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Linux On Older Hardware

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the cachunk-sputter-wheeze dept.


Joe Barr writes "Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier has put together a substantive report on how well Linux runs on older hardware. Are you surprised to learn that the belch of smoke and FUD out of Redmond on the topic last month isn't true? As Zonker shows, 'The bottom line: Linux is still quite suitable for older hardware. It might not turn your aging PC into a powerhouse, but it will extend its lifespan considerably.' NewsForge, like Slashdot, is part of OSTG."

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Zonker? (0, Offtopic)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802525) [] ?

Or is Zonk just greenlighting stories he wrote?

Re:Zonker? (1)

HFShadow (530449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802674)

No, if you follow Zonk's slashdot profile to his personal page, it lists his name as Michael Zenke [] .

Why not paste the real link? (4, Informative)

jpetts (208163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802526)

Do us a favour: post the link to TFA at [] , not just the link to a single paragraph at "News"forge.

Article Link (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802529)

I think it is riduculous that the article link takes you to another OSTG page which displays no more information than the article summary. Here's a direct link to the story 51 []

hmmm (2, Funny)

Kn1nJa (878764) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802534)

"It might not turn your aging PC into a powerhouse, but it will extend its lifespan considerably."
Sure it will work nicely on your old 386 sitting in the closet, but will it really increase the lifespan of your old vacuum tube monstrosity that takes up your entire garage? Might make an interesting experiment!

Re:hmmm (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802594)

I'm fairly convinced that those don't run XP.

386/33 with Unix SVR4 and X10.? worked just fine (3, Insightful)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802615)

I _think_ it was SVR4, but the late 80s are fairly old memory by now so it could have been SVR2, and maybe it was X11.* by then. Sure, it wasn't as fast as a Sun4, much less the HP graphics workstation we had which had 48MB of video RAM, but basically it worked pretty well.

Re:hmmm (1)

xiando (770382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802662)

"but will it really increase the lifespan of your old vacuum tube monstrosity that takes up your entire garage?"

It doesn't have to take up the entire garage just because it's old. I've heard a Rumor. There's something out there called a pencil. It's got loads of features, just like modern computers. You can write letters, draw graphics, shew on the end of it and there's numerous other applications. I've also heard it's very small, light-weight and most importantly, portable.

Re:hmmm (1)

bubkus_jones (561139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802690)

Yeah, but does it run Linux?

Re:hmmm (1)

zodiaccat (897450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802734)

No, but it can draw Linus! ... Lucy, too!

Verus older versions of Windows? (2, Informative)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802535)

I run Windows 2000 on a PC that's 3 years old.. I've got a gig of ram in it, and it works great. I've got Windows 2000 on two or three other old-ass PCs as well, and the only thing I did to make them faster.. was reinstall the OS, cruft-free, every 2-3 years. I still manage to get all my work done, and don't have a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows XP. As much as Microsoft would like me to think, AOE3 isn't enough justification.

I've got some PII class notebooks running Windows 2000 just wonderfully, even in ~128M memory.

Honestly, I don't see upgrading in the next year. All I've done is expand drive space, I put three monitors on this machine, it all works great.

So.. maybe try reinstalling on those old PCs and slobbing in some new memory, and save a few bucks?

My linux boxes, to their credit, haven't needed touching since I installed them - they just work, and in fact, I'm not even sure how they're configured anymore. They're running on P100 class hardware as described in the article.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802546)

sorry to go off topic, but one of the things that really pisses me off about XP is that when you run a search, if you delete something, the search will automatically re-run itself.

Win2k never did that kinda crap and it means whenever I forget to close a search window in XP, the CPU maxes out when the files change around.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802564)

I don't forsee ever running windows XP. I'm hoping to move to OSX running emulation for legacy and specialty applications, and staying the hell away from Vista. I don't know many shops prepared to make the hardware upgrades Vista is going to require, or the infrastructure changes.

The only feature I miss is remote desktop, and that's only of marginal utility.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (1)

weierstrass (669421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802596)

>Win2k never did that kinda crap

this is a feature from windows 9x.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802795)

Wouldn't installing the Google Desktop Search help?

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (2, Informative)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802552)

A 3-year-old PC is not *that* old, anyway. Most businesses keep computers for 4-5 years. Now 8or 10 years is certainly getting up there though...

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802563)

I've got some PII class notebooks running Windows 2000 just wonderfully, even in ~128M memory.

This would have been pretty high-end hardware when Windows 2000 came out. I ran it as my day-to-day OS on a Pentium-133, and even that isn't all that impressive.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (3, Informative)

BorgHunter (685876) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802702)

[Windows 2000] is part of the Microsoft Windows NT line of operating systems and was released on February 17, 2000.

The original Pentium 4, codenamed "Willamette", ran at 1.4 and 1.5 GHz and was released in November 2000 on the Socket 423 platform.

The Pentium III is an x86 (more precisely, an i686) architecture microprocessor by Intel, introduced on February 26, 1999. [] [] []

In short, when 2k came out, P4 was almost there and PIII Coppermine was ubiquitous. A Pentium II would no more be "high end" then than a Willamette P4 at 1.5 GHz would be "high end" today, loosely. Though you are correct: Win2k does run well on hardware like that.

