That geezer computer in your closet can be young again

You know that old computer in the closet, or on a bookshelf, or wherever you stashed it after Microsoft or Apple told you they wouldn’t update it anymore? You paid the big bucks for it, and it still turns on and seems to work okay. Apart from some dust, it looks pretty good. Its only problem is planned obsolescence. How maddening!

Now that they have pulled the update plug, the manufacturers of your machine would love for you to rush right out and buy yet another brand-new flashy computer for a king’s ransom—until they pull the update plug again in a few short years. There is an alternative. Recall the old homily, “Don’t get mad, get even.”

Enter Linux! Wild applause, fireworks, orchestral climax, annoyed computer manufacturers, smile on your face. Why? Because Linux completely replaces the Windows or Apple operating system on your machine. It will most likely make your mature machine run faster than ever. It includes all the software you are likely to ever need, and it automatically updates your operating system and all your programs for many years. It is inherently so safe that most people don’t even run an anti-virus program with it.

And, are you ready for this? It is completely free. The operating system, all the software, all the updates, all of it— completely free. Sounds like I am selling snake oil and there must be a catch, but no, it’s for real. Here’s why.

Microsoft and Apple are for-profit corporations. They have to charge for their services, and they have to profit from them. And you have to pay for it all. That’s the king’s ransom part. But the Linux operating system has very different roots.

Linux is not developed in a for-profit corporation, but rather by the “open source” community, which is a decades-old global network of volunteer developers, organizations and enthusiasts who work together to create high-quality software of all kinds. Their guiding principles include the distribution of free software, openness, increased security, customization options, and innovation. In other words, they are a worldwide network of thousands of dedicated do-gooder brainiacs. Who knew?

If you would like to have a better sense of the look and feel of Linux, see these two short videos on YouTube: “Simple Tasks in WINDOWS 11 vs LINUX MINT,” and “Is Linux Mint the Windows replacement?”

I have been working with Linux for about a dozen years. It comes in a great many versions but I use Linux Mint Cinnamon because it has the familiar look and feel of Windows. Mac users shouldn’t have too much trouble with the transition. In addition, Linux Mint is known for stability and ease of use for new Linux users. If you like, poke around the Linux Mint website at:

Here is a very cool feature of Linux Mint: You can download a copy from the website, for free of course, and install it on a thumb drive (a little storage device the size of your thumb that plugs into a port in your computer). Plug that drive into your computer when the computer is turned off, then turn the computer on, and it will usually boot up using the thumb drive. If it doesn’t, it’s a simple technical fix involving “boot order.”

That way you can test Linux Mint on your computer, but nothing on your computer is changed because all the action takes place in the thumb drive. If you want to avoid the geeky hassles of installing Mint on the thumb drive, you can buy a pre-loaded thumb drive at various places such as for about $12.

You can use Linux in the thumb drive to explore the new operating system and the included programs, then decide whether you want to install it on your computer. Note that if you do decide to install it, you want to take a copy of all the files that are important to you off your computer drive because installing Linux will reformat your computer’s storage drive, deleting everything on it.

Finally, a bit of unsolicited advice. If much of what you have read above sounds like gobbledygook, seek out the computer nerd in your family or among your friends. It might even be a grandkid. Tell them you would like to explore the idea of loading Linux on your old computer, and could they give you a hand. Heck, give them a copy of this article. You’ll probably get a warm response. People like to be recognized for their expertise.

Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.

Author Bio

Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.