Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Sep 2006 14:51 UTC, submitted by michuk
Linux "Is Linux a good choice for your old PC? In this article I'm going to examine the main issues connected with using GNU/Linux on some very old hardware. I will also cover choosing a distro, a desktop and the key applications for such a configuration."
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I love the challenge...
by Harald on Thu 21st Sep 2006 15:13 UTC
Harald
Member since:
2006-03-10

I love the challenge of making OS's run on old hardware.

I have an old 450 MHz Dell with 384 meg of ram just for that purpose.

Currently have the PC-BSD flavour of FreeBSD running on it.

Runs like a champ.

Reply Score: 1

RE: I love the challenge...
by helf on Thu 21st Sep 2006 15:33 UTC in reply to "I love the challenge..."
helf Member since:
2005-07-06

get a pentium 75mhz with 64-96mb of ram. Getting newer OSes running smoothly on that is often quite fun. I recently burned up my p75 but I had XP Pro running on it, as well as debian, beos and a few other OSes.

Reply Score: 1

RE: I love the challenge...
by jcinacio on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:35 UTC in reply to "I love the challenge..."
jcinacio Member since:
2006-03-12

I don't see why linux can't be used on any post-386 hardware.

the Linux OS isn't the problem; it's when you want a full desktop environment and apps that things start to need more CPU and specially RAM.

A 686-compatible cpu and 256MB really are enough for the [Linux] OS part, it's the apps that need more memory...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: I love the challenge...
by BluenoseJake on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:55 UTC in reply to "RE: I love the challenge..."
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

a computer isn't much use without the apps, therefore, the apps are almost the most important criteria. you have to take a good look at what you want to do with the system, then choose the OS and apps most appropriate for that system

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: I love the challenge...
by Flatline on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: I love the challenge..."
Flatline Member since:
2006-03-06

That just depends on what you use it for. I've set up lots of firewalls and routers on that kind of hardware, but doubt I would enjoy using it for a workstation.

Reply Score: 1

Anonymous Coward Member since:
2005-07-06

I fully agree!

No one NEEDS a super fast computer to do Web Browsing, E-Mail, word Processing, and Excel.

Get yourself an old Pentium-II, and run software that runs well on it.

I volunteer for a non-profit, so we have all donated hardware. Mostly Pentium 233 and 266 machines. I pieced a bunch out and loaded each of them with as much memory as I could cram into the "good ones". (usually 256Mb)

They run Windows 2000, Office 97, Firefox, and Calypso for E-Mail. These machines have no problem meeting the needs of our program. We keep most of our records in an Access 97 Database mailmerged with forms created in Word 97.

The whole idea is not to try to run Office 2007 on Your K6-2 500... Office 2000 was the thing at the time your system was created... it will run better.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: I love the challenge...
by helf on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:15 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I love the challenge..."
helf Member since:
2005-07-06

Yeah, machines of that speed are plenty fast for people to use for basic computing needs if they cant afford anything more. My sister ran on a p1 233mmx (overclocked to 250mhz), 256mb pc100, 6gb hdd with windows XP (tweaked..) for about 6 months before she was able to get a newer computer. Ran great ;) She ran firefox, thunderbird, used a pci wifi card and used her neighbors dsl connection. Even streamed music via winamp in the background while using office 2000... ran great.

Reply Score: 1

An interesting challenge I suppose...
by Dave_K on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:06 UTC
Dave_K
Member since:
2005-11-16

Getting a modern OS running reasonably well on pre-Pentium II hardware is an interesting challenge, but I'm not sure why anyone would really want to use such an old computer. Not when much faster computers are easily available for next to nothing.

Once you're running a 500Mhz+ system with a decent amount of RAM, Windows 2K/XP, or pretty much any Linux distribution will run well enough without any messing around. With well chosen applications, for example running Opera rather than IE, or Abiword rather than OpenOffice/MS Word, a system like that will still be perfectly responsive and usable.

