Windows XP's refugees have two choices on April 8, when Microsoft stops supporting the decade-old operating system (for consumers, anyway). This is assuming a new PC with a new operating system (even Windows 7) is, for whatever reason, out of the question. They could cling desperately to their old Windows XP system and face what could be a hacker feeding frenzy, something we don't recommend even if you take precautions. Or they could keep the old PC but install a new, free, and safe operating system -- otherwise known as Linux.
Linux has a reputation for being designed for geeks only, but that's old history. Many modern Linux distributions exceed the user-friendliness of XP, and they're free to download. If you don't like the feel of one, you can easily switch to another. What's more, each Linux distribution comes loaded with useful software such as productivity suites, modern browsers like Chrome or Firefox, and photo and music management apps.
[ Also on InfoWorld: How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support. | Prove your expertise with the free OS in InfoWorld's Linux admin IQ test round 1 and round 2. ]
A note about installing Linux
The three Linux distributions we're recommending for displaced Windows XP users are all based on Ubuntu, which is widely considered to be the world's most popular version of Linux.
Ubuntu provides a solid, well-maintained software base that works well on older hardware, and its Live CD installer is a breeze to get up and running. Combine that with Ubuntu's stocked Software Center -- which features one-click app installs -- and it's an obvious, easy solution for migrating XP refugees.
Take heed: Although these Linux distributions are designed for aging PCs, they may still be too much for truly ancient PCs that have somehow survived intact until 2014.
Thankfully, each Linux distro below comes with an option to "try before you buy" by booting and running the OS directly from an installation CD or USB drive. When you've chosen one, you can fully install it to your hard drive -- after backing up all your personal files, of course.
Ubuntu's website has a tutorial on how to burn your own Live CD using Windows XP. Note that running an OS off a Live CD tends to be much slower than running an installed OS. Pay less attention to responsiveness and more attention to how you like the software and interface of each distro.
Official system requirements :