Best OS for Elderly Newbie User

December 31, 2012 at 15:02:59
Specs: Windows XP

Need some recommendation for the best / easiest OS to use for an elderly couple who is new to computers.
Machine will be a modest Pentium 4 or similar Amd , 1 or 2 GB ram nothing fancy or a used imac g5 or first gen intel. The most important consideration is ease of use and low learning curve for new elderly user.
Main application will be just word-processor documents, browse the web and email. Not concerned about cost of software or availability,or support . open to linux, Mac Os or Windows. Need OS type and version /distro recommendations.

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December 31, 2012 at 15:20:22

WinXP or Linux Mint. Both will run well with 1-2GB RAM. Mint 13 LTS will be supported until 2017, XP until 2014.

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December 31, 2012 at 15:38:32

linux mint would reduce the chance of your "new elderly user" becoming infected.


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December 31, 2012 at 15:44:37

Thanks, still looking some more opinions, remember ease of use / low learning curve the number one requirement.

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December 31, 2012 at 18:47:15

"Main application will be just word-processor documents, browse the web and email"

same basic learning curve, on any OS. If they haven't used xp already, maybe now is not the time to start.


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December 31, 2012 at 19:46:57

"Machine will be a modest Pentium 4 or similar Amd , 1 or 2 GB ram nothing fancy..."

That limits you (especially with 1GB) to WinXP on the Windows side; most other distros of Linux would work with 1GB, but when you state "easiest OS to use for an elderly couple", the first question would be how much knowledge of either Windows or Linux do they have? If they choose Windows, they wouldn't necessarily "become infected"; almost any OS needs some virus/malware protection. Also, if they expect to print to a large degree (photos, receipts, documents), then Windows would likely have better printer-support and easier setup (though most newer printers also are supported by many Linux variants).

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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December 31, 2012 at 21:28:09

If they use windows before then stick to windows (do the same with other OS).

You know the real meaning of peace only if you have been through the war.

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December 31, 2012 at 21:52:50

Ok, they have NEVER used a computer before! I can make adjustments to the hardware if necessary.

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December 31, 2012 at 21:58:58

Incidentally I would handle any hardware, setup or technical issues so they dont need to worry about those. just need them to learn the basic stuff as a end user.

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December 31, 2012 at 22:13:07

definitely windows XP....the other OS's are a real pain for an average user to has ALL that is needed and is MORE user friendly than Linux or whatever. No problems installing progs etc....

Some HELP in posting on plus free progs and instructions 7 Golds

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December 31, 2012 at 23:42:47

If that P4 has 2GB of RAM, go Win7. Why start newbies out with a medieval OS like XP? Win7 is so much better than XP in nearly every way--security, performance, user interface, new software support...the list goes on.

If it only has 1GB of RAM, do them a big favor put in another gig.

Super PIII | Unlocked ES Tualatin @ 1.8GHz (150x12, 1.65v, 512K L2)
3GB PC2700 | 500GB | Radeon x1950Pro | Apollo Pro 266T | Win 7 Pro

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January 1, 2013 at 09:21:36

"linux mint would reduce the chance of your "new elderly user" becoming infected"

Excellent point.

@ earlybirddisco,

Since you're going to be setting the system up & I assume maintaining it, what do you feel most comfortable with? Any OS will have a learning curve, obviously the less complex it is, the easier it will be to explain. We have no background on this "elderly couple". To me, elderly means over 75 (although my bro & sis might take offense to that), to you it might mean over 50, in which case a lot of the forum regulars (including myself) might take offense. lol. You can setup the desktop with all the icons & shortcuts they'd need to use, that way they won't need to poke around. Label the icons appropriately rather than using the default. For example, Internet rather than Firefox or Email rather than Outlook. I wouldn't setup steup mulitple user accounts or require a logon password either. The easier you can make it, the better. And if eyesight is a problem, you can adjust font size, icon size, DPI setting, etc.

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January 1, 2013 at 18:12:33

Ok they are 80 years old and I don't expect them (at least initially) to learn anything about installing any hardware or software, Just to do the functions to get something done. (email, web, word processor). I am ok with setting up whatever Os. Its just that in the past I have seen where persons said MacOs was the easiest for a new person and also I was wondering whether Linux variants such as ChromeOs or those that used to be installed on Net-books that just gave you an interface with the basics would be easier for them to learn. I have used a various Os over the years but for me ease of use more relates to the technical side of things and not just the user interface,

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January 1, 2013 at 19:46:12

They could probably learn any of them. If you can easily get them up to a Core 2 Duo and 2GB RAM or more, then Windows 7 32bit would be my choice. If a P4 is what you have available, I would probably stay with XP. I like the idea of relabeling the icons 'Internet', 'E-Mail', etc. for them. I have used Linux a little bit and had no problem with it, but I can see some small additional things that would be a bit more involved in learning and remembering. I do not think MAC is easier, though not bad, you need to remember that closing a window or a document does not close the program and they could accumulate a mess of open programs. Mac is big on image icons to launch programs that are typically without names. On Mac you can open a document from the desktop icon, but a blank document or a program by itself, you need to use the icon on the dock or go looking for the program in the Applications folder. If they accidentally drag the dock icon off the dock, it disappears and they (or you) will have to restore it from the Applications folder. If it is deleted from the Applications folder, good luck finding it.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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January 3, 2013 at 18:13:26

Having some experience with this (I've set up several machines for the elderly), I think I can provide some additional points (irregardless of OS). Some (or maybe all) of this, I'm sure, you've already thought of:

1. Set up only what they'll need on the desktop. Provide shortcuts in order of their usage (most used first, obviously). As you feel more comfortable with their progress, add more as needed.

2. Use large fonts/icons and a simple (single color) background. No need to explain this one.

3. Install anti-virus/malware programs (if necessary---Linux/Mac IS more secure), but try to have them update in the background, sight-unseen.

4. Provide links in whatever browser they may need (retirement, banking, senior-friendly social sites, etc) and make sure they understand how to find them. If necessary, provide direct links on the desktop.

5. Install some simple things for fun (card games, checkers, etc.) that you think they'd like. If possible, set the difficulty on the games to be challenging to them, but not to the point of being impossible to beat. Again, make the display as large as possible and provide easy to find links (perhaps an entire "Games" folder on the desktop).

6. Setup a web-based email client with decent built in security. Yahoo! Mail used to be ideal for this with the automatic deletion of trash/spam, but that feature apparently no longer exists. GMail would also be an alternative, but it's interface is somewhat less "user-friendly". Make sure they know the basic rules of "unknown sender = unopened mail".

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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January 12, 2013 at 16:42:01

Thanks for all your responces will probably stay with windows 7 and a p4 with2gb ram that I actually have at hand already loaded and follow your guide as to the shorcuts and large icons etc.

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