Re:Verus older versions of Windows? (3, Interesting)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802582)

Up to this past year, I had a 13 year old Sun workstation serving as the firewall for my home network, running a very recent version of OpenBSD (50MHz SPARC handles DSL bandwidth very nicely:). Even Solaris won't install on these machines, any longer (perhaps Solaris 2.7, but I'm not sure).

Truly one of the "value added" features of the F/OSS operating systems.

Just curious... (1, Flamebait)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802784)

Did you pay for those three or four versions of a, what, $200 operating system?

Old hardware? (2, Insightful)

Aokubidaikon (942336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802537)

Microsoft lately has been challenging Linux's suitability for older hardware

I'd love to try to get Windows Vista running on my old 366Mhz Dell laptop...

Re:Old hardware? (1)

crossconnects (140996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802618)

I have ubuntu running on a dell inspiron 3200 w/ a 266 Mhz processor and 112 MB Ram

Re:Old hardware? (1)

crossconnects (140996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802647)

Regarding my sig: somebody DID donate a laptop to me! Too bad it's a dell, but it does (slowly) work.

Re:Old hardware? (2, Interesting)

Southpaw018 (793465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802722)

On the topic of old Dells and this thread - the boss wanted me to spend $1500 or somesuch nonsense on Listserv software and licensing. I pulled an Optiplex GX110 (P3 733/128MB ram) out of a closet. Not exactly as described in the article, but something that was no longer in use on our network. Toss a basic Debian install, exim 4, and Mailman on that puppy. Boom. Bought a $30 switch because I'm lazy (no wiring!) and plugged it in over in a quiet corner of the office.

Slackware+Linux 2.4+WindowMaker not so hot either (1)

kingkade (584184) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802623)

Had an old 100MHz Pentium PC with 64MB mem and 1GB hard drive space that was reinstalled for my dad to use. Tried a really leaned-down Slackware (with Linux kernel 2.4), manually configured the modem, installed WindowMaker with FireFox and the machine took a long while to boot up to a useable UI and everything was godawfully slow... Installed W2K, still same story but less so. W2K mostly sucked because it took up too much space after visiting windows update for SP + the ridiculous amount of patches that had to be downloaded and installed. Finally I put on there what I had originally when I bought it. Win98 with being patched but everything locked down, and using FireFox (which was still noticably slower than the IE that came bundled) but it was more useable. I know this is just one case but using X on an old PC is a big no-no.

Re:Slackware+Linux 2.4+WindowMaker not so hot eith (1)

assassinator42 (844848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802675)

I had a 75 mhz Pentium machine running Windows 95. I ran K-Meleon on it. It took a few seconds to bring up pages, but it worked.

Re:Old hardware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802771)

I'd love to try to get Windows Vista running on my old 366Mhz Dell laptop...

I'd love to try to get Windows Vista running on my present laptop...

Well sure, it's great (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802538)

I have Linux running as a router on a P166 with 32 megs of RAM. It runs Postfix, BIND, nfsd, Privoxy, and Samba, and without a problem. Sure, a GUI might tax it a bit, but for what it does, it runs perfectly.

Re:Well sure, it's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802670)

If all you are doing is running a router, anything more than a Pentium I and 64MB RAM is probably wasted. Go to [] and you will be amazed at what you can do with a 486, 16MB of RAM and a 1.44MB floppy.

Re:Well sure, it's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802775)

Well thankfully it's a Pentium 1 with less than 64MB RAM, so it's not wasted according to you... :P

In any case, it's wasted if it's not being used as a router.

Re:Well sure, it's great (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802790)

I would replace the computer with a router personally. If left on constantly, the electric bill will add up. At 5 cents / kilowatt hour, a computer (assuming it uses 100 watts) will cost 0.5 cents to run / hour. If left on continously for 1 year, the cost will be 365 * 24 * .5 cents = $43.80 . Buy a router w/ a usb port ( for external hard drive support), and if you choose properly, it will run linux. See or for more details.

Windows 2000 (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802539)

You could always throw a copy of Windows 2000 on your machine too. It's a hell of a lot faster than using XP.

Computer/Processor 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU.
Memory At least 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM; more memory generally improves responsiveness.
Hard Disk 2 GB with 650 MB free space.
CPU Support Windows 2000 Professional supports single and dual CPU systems.
Drive CD-ROM or DVD drive.
Display VGA or higher resolution monitor.
Keyboard Required.

Re:Windows 2000 (1)

Phosphor3k (542747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802613)

It is my experience that XP boots quicker and (with candy theme turned off) is more responsive then win2k.

Re:Windows 2000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802695)

You sir are a liar, or are deficient mentally.

If you are counting the boot from ram startup, then you should be shot.

The speed of XP makes anything a chore, as it churns up the graphical nonsense. Try using a better harddrive with your win2k installs.

Re:Windows 2000 (1)

BoneFlower (107640) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802719)

My XP install doesn't have any more graphical nonsense than the typical 2k install. It's quite trivial to turn all that stuff off.

