – Firefox for browsing the web, Thunderbird for email, and lots of other software packages. You may also be interested in getting OpenOffice (free word processing, spreadsheets, and so on) and KMyMoney (free money management software, like Quicken).

In fact, the sole reason I haven’t switched to Ubuntu myself is the lack of a good replacement for Adobe Photoshop. There are several applications which attempt to mimic it (and do a solid job), but I use Photoshop for so many purposes that until they release a Linux version, I’m going to be sticking with the Mac/PC world. For almost everyone else, this isn’t really an issue, but I thought I’d clarify my biggest reason for not jumping on board.

In short, if you just want a very basic home PC to check email and browse the web, this is the cheapest way to get one. You can get a fully-functional, visually appealing, and rather speedy home computer for just the cost of a handful of component parts – most of which you can find very cheaply if you hunt around and tap your social network a bit.

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  1. Amateur says:


    I would have to disagree with using Ubuntu for those who don’t have interest in computers other than just lightly using them. When it’s a driver issue or some settings issue, it’s a problem for those users who may not even know where to go for the online discussion type of help.

    I suggest buying re-furbs from big box retailers or discount systems from the major PC-makers, everything is around $300 with some flavor of Windows installed, decent amount of RAM, and a large enough hard drive to store photos from those 10MP digital cams. It’s less cost effective than buying something for $100, but it will be easier to install newer software with more demanding hardware requirements, such as Photoshop, if one wanted to learn it, it would be very difficult on a very low end PC.

  2. Jules says:

    Good to know about Ubuntu. My intro to Linux was with Red Hat, which one of my suitemates in college used. She loved it, but I have absolutely zero ability to write or read code, so I haven’t touched Linux since.

    Definitely going to try out Ubuntu on my boyfriend’s crap PC (the one that hasn’t worked in ages). If it works, I may very well consider going ahead with wish list item #11 and getting one of those EEPCs (teensy laptops) so I can get writing done on my commute–my Mac’s batteries are running down to the point where it’s starting to become a fire hazard, so it’s time I started looking for a replacement, with the idea of actually getting one in three years or so.

  3. Amateur says:

    I forgot to add for those who would like to take a leap to Ubuntu’s flavor of Linux. If you have an older computer which sort of still works with Windows 2000/XP on it, please go find yourself a second hard drive from somewhere, yank out the drive and put in the new one and then proceed to install Ubuntu. Your data will be wiped out along with Windows unless you know how to dual-boot (which isn’t difficult but not for the novice user), there won’t be a way to get the data back if once you do this. Also bear in mind, going backwards will be a bit difficult if you do this because chances are, you do not have the original Windows installation CD laying around. So if Ubuntu does not work out, you can always remove that drive and put in your old one, no harm done.

    If you decide to use the existing machine’s hard drive, do make sure you back-up your files and search for the original hardware drivers for the machine, and save them to a disk. You will need it if you wish to revert the machine back to Windows and expect it to work properly.

    Important note: If you have some scanner/printer combo you love using and works currently on your golden Windows PC, it may not work for Ubuntu.

  4. Andrew says:

    I’m a college student who stumbled upon this site about two months ago, and love it. I’m trying to keep myself financially honest with tips, hints and tricks from various places. My dad had TONS of credit card debt, and I’ve seen what it can do. That being said, I just want to thank you for your blog – I think this is the first time I’ve come out of the woodwork to say something.

    As far as this post goes, I see people giving away monitors and once in a while other various computer components for free or very cheap on freecycle/craigslist. Monitors are offered constantly, so this is absolutely a feasible accomplishment to get a basic and functional computer for a very little amount of money. I worked 55-hour weeks all summer, and splurged on a nice little Mac laptop for myself. However, I could have saved a bunch of money, but I didn’t really think as hard as I could – it was more of an impulse and need-based purchase, but I do enjoy the benefits of a brand new and fast laptop.

  5. Jeremy Hall says:

    While I agree that Ubuntu is the best option available for operating systems, it is yet to become easy enough for the average user to use.

    Windows XP Home can be had now for about $60. Although it’s system requirements are higher than linux distros, it has it’s 3rd service pack out now and is generally easier to use and more compatible.

