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Old 10-29-2009, 11:52 AM   #1
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Replacing Windows Me on an HP notebook...

A friend of mine has an HP notebook that had Windows Me on it. He had never updated his AV definitions so eventually it got so infected that when I got him to install a new AV and do a scan he lost so many systems files that it would no longer boot. He cannot find his Windows CD either.

Neither of us knows anything at all about Linux. And he is only slightly knowledgeable about Windows and he has asked for my help in replacing his WinMe OS.

I see that Linux comes in many many flavors and I do not know how to begin to discover what version to recommend to him.

The HP has 256MB of RAM, a USB port, an internal CD/DVD read-only drive and a 20 GB (if I remember correctly) internal HDD. He only wants to browse the web, get email and pay some bills at his bank while he saves up to get his Mac notebook repaired. Seems the HDD in it went south.

So the questions begin:

1. What version should we install on his HP?
2. I have recommended he use Firefox and Thunderbird for his browser and email client. Will these programs run on Linux OK?
3. I have also recommended he use Open Office (since it is free) from Sun to replace his lost version of MS Word 2003. Will OO run OK on Linux?
4. Where might we source the version of Linux that hopefully you folks will recommend?


Old 10-29-2009, 12:09 PM   #2
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Welcome to LQ!!

There are many versions of Linux that should work well on that laptop. You can just about pick anything in the top ten on the "hit list" at

All the SW you mention is pretty much standard on most distros.

Good luck!!
Old 10-29-2009, 12:11 PM   #3
David the H.
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Check out the DistroWatch top ten page for a rundown of the most popular distributions. These days Ubuntu seems to be the recommended choice for most beginners. Since the memory of the system is a little low, you might consider using the xubuntu variant.

Just follow the links to the distro home page of your choice, where you can download the installers you need. If the distro has a live CD version you might consider trying it first; as it's good for testing hardware compatibility. The Ubuntu install disk also acts as a live CD, for example.

As for your other questions, yes, the programs you mentioned all run just fine on Linux. Most distros either offer them by default, or let you easily install them.

Last edited by David the H.; 10-29-2009 at 12:13 PM.
Old 10-29-2009, 02:09 PM   #4
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Thumbs up

Thanks for the quick replies! I now have reading to do. I will return with the results when we have something to report.
Old 10-29-2009, 04:39 PM   #5
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The 256 meg is the issue that will stop most choices.

Look for lightweight or low resource or low memory type of distros.

Best to try live cd's if you can to get an idea about them.
Old 10-29-2009, 04:47 PM   #6
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You might want to stick with minimal installs and install what you need since you only have 256 ram. You can try something like DSL (Damn Small Linux) to get the feel. Its a live CD.
Old 10-30-2009, 10:09 AM   #7
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The 256 RAM does not limit what you can install--it limits what you can RUN...

There are many thing that affect how much RAM is used---eg the choice of Desktop/Window Manager.

We haven't discussed adding some RAM. If the machine will support it, an upgrade to 512M of RAM will make a HUGE difference.

Last edited by pixellany; 10-31-2009 at 07:59 AM. Reason: typo
Old 11-05-2009, 01:47 PM   #8
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Progress? Maybe...

I "exercised" some of the hardware with some XP utilities that I have and it seemed to work OK. So now the owner is willing to finance an upgrade of the RAM.

Next we need to locate Linux compatible drivers for it. So far HP isn't much help. It is an Pavilion N5420L-F2404M notebook. Below is a partial list of important hardware:

BIOS: Phoenix 4.0 release 6.0 revision GC.M1.63
CPU:Intel Celeron 800MHz
Toshiba CD/DVD reader
2 USB ports
dialup modem of unknown spec
VGA port
PCI card reader

I was unable to discover anything about the video adapter or monitor.
It has a speaker/headset port so it must have some kind of audio card.

The original CD's have long since disappeared and the owner has almost no remembrance of the internal stuff. He is NOT very savvy computers or he wouldn't have assumed that just installing an AV but never updating it or scanning was all he needed to do. That is how his Me OS got so infected it would no longer boot.

Any and all help is very much appreciated. He is a good friend but I am trying to avoid becoming expert in all things for this PC resurrection.


Last edited by scout321x; 11-05-2009 at 01:49 PM.
Old 11-05-2009, 04:07 PM   #9
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Unlike windows when you install a Linux distro it will most likely detect and make all the hardware work fine. So no driver searching will be needed I thinks. You might wanna try Mephis I used it on a laptop not too long ago and it seams to be a bit leaner then some of the others. Or you could use one of the mainstream like ubuntu and use XFCE or something similar. I would recommend using ICEWM but that requires a bit of fiddling that I wouldn't drop a newbie into.

Last edited by exvor; 11-05-2009 at 04:08 PM. Reason: its mephis not memphis silly spellcheck
Old 11-05-2009, 04:30 PM   #10
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From what I have found the video is a S3 if you put windows on it I would recommend win98 before winME any day. HERE is a link to the driver page.
Old 11-19-2009, 12:46 PM   #11
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Thanks again for the past help!

I tired DSL but it didn't seem to be capable enough (snap judgment on my part I admit) so I ordered Mepis. Remember all this is a favor I'm doing for a friend. And please be aware that I am virtually in the dark about Linux (I'm a retired big system IT guy and I was also fairly knowledgeable about DOS until I gave it up for Win98SE about 12 years ago then I moved on to XP Pro about 5 years). But this Linux seem way more complicated than I anticipated although not as bad as writing code in octal like when I started in 1962.

Anyway, the subject PC, again, is an HP Pavilion N5420L notebook that has an ESS ES1989 combo audio/Allegro modem chip that turns out to be a WinModen and it appears Linux isn't into WinModems. At least Mepis "sees" the USB ports where my copy of 98SE didn't.

So I suspect my buddy is looking at buying a ~$50 USB modem like my Zoom that I bought for my MSi U123 netbook. However, when I look at my modem CD for Linux there are three different install files. One with an extension of .deb, another with .rpm and a third with .tar.gz. Plus the newest versions of Firefox and Thunderbird that I downloaded from Mozilla also have strange (to me anyway) extensions of .tar.bz2 for FF and .tar.gz for TB.

So far I have been unable to discover how to install new software into Mepis or replace existing (in this case FF) software already in Mepis.

Will we be able to use a USB modem in Mepis?

Is there some fairly "easy" way to add the modem software?

Is there a fairly "easy" way to update the versions of Firefox ans OpenOffice that come with Mepis?

And am I asking these questions in the right place?


Apparently not, I'll go elsewhere. Judging buy the number of newbie Q's insuch a short amount of I'm not sure Linux is appropriate.

Last edited by scout321x; 11-20-2009 at 03:16 PM.


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