XP alternatives – Apple, Linux and ChromeOS

Windows XP screenshot

Windows XP screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it time for you to dump Windows XP, or maybe even to abandon Windows altogether?

The net has come a long way since the days when XP wowed us all with it’s flash good looks and for some time now Windows has not been the only game in town but is still far and away the biggest. But Microsoft are about to end all support for XP and the danger for the average user is a retro-engineered virus designed for a Windows 7 or 8 machine will happily compromise the code in its older brother.

If you’re still running Windows XP, making the switch to Windows 8.1—or to Windows 7 could be more than just inserting a CD and following instructions – your current hardware may not be able to handle a newer Windows OS (XP is by modern standards a lightweight OS capable of running on something like 128kb of RAM albeit slowly, compare that to Windows 8 which Microsoft claims will run on 1GB of RAM – see the notes at the end of this article.)

But if you’re going to pay £90 or so for W8, you may as well consider some of the other options before you hand over the plastic. Mac, Linux and ChromeOS have come a long way in the last decade so lets have a little peek at the competition.

Mac OS X
Traditionally seen as more expensive that it’s Windows competition recently prices have come down. There is little doubt that Apple wins any PC beauty contest. Mac OSes are a better security choice than Windows and Apple will charge a lot less for their upgrades than Microsoft. The latest version, is free and comes with its own productivity suite (iWorks), and boasts proficient email, note-taking, calendaring, media-playing, image-editing, and instant messaging applications. If you have must use Windows programs they can be run as a virtual machine using Parallels.

On the downside you will have to replace all your existing software and there may not be Mac equivalents of everything you own. Of course the same may apply on the upgrade path from say XP to Windows 8.1

If you want to go open source and save your hard earned cash Linux is the right choice for you, generally Linux will work on older kit and has a reputation for breathing new life into otherwise defunct computers. Distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint are easily comparable to XP or Windows 7 and Linux is the go to operating system for many servers across the globe.

Linux is usually free – there are some commercial versions out there – and will come with the ability to download more software like Open Office, image editing, VOIP applications, email clients etc at no cost. You can choose from various user interface desktop environments, such as KDE and GNOME, and if you like you can install or create a desktop environment that is virtually identical to Windows XP. Security is excellent, malware is hard to deliver on a Linux machine which makes it an ideal browsing OS

On the downside you need to find and download alternatives for all your favoured software. There is no official support so you’ll find yourself haunting the various forums if anything goes wrong and essentially you are learning computers again from the ground up. My Linux users would content this is no bad thing.

Chrome OS
Chrome OS, developed by Google, is the new kid on the block. It’s a Web-centric platform that basically makes the browser itself the operating system, software as a service (SaaS) Security. The system runs little in the way of client systems. It works nicely with other Google services and with the Google Android OS found on many phones. On the other hand if you are not part of the Google collective than much of the appeal of ChromeOS goes. Because most of Chrome OS’s capabilities are tied to cloud-based services and resources, the functionality of Chrome OS is severely limited if you lack an Internet connection and away from an ethernet connection may be limited by wireless connectivity. Google recently showcased Chrome Apps that can run offline, but they’re a long way behind their Linux and Apple compatriots.


For anyone who has been clinging to XP for the past few years, the migration experience regardless of your choice is likely to be painful. There will be costs no matter which path you choose some financial some interlectual: If you choose Windows there is a chance your older machine may not even have the power to run the new OS and the drivers for peripherals may not exist. If you choose Apple there is the price of a new machine and software an again peripherals could be a problem; if you choose Linux you’ll have a learning curve which some small businesses can ill afford; chances are your perpherals will work but getting them there could be a challenge and finally, ChromeOS will be seen by many as simply a tablet style browsing toy.

For more information or assistance with migration contact me ron.cook@gmail.com

Windows 8 minimum requirements.

The list below is the absolute rock bottom requirements
32bit Windows 8 needs = 1GB of RAM,
64bit = 2GB of RAM
The 32bit version can only use RAM to a max of 3GB
16GB of hard disk space to run a 32bit installation
20GB for a 64bit system.

These are extremely low figures realistically your system is likely to need

3GB RAM – 32bit
4GB RAM – 64bit (8GB might be better)
500GB hard disk space unless you intend to add nothing at all to your install