  6. moneyclip says:

    Ubuntu or almost any version of Linux (worth a salt) today will allow you to boot without installing anything. You can use it just as you would any other installation only it’s done via the LIVECD option.

    Using the LiveCD has many advantages and quite a few disadvantages. Do your own research to see whether it’s worth your time or not.

    If you just want to try Ubuntu, pop the CD, make sure the BIOS is set to boot from the CD and run the live install.

    That will take a few minutes to setup and before you know it your computer is ready to run. However, when you restart, any settings, changes file saves etc.. that you have done are erased so it’s like you are starting over from scratch each time you reboot.

    If you want to test your hardware the LiveCD is a fabulous way to do so. Once you have confirmed that indeed your hardware works with Ubuntu then from the LiveCD you can even install while inside the LiveCD OS. I believe there’s a link on the desktop for installing from the LiveCD to the hard disk (as the LiveCD doesn’t install any files on the hard drive itself). Once you select to install, however all files will be loaded onto the hard disk thus making your Ubuntu experience more permanent.

    I am currently using Ubuntu and love it. I have given up on Windows and don’t especially care for Mac.

    As for the Photoshop issue that Trent mentions in his post, I’d definitely look at installing an older version of Photoshop (CS2 or older) using WINE:



    Those links outline how to do so in very clearly.

    Many other titles available for Windows can be run using WINE as well. WINE has a website for explaining what titles are supported, and how well they are supported:


  7. Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

    Yes, with open source Os and software, it’s easy to spend absolutely no money to fill your computer with all the applications you could need for a simple PC.

    For the hardware, I definitely recommend going through a local retailer or computer expert if you’re not too computer savvy. You never know what you may be getting if you buy something at a yard sale.

  8. Ryan says:

    I just wanted to mention something that was not included in this article but fits in well with the theme of The Simple Dollar.

    Older computers are not near as energy efficient as new computers with new processors. In some cases, they can suck up double the energy. Simply make sure to shut off your computer when you are not using it and you should be fine. Realistically it may only add a dollar or two to your monthly electric bill… but, who needs to spend that extra dollar or two just to have a computer warm up your bedroom.

  9. Seth Miller says:

    I actually think this could be quite a little nice side business for someone. My wife and I put Ubuntu on her laptop about 8 months ago and after the first couple days of figuring out how to make it do certain things its been great, but that first week or so was very frustrating and involved a lot of message board searching, which I don’t think most people would want to go through. If someone else worked out all the kinks for a small price I think it would be great.
    You still run in to some issues though by not using a Windows machine, like not being able to watch the Olympics online.

  10. Briandadude says:

    I have used Ubuntu off and on for the past 3 years and it is progressing nicely. However, for new users I would suggest checking out Linux Mint. Mint is built off of Ubuntu but has the ability to play music & videos out of the box and an interface that Windows users will feel right at home with.


  11. Kaylan says:

    Following up on Ryan’s energy comments, I make a practice not just of turning off my computer if I’m going to be gone (at work all day, out shopping all afternoon, etc.), but also turning off the power strip. The computer and its peripherals (printers) continue to draw a small amount of current even when off. I do the same thing for the strip that powers my TV, DVD player, VCR, digital converter box, and receiver. The blinking VCR clock doesn’t bother me one bit!

  12. Cieno Crisis says:

    I’m a college student myself, and currently am using a macbook. While obviously nobody actually needs a macbook, the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to purchasing a computer regardless of the price is what purpose you want it to serve for you, and how long you expect it to be with you for.

    I have some classmates who use a desktop computer at home, and a cheap dell laptop for school that barely has battery life… and these students are stuck always sitting by the power outlets… and I don’t quite understand it. What’s the point of getting two cheap computers instead of just one laptop that does everything?

    My macbook made a huge dent in my wallet. I was working minimum wage when I was saving up for it, and boy, it’s a huge dent. But I’m happy with my purchase because it matched up exactly against my needs and expectations. I’m a heavy computer user, and my laptop is my life. It’s my entertainment center, my schoolbooks, my communication hub, media storage center, and contains all the crucial files that allow me to organize my life. But I don’t regret my purchase because this computer is completely hassle-free and is everything I need and even more for at least the next five years of my life.

