Netbook Operating Systems to Replace Windows

If you want a cheap, small laptop that does everything a traditional laptop or desktop can do, then a netbook is a great buy.  However, netbook hardware is rarely as powerful as a "proper" laptop (what do you expect for the price?), which means it's not ideal for playing processor-intensive games or doing serious work such as video editing.

As a general-purpose machine for lighter tasks, such as word processing and web browsing, though, it's perfectly adequate.

So here's the dilemma.  Most netbooks ship with Windows, either XP or 7.  It's a very powerful operating system.  But for those light tasks, it's not necessary.  It's more bloated than it needs to be, and full of features that you don't need.  So the limited amount of processing power in your netbook spends a disproportionate amount of time servicing Windows, rather than running the apps that you want to use.

One solution is to replace Windows with an OS that's designed for use on netbooks.  Google is shortly to launch such a product, called Chrome OS, but it's not been released yet.  In the mean time, there are 2 others worth looking at.  

Jolicloud and Ubuntu Netbook Edition are both based on Linux, and they're available free of charge.  See and

In both cases, there's no need to completely wipe Windows from your hard disk and replace it with Linux.  Jolicloud can co-exist with Windows, offering you a choice at boot time.  UNE can be installed to, and booted from, a USB stick, so you can experience it for yourself before committing to a complete installation.

But in either case, remember that replacing the operating system on your computer is non-trivial so don't be tempted to do it unless you're confident of being able to deal with any problems that arise.  Having another PC to hand, so you can search the web for help if things go wrong, is extremely helpful.  And make sure you've got a complete backup of all your important data.  Plus, just in case you need to reinstall Windows, ensure that you have the relevant recovery disk to hand.

Also, operating system downloads are rarely small, and Linux is no exception.  Both of the above-mentioned products run into hundreds of megabytes, despite the fact that the initial Jolicloud installer is only 16 MB (it will then begin a 2-hour download!).






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by Thrawn (not verified) on 17. January 2012 - 6:29  (87288)

Haven't used most of these, but have tried & liked Puppy. I keep it on a live USB, and have rescued files from two computers already after Windows stopped booting. Considering its size, it's quite feature-packed, and it's blazingly fast (once it boots, which can take about 40 seconds).

@Drakythe: You can install Puppy to a hard drive easily enough, and I've done it before. It's just not what most people do, because having your whole OS run happily from a removable drive or CD is so handy :). And in the case of a CD, virus-proof. You can even unmount your hard drive while surfing, so you have almost no attack surface.

by wesman on 10. February 2011 - 22:00  (66151)

I wonder what would happen in the scenario when one can't use Windows. Then if Jolicloud is installed alongside Windows, then that means not being able to use Jolicloud too?

by Éric (not verified) on 12. September 2010 - 11:26  (57692)

Nobody talk about Google Chromium OS ? You can now find the latest build of that great OS from a young man called Hexxeh. It's a browser-only OS, but it works fast! Worth a try!

by Lillie (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 15:15  (57414)

I wish I could try either of these. Unfortunately, I was given a netbook, I believe from a Chinese manufacturer and am unable to access the bios. So beware if you buy one of those!

by Puppylover (not verified) on 8. September 2010 - 9:18  (57449)

Hi Lillie,

I can't be sure of course but it sounds to me like you might have bought a "sticker brand" of the CnM netbook. It comes with either a very limited custom made (and user proof) Linux OS or Windows CE.

If you have the Windows CE version there's nothing much you can do I'm afraid.

If you have the Linux version you should check out Linux 3MX Ultra 3, a Linux distribution that was especially created for these simple netbooks. Since they use a Mipsel CPU instead of the usual Arm you cannot run just any OS on it. 3MX Ultra 3 is a great improvement on the original OS.

Useful links:,27.0.html

I hope this helps.

by RobCr (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 13:05  (57412)

I have not had a Netbook, so forgive me if I ramble 'off track'.
If it was me, I would keep the original OS intact/untouched, and run Puppy Linux as a LiveCD or a 'Live Thumb drive'.
I assume that there would be enough memory for Puppy to run fully in memory, thus allowing you to free up the CD drive for other use, or free up the thumb drive. (Puppy is small enough to load completely into memory.)
And I presume there would be enough disk space (500MB) to allow Puppy to retain all your settings/Preferences/etc.
I know there was a mention above of a Puppy derivative, but surely a Netbook would be man enough to handle a full Puppy ?

by Pieter van Ooijen (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 13:01  (57411)

I'm looking for a OS with touchscreen support
Is there any available?

by Luc (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 19:11  (57419)


by (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 12:23  (57407)

Puppeee 1.0 is optimised for all the Asus EEEPCs, except mayme the very latest. Fluppy (another Puppy Linux derivative) is a more general Netbook Puppy version - still under development.

by Ritho on 7. September 2010 - 5:58  (57389)

For some of the older Aspire Ones that have the incredibly slow SSD (if you have one you know what I am talking about) I have found Moblin (MeeGo) works quite smoothly. [5 second boot time too!] Unfortunately on mine the latest kernel continually produces kernel error messages.

I have begun using Peppermint linux and like it a lot. It borrows from the approaches of both Jolicloud and Ubuntu. As it has a focus on both the cloud and pc based aplications. I like it on my Aspire because it is one of the few "full" distros that have not suffered from lagging video when watched in a browser, which I think is caused by the slowness of the SSD. Incidentally it also boots within about 25 seconds on that slow drive, where as Netbook Remix takes about a minute and twenty.

by MeeGo nowhere (not verified) on 9. September 2010 - 21:45  (57543)

I too, wanted to run Meego on 10 netbooks.