Granted, it would be nice if they had an option in the installer to install with all that crap turned off.

MS Office (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802540)

It's nice that you can cutdown your window manager to W2K-like levels (or below), but try finding something with the features and footprint of MS Office 2000.

Re:MS Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802707)

try finding something with the features and footprint of MS Office 2000.

You're absolutely right.

Try as I might, I can't find anything that takes up gobs of unnecessary resources for an office suite... the Free/OSS equivalents just can't compare to that level of crappiness.

Re:MS Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802767)

Oh, you mean like Open Office? The suite that comes with the help files absent and no easy way to solve the problem? The suite that takes 10 times longer to appear on screen? The suite that doesn't even incrementally install, you have to wipe the old one manually? That one? Oh yeah, I'm impressed.

make it an all nighter (1)

esmrg (869061) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802542)

I used the netinstall image, and it took quite a while for all the packages to download and unpack on Igor. If you're installing Debian in this fashion on older hardware, I suggest going out for a pizza when you get to the download stage.
When I did this on my old laptop, I should have gone out drinking until last call. I would have been back just in time to configure X.

I don't get it. (2, Insightful)

ThatGeek (874983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802548)

Ok, a few things.

1) What's the point of this article? Linux worked on these machines when they were state of the art. Is it such a revelation that it still works on these machines?

2) Would Microsoft suggest that Linux is less suitable for a computer with 4 mb of video ram than a copy of Windows Vista or XP? The DRM alone would sap the system's resources.

3) I know that Slashdot's parent company owns newsforge, but would it have been hard to put in a direct link to the article? Here it is: 51 []

4) Geeks can now smile that yes, in deed, their operating system runs on old computers. OK, now what? What's the significance? Is it that people won't have to upgrade? Is it that they can keep their old boxes around? Surely if they still had them, they would know this already. And it won't make Windows users want to switch as they are all running their apps on shiny new(er) boxes anyway.

Re:I don't get it. (2, Insightful)

LiMikeTnux (770345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802570)

"Linux worked on these machines when they were state of the art. Is it such a revelation that it still works on these machines?"

thats a bit broad of a statement...after all, i could say windows still runs on a 486 with 8mb system ram....its windows 3.1, but its still windows...
but modern linux distros still play nicely with aged hardware...THAT is the point.

Re:I don't get it. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802574)

The point is, my little clueless troll, to have another opportunity where all the Linux faggots can suck each others' dicks in this giant circle-jerk wasteland they call Slashdot.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802586)

4) Geeks can now smile that yes, in deed, their operating system runs on old computers. OK, now what? What's the significance? Is it that people won't have to upgrade? Is it that they can keep their old boxes around? Surely if they still had them, they would know this already. And it won't make Windows users want to switch as they are all running their apps on shiny new(er) boxes anyway.

The issue is that a previous study [] conducted by Microsoft claimed that Linux wasn't so great on old hardware. That study was criticized heavily here on slashdot for not comparing apples to apples. FWIW, I offered
my own theory [] of what Microsoft might have been trying to do.

Re:I don't get it. (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802604)

There are a few reasons why it could maybe not run on aged systems: The system itself, and the various distributions.

Now, the system thankfully IS working nicely with all the old machines I've tried it on. But there's still the possibility that it relies on some more modern features. There have not been ground shaking steps since the 386 (compared to the leap that came from 286 to 386), but some subtle changes happened. What if the kernel needed certain CPU Operations? What if the system expects to have at least 64 megs of ram? What if it expects a graphics adapter that can at least run VESA standard (ok, unlikely with Linux, but still...)?

All matters that could keep a system from running on old hardware.

Then there's distributions. What if the distribution compilers expect you to be able to run X, and run it at at least 800x600 resolution? What if they don't provide a text based installation routine? What if they expect at least PS/2 mice and won't accept serial? What about proprietary CD-Rom drivers, standards developed kinda late in that area? Not to mention the graphics headaches before VESA. Or if they require at least 64 megs for their ramdisk image they want to install from?

The reasons are numerous. So I'm kinda glad someone took the burden to actually try that. I envy that guy for the time he has at hand to spend on something like this (must've taken weeks to test it through on old hardware).

Re:I don't get it. (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802661)

For sure, that's interesting to know Linux is running fine on old hardware, but that's not only interesting, that's also useful to avoid throwing in the garbage can some toxic hardware that can still do useful tasks.

I don't think it took weeks to test Linux on a Pentium II. I am currently running an old 486-25MHz 16 MB RAM 325MB disk + 500MB disk, ISA only I own since 1993. It is running 24/7 for years now. I am also running a Pentium 166, 64MB RAM and 1 GB HD also 24/7. I have old Fujitsu laptop Pentium 133 MMX 48 MB daily used as a Thin client (kernel 2.6) by my daughters for homework and Internet access. I also have three IBM Netfinity servers all Pentium II, one dual processors (450 MHz), all ServeRAID level 5 (with SCSI drives U-160). They are running kernel 2.6.