    (Why at least five years? Last time my family purchased a mac, it lasted us around 12 years… it was going strong outdated OS aside but unfortunately a human-induced accident cut its life prematurely.)

    Obviously, not a lot of people ask as much out of their computer as me, but what I’m just saying to keep the values of (1) Durability (2) Maintenance-free in mind, because it will be the frugal choice in the long-run.

    And like with any other quality purchase, don’t treat it like crap! One of my pet peeves is seeing nice quality computers get treated like crap by its owners. On the software side, stay updated on security fixes and clean up the bloatware. On the hardware side, if you have a laptop and you lug it around all the time, put a microfiber cloth between the keyboard and the screen to protect your screen from keyboard scratches (seriously… the cloth is only 5-10 dollars at the maximum). Keep your laptop in a padded case, and no matter how you want to express your individuality– DON’T PUT STICKERS ON YOUR COMPUTER. Really. And clean your keyboard!

  13. mjukr says:

    Trent, if Photoshop is the only thing keeping you from running Ubuntu, there are ways around it!

    1) Run it under Wine
    2) Run Windows in a VMware session to house Photoshop

    Also, there is a fork of The Gimp called Gimpshop that attempts to mimic the menu system of Photoshop.

    Best of luck!

  14. Amateur says:


    For what it’s worth today, it’s pretty important to own more than one computer in the household in case something bad happens and one stopped working – and your college final paper is due in several hours. It’s only because the traditional typewriter is phased out, most people don’t even own one anymore.

    Bear in mind, computers are just tools, and some tools do some jobs better than others. Some people will inevitably use Windows because of MS Office native functionality, .NET programming, and various business related software not available in other platforms.

  15. stocks says:

    One thing in mind, however cheap the *nix brands are by being able to download the .iso, is the amount of time to learn, troubleshoot since it tends to be more complex then windows..even to the point of having to pay for more expensive tech support?

  16. Mark Rushakoff says:

    Trent, I have to second (third? fourth?) checking out Wine for Photoshop if you didn’t get the multiple hints above :)

    Also, depending on just how old the “new” computer is, a user might be better off with Xubuntu – it is a fork of Ubuntu, meaning you’ll have as much support as regular Ubuntu, but it is set up to use more “light-weight” applications by default. However, you can still “upgrade” all the software to the “heavier” applications that are used by default in Ubuntu.

    Even lighter than Xubuntu is Fluxbuntu, which is unfortunately not a supported fork of Ubuntu, but still should have the same available packages and everything.

    For someone who just uses his or her computer to browse the internet and check their email, *buntu works great! It even has plenty of solitaire games to keep you busy :)

    One last caveat to keep in mind for anyone who decides to give *buntu a try: the LiveCD will perform much more slowly than when you install to the hard drive. If it seems slow, it’s because reading from a CD takes typically much longer than reading from a hard drive.

  17. todd says:

    Just a couple of notes–if you pick up a yard sale PC just pay attention to the specs. Even though Ubuntu or other linux distributions can run on machines you wouldn’t want to put Windows on, the more recent releases are just as resource hungry as Windows. Unless you run a lightweight desktop environment (i.e. not Gnome or KDE), you might find the experience less than pleasant.

    Also, there are companies starting to put out low-energy machines with no moving parts. They run an embedded linux and use “the cloud” or web-based storage and services instead of locally installed applications. For example, see Zonbu, CherryPal, Linutop, and the Eee PC.

  18. Todd says:

    Thanks for writing about linux. It is such a fugal choice considering it’s price (free) and performance of old hardware. I have a PC I put together myself for $200 in 2002 that runs Ubuntu. It’s a great chioce for kids since they can’t mess anything up.

  19. lorax says:

    My experience as an old linux hacker (sources, yes) is that linux is great, but buy a refurb Mac Book or a Mac Mini for non-hobby use. If you’re a hobbyist, build a PC and get XP (not Vista!). If you’re into software, try a flavor of Linux.

    Like lots of things, much comes down to time-vs-money here. Do you want to fool around trying to configure a driver, recompiling the kernel, rebuilding libraries to get an audio player? Or can you afford to trade a few days worth of working (few hundred bucks) to get a system that just works.

    Someone mentioned gimp… it’s a nice app; but when I last tried it, to my chagrin it didn’t have the features semi-pros need.

