Removing Windows completely

Q I have inherited an old Gateway Solo laptop, model 2550, running Windows 2000 Professional - it has a CD and floppy drive. From what I've been reading, this is an opportunity to try Linux. I'm too old to be a geek and would like some pointers as to which version or distro to use and where to get it from. Also, everything I've read so far seems to indicate that you have to load Linux to a Windows machine and use both. As my version of Windows is so old, why can't I wipe the hard disk and install Linux from scratch? Any help would be appreciated.

A The choice of Linux distro is very personal and the best advice is to try a few and see which one you like best. However, with older hardware, the latest desktops will run slowly, if at all. As long as you avoid anything that uses the KDE or Gnome desktops, you'll be able to run most distros, but for old hardware, especially when RAM is limited, Puppy Linux (www.puppylinux.org) is a good choice. Xubuntu (www.xubuntu.org), a version of Ubuntu with the lightweight Xfce desktop, may also run well on your hardware, if it has enough RAM. Keep an eye on our cover discs for other alternatives. Most months' discs have an unusual, lightweight or otherwise alternative distro on them for you to try out, in addition to the more popular heavyweights.

You definitely do not need Windows to run Linux: wiping the drive and starting again is perfectly acceptable (some would say to be encouraged) and most distros' installers have an option to use the whole disk, wiping out anything that was previously installed. Dual-booting is a popular practice, as it allows you to have Windows and Linux on the same computer, choosing which to use at boot time, but of course it's by no means necessary. For example, the computer on which I'm writing this has never had Windows installed on it, nor is it likely to in the future.

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