Why throwing money at latest hardware when you can do useful things with old hardware which will otherwise go to the municipal dump leaking toxic heavy metal in the water?

The only reason I am thinking about changing some of these, it's not to get more CPU power, it's to run with less power hungry hardware.

saturday nite bragfest article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802754)

The point is it is saturday night and us lonely geeks can sit here and brag on our olden daze crap that is still running something either moderately useful and/or curiously interesting. Ya, there *might* be one guy here using his wifi PDA at a strip club getting a lapdance at the same time he is posting to slashdot, but lets get real here...this is saturday nite geek gab, like usual.

Here's mine, P100 toshiba laptop with a pretty much borked hard drive and 16 megs quality RAM running BlueFlops Linux from floppy images direct to a RAM boot. Gets online and surfs *great*. Best micro distro out there. Next up, Austrumi, 50 megs slack sorta based "live" mini distro, better than Dang Small or Puppy or Vector. Will run good with 64 megs RAM or better, but will run in smaller. FAST. I've only tried it as low as a 200PP processor though, but it still worked very well indeed.
Mac side, perfectly runnning 280c powerbook, I think only a 25 mghz processor, 40 megs RAM, system 7. Great surfer using iCab or nutscrape 2.0, heh.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802776)

Thanks for posting that. Articles written by "Zonker" are typically fluff pieces anyway - read any HOWTO he's ever written. He also sucks as a System Administrator. Trust me.

where's the MS products? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802555)

The issue is how well it runs on older hardware compared with the equivalent MS software, if he's not gonna test Windows then this whole article is worthless.

"Linux" can mean many things (3, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802558)

...from a highly stripped-down distribution (such as muLinux [] ) to a highly featureful one (such as Ubuntu [] ).

So of course it can run, and run well, on older hardware. The only question is what you have to give up to make it work well.

What about older versions of Windows? (4, Insightful)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802565)

Windows 98, I've always felt, was a drastically underrated version of Windows. It was only a 200MB install, in comparison to the 500MB of Windows ME and gigabyte plus of Windows XP. And its workings, by comparison, were simple. For example, Windows 98 had the option to completely turn off the usage of the swap file until memory is filled. Doing so made the entire system run from memory, vastly speeding up the system. As far as I know this is impossible in Windows XP. If you have an old system and toss a bunch of extra memory in it (pennies for older systems) you can make it run incredibly fast using Windows 98. I have an older laptop that I recently "inherited" from a friend. It took about 5 minutes to boot up and 30 seconds to even open a folder. I wiped it, installed Windows 98, tweaked it a bit, and installed Firefox. It now runs beautifully, as fast as my main computer. When I use Windows 98, it almost seems to me as if XP was designed to slow down your computer. Too bad most modern software no longer supports it.

Re:What about older versions of Windows? (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802576)

Another nice feature of Windows 98 is that you could hold down F8 during startup, and it would only use 100KB or so of RAM! -- Yet you could still run top-notch productivity applications! Clearly Windows 98 is vastly superior to Linux in resource usage.

All true, but: (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802617)

Win98 is no longer supported by its maker. You can install it allright, but you will find out that modern features won't work on it. You might remember the pains of NT and USB. Now, something like this can and will eventually happen to all systems that are no longer supported by their makers. Some new device arrives and you won't be able to use it.

Granted, if you're not modifying your hardware anymore, that won't matter.

But there are other things. Security and bugfixes being the main ones (you will not get fixes for bugs and security holes that were not discovered during its supported lifetime).

So yes, of course you can still install the "older" versions of Windows on your old hardware. Of course. It worked then, it works now. The question is, though, will a current system work on old hardware? Now, current doesn't mean that you should try to force the latest graphical gadgets onto the machine, current means simply whether you can use a current system the same way you were using the old system.

Re:What about older versions of Windows? (1)

artificialj (873081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802639)

Underrated?!? I don't know if I want to laugh or cry. I think I'm going to be sick. Speachless.

Scalability is the reason (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802572)

Linux is VERY scalable. You will not see KDE 3.0 with all graphics gadgets run lovely on a Pentium (first gen) with 64 megs of ram, but if you use the settings that were usual in those days, you'll find that even with the latest Kernel and the latest packages it will run just as fast as it did back then. And for most day to day work that such a machine will see (like, for instance, work as my router), this will be sufficient.

Now, one could argue that the Systems that come to us from the lovely town of Redmond offer similar qualities. Win95 will run just as well on a Pentium, just like it did back then. Certainly. But there is no way to make WinXP (or Vista) behave in a way that makes it suitable for such a machine. You cannot cut the system down to something that would run even remotely smoothly on this kind of machine. If it runs at all.

Scalability is the reason. You can simply not scale Windows, no matter what version, the same way you can Linux.

Whether that's a necessity is something you have to answer yourself, though. Do you actually need to run a modern system on an ancient machine? The uses are rather limited. What it certainly offers is to "recycle" your old machines as test boxes. Who doesn't have some old box sitting around, collecting dust? It's good enough for a new life as a quickly patched together web server.