  20. Anna says:

    There’s a great alternative to a laptop if you only need it for taking notes in class, or writing here there and everywhere: the AlphaSmart. It’s a tough little word processer for $250-$300 that has a full-size keyboard, plenty of memory, and a smallish but acceptable screen, and it runs for hundreds of hours on AA batteries. It doesn’t do everything a laptop does, but if you only need it for word processing, that’s irrelevant. You can use your home computer for everything else and leave it at home while you tuck the AlphaSmart into a shoulder bag and go. You can run your files directly to a printer or into your computer’s word processing program for further editing. Some computer snobs might laugh at it, but eventually they will be envious of the low price, the sturdiness of the construction, and the ease of carrying it around.

    (Disclaimer: no connection with the company; I’m just a happy user.)

  21. ^_~ says:

    pirating windows would be a lot easier

  22. moneyclip says:

    If you truly want an Ubuntu edition with all the bells and whistles I’d highly recommend the “Ubuntu Ultimate Edition” as it comes complete with nearly ever sort of software addition you can imagine and is full trimmed out with customized themes, boot loader, and a whole slew of features that the basic Ubuntu package doesn’t come with.

    The file size is near 2 gigabytes in size, however it is hosted on rather speedy servers or as a torrent file if you prefer that option.

    For more information on version 1.9 of the Ultimate Ubuntu Edition:


    I use this one personally and found it much better than the basic Ubuntu. There are so many features and it just looks much more polished than the regular Ubuntu OS.

  23. Megan says:

    I’ve tried switching over to various versions of Linux several times now, and although I am a bit of a computer tinkerer, I gave up in frustration every time. I could never get all of my drivers installed, and I didn’t understand many basics of the OS. I agree with the commenter above, Seth, who said that making Linux more accessible for beginners would be a great small business. If I could buy a pdf that would at least explain the basics without making me hunt through a wiki, I might consider switching again.

  24. Isela says:

    This post was great. I had to buy a new laptop a month ago because my old desktop was about to die (it is about 5 years old). I got this laptop with a 60 days trial of MS Office , and I was about to pay to get the license of the software (at least $100 dollars).
    I have just donwloaded Open Office in Spanish and it looks just great! I guess Trent has just saved me some bucks.

    I always found something useful on this website.


  25. antiSWer says:

    I second the Alphasmart recommendation for those who only need a word processor.

    As for the article, I have a version of Ubuntu installed and rarely use it. I don’t have the time to learn it thoroughly and in all honesty, XP is just more familiar.

    I’d love to make the switch to Ubuntu full time in the future…maybe after I graduate. ;)

  26. David Andersson says:

    At least here in Sweden it’s somewhat common to buy ‘expired’ computers from companies upgrading their systems. A top-end laptop from 3 years ago can cost USD 500 and less depending on where you find it. And if high-end isn’t you’re cup of tea, computers are available for as low as USD 150, fully functional. Some companies

  27. David Andersson says:

    At least here in Sweden it’s somewhat common to buy ‘expired’ computers from companies upgrading their systems. A top-end laptop from 3 years ago can cost USD 500 and less depending on where you find it. And if high-end isn’t you’re cup of tea, computers are available for as low as USD 150, fully functional.

  28. Jillian says:

    Interesting. I switched to Ubuntu (actually Kubuntu – it’s prettier) a few years ago when my Windows died. Unfortunately I had the same problem you did, and couldn’t find a decent replacement for Photoshop.

    However my Linux experience was positive enough to put me off ever going back to Windows. So that left me with no real choice but to make my next computer a very expensive Mac :-D

  29. Suzie says:

    I own a laptop which my parents bought me a few years ago for my schoolwork. I use it a lot and, personally, couldn’t really see myself not investing in a similar laptop if/when this one finally dies. Having a good, fast, reliable computer is really important to me and I’d be willing to spend a lot of money on one.

    If you only use a computer occasionally or don’t mind is being a bit clunky, you can get one pieced together cheaply. If, however, your computer is a big part of your life, it’s reall worth investing in a good one.

  30. Faye says:

    I’m wondering if using Ubuntu as an OS would be better for a small business (legal document preparation for pro se/pro per litigants) which only needs some basic internet web surfing, email, word processor, and some e-books (PDF files).

