Your Old Computer and You: Part 1

By HCS Technical Staff

It was recently announced that Microsoft will be ending any and all support, including updates, for Windows XP in two short years. Nearly 45% of the world’s computers run Windows XP.

This announcement just made the day of every malware writer and botnet owner and cyber-villain out there…

“What does this mean?”

It means that you will run a much higher risk of having your Facebook account hijacked or bank account details leaked for a cybercriminal to use. Since flaws in Windows XP will be discovered but never fixed or “patched”.

“How do I know if I have Windows XP?”

When you turn on the computer, a big splash screen that reads “Windows XP” should appear.

“But all my files are on my old computer”

Transferring your files is rather easy using a portable hard drive and a LiveCD Operating system. Please refer to the article “Using a LiveCD Operating System” for more details on this method.

I also recommend setting up a account. You get 2GB of free storage to start with and it can be accessed from any smartphone or computer.

“But I’m set in my ways and don’t wanna change my computer!”

Such an adaptation-resistant attitude is no different from the mindset of the person who thinks they don’t need to train with their gun, get up to a basic fitness standard, or plan out their tactics. They are setting themselves up for trouble later down the line.

Would you use a musket when an AK is available?

“What should I do with my old computer?”

You have two options: wipe the hard drive and donate it, or keep using it if you must, but as a general rule of thumb, if your computer has been with you since the Clinton Administration you really should just wipe the hard drive and donate it.

After you have transferred your files over to a portable hard drive, you can now begin installing a more modern operating system on the old computer.

First, you need to burn an ISO file of DBAN.

You would then boot the DBAN CD on startup. This is done by either ESC, F2, F9, F10, or F12 (depending on the computer manufacturer) when the machine starts up.

Make sure you backed up any files you want to keep. DBAN makes it practically impossible to recover your files!

“So what new operating system do I install?”

Like many things in life, it depends on a couple of things.

We do not want to “throw too much good money after bad” so buying a copy of Windows 7 is out of the question and Windows XP is no longer supported, fortunately there are free full-featured operating systems out there.

Before we get too technical, the difference between RAM (“memory”) and the Hard Drive (“Storage”) is best illustrated by the analogy of a desk and a filing cabinet. The desk is RAM that gives you more space to work with files and the filing cabinet is the hard drive which stores your files until you need them.

At the most, a full upgrade to 2GB to 4GB of RAM (most older computers max out at 4GB of RAM) should cost about $30-40 shipped to your door. I strongly recommend maximizing your computer’s RAM to the fullest extent possible.

If your old computer has more than 1GB of RAM then you should install Ubuntu Linux 11.10 or Fedora. This depends on if you want Fedora’s full disk encryption features.

If your old computer has less than 1GB OF RAM, then you should install Lubuntu, which is a very light version of Ubuntu Linux that can run most of the software available for Ubuntu.

“How Do I Install Linux?”

  1. Burn an ISO file of Fedora, Ubuntu, or Lubuntu to CD-R
    • Be sure to select the ISO file marked x86 or “32 bit”
    • Most older computers fall under this category.
  2. Put the burned CD-R into the CD-ROM drive
  3. Power down the computer
  4. Press the power button to turn on the computer
  5. Press the appropriate button to access the boot menu
    • Esc and F9 for most HP systems
    • F2 or F10 for most Dells
  6. Select the option to boot from the CD/DVD Drive
  7. Follow the Instructions on the Screen
  8. Use the entire hard disk to install Ubuntu or Lubuntu
  9. Be sure to check the box to encrypt the home folder when prompted!
  10. Be sure to use a half-decent system password of at least 20 characters or more.
    • Example: !.*C0UNTER!.*D1CT10N@RY!.*@TT@CK!.*
So Now You Have Linux…

Read the online tutorials and get yourself acquainted with Ubuntu or Fedora. Your peripherals such as the webcam and the printer should be plugged in and the appropriate drivers downloaded.

These distributions of Linux come with a web browser included but you can make a number of adjustments to the system to get the full functionality of it such as turning it into a home surveillance system and using it for semi-anonymous web-browsing!

Those are topics for next time…

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us or post them in the comments. We will answer them as quickly as possible.


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