Especially when dealing with code that should best not touch the "live" network (i.e. when dealing with possibly malvolent code), having an old box handy can save a lot of trouble and headaches. :)

Re:Scalability is the reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802766)

You hit a good point: With Linux I can have up-to-date kernel and packages, except for demanding desktop features. I have control.

This means that I can keep security features on those systems up-to-date, without having to upgrade eye-candy.

No so with Windows. I cannot replace a few system components in Win98 with XP components (even if I get a new license). I must replace the whole system, including the eye-candy that makes my older hardware obsolete. I lose control and security, and must throw older hardware if I care for security.

Windows 2003 (3, Interesting)

ben_1432 (871549) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802573)

Win2003 [] requires,
- 133mhz processor
- 128mb of ram
- 1.25gb+ of hard drive space

From memory, that's a computer in the early 90's with some extra memory and a bigger hard drive, neither of which are anywhere near expensive.

It's no surprise that other server operating systems run on old hardware as well.

It's no surprise that Linux will run on older hardware,

Re:Windows 2003 (1)

homerito (591887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802625)

>neither of which are anywhere near expensive.

Right... have you tried to buy PC100 memory? freaking expensive...
US$70 for 256MB pc100
US$70 for 1GB pc3200

I am stuck with a Piii 450 because I want to upgrade the memory but its pc100 :(. Its probably faster to upgrade to a socket A... oh but wait... I really liked the Duron 1.8 for a cheap system. however all socket A is gone..gone...gone and we are left with expensive low end procesors. A year ago I was able to build systems with the Duron 1.8+mobo+512MB for about 110 US$. now the cheapest processors available start at around 80US$ + mobo 50US$ + memory 40US$ = US$170! for the lowest end possible. I tought computers should get cheaper with time!.

Re:Windows 2003 (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802698) is showing right now:

Athlon/Duron motherboard with 266Mhz FSB- ~$26
Athlon XP 1700 - $60
512 MB PC133 memory - $43

Not a bad upgrade.

If you want a whole system and don't mind a rebate, spend $200 on a refurbished IBM Thinkcentre 1.8Ghz Pentium IV. Use a credit card - I've never had a problem with, but others can probably supply horror stories. The credit card will help you if you have problems. s/item-details.asp?EdpNo=1282026&CatId=0 []

Re:Windows 2003 (1)

tarsoniz (956218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802636)

Close--that would actually be a significantly upgraded mid- to late-90's machine. I bought my first computer in 1995, when the P100 was considered blazing fast. I actually ended up buying a machine with a 90MHz NexGen Nx586 [] chip based on the RISC86 architecture. NexGen was later bought by AMD and I think their Nx686 actually became the AMD K6. Back then 8 MB of FPM RAM (two 4 MB SIMMs) cost something like $275. Does anyone know how much the four 32 MB SIMMs would have cost? (...or even if you could have purchased such a gargantuan memory module for a PC in the first place?) Ahh, those were the days....

Re:Windows 2003 (1)

tarsoniz (956218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802660)

I found an even better link about NexGen [] .

Non-CD Booting Options and Distro Support (3, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802580)

I don't consider a machine that can boot from CDROM to be old :-) (And I especially don't consider any machine that supports USB to be old...)

Machines that have to boot from floppy or HD are old, and laptops with random pre-Cardbus PCMCIA Ethernet cards are old, and working with them requires distro support for booting from floppy into a system with the right Ethernet drivers and/or support for booting from MS-DOS file systems that you loaded before the first Linux boot. Many of the distros out there _could_ do it, but don't necessarily give you the documentation to figure out how :-)

One trick I'm planning to try soon is putting the laptop disk into an external USB shoebox so I can load it from one of my larger computers, side-stepping the whole problem. That still requires a sufficiently small distro, but at least it's a start.

Re:Non-CD Booting Options and Distro Support (2, Informative)

Osty (16825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802648)

I don't consider a machine that can boot from CDROM to be old :-) (And I especially don't consider any machine that supports USB to be old...)

"Old" is relative, but keep in mind that machines that can boot from CDROM and support USB have been around for nearly 10 years now (I bought just such a machine back in January 97, 9 years ago). A decade-old machine fits my definition of "old". Certainly machines based on a 386 or 486 CPU are older, but a p200 from 96-97 is definitely "old".

Re:Non-CD Booting Options and Distro Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802758)

On the Slackware ISOs, there's a floppy disk image for a little program called Smart Boot Manager. Write the image to a floppy disk, put the disk in the old computer, and it lets you select a boot device that the BIOS can't see, like a CD-ROM drive. I've used this program several times to boot Linux CDs on older computers (pretty much 486s; they make good routers).

Linux on old hardware (1)

chadruva (613658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802588)

Linux does run on old hardware pretty well, by Linux I mean base kernel and utils, even with X and a basic WM it will perform fantastic, my specs:

IBM Thinkpad 760XL
* Pentium 133mhz
* 72mb Ram
* 2GB HD

It worked with new 2.6 kernel and xorg 6.8, not bad, trow in IceWM+ROX or XFCE and you have a pretty desktop, the problem was OpenOffice, it did run, very slow but it did, not comparable with office 2000 and win98 on the same machine, that combo was pretty fast for it :)

The article does make a point, Linux does bring some life to your old HW, but new apps aren't designed for old hardware anymore.