    Does Ubuntu work in a Pentium 4 processor? What are the hardware requirements of Ubuntu?

  31. moneyclip says:


    Bare Minimum requirements

    It should be possible to get Ubuntu running on a system with the following minimum hardware specification, although it is unlikely that the system would run well. You should use the Alternate install CD to attempt such an installation.

    * 300 MHz x86 processor
    * 64 MB of system memory (RAM)
    * At least 4 GB of disk space (for full installation and swap space)
    * VGA graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
    * CD-ROM drive or network card

    Recommended minimum requirements

    Ubuntu should run reasonably well on a computer with the following minimum hardware specification. However, features such as visual effects may not run smoothly.

    * 700 MHz x86 processor
    * 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
    * 8 GB of disk space
    * Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution

    Sound card

    A network or Internet connection

    Note: All 64-bit (x86-64) PCs should be able to run Ubuntu. Use the 64-bit installation CD for a 64-bit-optimised installation.

    For more information:

    I believe Ubuntu would be a very wise choice for a small business that does legal documenta preparation. Once familiarized with Ubuntu, ironing out all the kinks with hardware it’d be a really wise choice.

    However if you haven’t a clue about using a computer, installing software, it might be wise to hire someone to come in a train employees/staff in the ways of Linux.

    Also recommended would be the Ubuntu Linux Bible:


    It will really get you up to speed on how to use Ubuntu effectively.

  32. A says:

    I am a computer novice, and I switched to Ubuntu with only minimal problems. RUN, do not walk, to your library or bookstore and get two books: Keir Thomas’ Beginning Ubuntu Linux and Mark G. Sobell’s A Practical Guide to Linux. If you must buy and can only afford one, start with Thomas, as it is geared toward the utter novice. You can also call your local community college; the profs there may well know a student who likes to tinker who can help you if those two books can’t.

    As for Adobe Photoshop — Trent, Trent! The GIMP does everything I have wanted out of Photoshop, and faster :) It just takes some learning.

  33. Jeff says:

    Some posts have pointed out some valid advantages of Windows over Ubuntu, but I think malware is a HUGE point for the notice user which has not been mentioned, and which they likely will encounter with a Windows computer.

  34. amaad says:

    If photoshop is your issue, simply install Wine [windows emulator] for ubuntu, and run photoshop normally. There is no longer any excuse for anyone to be chained to Microsoft.

  35. Onaclov2000 says:

    I actually got a computer from a co-worker that was upgrading, and didn’t know what to do with his old computer, I just installed the Ubuntu Server edition, with Samba on it, and use it as a file server (just finally got it FULLY working this weekend so I’m pumped), so now I can have my laptop and my wife’s laptop a little more cleared off, I was CONSTANTLY running into the too little space dilemma. My only concern is the power usage, but I think I’ll leave it off until I or my wife need it. I really like ubuntu, but my only holding point on fully moving over is photoshop and Flash and my WIRELESS network card, as well as finding a way to back up all my stuff on my computer (which was solved this weekend).
    Another not to everyone, you can install alot of Linux’s on a pen drive and actually run the whole OS on that, and make updates and everything, so you can try it out before converting.

  36. Mrs. Micah says:

    I’ve got plans to put Ubuntu on our PC sometime in the next month or so. I think it used to have Linux on it anyway (it was bought from its builder) because it already has a more complicated booting sequence than your average store-bought computer. So I’m not worried about that, but I do want to make sure they run parallel and that it doesn’t overwrite XP.

  37. David says:

    I’ve been using a free Office suite called OpenOffice that is great.

  38. Jillian says:

    People who claim that you can use Gimp/Inkscape or run Photoshop through Wine (a Windows emulator) obviously don’t work a lot with Photoshop. If you are a hardcore user of Photoshop, Flash or Illustrator, then Linux is not for you. If you just touch up the occasional photo though, it should be fine.

    Likewise with games. Most modern games won’t run on Linux, and can’t be run through Wine because they require 3D graphics acceleration or they are just too CPU intensive. But like Trent says, Linux is perfect if you just want to surf the web and watch vidoes.

  39. NJ Hipster says:

    Use a Mac.


