Is Zorin OS a Good Alternative to Windows XP?

Microsoft has announced that on April 8, 2014, it will stop supporting Windows XP. This means that the 12-year-old OS will no longer receive security updates to fix vulnerabilities which have been reported to Microsoft. The result is that hackers could increase their attacks on Windows XP users, especially in the case of any zero-day vulnerabilities that Microsoft subsequently fixes in other versions of Windows but which remain in XP. If you do stick with XP, you should read our XP end of support guide.

Microsoft’s own website tells users to not let their PCs “go unprotected.” And, of course, they want you to upgrade to another version of Windows which costs money. If you are looking for a free alternative to Windows XP, Zorin OS could be the one for you.

Zorin OS is a Linux distribution which tries to bridge the gap to Windows. It has been designed specifically for Windows users who want to move away from XP. It is based on Ubuntu and can be installed alongside XP. It also provides a way to run Microsoft Windows programs with the help of WINE and PlayOnLinux. Programs like Adobe Photoshop CS3 (10.0) or Yahoo! Messenger are reported to work without any problems. Also games like Final Fantasy XI Online and StarCraft should run out-of-the-box.

Installing Zorin OS is quite simple, especially if you want to replace XP with Linux. Since Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu, creating a dual-boot setup is simple enough. You can find details in our guide to dual-booting Windows and Ubuntu. The first step to installing Zorin OS is to boot the Live CD and then run the  “Install Zorin OS” program. Follow the steps, but make sure that you don’t delete your existing Windows installation by mistake. When the installation has finished reboot your PC.

zorin-live-cd

Zorin OS has been designed to be familiar to XP users, however it doesn’t try to blatantly copy the Windows look and feel. In the bottom left is the Z icon which serves as the “Start” button and gives you access to the installed programs. Along the bottom is the task bar, and at the bottom right is the clock and other tray icons.

zorin-start-menu

Double-click on the Home icon to open the file explorer (the equivalent of Windows Explorer). The file explorer in Zorin OS uses a Windows-like theme which should make it familiar to Windows users. Down the left hand side is Places (including Home, Desktop, Downloads, Pictures etc) followed by the Devices list (the hard drives etc) and a way to browse the network. The right hand pane shows the files and folders. There is an option to display the icons as a list or in a grid along with options to change the sort order.

zorin-file-manager

To install Windows software that you have downloaded from the Internet, open the Downloads folder in the file explorer but do not double-click on the “.exe” file. Instead right-click on it and select “Open With.” Click on “Wine Windows Program Loader.” This will launch the Windows program under WINE and enable you to install it on Zorin OS. The process is very similar for Windows applications that you have on CD or DVD, but rather than opening the Downloads folder, you would browse to the optical drive.

zorin-install-with-wine

To run an installed Windows program, click on the Z icon and then click “Other” to see a list of programs installed via WINE.

zorin-notepad-plusplus

Overall Zorin OS manages to make the transition from Windows to Linux a little bit easier. The UI is designed to be familiar to Windows users, and the inclusion of WINE helps with software that is only available for Windows. However, Zorin OS is still Linux and it can’t be considered as a slot in replacement for XP. The differences between the two operating systems, although in no way insurmountable, mean that only those with a reasonable level of technical competence will find Zorin OS a viable alternative. However, if you can’t upgrade to a newer version of Windows and you are stuck with XP, then there is no harm in giving Zorin OS a try! Being able to dual boot also helps as you can always return to Windows XP if you don’t like Zorin OS.

If you have any questions about Zorin OS, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

28 comments

  1. You’d think that after 13 years of security updates, Microsft would have succeeded in plugging most of the security holes in XP. Unless, of course, just like most other pronouncements from Redmond, the dire predictions of future vulnerabilities of XP are just FUD designed to scare XP users into upgrading.

    If, OTOH, XP holes have not been properly patched yet, what does that say about Microsoft’s ability and/or willingness to patch holes in any version of Windows (Win 7, 8.x, etc.)? If M$ wants users to switch from XP to later version of Windows because of security concers, they should switch/upgrade to an O/S that IS actually secure already, such as OS/X or Linux. Zorin being the Linux of choice because it has the security of Linux and the look of Windows

    • You have to take into consideration that a company like Microsoft or Apple will never have sufficient staff to cover all problems that may arise in a software. With an open system like Linux is different because you have millions of developers around the world that inevitably can find any error. Don’t get me bad, I like the products of the two companies, including I’m using Windows now.