Ofcourse, I used LyX for documents, or abiword and gnumeric, and worked, but looking for something more integrated leaved me with KOffice which did perform fine.

No surprise there (3, Interesting)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802589)

I was looking to pick up a cheap notebook last year, and my brother-in-law said I could have his old 400MHz Celeron Toshiba (one of the first generation with DVD). He had long since retired it, as Windows was running too slow and the computer tech he took it to said it was too outdated and couldn't be used for anything.

I put Gentoo and fluxbox on it (cross-compiling the binaries on my desktop - I am not a moron), opera, abiword, gnumeric, mplayer, and even the MythTV frontend, so I can watch shows in bed. It runs really quite snappy, and seems more responsive than my Dad's 1.2GHz celeron running XP.

My brother-in-law is quite suprised that I've been able to breath new life into a computer he was told was a junker. He meanwhile has a 1GHz PIII notebook that he is thinking of again replacing because Windows runs too slow.

Re:No surprise there (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802669)

Perfectly fine machine. My 1.1Ghz Celeron cost next to nothing when new, and is 4 years now. I used to buy new machines every 4 years, but this one runs g++ and javac and about 70 other processes fast enough for me. Maybe in 2010 I'll upgrade.

Dude, give it a rest!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802591)

No one wants your 500Mhz PC - that same crud use as much power as my 1Ghz

extend its lifespan considerably? (0, Redundant)

xiando (770382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802616)

Linux 2.4.28-gentoo-r9 i686 Pentium II (Deschutes) GenuineIntel GNU/Linux. Runs apache2, mail (postfix+clamav+amavisd-new+spamassassin), 74 [] users and some "other services". Should probably upgrade someday. However, I heard a rumor: If it's not broken, don't fix it.

What happened to the good old days? (1)

green pizza (159161) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802619)

It seemed like not too long ago that Linux was the best option for breathing new life into 486-class PCs. I remember folks running FVWM and XFCE 1.0 on their 486 and first generation Pentium systems because Win95/98/NT ran too slow on the same hardware.

Now there's actually some FUD that Windows runs better on old hardware? Why is there even a debate at all? Has Windows gotten that much faster? Has Linux gotten that much slower? Has X11/Qt/GTK gotten that much more bloated?

Yes, Linux runs on old boxen but... (1)

bride_of_excession (943938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802624)

...not as fast as BSD. The 2.6 Linux kernel has gotten *huge* and running a full-featured FreeBSD install beats the pants off a minimalist linux distro speedwise IME.

Re:Yes, Linux runs on old boxen but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802685)

Err, no.

Linux 2.6 kernel can be configured down to run on a 2MB machine with full TCP/IP stack, busybox, and a few hundred K leftover for userspace.

Distro Disk Layout Problems (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802628)

Some of my older lab machines had enough disk space, but some of them had two 500MB drives, and it's amazing how much trouble it was installing Linux on it back when that meant RedHat 5 or 6. The problem was that the distro either wanted to split the disk up into various partitions, some of which were too large for one drive and others didn't fill the other drive, or else it wanted to treat everything as one large root file system which didn't do the job either. I'd constantly have installs choke because one drive was 1/3 full and the other needed to be 1.5x full, and there wasn't a convenient way to tell it where to fit packages. I suppose today you can probably do things with RAID to stripe the partitions across disks or something, but a union filesystem of some sort would probably be easier, especially if it could include the CDROM as part of a partition.

Re:Distro Disk Layout Problems (1)

toganet (176363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802738)

Well, there's always LVM, but with two 500MB disks, you still only have 1Gb of space, minus whatever swap space you allocate. Better off running those machines as X-terminals, or from a livecd, if they can boot from one.

makes sense to me... the perfect utility platform (2, Interesting)

tilde_e (943106) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802629)

My first Linux box was on old hardware, a 486 DX-2 50 in fact. Netscape was a bit slow, but it made a grade dial-up gateway. In fact, I still have the same machine, it has just slowly been upgraded piece by piece to an AMD K6, RAID-1 file-server and internet gateway using an 802.11 USB stick. At one point it also was my answering machine and it emailed me mp3s of voice messages it recorded using a 33.6 voice modem I got on eBay for $1. Now it boots from a compressed initrd so it can put the RAID to sleep so it isn't so loud.

Uh huh. So does a decrepit copy of Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802630)

Big thrill. Windows 95 runs great on older hardware too. Feel the thrill! Here's your cookie.

PPC (1)

armagost (953900) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802633)

Isn't giving old machines new life the whole point of Linux? Good luck with Windows 95.

Linux runs fast and smooth on my 1998 beige G3 desktop. I have fond memories of using the Gimp with the KDE panel. What made the beige G3 obsolete is that it burns much more juice than my Mac mini. The Gimp's okay on Apple X11 Tiger.

Re:PPC (1)

andreyw (798182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802760)

You know, the beige G3 can still run 10.4 with XPostFacto.

