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I have just got an old PIII/450 PC with 384Mb RAM and a 20GB drive from a friend who I just supplied with 3.2GHz system and I have decided to give it away ... I need to put an OS on it and can't give it away with Windows because I don't have a license for it so I thought I'd pout Linux on it ... the question is what distro & version?
That really depends on what you want to do with it. The hardware isn't particularly powerful, but it has enough juice to run essentially any distribution well enough to be usable (but not great), so you need to decide what your end goal is here.
If you want something user-friendly, then something like Xubuntu would combine relatively low hardware requirements with enough automatic configuration and GUI tools to make it easily accessible. On the other end of the spectrum, something like Slackware or Vector would allow you to get maximum performance out of the hardware, at the cost of a lot of the usability niceties.
If the machine is something you want to learn Linux on, then go with Slackware, Debian, Vector, etc, etc. If you want something that "just works" out of the box, shoot for one of the Ubuntus.
Moved: This thread is more suitable in Linux-Distributions and has been moved accordingly to help your thread/question get the exposure it deserves.
Mod Note: more of a "which distro should use" question than a specific hardware question.
I've got an old PIII, 512Mg RAM, 40G drive running Slack and it works just fine. Overall I'd second MS3FGX's comments on checking out Ubuntu or one of its cousins. Ubuntu works nicely out of the box and is a good solid choice
I have just tried out AntiX_M7 & AntiX_M7.01 on an 800MHz PIII w/ 384 of RAM. It was nimble & I really could grow to love fluxbox.
This raises the issue of which is the default WM for each of these possible distros? I know that it is Flux for AntiX & DSL, & I presume from the name, also for PCFluxBoxOS. While Flux really impresses me, I am not sure if it would suitable for a "Winfugee". Ironically, I would have fewer qualms about giving it to new computer user than to an average user who has been brainwashed to the M$ way of doing things. OTOH, it might just win them over after a short breaking in period.
I submit that in making this decision, the choice of GUI is more important than the choice of distro.
I suggest you make a list of GUI candidates & get a live CD for each. Test drive them & pick the GUI (WM/DE). Then narrow the list of distro candidates based on this choice & further consider/discuss/test these.
Depending on how much time you are willing to devote to research & sharing your findings, this could be a very educational thread. BTW, I several similar boxen & I would love to send to good homes w/ a "real" OS installed.
To each his own, but I don't think any of those 3 is going to be easy to get working on old hardware. In fact none of them is particularly easy on new hardware. And before the flames start for saying that about Debian, let point me out that:
I have been using it for 5 years.
Even Linus wouldn't use it because of its installer. See here, almost at the end.
(What someone needs to tell Linus about is MEPIS, which combines the easiest installer I have ever used, the nicest stock desktop I have ever seen, & all the power of Debian package management.)
All 3, Slackware, Gentoo, & Debian, are technically wonderful, I don't say otherwise, but I think there are too many distros designed for old hardware to consider these for this situation.
Distribution: Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, Slackware, IRIX, OS X
As you said, to each his own. Personally, I find slackware easier to work with then a lot of other distros. My only complaint is upgrading that Slackware systems do not upgrade easy. Gentoo is easy only if you know your hardware, and Debian I find easier to work with then a lot of the easy distros like Ubuntu.
To run on old hardware, find a slackware-based distro that is slimmed down a lot. Slackware has been around forever so is great on old hardware, but you don't want the full package for a PIII. Also, make sure you use a good window manager. KDE and Gnome are out of the question. This is where you'll get the most performance gain. Fluxbox/XFCE/IceWM/Enlightenment are all good options. I personally run fluxbox on an old Pentium MMX 266Mhz laptop with 64Mb RAM without any problems at all. Distro is Absolute Linux.