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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Revive an old PC with Linux

You can put a 21st Century operating system on a 20th Century computer.
  1. Consider what you want, a desktop computer, a server, or a router/firewall.
  2. Clean it with compressed air.
  3. Test your PC will turn on safely.
  4. Determine what your PC will boot from (in the BIOS or manual), old ones might not boot from USB, really old ones might not even boot from CD.
  5. If it won't boot from CD, download floppy boot images of Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux (WakePup for Puppy Linux 1 and 2 series) and once extracted onto a floppy disk, insert them into your old PC.
  6. If you're on dial-up and don't want to download Damn Small Linux (50Mb) or Puppy Linux (100Mb), then buy a CD online.
  7. Download SliTaz, Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux CDs (on a new PC if you have one) and burn them as images (with Infrarecorder or Nero).
  8. Turn your old PC on if you haven't already and insert the CDs as soon as you can, if successful, you'll be greeted by a DSL or Puppy Linux boot screen for a few seconds (press a key quickly to interrupt the countdown if you like)
  9. Unless you have valuable data on the old PC, consider creating a swap partition (with gParted or Ultimate Boot CD) if you have too little ram (less than 64Mb) to run the distros "live".
  10. Read and consider carefully using cheat codes at boot (also called boot parameters) to run more from CD and use less RAM particularly with Puppy
  11. Choose Xvesa rather than framebuffer if you have display problems
  12. Turn off ACPI or APM if you have problems.
  13. If you like Puppy Linux but 3 series is too slow, consider 2 series (Phoenix or 214R), or even 1 series (MeanPup or 109CE).
  14. If you like Damn Small Linux, also consider Damn Small Linux-Not (with Abiword and Gnumeric) or Feather Linux (also derived from Knoppix).
  15. If you have a serial mouse, test whether it is detected and works. If it doesn't, then additional configuration can be made with boot parameters/cheat codes.
  16. For dial-up modems, consider a hardware dial-up modem for maximum compatibility.
  17. Some gains in performance may be made, once installed to hard disk rather than running live.
  18. Also consider a "frugal installation" for performance gains.
  19. If you spread the word, tell your friends and share Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux CDs, you can build your own local support group to help revive old PCs.


  • If you're adding applications, choose lightweight ones like SIAG Office rather than
  • Choose lightweight window managers like JWM, IceWM or Fluxbox rather than GNOME or KDE.
  • Choose lightweight browsers like Opera or Dillo rather than Konqueror or Flock.
  • If you want something different and unusual with eye-candy, consider Enlightenment window manager which comes with eLive.


What is Absolute?
Absolute is a customized Slackware distribution:

  • Assembled to make installation and maintenance of Slackware easier.

  • It is an easy install (no package selection)

  • kernel build that is set to accept CPUs down to a Pentium Classic and tuned for desktop performance

    You CAN run Absolute on a Pentium 200 with 64 MB of RAM (although it would be really slow) -- but with a Pentium II or above and at least 128 MB of RAM you can expect zippy and stable performance

  • Accepts packages made for same Slackware Version, so you can use Slackware software repositories.
Absolute is a desktop-oriented Slackware -- lightweight but stable. Secure, in that only root user can install software and configure the system. Basically an IT or system-builder's friend in that it can run nicely on old hardware. Very easy for users to get things done because of the software selection and utilities and documentation -- yet difficult for them to mess things up.

This leads to 2 things:
  • Home "power" users may take to running as root all the time -- not smart but, hey, I'm also often guilty as charged as I play with development

  • IT guys who set up machines at work and schools don't have to worry about folks messing things up. They set up a machne, hook it up to the internet and/or network, throw on OpenOffice from the Absolute CD2, plug in the printer and walk away saying "there you go -- call me when the hardware dies."

To me it is Linux at its best -- completely configurable for those with the knowledge and inclination, but useable and productive "out of the box" for anyone, thanks to small, single-purpose applications and utilities to help get things done.
The system is built to do what I want it to do. Nothing less but nothing more. I want the user interface to have robust functionality, but also STAY OUT OF MY WAY.
  • ease of installation (to save my time),

  • lightweight enough to put on even very old machines,

  • included software is set up for desktop use, not as a server,

  • and stable enough and easy enough to use so that I did not get support calls all the time.

LinuxMint4.0 on OLD computers

Please do not try Vector. It is also having lot of problems. I have a pIII/256MB ram/80gb Thinkpad s30 and for learning, I tried to install all big ones. PClos2007, Mandriva 2008, Mint 40, Mepis 6.5 Sabayon latest, and PCBSD and desktop bsd. The bsd are in queue so will let you
know later. But except mint all the the big distros installed and worked. Sabayon worked the best with very smooth install. It looks beautiful too. Mandriva 2008 and pclos too work well. I tried a less known distro called Wolvix and it is just fantastic. It runs like supercomputer on a p3. Of course it is not a surprise at it is from slackware stable where as the big ones I mentioned are someway connected to some other parentage.
If you have a swap partition on the Harddisk Mint Linux will use it. I think if 256mb ram is not sufficient it is best to have a swap of 1 gb and then try the mint cd.
32MB of ram for OS!!!!!

Absolute Linux Based on Slackware:

antiX A fast, lightweight and easy to install linux live CD distribution based on MEPIS for Intel-AMD x86 compatible systems. antiX offers users the "Magic of Mepis" in an environment suitable for old computers. a installable live-cd based on Mepis:

Damn Small Linux, will install as a Debian system:
Debian The classic is to install the basic Debian over the net and then install Fluxbox, Rox-Filer, Opera, etc.:
Puppy Linux A truly great little distribution, very configurable without being over complex, the downside is that it does 'run as root' when installed. But you can set up the user account spot, look at the forum, it has many posts about how to do that.

SaxonOS Its hardware requirements are not as high as PCLinuxOS

Slitaz The smallest useful distro (<30mb) href="" target="_blank">

TinyMe is a remaster of PCLinuxOS stripped down and rebuilded to a smaller size for older computers (it has a kernel for 'legacy' machines).

Vector Linux (Use the standard edition):

ZenWalk has both an install and livecd versions, aimed at machines with low specs:

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