Sure, Linux runs on old boxen... (1)

bride_of_excession (943938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802635)

...but the 2.6 kernel is *huge* so it's not all that much faser than winderz anymore. BSD is a much better choice for old hardware IME.

Macs too? Not really (1)

themadplasterer (931983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802638)

I have both a mac G4 400 and a few old pc's and have found that the X86 boxes will run quite smoothly with most distro's, however the mac G4 is totally hopeless if running xorg or its predicessor. I've tried debian /yellow dog & mandrake on the mac and all those cd's do is make great coasters

Re:Macs too? Not really (1)

armagost (953900) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802712)

I have evidence [] [1024x768 pixels 114 kb PNG image file] that SuSE 9.1 PPC Potato works fine on a 266 MHz G3. You'll just have to take my word for it that I didn't fake this image.

Re:Macs too? Not really (1)

themadplasterer (931983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802801)

It depends what your definition of works fine is. My definition is not feeling like I'm on acid when I drag windows around. The trailing is unbelievable. I could also show you screenshots if i had made any, however these would be static images after the trails stopped and would look fine. I'm talking about motion, actually using the OS constantly was very tiring in my experience

Depends on what you choose (1)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802651)

I have a nice shiny new copy of Ubuntu 5.10 that occasionally brings my Sun Ultra 20 (Opteron, 1GB RAM) to it's knees.

So I'm thinking it depends on what distribution you choose and which desktop manager.

Vector Linux Experiences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802653)

I've heard _great_ things about Vector Linux. Anyone willing to share their experiences? I'm especially interested in desktop performance (browsing the web) on machines with 300MHz and 128MB memory.

Newer distros not great for older hardware? (2, Interesting)

ptcheezer (677747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802664)

I have a Dell PowerEdge 6450 which I tried to load Fedora Core 4 and SuSe 10 on. They failed to install because I think they don't support the PowerEdge 2/DC RAID controller card anymore and there was a blog I found where I could roll my own kernel with it in there. I went with CentOS 3.6 (RedHat EL 3) because it uses 2.4 with all the right modules or whatever built-in. My point is that I was just thinking about how the newer distros are usually NOT friendly to older hardware because they seem to drop off support for older hardware as they support the newer stuff. Like when I couldn't get Knoppix to boot and I realized I had to feed it the "nodma" option. It's just a PITA to struggle with stuff like this in LInux when you just know Windows would find the hardware and use it. Now, I'll probably get flamed and be told I just don't know what I'm doing and I can gather up all the right kernel loadable modules or roll my own kernel, etc. But, my simple point is that it's getting harder to get the newest distros to "just work" on older hardware.

Xubuntu (2, Informative)

InodoroPereyra (514794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802672)

It would have been nice if they tried Xubuntu [] too. Ubuntu based, XFCE [] as a light, yet feature rich (to some extent) desktop. Clean, good looking, very responsive. Some screenies here [] .

is this really news? (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802678)

Seriously, I got my start with RedHat linux 4.2 on a 33mhz 486 Gateway 2000 with 8 MB of Ram and a 250 MB Hdd.

From day 1 I knew how much more responsive linux was on older hardware.

Sure, it was a dog on big tasks but as the router/fileserver I built out of it it was as good as any Pentium class machine would have been.


Yep... (1)

seabre (889946) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802687)

Linux works GREAT on older hardware, as well as probably all of the BSDs. I actually prefer FreeBSD though, since it installs and runs on a plethora of old hardware without any hassle. I remember I had two 30GB harddrives running in an old pentium I, packard bell box (with 32MB of RAM) running FreeBSD. I don't know why I did that...I probably just thought it was cool at the time.

Seriously, Who Cares? (1)

muggz1250 (885083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802689)

If you're running a old 486, you are a personal computer hobbyist. Who cares if you are running some arcane Linux distro or Dr. DOS? It is a very narrow issue vis-à-vis the wider computing community and I am ROTFL at the whole idea of anyone having a sufficient stake in this to be arguing the point. Now whether or not the Ubuntu distribution is appropriate for my Athlon 64 box with six external USB devices including a USB wireless headset/microphone or perhaps some of the distribution, for a first-time Linux user, is a serious question deserving some serious thought (at least from my perspective). :-D

Re:Seriously, Who Cares? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802748)

If you're running a old 486, you are a personal computer hobbyist.

Or a school, or a nonprofit, or someone who just needs email and has better things to spend money on.

My high school had mostly 400 mhz boxes with 64 megs of ram -- at best, usually more like half that (200mhz/32meg) until a very recent upgrade, which was actually pretty expensive. On the old machines, the OS of choice was NT 4.0 or Win2K, which both ran dog slow, with horrendous amounts of thrashing.

Who cares if you are running some arcane Linux distro or Dr. DOS?

And since these things have to be able to browse the web, do word processing, etc, then yes, you could run Dr. DOS, but it'd be a hell of a lot harder to find the apps and train the users than it would with a modern Linux distro. And yes, a modern distro (Debian) will run just fine if you're willing to tweak it a bit. Hardly "arcane".