    Yes, they’re expensive. But they are hands-down the easiest computers to use, not to mention they last FOREVER.

    Plus, every Apple store has the Genius Bar- free tech support.

    Buy the extended warranty- you won’t be sorry when 2.5 years into your purchase, something happens and Apple covers it.

    Macs are fast, don’t get viruses, and are the most visually appealing computers around.

  40. gail says:

    Refurbished macbooks.

    I migrated six months back to a refurbished macbook and have not since looked back. I never wanted to use a vista OS.

    I sometimes need to do powerpoint, I use VMware Fusion and use office from my earlier laptop running XP.

    Sometimes I need to do Fortran coding, I have Ubuntu virtual machine intel compilers for free for ncommercial use.

    I work seamlessly between the different OS and just focus on my work.

    Is this the lowest cost solution? Not in terms of $. But that’s a huge advantage in terms of not letting any distracting thoughts of making thing which are not working.

    I just focus on getting things done now.

  41. 1WineDude says:

    A possibly easier but slightly more expensive route: Purchase a PC like an Acer AspireOne or Eee PC for under $400. The rest of the software (email, web browser, OpenOffice, etc.) can be obtained totally for free…

  42. Joey says:

    A few suggestions on Linux….
    NOTE: I have tried several distros and Ubuntu (or the different flavors of Ubunutu) – its the best Linux distro out there.

    1. You can get a decent PC from Surpluscomputers.com for a hundred bucks
    2. I have found that Ubuntu works best on DESKTOPS. There are two major issues with Linux: Wireless connectivity isn’t easy and Video editing software is terrible (and gaming if you are into that). If you surf and word process and youtube, Ubuntu is better than windows (more secure). As long as you have a wired PC connected to the internet, you probably won’t have to do anything to Ubuntu once it installs.
    3. If you want more windows like programs and viable replacements:


  43. Kevin says:

    If you’re getting a brand new PC from Dell or similar, why would you bother to mess with reloading a new O/S? I agree with some comments above – if you don’t already have a computer by now, you’re probably not computer savvy enough to figure out a new operating system or build a computer from used parts.

  44. kyle5434 says:

    As others have said…if the repository for version of Linux (I use PCLinuxOS) has version 0.62 or later of WINE, you should be good to go for Photoshop CS or Photoshop CS2 (or earlier). Once you download and install WINE from the repository, you just run the WINE configurator to initialize WINE. Then install as normal (you might want to look through any hints or pointers at the winehq site mentioned above).

    I use Photoshop CS, and while it takes noticeably longer to start up using WINE (maybe 2-3 times longer than in Windows, especially if you have a lot of plugins), once it’s running it behaves well, including all the plugins I have.

  45. iRandal says:

    Wake up people, if you have been reading this blog, and from my understanding, to maximize your dollars and to identify opportunities.

    Yes, Ubuntu may be a bit technincal, but linux has grown up over these years. Yes, you will have a learning curve, but trust on this, Ubuntu is a great starter distro and there are more than enough online commmunities out there for help

    but the most important aspect of going with Ubuntu is that the learning curve is NOT big and by the time you have a working knowledge of the OS you will have had at least 30 hours of practical training time.

    this translates into a newly aquired technical skill thereby advancing your base computer knowledge from windows/Mac centric to a more traditional model of computing, the *nix system

    people stop whining about not wanting to learn a new OS, if you can point and click you can figure Ubuntu out yourself and if and when your skills are beyond the Unbuntu interface, you will now have a heavy base knowledge in *nix systems thereby allowing you to explore a more technical distro, Gentoo, CentOS, RedHat, Fedora, you get hte point and when it is all said and down, by exploring and working through this new landscape you have jsut passivley padded you technical skills in the area of *nix systems and the differences between linux distros, so there, win!

  46. Jim says:

    I think its going to be easier for most folks to buy a complete system with OS installed.

    I’d just shop around for used complete systems on Craiglist or eBay. Something with 3Ghz processor and 1GB RAM with Windows XP preloaded. You ought to be able to find something in that range for $100-150 ballpark. That will give you a complete system with no extra work required and it will be powerful enough so it won’t be obsolete within the year.

    Or you can go up to $200 for a new Lenovo desktop or $200 for a refurbished Dell.

