Xtra-PC: Education about the "PC miracle" and instructions on how to do it yourself

Do you want to make your Mac or PC faster with the Xtra PC “miracle”? You found the USB stick for € 31,12 on a website and now think you can use it to buy a new one, repair it or something similar? Well, then we unfortunately have to disenchant you. Because Xtra-PC, the USB stick that computer manufacturers and computer stores supposedly hate, is simply a Linux boot stick. This means that a Linux operating system is started from the stick. This has advantages, but also some disadvantages. Here you can find out more - including how you can build the Xtra-PC yourself for free.

Is Xtra-PC a Scam or an Expensive Service? You can use the instructions here to make an Xtra-PC stick yourself, if you have a USB stick even free of charge!

Is Xtra-PC a Scam or an Expensive Service? You can use the instructions here to make an Xtra-PC stick yourself, if you have a USB stick even free of charge!

What is Xtra-PC?

Both on the Xtra PC shop page from the USA and via affiliate advertisers from Germany you can easily find content in which the USB stick with free Linux distribution is presented as “miracles” and “magic”. Some German sites also report nameless testers who are enthusiastic. In addition, nameless retailers from computer shops with no name or location are quoted, who will "lose millions" but "admit" that "this product can save consumers a lot of money".

It borders on fraud, which is deducted with Xtra-PC and the advertising of the USB sticks. Because of course it does not replace new hardware (CPU, graphics card, hard disk, mainboard or anything else). It serves only as a storage medium from which an operating system is started, which works a little more efficiently than Windows. And that's important to know: you don't get Windows and you lose the ability toApps to run, play most video games and the like. Calling up e-mails, using a web browser, listening to music, watching films, etc. is of course also possible under Linux.

Is Xtra-PC a scam?

The question naturally arises: Is Xtra-PC a fraud or just an exuberantly presented service? When it comes to the pure offer of a preset boot stick for Linux, then the offer is okay. With regard to the promotion of the product as well as some (also and above all German) affiliate sites on the topic, one can speak of deception. It is exaggerated, presumably lied with regard to the statements of users and experts, and the like. The attempt is obviously being made here to dupe a technically unenlightened target group.

If you look around in the US shop of Xtra-PC, the three versions with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB memory are offered for sale there. If you search the start page, the “How it Works” page and the FAQ page, you will only find the word “Linux” once; the distribution name "Lubuntu" does not appear at all. It does show that it is bypassing Windows and running an alternate operating system. However, the cloak of silence is wrapped about the sometimes massive differences and restrictions or changes that this entails. So is Xtra-PC fake? Not quite. Is Xtra-PC a scam? Just over there.

Make your own Xtra-PC stick: this is how it works!

If you know what Linux is and if you want to equip an old PC or Mac with standard tools for the virtual world, then you can make an Xtra-PC stick yourself. It costs less or - if you have a USB stick with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or more lying around - free of charge. Just like the product described above for ignorant people who could fall for technical magic solutions, the stick with its own memory means that it can also be used on computers and laptops without a hard drive.

Step 1 - Download Lubuntu

Lubuntu is a lean, resource-saving and easy-to-use Linux distribution with visual similarities to Windows. There are versions for 32-bit and 64-bit systems. There is also a PowerPC version for old Apple computers and a version for Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. The download for your Mac or PC is completely free here: https://lubuntu.net/downloads/ 

Step 2 - Download Rufus or Etcher

On the Windows PC you can use the free Rufus program to mount Lubuntu on your USB stick. The Etcher app, which is also available for Windows and Linux, is ideal for this on the Apple Mac with macOS. Both programs ensure that your USB stick and the downloaded Lubuntu version are merged into a boot stick.

Step 3 - Mount Lubuntu and create a boot stick

And that is exactly the third of three simple steps with which you can build your own Xtra-PC cheaply or for free. Insert the USB stick, start Rufus or Etcher, set the necessary parameters (or leave them on the default settings) and install a fully functional operating system on the mobile memory. To use it on the Mac, hold down the Option key (Alt) and then select the stick as the start medium in the Startup Manager.