I wonder how many people spending $500+ on a Dell or PC World computer would be just as happy with the old P3 desktops that are thrown away by offices all the time. It's not that long ago that those P3s would have been high end systems, used professionaly for graphics and DTP, obviously one can still cope with basic home office tasks and internet access. My local PC recycling centre get so many P3s that only the best actually get sold, the rest are given away to anyone who wants them, or are broken down for their scrap value.

When you consider the computers you can pick up for free these days, trying to use a 486 or P75 as a general purpose desktop just seems like masochism to me.

Reply Score: 2

Harald Member since:
2006-03-10

Getting a modern OS running reasonably well on pre-Pentium II hardware is an interesting challenge, but I'm not sure why anyone would really want to use such an old computer. Not when much faster computers are easily available for next to nothing.

There are all sorts of good reasons.

For example, testing the speed of software.

When the question of browser rendering speeds was debated here a while back, it was great to put IE, Mozilla and Opera side by side on really slow hardware where you could actually see the rendering happen.

Cleared up pretty quick for me which had the quickest rendering engine.

Reply Score: 1

Gadget Member since:
2005-10-21

Which had the quickest rendering on old hardware?

Reply Score: 1

Harald Member since:
2006-03-10

Which had the quickest rendering on old hardware?

IE...but that test was a while ago...when FireFox was around version 1.1. Test was done with win2k.

I'd like to do another test with 1.5 and the latest Opera...but I'm using FreeBSD on that machine now.

Reply Score: 1

rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

Not all old computers are bad computers. I use PPro/200 machines at home, for example, which just barely qualifyi as pre-PII hardware (they're 686-class chips, but no MMX) and they all work fine. Win2k runs on that hardware just fine as long as you give it enough RAM, and I'm finding a number of Linux distros work relatively well.

I'd love to pick up a faster box or two, but even a small $100 purchase is something I need to budget for right now. If I knew of a source of free P3 hardware, I'd be taking advantage of it, but I don't. Consider yourself lucky. :-)

Reply Score: 2

lowest end
by Devilotx on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:50 UTC
Devilotx
Member since:
2005-07-06

The lowest end pc in my network is an old 733 Celeron with 512.

not really low end, but it's my meat an potatoes workstation at work, it's enough for me to do what I need to do. Since my office is a Windows office, when I wanted a linux box, I had to provide my own.

I've got a dual boot system with Ubuntu and DSLinux. While Ubuntu is nice, I find myself in DSLinux more often then not.

While Gnome or KDE run fine, I stay with Fluxbox as I prefer leaving my ram available for apps.

Reply Score: 1

Ubuntu 5.10 on PII-350 w/256M
by edoardo on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:53 UTC
edoardo
Member since:
2006-09-21

I'm running Ubuntu 5.10 on a PII-350 w/256M

it works great as a casual internet station (on wieless).

Kids play old games using WinME (without network connection)

Reply Score: 1

Vector
by Al Dente on Thu 21st Sep 2006 16:53 UTC
Al Dente
Member since:
2006-09-12

My fav small and efficient distro so far is Vector Linux. Does everything I need without a lot of bloat.

Also tried Gentoo. After a week of compiling and futzing with it there were still a few things that did not quite work right (and I've been a UNIX admin for 15 years so I'm pretty good at fixing things). I like the idea behind Gentoo (optimizing for the hardware you have) so I'll probably give it another spin soon.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Vector
by twenex on Thu 21st Sep 2006 18:43 UTC in reply to "Vector"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

I don't want to have a go at you as if you've posted a flame, but I must just be one of the lucky ones with Gentoo. Despite having used Unix since about 99, I'd hardly call myself a Unix wizard (Unix ignoramus would be nearer the mark), but I got Gentoo up and running second try (the first try, I attempted to install from stage 1. Stage 3 worked perfectly). That box has been updated, reconfigured, poked, prodded, munged, mangled, wrung, shot at, sworn at, kicked, thrown, punched, spat at, switched off (due to power cuts), disconnected and generally abused for two (nearly three) years, and I've not yet needed to reinstall it once.

