This 10-Year-Old Laptop Is the Best Tool Ever for Writers

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This is a Packard Bell Dot S from 2011. You can get a machine like this for less than $250 at Walmart, and I’ll explain how very soon. Back when I got it 10 years ago, I used it for a year, and then it sat in a drawer for years. I pulled it out again around 2 years ago. Now, I use it almost every week, I believe it’s an amazing tool for writers, and I’m going to tell you why.

It’s damn simple

2 years ago when I dug this netbook out of an old drawer, it came with Windows installed on it. It was way too slow, laggy, inconvenient. I got rid of Windows and installed Lubuntu instead. Lubuntu is the most lightweight version of Ubuntu (the most popular Linux distribution out there) you can get. It’s essentially a super lightweight operating system, perfect for devices less powerful than average. You can load the Lubuntu installation files on a USB stick, plug it into the netbook, and you’ll be good to go in no time.

Lubuntu is the fastest, cheapest (it’s free) and most efficient way to get the best out of an old laptop. It’s also a great way to actually use a cheap netbook to its full potential. Get any netbook at Walmart for $250, install Lubuntu on it, and get ready to have your own little digital typewriter.

That’s right, I use my netbook for one thing and only one: writing. This device has no internet, no notifications, no additional software installed… I use Leafpad, the default super lightweight text editor, to write. No fancy formatting, no styling options, none of that. Just type, write, and take care of all the fancy stuff later.

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The Leafpad text editor on Lubuntu

When I’m done writing, I copy the file to a simple SD card, and move it over to my main laptop where I take care of the editing and formatting. Whether it’s to type an article or to write in my private journal, this digital typewriter is awesome.

It fits everywhere

This netbook is 10 inches wide and 7 inches deep (25x18cm). This thing fits in the smallest backpack, in any suitcase. It’s compact, lightweight, you can bring it with you anywhere. It even came with a little pouch for it, which allows me to carry it on its own, without the need for a backpack. I can zip it up in its own little briefcase, walk over to the coffeeshop, and be writing in no time.

One device, one use

I’m a big advocate of the “one device=one use” concept. I (try to) only use my phone for texting. My laptop is for working during the day, and relaxing at night. I have an old phone I use only as an alarm clock, so that I don’t sleep with my actual phone next to me. I have a fitness watch I only use for running (I don’t wear it during the day).

We live in a world with so many options, so many channels and streams of information, it really helps to try to assign only a few tasks to each device. This netbook helps me tremendously in that way.

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The Documents window on Lubuntu

A few downsides? Sure

Because it’s old, this netbook tends to crank up the fan a bit too high after prolonged use. I sometimes get impressed at how much noise such a little device can make. That being said, I’m pretty sure the most recent netbooks don’t have that issue as much, because the technology around cooling systems is not what it was 10 years ago.

Another age-related problem is the battery life, and that’s the same for every device out there. It’s not great, but it’s never a major problem, because I’m never far from a power plug when I use this guy. I use it in different places, but those places are never the middle of nowhere with no electricity. That’s because if I go in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, it’s probably not with work in mind, so I won’t bring any laptop.

In conclusion, I can only recommend you get your own little digital typewriter. To help you get started right away, I put together a list of resources to be used in this specific order:

  1. Get a cheap netbook from Walmart or any cheap store where you live.
  2. Use that netbook to download a copy of Lubuntu (it’s free) and move it over to a USB stick with at least 1GB of space.
  3. Set your BIOS to boot on the USB thumb drive instead of the internal hard drive. This sounds technical but it’s really easy. Here is how to do it.
  4. Follow the instructions on screen to install Lubuntu.
  5. You’re done.

To access the text editor and start writing right away, go to the start menu in the bottom left → Accessories → Leafpad. Have fun!

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Thanks for reading! For more productivity tips, I interviewed 50 productivity experts and made a 150+ page guide out of the project. This is road-tested advice from real people who get things done. Get it for free here.

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