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 your own Xtra-PC stick, even for free if you already have a USB stick!
Is Xtra-PC a scam or an expensive service? You can use the instructions here to make your own Xtra-PC stick, even for free if you already have a USB stick!

What is Xtra-PC?

Both on the Xtra PC shop page from the USA and via affiliate advertisers from Germany, it is easy to find content in which the USB stick with the free Linux distribution is presented as "miracle" and "magic". Some German sites also report nameless testers who are enthusiastic. It also cites unnamed vendors from computer stores with no name or location 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 promotion of USB sticks. Because of course it doesn't replace new hardware (CPU, graphics card, hard drive, motherboard or anything else). It simply serves as a storage medium from which an operating system is started that works somewhat more efficiently than Windows. And this is important to know: You don't get Windows and you also lose the ability to use Windows.Apps 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 boot stick

And that's exactly what the third of three simple steps with which you can tinker your own Xtra PC cheaply or free of charge. Insert the USB stick, start Rufus or Etcher, set the necessary parameters (or leave them at the default settings) and thus install a fully functional operating system on the mobile memory. To use it on the Mac, hold down the Option key (Alt) during startup and then select the stick as the boot 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.

Using a Linux boot stick – advantages and disadvantages

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 at low cost
  • Many standard functions of computer use 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 features and conveniences can and will be dropped
  • There is no magic solution for technically inexperienced people

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

  1. 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

    1. 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

      1. 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
        French

          1. 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. 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 CnMemory brand, which is characterized by its aluminum housing and a long-lasting flash memory. I own such sticks and am impressed by them. But as far as user-friendliness is concerned, it's more of a mehh. The first point is to get the pc to boot 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 it 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.

    1. 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

  3. 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 already clear to me from the first few sentences that this is 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 with any Linux on it and get started, but if you really want to work with it, you can buy it - you just have to make compromises and adapt . But in my opinion, data can be recovered with it, and then Linux can be installed on the internal HDD or SSD to work with it.”

  4. 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. 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. Hi all,
    thanks for the interesting reports and comments in general.
    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).

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

      1. 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

      2. 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.

    3. 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 now boot Windows from a CD/DVD/USB stick/second disk and have admin rights in this second Windows, you can also gain access to all data (except for EFS-encrypted directories or Bitlocker-encrypted partitions). You do not necessarily have rights to the files/folders, but an admin can become the owner of the respective objects (a privilege that only certain groups in Windows have by default and which must first be activated) and then overwrite the security descriptors (SDs) of the objects . There is a lot going on here when accessing a Windows disk from a second PC (disk was “transplanted”) or 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 “boarding” a Linux via a Windows. Here again, if the driver allows me to write to files and folders, you can also leverage everything on the Linux side and access all unencrypted data “bypassing” the user accounts. The biggest difficulty in this scenario is finding a driver for Windows 😉

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

      Conclusion: Encryption helps to keep unauthorized intruders out when the system is booted offline (regardless of whether it is 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 cumbersome in data recovery scenarios. The enforcement of file and folder permissions is the responsibility of the operating system in tandem with the respective file system driver and can therefore be made waste by an alternative driver or a privileged user.

  7. Hello, I have installed Ubuntu Linux, but unfortunately it no longer works. Can I use the miracle stick to bring my laptop back to life?

    1. 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 shouldn't work anymore? What does the computer do and what does it not do?

  8. 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 finds more help for Lubuntu than for a "distribution" cobbled together by the manufacturer himself. Seen like that, not so bad. Except that you can do it yourself much cheaper. Incidentally, the USB sticks on the manufacturer's website look like the Transcend models from about 15 years ago (no kidding, I still have some lying around because you could also flash their firmware). The manufacturer also avoids any statements about USB speed. I would have liked to see the values ​​that CrystalDiskMark (Windows) or KDiskMark (Linux) spit out for the USB stick. This is actually common with storage media. But the formulations are already chosen in such a way that the layman is led to believe a miracle, while the expert 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.

    Anyone who would like to financially support the development of the mentioned Wine (that compatibility layer to run many Windows programs on Linux, Mac, etc.) can go to Crossover (the provider also offers products tailored for Mac to run Windows programs on Intel Macs).

    However, I think the user-friendliness of Linux for desktop (lay) users could be improved. 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 use is it 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 _can_ not get the last one? Or when the long-serving Excel sheet for managing club finances in LibreOffice suddenly no longer works like it did in the “good old” Office from Winzigweich (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 admin, I can only advise you to take off your rose-colored glasses before dealing with the respective alternatives. But you should definitely deal with it. Sure I can lock up my browser or something on Linux with Firejail. On Windows, this has also been possible with Sandboxie for half an eternity. Both multi-user systems are clear and therefore have limitations for unprivileged users, which can then be “softened” (or made more usable) a little with on-board tools (PolicyKit) or with third-party programs (Windows: SuRun). But in order to do that, you have to be familiar with the subject a bit. I wouldn't offer it to my parents' generation (60-70), at least not without counting on weekly support calls.

    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 perhaps this blunder would not have happened if a pure Debian system was used. But Debian is also _very_ conservative when it comes to package updates (only have it running on a few servers, otherwise Ubuntu, Mint and for pentesting etc BlackArch and Kali).

    1. 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

  9. 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...

  10. 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

    1. Johannes Domke

      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

  11. 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. usable 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

    1. Johannes Domke

      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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