And by the way, why is it that you're assuming the "wider computing community" runs athlon64 boxes with six external USB devices? You, sir, are a personal computer hobbyist and a hypocrite.

Actually, the "wider computing community" runs whatever's "fast enough", which only follows Moore's law because software bloat does. Maybe users will be forced onto an amd64 box. I think it's far more likely that more and more users will refuse to upgrade as they find Linux working on their old hardware.

Not suprising (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802694)

I'm running RH9 on an iOpener. /proc/cpuinfo tells me that it's a WinChip C6 180MHZ

4 gig laptop harddrive
32 megs of ram (shared with video card)

But the worst part is that the keyboard that it came with doesn't have an Escape key.. which annoys me every time I use vim.

In other news... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802713)

Linux is STILL for fags.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802763)

No; MacOS is for fags, Linux is for asexual nerds. Manly men such as myself use whatever they want, because they're cool with their own sexuality.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802791)

And Windows is for assholes.

Guess who's getting fucked?


'Strue. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802745)

Until the machine finally died in 2003, I ran Debian on a P166 Laptop.

Sure, I ran wmaker or oroborous instead of GNOME or KDE, and lynx, or sometimes Phoenix, instead of Mozilla. But it worked fine.

(I tried Opera, but it didn't work out. I was limited to 640x480 if I wanted a decent color depth, and Opera's banner ads took up way too much screen space.)

In short, the Linux kernel runs plenty fast. You just need to pick your UI to fall within your machine's limitations.

The problem with older versions of Windows (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802746)

I'm suprised I haven't seen it mentioned yet, but the reason I would use Linux on older machines over older Microsoft OS' like Windows 95/95/ME/2000 is because Linux gives you the benefit of still being a supported OS. The problem with older versions of Windows is that Microsoft simply gives up on them. Even if there's some absolutely critical security flaw, Microsoft simply stop caring.

Compare this to Linux and you can use a new, fully patched, fully secure, fully tested release and scale it down to run on your old hardware, I think that's the key difference that's been missed by some here when recommending just using older Windows releases instead.

Put simply, using Linux on an old box means you can run an old box with modern software - modern in that is uptodate in terms of features, security updates and hardware support. It basically feels like when Microsoft gives up on an OS that OS is in a timefreeze, don't expect to have much luck with some hardware/software/security problem that emerged after MS gave up on it, compare that to Linux however and generally you'll have much more luck with resolving said hardware/software/security issue on the same hardware because some kind Linux developer, I guess that's the wonder of open source compared to proprietary.

Tecra 500CDT (2, Interesting)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802752)

I have a Toshiba Tecra 500CDT laptop, a 120Mhz Pentium with the RAM maxed out to 144MB (fairly cheap) and a leftover 6GB hard drive I had. I installed Windows XP Pro on it; I had to download the boot floppies (no CDROM booting) and use the Windows 2000 video driver (XP no longer supports the Chips and memory video controller, but the Win2K driver works fine).

I use the "Classic" theme, 16-bit color (24-bit is unaccelerated by the driver) with ClearType enabled, and it runs nicely! Office 2003, Firefox, WinAMP, and various 2D games all work perectly fine.

When I tried Fedora Core 2 it thrashed the hell out of the hard drive due to the bloat of Gnome and KDE. Sure, I could have used a lightweight window manager, but I wanted something that approximated the functionality of Windows; turns out that I was better off just using Windows.

Linux certainly works on older hardware, but not with a very good desktop anymore. How hard would it be to use an older version of KDE or Gnome (I remember running them nicely on 64-meg pentiums back in the day!) with a modern distribution?

XFCE4?? (2, Interesting)

t0rkm3 (666910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802802)

Why try some of the Winders alike window managers? Like XFCE, ICE, JWM, or Equinox (EDE)?

I hate GNOME and KDE. I use Enlightenment 0.16.7 which runs nicely on everything from PII400 to AMD64 3200+.

Another advantage of *nix. Right tool for the task. A long ago discovered lesson by a network-centric weenie who just wanted an OS that facilitated my job rather than inhibiting it.


Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14802756)

Minix [] comes to mind as it was and is designed to work on old machines (at least a 386 with 8MB of ram). It's not as "mature" as the other *nixes of course but you can turn trash into servers with it.

I love the "comparison" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802773)

I read the microsoft old hardware stuff on the eweek link. What zonker tested was totally different, all distros that are lightweight. Why not test the distros that most of the world actually uses (it's called market share) such as Red Hat Enterprise Server or Novell SuSE server? I don't think anyone in Redmond is arguing XP versus damn small linux - get real.

Pentium Classic 75MHz, 40MB RAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14802796)

Got it in 1995! It came with Windows 3 or 95 installed (can't remember anymore). From Digital (DEC produced PC's sold at CompUSA briefly before being acquired by Compaq). Couldn't run 98.

I installed debian, and became my first home email, web, and print server. Now is a perfect file backup server, running automated backups of my main machine. Always on, latest debian version. Flawless. The only drawback -- it needs a keyboard connected in order to boot.
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