Reply Score: 1

Another budget option ...
by JoeBuck on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:10 UTC
JoeBuck
Member since:
2006-01-11

... if you have an old computer, adding some memory is a cheap and easy upgrade that can make a huge difference.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Another budget option ...
by rcsteiner on Thu 21st Sep 2006 20:59 UTC in reply to "Another budget option ..."
rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

True, but some older PCs use nonstandard RAM that might be harder to find, and a newer PC might actually be a less expensive upgrade route. 1GHz machines are around US$80-90 on eBay these days (usually w/o fancy video).

Reply Score: 1

RE: Another budget option ...
by Punktyras on Thu 21st Sep 2006 23:46 UTC in reply to "Another budget option ..."
Punktyras Member since:
2006-01-07

Fully agree about RAM. And playing a bit with hdparm makes wonders:)

www.linuxdevcenter.com/pub/a/linux/2000/06/29/hdparm.html

Reply Score: 1

Running Puppy Linux on WinBook XL laptop
by Finalzone on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:11 UTC
Finalzone
Member since:
2005-07-06

During a vacation, I installed Puppy Linux on a 1997 WinbooK XL laptop. It was quite a high-end on its time because of the USB port. The specification was a Pentium 166 with 64MB that can be upgraded to 128MB maximum
http://www.winbookcorp.com/support/xl/xl/xlspecs.htm
. Puppy Linux runs very well without a hitch.

Reply Score: 1

FVWM-Crystal
by dillond on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:13 UTC
dillond
Member since:
2006-09-08

I had never heard of FVWM-Crystal, but it looks quite attractive and presumably it will be very lightweight. One day....if I find the time...;-)

Reply Score: 1

RE: FVWM-Crystal
by michuk on Thu 21st Sep 2006 21:33 UTC in reply to "FVWM-Crystal"
michuk Member since:
2006-08-08

I had never heard of FVWM-Crystal, but it looks quite attractive

You can read about FVWM-Crystal here: http://polishlinux.org/apps/fvwm-crystal-speed-and-transparency/

Reply Score: 1

Thinkpod 600X
by CuriosityKills on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:33 UTC
CuriosityKills
Member since:
2005-07-10

Any luck on thinkpad 600X?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Thinkpod 600X
by davegetrag on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 01:34 UTC in reply to "Thinkpod 600X"
davegetrag Member since:
2006-03-31

600E is still my fav laptop!

Reply Score: 1

Slackware and Xfce
by SlackerJack on Thu 21st Sep 2006 17:50 UTC
SlackerJack
Member since:
2005-11-12

Ran really well one my uncles old PII 266/64Mb ram laptop, both The GIMP and Abiword ran very well.

Reply Score: 2

Whats old?
by ameasures on Thu 21st Sep 2006 18:08 UTC
ameasures
Member since:
2006-01-09

So far as desktop is concerned, old means that slew of old video cards which are not supported by recent X11 implementations.

Venerable cards like the ET4000 and the Trident 8900 and so on. There are few if any Linux distros offering drivers for these cards. Tell me PLEASE.

Interestingly OpenBSD does and I keep meaning to try it out on my 486 ... life has been sadly too short - so far.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Whats old?
by helf on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 14:16 UTC in reply to "Whats old?"
helf Member since:
2005-07-06

Have you tried out deli linux? It *might* have drivers for those. Not sure though. The ET4000 was a decent card. I used to use it on a 486-66 before I got my first p66 machine.

