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It's not so much the operating system version that you're running that matters in this kind of an upgrade. It really depends on the power of the hardware that operating system is running on.

I have an old PC that I use to connect to the internet to retrieve emails and to do light browsing. What upgrade path would you recommend from Windows 2000?

In this excerpt from Answercast #64, I look at the difficulties involved in upgrading an old Windows 2000 machine to a current operating system.

Old 2000 machine

Well unfortunately, it's not so much the operating system version that you're running that matters in making this kind of a decision. It really depends on the kind of hardware: the power of the hardware that operating system is running on.

My guess is: if the machine is a Windows 2000 contemporary machine (in other words, it's representative of the kinds of machines that were being sold when Windows 2000 was the most current version of Windows), then I can pretty much guarantee that it's not going to run something like Windows 7, or Windows 8, or even Windows Vista.

System requirements

You may be able to find a copy of Windows XP and you may be able to get it to run. I have to say "may" because Windows XP itself has grown over time and even it's own requirements (the minimum requirements to run effectively on a system) have grown to a point where its original requirements really no longer cut the grade for Windows XP.

So, with those versions of Windows out of the running... potentially? I mean, you can certainly look at Windows XP if you've got enough memory. By enough memory, I would suggest you have more than 256 MB of RAM - ideally, a GB.

My guess is a machine that old probably can't handle a gigbyte of RAM.

Open source systems

The other approach would be to start looking at Linux installations: versions of the Linux operating system.

By and large, Linux has a smaller footprint than Windows. Even better, there are versions of Linux out there, different distributions of Linux, that are designed specifically to have a smaller footprints than Windows.

You can certainly go out and give Ubuntu Linux a try; download their live CD (which I guess now would be a live DVD) with the most recent release.

There are other versions. Puppy Linux is one that comes to mind. There's, gosh, Darn Small Linux (or something like that). Basically go out and Google for Small Linux distribution. You'll find a number of reasonable alternatives that will probably run fairly well on that machine.

By "fairly well," I mean that you'll be able to continue doing what you've been doing: email, light browsing. That kind of stuff is perfect for an old machine like this.

Possible systems

Those are the thoughts.

My first thought for a machine of that era would in fact be to go to a distribution of Linux. If Linux isn't your thing, if it's not something that you want to invest the time to come up to speed on, then the only real hope, I believe, is Windows XP. Even there, I think it's gonna be kind of marginal.

Article C5951 - October 24, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?


October 26, 2012 8:58 PM

Yep, get a bit of dog into it. Puppy Linux should run flat out and it's a lot more useful than Windows 2000.
There are a few versions to choose from, however. I recommend LUPO Puppy (version 2.85) because it runs on a wider variety of hardware than some of the other pups, and it has a wider range of software available.

Joe F
October 30, 2012 9:23 AM

Hi Leo,

One other option you didn't mention - keep Windows 2000. I have three machines happily running Windows 2000. If it does what you need and you want to keep the hardware, why change? Linux works, but it's not easy for the average user.

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