Unfortunately, PCs with Windows 7 as an operating system are still very numerous and, in many cases, they do not have the technical requirements to run Windows 10: we are talking about PCs still fully functional but with hardware components that cannot be updated or found on the market.
If we don’t want to give up these still working PCs and notebooks, in this guide we will show you how to upgrade from Windows 7 to Linux for free, ie placing a fully supported operating system, light, and compatible with the vast majority of the programs we use daily.READ ALSO: How difficult is it to switch to Linux?
How to switch to Linux from Windows 7
For this guide, we will try to show you the simplest steps possible, so that you can upgrade from Windows 7 to Linux without the intervention of a technical friend or an IT expert. The requirements for Linux are decidedly light compared to Windows and, by updating, we will certainly give 2-3 years of life to the PC without major sacrifices from the point of view of program compatibility.
For the guide, we chose to focus on Linux Mint Xfce, which presents the right compromise between speed, compatibility, and simple management of a new operating system.
Before proceeding with the guide, make sure that you have the following accessories on hand:
- USB stick of at least 16 GB
- USB hard drive of at least 1 TB
The USB stick will allow us to create the installation media with which to format Windows 7 and switch to Linux, while the hard disk will allow us to save all our personal files (documents, music, videos, images, photos, etc.) still present on the PC to format.
Personal data backup
Before proceeding to replace Windows 7 with Linux, we save all personal data on the internal disk of the computer by connecting the USB hard disk in our possession and copying all the files from the folders Music, Documents, Video is Images. If we have placed files or folders on the desktop, just copy the folder Desktop to keep the files and folders they contain.
On Windows 7 the file transfer system is often very slow and, in the event of errors, stops completely; to speed up the transfer process and have more control we can use the free TeraCopy program.
With this program, we will be able to transfer even the largest files without problems and, in case of errors or freezes, restore the transfer or continue with the other files still to be copied.
If we are looking for other ways to backup personal files on Windows, we can also read our guide How to backup files in Windows 10.
If instead, we want to create a complete disk image with Windows 7 (to restore Windows on the fly in case of problems with Linux), just follow our guide How to clone a hard disk to another disk with an exact copy.
Linux stick preparation
After saving the personal files on the external disk, we install the Rufus program on the computer, available for free for Windows.
With this small tool, we can create the USB stick with which to replace Windows 7 with a modern GNU / Linux distribution. Once the program is downloaded, connect the (empty) USB stick to the PC and proceed with the download of the Linux Mint Xfce ISO image.
At the end of the download let’s go into the program Rufus, select the USB stick in the drop-down menu A device/unit, press the button SELECT, select the ISO image downloaded a little while ago, choose as a partition scheme MBR, leave all other fields intact and press the button below Starts.
The stick will be prepared with the ISO image chosen: we just have to say goodbye to Windows 7 and get ready for the new adventure with Linux!
Linux installation instead of Windows 7
We turn off Windows 7 for the last time, connect the USB stick created in the previous chapter and turn on the PC again, taking care to quickly change the boot order by repeatedly pressing F8 or using one of the methods seen in our guide How to change the boot order of your computer.
As soon as the stick is started we will find ourselves in front of the Linux Mint startup screen.
We press the button enter keyboard (making sure it is highlighted Start Linux Mint) and wait a few minutes, so you can get familiar with the new Linux Mint desktop.
Once inside we try all the icons present and explore the system, so as to realize how we will work on the computer from now on: many programs are already installed and many others can be added quickly. To facilitate installation we recommend that you immediately connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi or via Ethernet cable, so as to have immediately the updates and the translation without having to download the necessary packages later.
As soon as we are ready to move to Linux we double click on Install Linux Mint, select the Italian language, press on Come on, confirm the layout of the Italian keyboard, press again on Come on, check the entry for external drivers and press again on Come on, so as to reach the partitioning screen.
Make sure to put a checkmark on the item Erase the disc and install Linux Mint, then press down on Come on is Install to continue.
During the installation, we will only have to choose the correct time zone and create the user to access the PC.
We set the user name, we choose a system password (indispensable for many operations on PC), we choose whether to automatically access the system and finally we press for the last time on Come on.
The installation will proceed by itself and, at the end of the same, just restart the computer and remove the USB stick to use only Linux Mint as the operating system.
Now that Linux Mint is installed in place of Windows 7, we can restore the backup files previously copied to an external USB disk.
We connect the disk to an available USB port, press on the top left on the system home or on the bottom left on the fast icon File Manager, and press on the hard disk icon.
We copy the files or folders inside the home of the system, so as to have immediately everything we need to work or to use the PC. The keys are the same as Windows: we can select all the folders and files on the external disk with CTRL + A, copy with CTRL + C or with the voice Copy in the context menu (can be called from the right button) and paste the files in the home with CTRL + V or with the voice Paste of the context menu.
After the transfer is complete, disconnect the disk and keep it as a backup drive.
What programs to install on Linux
Some programs are already available on Linux Mint to start using the PC immediately: Mozilla Firefox is present as a web browser and LibreOffice as a free office suite. However, if we want to download other programs, we can also avoid looking for them online (since we will have to look for the versions compatible with Mint and not download the .exe) and use the integrated store within the new operating system, called Application manager.
We open the menu in the lower-left corner and search for this store, then we browse through the categories or search at the top to find the program we need. We can currently download the following programs to Mint:
- Google Chrome
Added to this are practical all the free and open-source programs that we have already tried on Windows, such as those seen in the AI guide Best free open source programs for Windows, commercial software alternatives is Best sites with free open source free programs to download.
Since Windows 7 is now out of support and exposed to the dangers of the network we advise you to switch as soon as possible to a new operating system, without necessarily buying a new computer with Windows 10. If our computer has 2 or 4 GB of RAM and a processor that was already struggling under Windows 7 we strongly advise you to switch to Linux Mint, so as to obtain an updated, fast and snappy system with practically the same programs that home users already used on Windows.
To learn more about the use of Linux Mint we can also read our article Linux Mint: Linux distribution for everyone.
If, on the other hand, we have never used a Linux distribution before, we avoid the most serious errors by reading our in-depth analysis of 10 mistakes to avoid when using Linux.