Many computer experts recommend the users to replace their computer every four to five years if possible. However, if you properly care for and maintain your machine, and spend a little more on better components when you are buying it in the first place, it may last you just a little bit longer than that.
The main reason for upgrading your computer is because the components in older computers are not nearly as powerful as the new ones. Technology advances at a ridiculously rapid pace nowadays and modern software demands more and more resources with each new release and update. This is why hardware companies constantly look to put out better products each year.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with the computer itself, other than the fact that it is not up to the demands put on it by the software released several years after the machine had been built. However, if you can install an operating system and software that does not use so much computing power and memory, the computer should work just fine for longer than the average of roughly five years.
In order to do this, many people turn to Linux as their go-to operating system. This operating system is typically much lighter than Windows, which means that it can be installed on older machines to make them last longer and work without spending too much of their power simply to keep the OS running.
By far the most popular distribution of Linux is Ubuntu. However, just like Windows, it is rich in features and does not lack anything despite being less demanding. While you may get some benefit from installing it on an older computer, it could still be too bloated for a truly old or underpowered machine from a few generations ago.
That is where Lubuntu comes in, an even lighter version of Ubuntu. This distribution is based on the basic Ubuntu OS but has been stripped back to its bare bones to make it as small, light and fast as it can be on very old computer hardware.
Therefore, if you want to breathe some fresh new life into an old computer, which should you choose, traditional Ubuntu or Lubuntu?
How Powerful is Your Computer?
First of all. the hardware of your computer may make the decision for you or limit your choice entirely. If you have less than 2 GB of RAM, 25 GB of hard disk space, and a processor that does not have two cores and run at 2 GHz, you will not be able to run Ubuntu.
In that case, you will need Lubuntu, which can (in theory) run on just 128 MB of RAM, a 266 MHz processor, and 3 GB of hard disk space. If you are running this minimum specification, your experience still will not be great.
If you want to use your old computer just to browse the web, then both operating systems should be able to handle it just fine. Both come with Firefox pre-installed, and you can also choose to install a different one like Chromium (which is what Google Chrome is based on).
If you are running a very low powered computer, such as one with 1 GB of memory or less, you may benefit from installing a lightweight web browser such as Midori, Falkon, or Netsurf.
If you are not going to use the computer for anything else, then Lubuntu may be your best option, as it will start faster and load your browser more quickly.
By its very nature, Lubuntu is designed to be lightweight to make old machines usable but it will play games just as well as Ubuntu. That said, if you are hoping to play games on an underpowered machine, you will likely struggle to get any new titles to run.
In general, gaming on Linux used to be very difficult as many publishers simply ignored the operating system. Today, things have improved a lot as you can install Steam and access many of the titles in its library.
You can install Steam easily by opening your terminal and typing sudo apt-get install steam.
Web-based games can now be played without a hitch on Linux too as most run on HTML5 which is supported by both Firefox and Chromium.
Some games that need to be installed do not have a Linux version but you can still play them from the Windows version. Games like PokerStars and World of Warcraft can be played on both Ubuntu and Lubuntu by using WINE, an application that translates Windows commands into POSIX calls that Linux can understand.
Some native games can be downloaded from the Discover application in Ubuntu and Lubuntu, but these are not much more than the types of games that come pre-installed on Windows.
The chances are, you are primarily a Windows user. If that is the case, making the jump to Linux can be a little bit daunting as the UI can be very different. If that is the case, installing Lubuntu may be a better choice.
It uses the LXDE environment, which looks and works in a similar way to Windows. It has a system tray in the bottom right-hand corner, a taskbar across the bottom, and a “start” button in the bottom left-hand corner.
On the other hand, Ubuntu takes a bit more getting used to. It has more animations and feels like a more modern operating system, but these place additional pressure on the processor and memory.
If your computer is powerful enough, it is likely that both will work great. If you do not care about visual effects and just want a bare-bones machine for basic tasks like web browsing, Lubuntu will likely be your best choice.
If there is enough power for it to play games, then again either OS should be ok, but the lower overhead of Lubuntu will mean more resources are available for the game itself.