Herman Miller from Ohio writes:

Any suggestions for small OS to replace XP? I’m trying to save an old laptop. Tried a number of Linux burned DVD ISOs, but couldn’t get them to boot (changed Bios). It would require access to wireless internet. Is there one that can be downloaded in entirety over internet without burning DVD or using memory stick (didn’t work for Linux)? If no such thing then I will probably will just dispose of it.

Herman, I believe that the best choice for you would be Slax, which is a great portable Linux distro. It has a beautiful KDE interface and it’s incredibly lightweight (around 200Mb for download). 

You don’t have to install it on your laptop, just to boot from a memory stick. Below I will show you step-by-step how to do that. If you prefer a ready-to-go 16 GB flash drive with Slax pre-installed, just go to their website and order it for $25. Otherwise, follow these instructions:

1. Download Slax from here. Choose the language and type of file – I would advise a 32 bit zip archive. Save it wherever you like.

 

2. Make sure you have a memory stick with at least 2 GB of memory and backup your data. The stick must be formatted before use. Every setting you change after starting the computer using Slax will be written on the stick, as well as every document you save. Think of this thumb drive is an external hard drive. The larger the better, that’s why I suggest an 8 GB memory stick.

3. Format the stick. In My Computer, right-click its drive letter and choose “Format…”

4. Check the “Quick format” option and click “Start”. Note: if you still have data on that stick, it will be erased.

 5. Right-click the downloaded Slax archive and extract it on the flash disk.

This will create a single folder, called “Slax”.

6. Navigate to “your-drive-letter:\slax\boot\” folder and find the file called “bootinst.bat”. Run it by double-clicking on it.

7. Reboot the computer and make the necessary changes in BIOS to boot from the flash drive. If you see the following screen, it’s all done.

If not, check your BIOS documentation in order to be sure that your laptop is able to boot from an USB flash drive.

~ Adrian