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Old 10-12-2010, 09:10 AM   #1
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Newbie Advice - Where to Begin with Linux on old(er) Win XP laptop?

Hi everyone - total Linux virgin here. I've had an old Dell laptop knocking around the place for years now, and have never really done anything with it due to its age, small HD capacity and low memory - oh, and because even though it only has Win XP home on it it is very slow and has no wireless capability.

I want to try and do something with this laptop so my son can have it to use to do his homework. It seems to me given the low spec that Linux would be the best bet, but I've absolutely no experience of working with it (I am pretty clued-up in Windows though).

Where do I start to see if Linux will work on it, see if I (we) like it, and then go from there?

Thanks for your help in advance!
Old 10-12-2010, 09:31 AM   #2
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You can try running Xubuntu off the CD without installing; and if you are ok with the response of GUI, go ahead with installation. I use it on my old laptop with is 700 Mhz with 10 GB harddisk + 512 MB RAM. It works great.
Old 10-12-2010, 09:50 AM   #3
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Post the specs on the laptop please, cpu, ram, graphics adapter, hard drive size. That will give people a much better idea about which linux distro would be appropriate for your old laptop.

All that being said, if it can run WinXP yoiu can probably run Puppy Linux:

Puppy is a linux distro especially designed for older hardware(minimum requirements: 128MB of ram a Pentium 166 cpu). You can run it off a livecd to test how it will run on your hardware without making any changes to your laptop hard drive.

By way of explanation, there are many different distributions of linux or "linux distros". Some are designed for older hardware, like puppy, some for specialized purposes, some are genral purpose. All linux distros will use a linux kernel but apart from that, there is a lot of variation in the userland applications that come with a given distro. The right distro for you will be determined by your hardware specs and personal preference. Most linux distros these days have livecds, bootable cds that boot into the linux desktop that will be available if you install that distro. It will allow you to test drive the distro for hardware compatibility without making any changes to your hard drive. Remember that running off a live cd is generally significantly slower than running an installed distro off the hard drive.
Old 10-12-2010, 09:53 AM   #4
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Which Dell laptop? What model?

How much RAM (memory) has is got?
Old 10-12-2010, 09:55 AM   #5
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Tell us the specs of the laptop (processor speed, memory, hard drive capacity, and video card). Also, share the various booting capabilities of the laptop (can it boot up from CD, usb, netboot, etc.).

There some low resource tailored Linux distros that you can try out. Without knowing your laptop specs, I would recommend antiX and slitaz. Other distros to consider are Slax, Puppy Linux, Tiny Core, and more. Distrowatch has a nice list of Linux distros you can look through. Unfortunately, the list is not categorized, but you can at least see which distros are popular.

If none of the low resource tailored distros quite match everything you're looking for, look into doing a minimal Ubuntu install. Then add any additional software you will want such as window managers, audio players, video players, browsers, and more.

Last edited by btncix; 10-12-2010 at 09:58 AM.
Old 10-12-2010, 09:58 AM   #6
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Thanks for your help.

The laptop is a Dell Latitude CPXH PPX (500MHz Pentium III, 128MB RAM, 10 GB Hard Drive). I'll give the bootable CD a go.
Old 10-12-2010, 10:16 AM   #7
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I have the identical Dell CPx laptop (except mine has an even smaller hard drive). It is a very slow (but reliable) laptop and I agree with the suggestion to try Puppy. Also, Puppy is "cute" and will be great for a kid.
Old 10-12-2010, 11:18 AM   #8
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Also, DSL (Damn Small Linux) might do as well as puppy. Both are minimal and do well on smaller machines.

Thing you want to do is try more than one live-CD distribution. When you find the one with the properties and applications to fit your needs, install that one to the hard drive. So many of them are excellent, but their hardware compatibility and packages may differ enough to make some totally inappropriate for you, others optimal, and most somewhere between. Take the time to enjoy your choices before you pick one for the long ride.
Old 10-13-2010, 03:20 AM   #9
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Is there a website where all the different versions can be downloaded from?
Old 10-13-2010, 07:14 AM   #10
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No. These are independent projects and each distro generally maintains its own website. Distrowatch has info and links to most of the common distros along with linux distro related news:
Old 10-13-2010, 08:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by richie2837 View Post
Is there a website where all the different versions can be downloaded from?
LQ has the 'Download Linux' page.

--- rod.
Old 10-15-2010, 05:37 AM   #12
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Thanks everyone for your help! I'm even more keen to try a Linux now that I know there's such a brilliant friendly helpful community out there using it.


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