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I was going to install Linux as a dual boot on my old Compaq presario laptop which has Windows XP. When I purchased this laptop in '06, it had a sticker on the front saying 512 MB RAM. When I go under computer properties, device manager, it only says 384MB RAM! I'm wondering how much RAM I really have on this computer? Did Fry's rip me off on RAM back in '06?
Alot of the modern open source Linux distros seem to require at least 512MB of RAM as a system requirement. Can anyone recommend a good distro that will run on 384MB RAM? My first choices are OpenSUSE, Fedora, CentOS.
Here are other specs computer specs for this laptop.
Laptop: Compaq Presario v5201us
Mobile AMD Sempron Processor 3300+, 1.99 GHz
384 MB of RAM (sticker on front of laptop says “512 MB system memory”)
80 Gig Hard Drive
Wireless NIC: Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN
Wired NIC: Realtek RTL8139/810x Family Fast Ethernet
Distribution: Debian Sid AMD64, Raspbian Wheezy, various VMs
I agree with johnsfine about the RAM.
With that little memory I would suggest LXDE as a desktop environment though XFCE may work if you don't open too many things at the same time. Looking at my RAM usage almost half of my 1GB is being used for disk cache and I still have some left unused with Firefox and Icedove open using XFCE.
Personally, I install Debian on everything and I'll mention Linux Mint LXDE edition. However, there are distributions out there made for older machines that could actually run well on that machine but I'm not in a position to recommend any as I've not played with them.
With a full desktop manager you will have limits due to the hardware you are running it in
with a light weight graphical interface (Such as Enlightenmen) you will have limits due to software but nothing that you cant accomplish. Give it a try if you dont like it install something different.
There are plenty of distros that will run in 384MB: the bottom line for normal computer use is 128!
Installing something else and then changing the interface
1. makes more work
2. may fail: often the installer needs more memory than you have, as is the case for Fedora.
3. may be inferior to the usual product: you really wouldn't like Fedora without Gnome (or KDE at at pinch)
I'm not sure of your criteria — you list the ultra-stable CentOS and the cutting-edge Fedora — but you might consider
Salix: any version except Mate or KDE. High stability: basically, it's Slackware with package management, extras programs, and configuration tools.
AntiX: a re-spin of Debian Stable (can convert to any other Debian) with the super-light Ice window manager.