  2. Dragonmouth, the security holes in all the major operating systems (including Windows, OS X and Linux) will never be fixed as it is impossible to catch all the bugs in all those millions of lines of code. All the popular Linux distributions release updates on a regular basis and these are primarily to fix security problems. It is the same with OS X and of course with Windows.

    Only yesterday Microsoft issued a warning about a bug in Word that lets an attacker to install malware on your machine just because you opened a specially crafted .rtf file.

    It is the same with Adobe and with Java, just look at the security updates from any of the companies I have mentioned and you will see what I mean. It isn’t just a Microsoft problem.

    Gary.

    • You’re right. In proprietary software, bugs are a huge problem. Updates come out slower, and in many cases, the public isn’t even informed for a while after the bug is found. For example, there was a bug in iTunes that was never told to the public- Apple knew about it, they just ignored it, for TEN YEARS. Microsoft also has to tell the NSA about bugs before the public…

  3. I prefer Linux Mint Mate for installing next to XP. All the people I have dual-booted say it’s very easy to get used to from XP. I have a machine multi-booted with all the Mint versions so that they can see the desktops. I also try to fit a version to the customers machine, ie: older machines I use XFC or LDM on depending.

  4. ..just wud like everybody to know that if you install ZORIN, please install with the option auto log-in.. otherwise, it will not install as a admin user.. if you install with a password, it will limit your system rights.. also, please make sure to right-click lock the start button.. otherwise, if you accidentally drag the start button, it will get lost and you would have a system without any start button.. also, the old ZORIN 4 allows multiple “take screenshots”.. but the later releases dont allow that.. not sure why but it does.. lastly, wifi problems.. often the wifi adapter is not recognized and you would have to tweak the wifi settings… but overall, its really a good windows XP & Windows 7 replacement… best for the newbies..

    • “if you install ZORIN, please install with the option auto log-in.. otherwise, it will not install as a admin user”
      Intalling Zorin in the way you suggest pretty much negates the advantage of using Linux. You might as well stick to Windows. The reason why Linux is inherently more secure than Windows is that there is a definite separation of administrator and user accounts. Nothing that runs under the user account, such as malware, can affect the admin account and crash the system as it does in Windows.

      Ubuntu-based distros, of which Zorin is one, do not create an explicit root account. To access admin functions you have to use the “sudo” command.

      • sorry dragonmouth but thats the same sentiment i have when i heard about that.. so i tried on several PCs and its just true.. if you install selecting “need to enter name and password..” it creates a guest account after install.. but when you select “no password needed”.. then it creates an admin account for you after you install. then before using ZORIN, just change the settings to require password to login if you prefer.. it also disables the sudo command if you dont select the “no password needed..” .. dont know why this is like that, it just is.. hence my suggestion.. dont take my word for it.. go ahead and try it yourself…

        • My flip answer would be that the developers of Zorin are just trying to protect the users from their own folly and the system from uninformed poking around.

          After few years ago trying Ubuntu and a few other distros based on it, I have stayed away from them because they put too many restrictions on the user. One Ubuntu-based distro that seems less restrictive is LXLE. I installed it a few days ago but haven’t had the chance to play eith yet.

          I like to tinker with my system so I want to be able to login as “root”. The Ubuntu family will not allow that. So I have been using less restrictive distros, such as Mepis, antiX, siduction, which are based directly on Debian.

          • So use sudo to start a new shell with temporary admin rights for those times — all the power you want when you “tinker,” all the security you should have when you don’t. I don’t even use *NIX and I know that…

  5. Not only XP but also Zorin is a good alternative to Windows 7. I have been using it for few day now and the interface looks pretty same as Windows 7.

  6. Nice article! Zorn is a nice replacement for X users. I have sent this link to my father and suggested that he makes the switch. Will have to wait and see what he decides to do.

  7. What about Luna as an XP alternative?

    I ask as I have an old XP desktop that just went south with a strange “Fails Genuine Windows Validation” message – after about 8years in service!!
    All MS wants to do is sell me a new OS.

    • Zorin is better alternative than Luna. Luna is a good substitute to OS X in terms of interface.

  8. Been using Zorin for a few months now, on laptops and netbooks. Found it to be very stable and quick, like the file structure. Unlike Windows you know were everthing has been saved to with a reasonable degree of certainty. Have tried Windows 8, what a disaster that is. Every time I played some music it took me to a site that tried to sell me some afterwards. You just don’t get the feeling that your in control of the machine your working with. Oh, and then it crashed. Kept recycling the start cycle. Only way I could shut it down was unplug mains and battery. Took me a week on and off to fix that one. Never again.