Make the old PC "faster" with a Linux stick - pros and cons

You can't make a computer faster or better with an Xtra PC or other Lubuntu boot stick. All that is running is a slim OS that uses the built-in hardware components a little more efficiently. In addition, nothing changes in the outdated version of Windows or Mac OS X. Nevertheless: If you only want to surf the web, write and receive e-mails, watch pictures, videos and films, listen to music and indulge in word processing, you can also use Linux befriend.

Use Linux boot stick

Benefits

  • Old computers can be used a bit faster
  • You can even use computers without a hard drive
  • You can make the boot stick yourself cheaply
  • Many standard computer use functions are possible
  • More and more (professional) programs are also available for Linux

Disadvantages

  • The computer is not being repaired "faster" or by magic
  • Apps that only run under Windows / macOS cannot be used
  • A change in the use of individual functions is necessary
  • A few functions and conveniences can and will be eliminated
  • There is no magic solution for technically inexperienced people


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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

30 comments

  1. Scheler says:

    Hello, dear Johannes,

    How good that there are people like you who unselfishly pass on their knowledge to old boys (72) who are ignorant or not very knowledgeable. I would like to thank you very much for that. May God protect you.

    Sincerely
    Klaus-Dieter

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Klaus-Dieter! I'll answer on behalf of Johannes. We are very happy that the articles have been well received and helped you. Lg, Jens

      • Franz says:

        Thanks for the good description and instructions.
        I already thought that there was something fishy.
        I will try it out right away, because I have several laptops and PCs that are already out of date

        LG
        Franz

        • Jen Kleinholz says:

          Yes, this is a good solution for old boxes. Mac users can opt for it instead Elementary OS look at.

          • Andrea K says:

            Hello everyone ... people really cool. I am a super normal user, which means I have no idea of ​​details. And ... I understood everything that is in the article. Great ... that's what I call competent. I explain to my studies that you only understand something when you can explain it to someone who has no idea. You have full marks, 1.0 THANK YOU!

  2. Benjamin says:

    It was already clear to me from the first few sentences that this was a simple boot stick with a linux on it, as I have been working and developing on linux for years.

    The fact that windows programs cannot run is not entirely correct. Wine or Lutris are programs for running windows programs. The majority of all windows file formats are also supported in most distros and there are suitable programs for them. it may be that you cannot start a windows program with just one click, but if the makers of the stick were behind it, they could do that too.

    I once bought such a stick out of interest. I wanted to know whether the thing is really suitable for the target group of the ignorant and how it is implemented.

    my conclusion is that the usb sick used is a top product from the brand CnMemory which is characterized by its aluminum housing and a long-life flash memory. I own such sticks myself and am convinced of them. But as far as the user-friendliness is concerned, it's more of a mehh. The first point is to get the pc to start from the usb. Laptops in particular tend not to do this or do not have the option due to the secured bios. Then the mentioned linux distro is a more or less standard lubuntu with the xtrapc logo and a few helpers placed on the desktop.
    in short, the thing is more than operating system replacement in order to at least be able to do something with the pc again, but repairs are not possible.

    I think the price is only partially justified but the same applies to a Windows license in my opinion.
    if you are only interested in saving your data, you should buy a cheap stick, put any Linux on it and start working, but if you really want to work with it, you can buy it, you just have to cut back and adapt. but in my opinion simply save data and then install linux on the internal hdd sshdd or ssd and then work with it.

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Benjamin! Thank you for your detailed feedback. Nice to get feedback from someone who is familiar with Linux and who has also tried the XtraPC thing. This is a nice addition to the article that will surely help many readers. LG, Jens

    • Andreas says:

      Thank you Benjamin, I'm drous :-)

  3. BL says:

    A clear and beginner-friendly guide, thank you very much. Benjamin's addition is also very useful. However, it was probably written very quickly. I took the liberty of making a version that is easier to read, maybe someone will be interested:

    "It was clear to me from the first few sentences that this was a simple boot stick with Linux on it, since I've been working and developing on Linux for years.
    The fact that Windows programs cannot be executed is not entirely correct. Wine or Lutris are programs for running Windows programs. The majority of all Windows file formats are also supported in most Linux distros and there are suitable programs for them. It may be that you can't start a Windows program with one click, but if the makers of the stick were behind it, they could do that too.
    I bought such a stick out of interest. I wanted to know whether the thing is really suitable for the target group of the ignorant, and how it is implemented.
    My conclusion from this is: The USB stick used is a top product from the CnMemory brand, which is characterized by its aluminum housing and durable flash memory. I own such sticks myself and I am convinced of them. But in terms of usability, it's more of a flop. The first point is to get the PC to boot from USB. Laptops in particular tend not to do this or do not have the option due to the secure bios. Then the mentioned Linux distro: It is more or less a standard Lubuntu with the Xtra-PC logo and a few helpers that are placed on the desktop.

    In short, the thing is intended more as an operating system replacement in order to at least be able to do something with a PC again, but repairs are not possible.
    I think the price is only partially justified, but the same goes for a Windows license in my opinion.
    If you are only interested in saving your data, you should better buy a cheap stick, any Linux on it, and you can start, but if you really want to work with it, you can buy it - you just have to make cuts and adapt . But in my opinion it can save data and then Linux can be installed on the internal HDD or SSD to work with. "

  4. vera network says:

    Thank you for this contribution. That helped me alot.
    Actually, I was looking for instructions on how to make a backup copy on a stick
    can make.
    I am 66 years old and always try to do everything myself.
    Greetings Vera

  5. sabines says:

    Thanks for this article, I tried it and it worked right away, my laptop sometimes only starts after a few requests, so I always have the security of being able to use it.

  6. Norbert says:

    Hi all,
    thanks for the interesting reports and comments in general.
    But I have a problem with this variant (and others too?):
    WINDOWS (including operating systems) use accounts (name, password) to guarantee a protected, private work area (data, documents, apps, ...). The LINUX and MAC file systems in particular are very restrictive.
    And now a LINUX boot stick comes along, with which I have easy (read) access to my old WINDOWS / HDD data? From all accounts? How should it work ? Or is it just not possible? Or only after logging into the file system with an old account (if you still know it)? I would appreciate some clarification before I have to try it out myself (as a half-knowing person).

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Norbert! I'm sorry I can not help you. I don't know anything about Windows or Linux. : D But maybe another reader has a tip?

    • Sascha says:

      Hello Norbert,

      this is quite easy depending on the Linux operating system. Mount the hard drive of the old Windows PC and then it's your turn to access the data. The only thing that helps here is encryption of the data using Bitlocker. But then there is nothing left to do with data recovery.

      • Jen Kleinholz says:

        Hello Norbert! Thanks for your addition. I have no clue about the topic, so it's great when someone speaks up who knows what they're doing. : D

      • Olli says:

        Hey Sascha. In the meantime, Bitlocker-encrypted drives can at least _read_ be mounted on Linux (keyword: dislocker). The write access is probably not yet considered stable, but there was also progress in 2021, if I remember correctly.

    • Olli says:

      Hello Norbert, I think there is a misunderstanding here on several levels. Let's take the discussed case: Windows disk (NTFS, without Bitlocker). Within Windows, the running kernel ensures that access is permitted or denied.

      However, if you boot Windows from CD / DVD / USB stick / second disk and have admin rights in this second Windows, you can also gain access to all data (except EFS-encrypted directories or Bitlocker-encrypted partitions). You do not necessarily have rights to the files / folders, but an admin can make himself the owner of the respective objects (a privilege which only certain groups in Windows have by default and which must first be activated) and then overwrite the security descriptions (SDs) of the objects . A lot can be done here when accessing a Windows disk from a second PC (disk was "transplanted") or from an external boot medium.

      If we now look at access to the same NTFS medium from Linux, there are roughly three variants. The new Paragon NTFS driver which is not exactly identical to their commercial offer, the commercial ones and ntfs-3g (there is also another commercial one). When mounting, you specify the owner, group and access mask (sometimes separated according to files and directories). After that, the said (Linux) user or the superuser (root) has virtually full access. I know that the NTFS drivers support rudimentary mapping of the Windows and Linux user IDs to one another, but the fact is and remains that the driver, in interaction with the operating system, decides whether or not to access it. And the driver is free to observe these access masks or not.

