> I do not have the root or admin passwords and have not been able to get them.
That's another problem.
If the installed software really already is 2y old, then consider a totally new installation. It could possibly solve your problems 'on-the-fly' but there is no guarantee, and usually requires help by someone experienced to be finally successful.
I'd download and burn a recent Debian Linux installation-CD, and boot this CD and follow the instructions. Let it wipe out your old installation, but backup your working data and account data first (on memory stick or burn to CD) - you would need to restore these in the working new installation, from the backup. later. It may include reconfigure your accounts in some applications like skype, email, whatever (note this is only the access data stored on your laptop, like password and login, of course you do not touch at all your mail account at yahoo)
Doing this 'net-install' requires reliable internet access during the process, meaning cable connection, to finish the installation. Instead of trying by wireless, it is highly recommended to go to some place where you can plug in a cable.
Your laptop probably have a 32bit Processor, so you would chose this file (download and burn
but i recommend to check first if this is really true. The alternative is 64bit and there the respective installer would be
(assuming your laptop have an Intel processor, see 'intel inside' sticker.)
I'm not sure what's the best way for you to find out this spec, unless it's not mentioned on some label or in the manual. Maybe you can find your laptop specs online. Maybe you have the 'cpuid' command (from a command terminal) available.
Note that i recommended the 'testing' version of Debian here. Despite its name, it should run fine, and the 'stable' version is rather old right now. If there are bugs, they use to be minor and usually can be fixed with simple application update.
If you like to go that way, read http://www.debian.org/CD/netinst and print out or do notes from http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386 (for the installation process, as seen by the user, the 32 / 64 bit question is rather irrelevant, it should be the same).
If your laptop is very important, or if you have NO TIME, then leave all this to an experienced linux user or expert. You may ask for help of a local linux user group, ask for someone dropping in at your place (or meetiung in some suitable, bright lighted populated place
Good luck ^^
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