  9. Angel Linux is a great alternative to Windows. It looks and feels like windows and it comes with lots of programs installed. I’ve been using it for a couple weeks now and I love it. I use it more than I use W7.

  10. ReactOS is a project to create a completely original implementation of an OS that is compatible with all the Windows APIs but without using any Microsoft code.

    • I cannot believe your even mentioned this when ReactOS’ own website specifically states it nowhere *near* ready for primetime (exact quote from main page: “ReactOS 0.3.16 is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not feature-complete and is recommended only for evaluation and testing purposes.”). ReactOS has been in Alpha stage development for something like a decade – you’d think after all that time they’d at least hit “Beta” status, but no. I have little faith it ever will, despite the fact they are currently attempting to crowdsource funding to finally get some movement going on it. A shame, really, as I’ve watched it all that time wistfully wishing it would reach a stage whereby I could completely dump MicroShaft,

      ReactOS is definitely NOT a suitable replacement for *ANY* version of Windows at this time.

    • Heck, I just went and checked the versions and the oldest downloadable version is from 1998! OVER 15 YEARS AND NO STABLE VERSION YET?!? You SERIOUSLY want to recommend this to XP users?!? You must be working in MicroShaft’s sales department, wanting people to get so frustrated with the first alternative they try that they’ll pay anything to get back to something that works better…

  11. I give another vote for Linux Mint. Specifically Linux Mint Petra Mate Cinnamon 16. It is just beautiful and works just like Zorin as described above, even explorer is similar, if a bit more linuxy looking but you can tweak it!
    I tried various GUI and desktop flavours based on Ubuntu and Ubuntu itself, and fell in love with this one, and have been using it for some time now.
    Where I have found that I absolutely needed a Windoze programme, I have installed it on Wine and it has worked flawlessly,

    On the other hand, If you continue to use XP, use a good internet suite like Norton 360 or Norton Internet Suite, Firefox Browser (I use Palemoon, a stripped down version), Thunderbird for e-mail, as soon as you have downloaded these two go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs – Add/Remove Windows Components and remove whatever version of Internet Explorer you had, MSN Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Messenger unless you have and use Media Center which will not work without it, do NOT disable Network Services, – I always remove Windows Media Player as a matter of course as I use Media Player Classic, lol, – of course you can use Chrome, I have both Firefox and Chrome, and there ARE other browsers out there, just like there are other search engines besides Google (DuckDuckGo.com which doesn’t trace you).
    There is another bonus to Zorin, Linux Mint, or Ubuntu itself. As you use whatever easy Linux distro you choose and find you have to use command line and Terminal from time to time and then a bit more often, you will gradually become more accustomed to Linux and perhaps venture into more ‘serious’ distros……..

    I have come from the other direction – used to be a network manager and we used command line Red Hat on our mail servers and Unix on other servers, and Sco-Unix on tills and accounting servers :)
    So I find Linux Mint a pleasure to sit back and enjoy LOL

  12. didn’t like Zorin right right from the first five minutes of install. It reminds me of when Vista first came out, maybe that is why it is hooking the xp’ers. Heck my first question on the Zorin forum got me perma-banned.
    Mint – however – … There’s a reason why mint is popular. Another vote here from an ex-xp-er who is finding long lost true-er-ness in linux.

  13. ha and no one is mentioning crossover linux. Which is basicly what Windows users are looking for. Yes you have to pay for it but its not a huge ammount and still less what you pay for a new windows.

    Yes Zorin OS is a good change if you want to go away of any Windows but Crossover makes it more easier. And no you dont need to be a technical person just be open for a diffrent way and that you have to use more self responsibility then with Windows. Self responsibility in the meaning that you have to read more about the OS and that you often have to change the software as it is usually programmed on Linux as well but with a diffrent name.

  14. Is there a simple way to get past the log in screen on Zorin distro 9 ?
    Took me ages to get rid of the keychain log in on Mint, good otherwise.

    Thanks

  15. I’m one of those guys who enjoys trying/using alternative operating systems. Sometimes there’s kind of a steep ramp to get into them, but here’s one that makes it nice and easy. http://www.discoverhaiku.com You can boot right to the USB, and then, if you want, install it straight to a hard drive volume. No virtual machines or anything required.

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