      Let us now consider the case of "getting on" with Linux via Windows. Here again, if the driver allows me to write to files and folders, you can also override everything on the Linux side and access all unencrypted data "bypassing" the user accounts. The greatest difficulty in this scenario is to find a driver for Windows 😉

      And last but not least, the case of booting Linux via an external boot medium in order to "get into" Linux. That is mostly trivial. And often you can even move on the victim system as you would in a booted state. Again, encryption is the only countermeasure that works. To mount a LUKS partition, an ecryptfs-encrypted user directory or the Bitlocker-encrypted partition, you just need a key or password / solution.

      Conclusion: Encryption helps to prevent unauthorized intruders in systems booted offline (regardless of whether Windows or Linux). But the unencrypted part of the system could always be used by the intruder to "get your foot in the door". Encryption can be annoying or a hindrance in data recovery scenarios. The enforcement of file and folder permissions is incumbent on the operating system in tandem with the respective file system driver and can therefore be scrapped by an alternative driver or a privileged user.

  7. Margot Lebherz says:

    Hello, I installed Ubuntu Linux, but unfortunately it no longer works, can I give my laptop new life with the Wunderstick?

    • Sascha says:

      You can simply make a USB stick with the Ubuntu as described in the instructions here. Then you restart and reinstall.
      Although I don't know why your Ubuntu Linux should no longer work? What is the computer doing and what is it not doing?

  8. Beat Glanzmann says:

    Interesting basic information.

  9. Olli says:

    First of all, thanks to Sir Apfelot for the article. Great.

    I find the hint in Benjamin's comment that it is Lubuntu very helpful. That makes the argument easier for me, because I ended up here (after the scant information on the manufacturer's website [?] And the German affiliate pages) after I received an inquiry about the miracle product from the family and was supposed to submit a review.

    At least one can find more help for Lubuntu than for a "distribution" cobbled together by the manufacturer himself. Seen that way, that's not bad. Only that you can do it yourself much cheaper. Incidentally, the USB sticks on the manufacturer's side look like the models from Transcend about 15 years ago (no joke, I still have some lying around because you could also flash their firmware). The manufacturer also avoids any statements on the subject of USB speed. For the USB stick I would have liked to see the values ​​which CrystalDiskMark (Windows) or KDiskMark (Linux) spit out. This is actually common with storage media. But the formulations have already been chosen in such a way that the layman is led to believe that a miracle is happening, while the connoisseur shakes his head.

    I don't exactly know CnMemory as a top brand if you prefer fast media, even if their sticks (aluminum) look valuable. But as written: hard data from a benchmark says more than a hundred exuberant ratings.

    If you want to financially support the development of the mentioned Wine (the compatibility layer to run many Windows programs on Linux, Mac, etc.), you can use Crossover (the provider also has products tailored to Mac to run Windows programs on Intel Macs).

    However, I consider the user-friendliness of Linux for desktop (lay) users to be in need of improvement. Ubuntu and Mint, as well as suse, are probably the best horses in the stable in terms of usability (and availability of help in case of problems). But what does it help if everything works, except for the non-printing functions of the multifunction printer? Or if the hardware is weak because the open source driver unfortunately cannot _could_ get the last one out? Or if the old Excel sheet for managing club finances in LibreOffice suddenly no longer works like it did in the "good old" office from Winzig Weich (yes, LibreOffice is also available on Windows and Mac 😉).

    As a passionate Windows / Linux user, developer (Userland on Linux, KM and UM on Windows) and administrator, I can only advise you to take off your rose-colored glasses before looking at the respective alternatives. But you should definitely deal with it. Of course I can lock my browser or something on Linux with Firejail. Sandboxie has been working on Windows for half an eternity. Both systems are clearly multi-user and therefore have restrictions for unprivileged users that can be "softened" (or made more usable) partly with on-board tools (PolicyKit) and partly with third-party programs (Windows: SuRun). But to get that done, you have to be a little familiar with the subject. I would not offer this to my parents' generation (60-70), at least not without expecting weekly support missions.

