Which distro *did* you install for your parents? And did it "stick" over time?

Hello everyone,

I’m not asking which Distro would you install for your parents. I’m asking, which distro did you (somewhat) put your relationship on the line for, with your parents?

Please list any frustrations or deal-breakers that made your parents give up on that Distro, and go back to Windows or jump ship (from a PC altogether) and get a Mac.

I’ll go first. On my mom’s home computer, I set up Linux Mint. The solution I solved in her life with it, was how to sync her client files at work, to her home computer, so that her home computer acted as an offsite backup for said client files at work. By solving a problem for her, that made her want to keep Linux installed. Linux Mint has been installed for her for several years now.

As to my Dad, things didn’t go as well. I installed Linux Mint as well, but this time, I didn’t find some (non-trivial) problem of his to solve in his life. So he went back to Windows about a half-year later, then later after that, got a Mac laptop instead.

His problem which ended needing to be solved (and I was far away, so he didn’t ask my help), was that of how to transfer his photos from his Android phone, into his Photo app on his laptop. Had I been around, and had he asked me, I would have set up Syncthing to do the job (and I did set this up later to sync between the Android phone and the Mac laptop). He was frustrated that by connecting his Samsung Android phone to his Linux laptop with a USB cable, some app didn’t offer to import his photos. That worked for him previously in Windows, and he thought this should be a normal thing which should “just work”.

So word to the wise: if you want Linux to stay on some computer that you install for someone else, you need to solve a non-trivial problem in their life, and set up some kind of a workflow for them.

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My father has been on Ubuntu for a while, since his last windows update destroyed his data.

I installed Puppy Linux on my mom’s old computer, which, btw, was i386 only and had only 1 GB of RAM. She didn’t care for it, but I felt it was safer for her than her using Windows XP. She was using XP until this year. Ultimately she bought a new laptop with Windows 10 on it. It’s sad I couldn’t convince her to come over to Linux, but she wanted something familiar to her…

My parents are still on Windows, but my mom is Linux curious and asked to dual-boot her laptop. I ended up putting Kubuntu 19.04 on there, but 3 months later, she still hasn’t booted into it AFAIK. I do some minor maintenance on it occasionally and will probably be updating it to 19.10 around Thanksgiving, but I’m not sure if she’ll use it.

I set up my dad’s computer as a dual-boot with Windows 7 and Fedora Cinnamon, but with Windows 7 support ending in 3 months, I’ve told him that Linux is always an option. He still boots into Windows though…

A few years ago, my mother’s desktop computer’s hard drive died, and she was going to buy a new computer. Since all she does is occasionally surf the web and check email (she mostly uses her tablet for things these days), I suggested to her that I would give her my old laptop (15 years old) that had Ubuntu 16.04 on it, and she could try it to see if it worked for her. She agreed, and she’s still using it. I update it whenever I’m there (every couple of weeks usually) and she’s happy with it. Happier that she didn’t have to buy a new computer she would rarely use. Success!


Back when everyone was transitioning from XP to 7. I told my boss (almost 70), “I can switch you to a newer computer, Windows 7, and the latest office for $(whatever it would have cost). You will hate it for 6 months, get used to it and then just do your work. Or I can switch you to a really decent off lease corporate grade Dell, put you on stock Ubuntu and Libreoffice for about $100. You will hate if for 6 months, get used to it, and then just do your work. You won’t get any more lost time to malware and it will be the last dime you will spend on your computer”. He went with option B and has been running whatever LTS is current since 14.04.


I am the parent one of my kids just installed linux on a lap top, don’t remember which distro, maybe I’ll be able to get other kids to convert!


Linux Mint with the MATE desktop which was the way I got off Windows 7 too. I think it’s the closest analog to a Windows experience?

You wouldn’t say that Linux Mint Cinnamon is the closest analogue to the Windows experience? Cinnamon was quite literally supposed to feel natural for Windows users, being the first DE that included 90% of the original keyboard shortcuts and have an Applications Menu that was practically a Windows 7 Start Menu clone. The MATE version just doesn’t even come close in those regards, even today.

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I was hoping someone would challenge that, thank you for the advice I need to check it out.


Linux Mint Cinnamon edition was my first main distro way back when, and no other desktop environment has the same feel that Cinnamon does. I try to branch out, but Cinnamon just does everything right for a former Windows Power user.

Thankfully it’s present on the other distros as well, so Arch / Debian / Fedora / Void base with a Cinnamon face are readily available and function the same.

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I had a computer with Xubuntu (I don’t remember the version) installed on it that my father used too. When I leave my parent’s house that computer stayed there (I bought another one) for many years until the hard drive crashed.

It is curious, because when that computer stopped working, it was so old that I recommended my father to buy a new one, a laptop in fact, and as it had Windows 10 installed on it, in order to don’t lose the warranty, I didn’t change the OS, so when my father started to use it he really missed Xubuntu, because it was more user friendly than Windows (his words), and everything was where it was supposed to be.

That laptop still has W10 installed on it, because my father has got used to it and I don’t want to drive him crazy forcing him to relearn things, but I’m waiting for some kind of issue with the SO (it’s windows 10, we all know it will happen eventually) to change to something better.