Reply Score: 1

Do not use old browser versions
by nelvana2005 on Thu 21st Sep 2006 20:19 UTC
nelvana2005
Member since:
2005-07-29

It is a very good article.
The author's advice that old Linux distributions should not be used for everyday work is very important.
There are too many severe security flaws outwhere for such old Linux software (e.g. XFree 3.3.6, libc5).
But this statement has also to be valid for old browser versions, too. Do not use Opera 7.11 as recommended, it is also full of security flaws as the Mozilla and Microsoft browsers of that time. If you want to use Opera, then use the newest version 9.02, if you would like to use Firefox or Seamonkey instead, use also the newest versions, never older ones.

Reply Score: 1

michuk Member since:
2006-08-08

The problem with Opera is that it got heavier with >8 releases. This is why I recommended 7.11 as the most modern but still quite lightweight alternative. Firefox or latest Opera won't run on Pentium I.So you either can use unpatched Opera or something like dillo or links... not very much of an alternative.

Edited 2006-09-21 20:47

Reply Score: 1

nelvana2005 Member since:
2005-07-29

But such a browser with a lot of security flaws is no real alternative, not for me. I am writing this posting on an ancient AMD K6-2 300 MHz with 128MB RAM with Debian Sarge and Seamonkey 1.05 installed and this machine works at reasonable speed (with IceWM as the window manager). I would not use it if I would be forced to use an older browser. I would not even use Seamonkey 1.04 as the recent security flaws (Javascript flaws, openssl flaw) are absolutely severe e.g. for someone like me who wants to use his bank account online.
I understand now why you recommended the Opera 7.11 browser and I see your intention. But is Opera 7.11 with all extras like Javascript deactivated so much better than a current Dillo? Another choice would be the current Seamonkey, it is not so much heavier than the newest Opera and, as far as I am concerned, it runs even on an old Pentium MMX.
The main advantage of Mozilla browsers in contrast to the Opera ones is that they are open source so that it is possible to compile them on your own. Damn Small Linux does right this: They offer Dillo and a self-compiled gtk1-Firefox, no old Opera.

Reply Score: 1

michuk Member since:
2006-08-08

You may be right about it. I just relied on my own experience. Last time when I tried using Internet on a very old machine (Pentium MMX or Athlon counterpart) the only reasonable browser I could use was Opera 7.11. Firefox was too heavy for it, but you are correct, I tried a default Firefox package from Debian.
Next time I'll try Seamonkey or DSL's Firefox and upgrade the article then. Thanks.

Reply Score: 1

Probably not.
by Temcat on Thu 21st Sep 2006 20:24 UTC
Temcat
Member since:
2005-10-18

I did tinker with different distros on a Celeron 266 with 128M RAM, but to me it really was only good for just that - tinkering. All the work and home needs were served by Win98, which IMHO is the thing you should install on old PCs. Yes, gotta have a firewal and an antivirus with it...

Now that I have a pretty modern PC I could fully switch to Ubuntu Linux for home needs, but for work it'll be WinXp for the foreseeable future.

Reply Score: 1

SuSE 10
by Cutterman on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 05:07 UTC
Cutterman
Member since:
2006-04-10

One of my boxes is a P3/800 with 512MB and 128MB nvidia card - another is a Sempron 2600+ with 2GB and a 6600GT - same install on both.

Though the Sempron is quicker, for ordinary tooling around there isn't that much difference.

So yer high end distros do fine on older (but not geriatric) hardware.

Puppy Linux on a PII/233 with 128MB really flies! An amazing little distro.

Reply Score: 1

RE: SuSE 10
by netpython on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 05:09 UTC in reply to "SuSE 10"
netpython Member since:
2005-07-06

Puppy Linux on a PII/233 with 128MB really flies! An amazing little distro.

I bought a old toshiba laptop for 1"€" euro yesterday on a vanity fair.It runs acceptible on deli and damn small too:-)

Edited 2006-09-22 05:11

Reply Score: 1

debian
by davegetrag on Fri 22nd Sep 2006 11:31 UTC
davegetrag
Member since:
2006-03-31

debian is as lite as you want to make it AND still has all the benefits of being debian - why use ANYTHING else? ;)

Reply Score: 1