    I only recently (note: my main system is currently an Ubuntu 20.04, but with Cinnamon) the problem that a package update caused my encrypted partitions (LUKS) to timeout the start of the system and the appearance of Panel and Delayed desktop icons. Oops! From boot in seconds to several minutes (and back after three hours of diagnosis).

    The performance diagnosis was overdue and maybe this mistake would not have happened if a pure Debian system had been used. But Debian is also _very_ conservative when it comes to package updates (I only run it on a few servers, otherwise Ubuntu, Mint and BlackArch and Kali for pentesting etc).

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Olli! Thanks for your helpful comments. Nice that you like the article. I guess thanks to the many great comments it is now the longest and most extensive on the subject in the German-speaking area. : D

  10. Thomas says:

    So either I misunderstood something or it doesn't work for me like this:
    I created a USB stick as instructed above. As I understand it, you should be able to start from the stick without changing the computer to be started. The stick itself is supposed to be the computer you work with!?

    So stick made. Plugged into a (working) MacMini (from 2018), booted up while holding Alt. In addition to the Mac itself, TWO other volumes that look the same appear as the startup volume. But if I select one of the two to start, it STILL starts the 'normal' MacOS (Catalina in my case). And the message appears that the inserted storage medium cannot be read, with the question whether I want to initialize it.

    Second attempt on a (also working) Windows folding computer: Stick in, start with the Alt key pressed. An installation program then starts here that, it seems to me, wants to install Lubuntu on the computer. Since I'm too much of a layman and can't identify the stick for the volume to be selected for installation (on which an installation shouldn't be necessary because it already exists), I canceled the installation and started the computer normally with Windows 7 started. Here, too, the message that the stick cannot be read and whether I want to format it.

    Additional info: I kept reading about Linux/Ubuntu and wanted to try out how it works and what you can do with it, but I'm worried about 'breaking down' computers that can be used with it, so it seemed to me that with one of these Stick to be able to try it out 'risk-free'.

    PS: Despite everything, thanks for the contribution: I almost unnecessarily spent a lot of money on this xtra-pc...

  11. Michael says:

    Hello Johannes, your article is great.
    I like Lubuntu, but it's a bit more difficult to use than Windows.
    Would you recommend a Windows Lite version or a Lubuntu version for an old PC? It's a pity that Lubuntu doesn't come in a Windows design

    • Johannes Domke says:

      Hello Michael,

      thanks for your comment. I can't give a blanket recommendation because it depends heavily on the performance of the PC. If he can handle the version of Windows you've chosen and you're more comfortable with it than you are with Lubuntu, then there shouldn't be a problem. Apart from that, I don't know enough about Windows and Linux to be able to offer a complete consultation.

      Best regards
      John

  12. Karl says:

    Hi all,

    at my age you no longer believe in Santa Claus or the stork. Just as little as a miracle stick that turns old into new.
    Based on the posts here, I decided on a ready-made Lubuntu Kingston USB stick with 32 GB for about 12 euros - so financially ok. I also managed to change the boot sequence in the UEFI. So stick in and started. Booted quickly but prompted me to install. Oops? I thought it was an operating system "for your pocket", i.e. it could be used on any PC, Läppi, etc. without installation. Alright, installed or tried. Then came the prompt to partition. I've already partitioned hard drives, but I failed here. Unfortunately, I couldn't skip it...all Bohemian villages for me :-( There were the options of partitioning the hard drive or the stick. Now I'm pretty much at a loss. Do any of you have any tips or instructions for dummies?
    By the way, when prompted to partition, the file size "MiB" appeared - never heard of this before!!!
    Thanks in advance for non-technical tips!

    Best regards,
    Karl

    • Johannes Domke says:

      Hi Karl,

      unfortunately I don't have the technical possibilities to reproduce the case and offer support at the moment. But maybe a reader has an idea to solve the problem.

      The specification "MiB" could be Mebibit. 1 MiB corresponds to 2^20 bytes, i.e. 1.048.576 bytes. This is admittedly a weird unit for normal use.

      Best regards
      John

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