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My dad’s on Ubuntu 18.04 with Unity 7 since Windows 10 was super slow on his 9 year old desktop. My original plan was to switch his desktop to either Plasma or MATE but since Unity is still being supported by the community, I figured there’s no rush.

I wanted my mom to switch to Linux, too but I decided to have her transition slowly by installing software that’ll be available on Linux, like LibreOffice and Firefox because she uses the computer for work & productivity stuff more than my dad. While my mom stuck with Firefox, she hated LibreOffice because she felt like she’s slower, especially with Calc. And she needs MS Office for work.

Several months ago I put Zorin Lite onto my mum’s 13 year old laptop. She refused to spend any money on it so she persevered with the original Windows XP installation until I installed Zorin. XP had gotten too slow and unusable so she agreed to go all in and dedicate the whole hdd to Zorin rather than dual boot.
She’s really impressed with it so far. The first thing she noticed was how much quicker it is. She regularly uses it. She’s comfortable surfing, watching videos, using the office suite and printing documents which pretty much covers everything she wants in an OS.
I also installed it on one of my partitions so I could run through stuff over the phone as tech support for her but I’ve not needed to yet.
Bearing in mind that she’s in her mid-70s and has never been particularly interested in computers I’m extremely impressed with it.


Very similar though generally surprising experiences. I have around 10-12 non-technical casual user people/families that I picked up decent i5 Thinkpads for about $125. I add $20 and get an inexpensive SSD. After fully explaining the experiment, I pull the fresh install Win10 hard drive that came in the laptop and put it in the SSD box on a shelf. I then install stock Ubuntu LTS on the SSD with the offer to put “their” hard disk back the moment they complain and also offer that tech support is just a phone call or email away. Haven’t had a request yet and some have been running on systems for 4 years. I actually have to track them down to offer the next LTS.


My parents are not Linux users (except for my dad having chance encounters at work and having a Pi), but both of my brothers (still in high school) have been running some form of Linux for several years including sharing my Gentoo, Debian, and Arch systems and having their own systems running on various flavors of Ubuntu. Both are currently on Pop!_OS.

The one closest to my age isn’t particularly enamored with it, but likes the idea of shelling out for a Windows 10 license even less. The two main issues he’s had have been a) an old USB Bluetooth dongle (which we eventually replaced) that wasn’t properly supported by the kernel and kept forcing him to reboot and b) obscure Windows software he wants to run that doesn’t have great WINE documentation, if any. He’s likely going to switch back to Windows as soon as he can afford a new computer.

The other one is enthusiastic about Linux and programming, but also has interest in mechanical stuff. He also does a lot more gaming than either of his brothers, due to accumulated games and hardware from all three of us, I suppose :rofl:. I was doing my first Gentoo install when I was in eighth grade; he installed his first Terraria mod. He is interested in learning and willing to do a little hacking, though, so I think there’s a good chance he’ll stick around.

My sister also used Linux on an ancient laptop, but my dad decided to install Ubuntu 12.04 (which was not supported anyhow) instead of a using more lightweight distro or asking me about it. The thing had trouble moving the mouse across the screen without lag, let alone rendering Google Docs or Minecraft. She eventually just stopped using it.

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I installed Pop!_OS on my mother-in-law’s laptop.

She brought it to me in a bit of a panic, because some malware had locked her out of her laptop, and all of her photos were trapped there. I happened to have Pop!_OS already loaded on a flash drive on my keyring, so I booted her laptop with it and dumped all of her photos and documents and videos onto another flash drive. I nuked and paved, putting Pop!_OS 19.10 on it, and then reloaded all the photos into her home directory.

After I’d already committed to it, I thought I might want to use a different distro, since she only had 4 GB of RAM – worried about Gnome sucking up too much of that. It seemed to run pretty smoothly, so I left it on Pop.

She’s been very pleased with it so far. ln fact she was psyched that she was able to import photos from her phone to the laptop and then into a digital photo frame, with no trouble at all. So far, I think she’s really happy with it.


Mint 19.1. Replaced mom’s Windows 7 machine with Mint so she could browse online safer. She types in ‘Word’ (Writer) and saves to .docx.

My Dad’s laptop has been slowing to the MS crawl. It over-heats, and one-by-one things have stopped working. I promised him I would buy him a new laptop, but it was going to run Linux. Mint 19.1 with alternative software to what he was familiar with on Windows. Putting Mint on the SSD absolutely blew him out of the water with how FAST it cold-boots. (around 20~ seconds) The only issue he had was trying to watch a DVD. (Which was my fault for not ensuring the codecs were installed). He uses it mostly for study.

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for me it was linux mint and they did not even notice the differences with the underline system though the switch to libre office was a process but now they perfer it over microsoft office


I installed LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) on a woefully underpowered laptop my parents already owned. One of those “would’ve been better off buying used” kinds. I think the hardware was the main problem of them mostly abandoning it. They also bought a very cheap tablet and have also abandoned that so ?
When they were using it, no qualms, no squabbles. The token “what about this very particular program?” “oh here’s the OS replacement to that” at the beginning but otherwise, any other problems were hardware related.

I’ve considered going lighter but I’m not sure how far I would want to stray from the “normal” “windows-y” DE’s and WM’s. It might help speed up the response of the computer but not sure if the UX would go well enough.