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Welcome to LQ. Yes, you can run Linux on that machine, but realistically a "typical" PC today would probably boasting tech specs that are at least ~10X or more (ie, 12G drive, 1.5Gz CPU, 320M RAM, etc) and therefore your expectations about the performance you'll see on this box should be adjusted accordingly. If you're planning on using the machine as a desktop, you will need to avoid things like KDE and Gnome, and go with a very lightweight window manager. On the other hand, if you are planning to use it to act as a firewall, or local web server, etc, you'll be fine. Good luck with it
I recently installed mandrake 10 on a similar system. In the past I made boot floppies but this time I just stuck the hdd in a P4, installed linux, then put the hdd back in the p166. it found the new hardware and booted okay.
Slow box, but will run kde with everything turned down a bit. Runs other wm's better. Good for an email browsing box, too slow for OOo1, tho it will run.
Mind you, I have 64meg ram. With 32 you will need to run a light wm for sure. Kde is very slow with 32meg.
But any distro will install generally.
I use this size PC mostly for stuff like firewalls and print and mp3 servers these days...
I don't know what you should do. But is it maybe possible that the new vector linux version needs more then 32MB ram to install?
Or no, I think you should boot from the cd. Not copy files on the hd and try to start from dos or whatever you tried.
You're pc can boot from a cd if you just make a dos boot floppy and put smart boot manager on it: http://btmgr.webframe.org/
Get these files from the download page and put them on the dos boot floppy:
3.6 release 4 sbminst.exe (DOS executable)
cwsdpmi.exe (support file)
Then you can choose to boot the cd from the floppy.
I would use freebsd. But try out vector linux, damn small linux, debian, etc. And see what you like.
The most important thing will be that you disable unnecesary services after installing an operating system and then install a lightweight window manager like icewm. And use other lightweight software as well.
You should have the option to do it when you install Vector. I've never used it myself, so I don't know how the installation works. Note that Linux doesn't refer to partitions as C:, D:, etc. It will use something like /dev/hda1 (for the first partition on your primary drive, if you're using IDE drives).