Sadly, Meego doesn't support Java, so its a dead end.

Imagine your users not being able to login to banking sites, and if they are a realtor, to their MLS database of properties, or airline employees unable to access Sabre. No deal.
So we were relegated to installing Jolicloud. Not bad, but not a Meego.

So if, and when, Meego decides to support JRE, we will revisit the option of using it.

Even Aurora (eeebuntu) and Easy Peasy is a better option. We have evaluated those distros in the past.

Amazing how critical Java JRE is to the use of web today. More important than Adobe Flash.

Good luck.

by 10basetom on 7. September 2010 - 4:59  (57382)

But arguably the best Linux-based netbook OS is Aurora, formerly known as Eeebuntu ( Curious why it was not even mentioned in the article.

by DrBones on 4. September 2010 - 1:35  (57237)

Interesting topic as netbooks are much more prevalent. On an older laptop, Ubuntu Re-mix edition is a speedy alternative to XP ( I installed it on a 5 year old Acer Aspire Laptop). I've used Puppy Linux (about 4 years ago) and am interested in how it has changed as my experience was that the UI looked dated. You can't go wrong with an Ubuntu install from a support standpoint, the web forums are teaming with helpful info.

Just my $.02.

by datablitz7 (not verified) on 3. September 2010 - 20:43  (57223)

People never talk about lubuntu. It's ubuntu based on LXDE manager, which gives you a full desktop with blinding speed.

by jimvandamme (not verified) on 11. January 2011 - 18:06  (64297)

I'm running Mint LXDE (ubuntu based) on a 7 year old Toshiba laptop with 256M, dual boots XP. No speed demon, but it works.

by PuppyLover (not verified) on 3. September 2010 - 12:33  (57194)

For the Asus EEE, based on the fantastic PuppyLinux: Puppeee
It's only a 130Mb download but packed with applications and features.


by Anonymouse (not verified) on 3. September 2010 - 5:46  (57179)

Only two?
This has been done before. There are many more.

by Ritho on 7. September 2010 - 5:42  (57386)

Over the last couple of years or so a lot of netbook distros have popped up, but many are designed for just one specific netbook manufacturer. e.g. Linux4one designed for Acer Aspire One, or Eeebuntu which targeted Asus Eee pc. [Eeebuntu has become Aurora as someone mentions above and they are trying to target more manufactures now.]

On top of that many are just customizations of Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The two mentioned in the article above are two of the more popular ones that target all netbooks.

You say it has been done before. No one contests that. But the purpose of the article is to introduce netbook owners with Windows (who many not know about alternatives) to alternative OS's not to confuse them (and scare) them with a long list of all available distros. The ones above are a good place to start.

If anyone does want a list of more distros designed for or that work well on netbooks see here. [This list is not a complete one either.]

by hramat on 7. September 2010 - 12:57  (57410)

One more to mention (and missing on above list)

by Anupam on 3. September 2010 - 7:51  (57184)

Please enlighten us with the other names that you know about.

by jbones42 on 3. September 2010 - 2:51  (57166)

I have an early Acer with Windows XP SP3 and the 8.9" screen. I took a chance and downloaded and installed Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook to this computer. It is a dual boot system. It was such a seamless install that I thought something was wrong. It found my wireless ATT access-point within seconds after booting up. It also found my Verizon MiFi 2200 seconds after booting that time. The only issue I had was trying to remember my email settings. Of course Firefox was easy. It has Open Office and about all the programs you need on a Netbook. It boots up fast and finds any WiFi in the area. My wife calls it my Chest top, as I had back surgery and was very restricted to what I could do for 6 months. Love It. Can't say about the other program just Ubuntu.

by Snufkin (not verified) on 2. September 2010 - 21:23  (57160)

True Jolicloud is a 689Mb download - quite a hefty base install.
I have tried to run Jolicloud on the PC within XP just out of curiosity and using VMWare and Virtualbox but I am having a few probs with it. Of course I will persevere but in the meantime can anyone think of a good reason why Puppy Linux won't do as good a job (or better?)on something like a Netbook? It's latest incarnation (Lucid Puppy 5.1)is just 130Mb. I'm not a Linux geek btw, having been breast fed on MS for as long as I've used a PC but, I am open to conversion.

by Drakythe (not verified) on 3. September 2010 - 1:07  (57162)

I use Jolicloud on my netbook, it is pretty sweet. The advantage for it is that it is designed specifically for a netbook, from the look and feel to how to manage it. Almost everything is in the cloud, though Local files still exist once things are installed, but many of the "apps" are simeply webpages with the explorer bar turned off, which is what cloud computing is all about.

Second advantage of Jolicloud being that you can download and install it from a windows EXE a gives you a partition size of your choice, as opposed to puppy that is restricted to your USB/DVD/CD size and write-ability. Puppy strikes me more as a OS for a publicly used computer with a specific purpose (or as a really awesome rescue disc/USB), and Jolicloud is meant more as a full-bore light-weight OS (Does that even make any sense?)

Eh, in the end it comes down to preference and what you want it for, I like jolicloud for its flexibility and ease of use on my netbook, but I will probably be downloading Puppy in the next couple days to rescue my bro-in-laws poor virus/adbot infected computer.

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