A lot of tech-savvy indivuals face the same dilema: their parents, who aren’t so tech-savvy, count on them to provide constant technical support for their Mom & Dad PC. This can become an incredible burden in a Windows world, where the dangers of spyware, viruses, and total system meltdown loom large. I’ve found that the best solution to the problem is not to load up the parents’ PC with antivirus or malware protection, but to ditch Windows altogether and go with a clean Ubuntu approach.

Here are seven reasons why an Ubuntu-based machine makes the best Mom & Dad PC:

1. The software is free

Instead of having to pay for an additional copy of Windows, Ubuntu is a free download. Additionally, Ubuntu’s software center has lots of free applications that are of a high enough quality to meet the needs of mom and dad. Using an Ubuntu solution with Open Office easily saves several hundred dollars worth of software licenses when compared to an equivelant Microsoft solution.

2. The hardware is low-cost

On top of the free software, the system requirements for Ubuntu are minimal. I setup my parents on a low-cost Atom-based nettop which cost about $300 to build, complete with a solid 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 300GB hard disk. Obviously this system is going to win any gaming competitions, but for the solitare that mom likes to play, and the news sites that dad likes to surf, it’s got plenty of power.

3. It’s low maintenance

A Windows-based machine would require monthly patching and rebooting, virus protection, malware scanners, and a host of other meta-applications, just to keep the system running smoothly. With Ubuntu, I simply setup automatic updates to run once a week, and I’ve completely forgotten about it since then. Every once and a while I’ll login to the system and run a quick “apt-get dist-upgrade” just to make sure I haven’t missed anything important. And I don’t have to worry about viruses or malware at all.

4. Remote Assistance

In the case that something does go wrong, it’s a lot easier to troubleshoot the problem when I can just SSH in remotely (using X11 forwarding if necessary), find the problem, and fix it; no talking Mom through how to readjust the screen resolution when I can do it myself in a fraction of the time. And SSH means that I can solve any technical problems from anywhere.

5. They can’t mess anything up — too badly

Although it is possible for me to fix things remotely, I almost never have to. That’s because Mom and Dad have their own, non-privilaged user account. It is an easy way to rest assured that they can’t mess anything up too badly — even if they somehow manage to destroy their individual account, the reset switch is as easy as creating a new user (I’ve never had to do this). Compare this to Windows, where the norm is to run as Administrator, and the reset swith is a format and clean install.

6. It gets the job done

If you have a mother that plays WOW or does CAD, maybe an Ubuntu-based PC isn’t right for them. But if that’s the case, they probably know enough about computers that you don’t need to hold their hand through all their minor technology troubles. But, if your parents, like mine, simply want to check their email, play card games, and surf the net, then Ubuntu will get the job done without getting in the way. Whereas any Windows machine is guaranteed to become loaded up with all sorts of extensions, additional programs, and malware just by the act of putting Dad on the internet, you can be sure this won’t happen with Ubuntu.

7. It’s easier for YOU!

And ultimately, that’s why Ubuntu makes for the best parent PC. Because the parents don’t really care what their OS is, as long as they can do the things they want to do with it, whether it be Linux, Windows, or Mac. But by chosing Ubuntu, you’ve simplified your own life by removing the need to provide constant technical support. And, if something eventually does happen, you know it will be less of a headache to resolve the problem than if you had gone with an alternative solution.