    For a monitor you should be able to find a used 15″ or 17″ CRT for $5-20 on Craiglist pretty easy.


  47. Cory says:

    I think two things are worth keeping in mind. The target for Trent’s post; users who just want to be able to surf and do email and other basic tasks.

    If you want to play the latest Windows games, use specialized business applications that are made for Windows, need a full release of Adobe Photoshop for your work, etc. then this solution probably isn’t for you.

    The 2nd goal is spending as little as possible. If you want it to be the easiest most effortless experience and money is no object then buy an Apple.

    Craigslist and eBay are probably option for somewhat cheap PCs but I’d never recommend getting one of these without wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows (or Linux.) You never know what kind of viruses or malware (or killie porn!) might be on the hard drive. It’s just not worth it.

    Linux works great for basic tasks if you aren’t computer savvy. It also works great for very complicated tasks if you are computer savvy and/or are willing to spend the time and effort to learn and experiment. (Linux is BEST for the person who considers working on their computer a true hobby.)

    If you fall into just need “basic tasks” group then have a friend download the Ubuntu CD image (or better Linux mint; linuxmint.org) and burn a CD for you. If you are buying a PC you can boot from one of these CDs and make sure it works without finding special drivers, etc. and you won’t damage Windows or alter the hard drive at all.

    If the PC is free to you, then do this once you get home. If you have problems you aren’t out any $.

    Keep in mind that it will run quite slow since it’s running from CD and not the hard drive. (Installing it later at home will fix that.)

    In the past year I’ve acquired two PCs. Both of which were owned by someone who considered their PC to be “old junk.” Each of them were throw-aways I got for free when the owner bought a new PC from Dell. No fiddling with putting parts together in this case.

    One had a nice wide-screen LCD monitor already but since the new PC came with a monitor I got that free too. (Trent’s comments about using your social network is spot-on.)

    The first thing I did with each was boot up and see if Windows was usable. It wasn’t on either. One wouldn’t even boot (some malware had wiped out most of stuff under C:\Windows.) The 2nd did but was almost unusable despite the fact that Adaware and antivirus didn’t find anything wrong.

    Ubuntu booted up and ran just fine on each. No drivers to search for, no searching forums for help. In fact, in the past 2 years I’ve had less issues with hardware drivers under Linux (ubuntu, Fedora or CentOS) than I have had under Windows XP or Vista (with the exception of when the OS was pre-installed before purchase of course.)

    I ran the “Install” icon from the desktop and let it wipe out the hard drive (the default on both Ubuntu and Mint is to share the drive and give you a choice between Windows and Linux when you first turn on your computer.) Other than my timezone, a login name and password I accepted defaults for everything during the install.

    I gave one PC to my parents (NOT computer savvy at all) and they love it. Faster (by far) than what they had. They both surf the Internet and use email, etc.

    Frankly the most “technical” parts were downloading the CD image and creating a CD and then setting the system BIOS to boot from CD. (The later is something you’ll have to do if you want to install XP home too, btw.)

  48. Gerard says:

    Good article.

    Have a look at GIMP as an alternative to photoshop.

  49. Dan says:

    There is a good alternative to Ubuntu called ‘gOS’. It’s intended to run mostly web applications (Google, Gmail, Facebook, Google Docs, etc) so it’s really just designed for Web/Email and should be much simpler for non-hobbyist pc users. Their website is http://www.thinkgos.com/

  50. Danang says:

    [] Ubuntu just released Version 9.04 GREAT! Best version release yet.
    [] I have tried many Linux releases (distros)… UBUNTU is for all of us. Fast EASY, can even be installed with WINDOWS on same hard drive easily.
    [] Download UBUNTU… Burn it to a CD/DVD then insert the CD/DVD while running your WINDOWS.
    The disc will give option: “Install Inside of Windows”
    [] WORKS GREAT, you reboot, and the menu says:
    Window XP
    Choose which one you want to run. I rarely use my Windows XP now… Ubuntu 9.04 is a Dream Come TRUE!!
    [] If you want to remove Ubuntu… just Unistall like any Windows program.
    ||| I’ll Stick With UBUNTU!! It is the BEST Linux! Beats Windows XP

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