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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


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Old 10-19-2008, 09:39 AM   #1
Registered: Jul 2008
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linux distro for really old laptop

Hello. I know that one of the main benefits of linux is that It can adapt to hardware no matter how old it is. I want to rescue a really old laptop with about 16 mb on ram, 4 gb of hd, and find out how true this is. I would like to be able to develop aplications in asm (using intel and att sintax) c language and maybe c++ if it can handle it. I was thinking in a text mode installation. Can anyone recommend me a distro for such computer?
PD. I would have to install it using a floppy drive, there´s no cd drive, or usb ports available
Old 10-19-2008, 10:16 AM   #2
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Nobody has ever said Linux adapts to any hardware "no matter how old it is". It generally runs better on older hardware than Windows, but there are still limits.

With 16 MB of RAM and only a floppy drive, you are not going to be able to run any modern distribution. I am not even aware of any distributions that support floppy install anymore (most don't even support floppy boot, since the 2.6.x kernel is too large anymore); it would take 100's of floppies to install even a base system.

Your best bet might be using one of the BSDs, like OpenBSD. If you have some network connectivity on this machine, you can use the single floppy installer to get the system on it. BSD also runs a bit better on really low end hardware than Linux, at least in my experience.
Old 10-19-2008, 01:01 PM   #3
Registered: May 2008
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Originally Posted by MS3FGX View Post
I am not even aware of any distributions that support floppy install anymore
Debian has a four-floppy install that downloads the binaries.
Old 10-19-2008, 05:17 PM   #4
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Try MenuetOS - it's not a linux distro but from what i gathered you're trying to make an old laptop usable.
Maybe that will help.


Last edited by loperz7; 10-23-2008 at 04:07 AM.
Old 10-22-2008, 11:56 AM   #5
Registered: Jul 2006
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
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Sound like fun. I ran Slackware and Xenix on an old IBM AT (286) with just 3 megs of RAM back in the day. Even had an early version of X-Windows running openwin. I'm sure you can probably find an old version of Linux that will work for what you want to do. Shoot, my web server runs on a 33MHZ Mac (68040) running NetBSD. It does have 128Megs of Ram though. Good luck.
Old 10-22-2008, 12:39 PM   #6
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Some other good alternatives might be NetBSD and DragonFly BSD. They're not Linux but you can do your c++ development and anything else you want using them.
Old 10-24-2008, 10:21 AM   #7
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If you have time on your hands and a standard computer it is on to take out the hard disk,
put it in the standard computer, there are adapters, and build a Cross Compiled Linux from Scratch
on it.
You will go through endless amounts of C & C++ compiling.
Only i386 machines are ruled out.
See CLFS site.

Old 10-29-2008, 08:26 PM   #8
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DSL will work (itll work w/out a HD).

hope that helps.
there is also "Peanut" linux, and my favorite (which may not work) is Mandrake 7.1 helium w/enlightenment e16 built in if you want it.

all cd's can be found in old magazines, and even bought or coppied from locals for pennies on the dollar.

i think, if i looked long enough, i can find old screenshots of my desktops.

i got mandrake to run a marilynmanson video on a 128Mghz processor (90's toshiba) old bosses pc. that stopped working. he gave it to me, and i wish i didnt sell it. b/c now im trying to test my networking skills
Old 10-30-2008, 07:03 PM   #9
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vintage computing

If you're into vintage computers, you might want to play with an old version of BeOS, got one sitting on the shelf that wants 32 mb ram with at least 150 mb of HD space.
Some older machines have bootable pcmcia slots, where you can boot off a CF card.
There is also an old version of Mandrake that has about the same requirements that could run off a ram drive.
What are the specs on your old laptop? I have some ancient ram here that I'd be happy to send to a new home for nothing more than postage.
Old 10-31-2008, 04:01 AM   #11
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Try out a Debian. It installs/boots off of floppy, but i'd recommend you getting hold of a network card and install the bulk of the OS via net. Personal experience is an ooold IBM Thinkpad 701C (486@50MHz, 32MB ram) running Debian Etch - including BlackBox WM and a pile of devtools. But go for the text-mode interface. GUI is no good idea. Too slow
Old 10-31-2008, 01:34 PM   #12
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Slackware runs nicely in this machine. I just installed it on a similar laptop a few months ago
Old 10-31-2008, 01:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by loperz7 View Post
Try MenuetOS - it's not a linux distro but from what i gathered you're trying to make an old laptop usable.
Maybe that will help.

yeeeees baby. gentoo forever! gentoo + openbox or fluxbox or another light DE!
Old 11-06-2008, 11:19 AM   #14
Registered: Jun 2008
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I'd go with Damn Small Linux and experiment with the boot cheat codes to find the combination that gives you the best performance for your machine.

First, there's the lowram cheat code that uses a minimal GUI.

If you don't need a GUI, use the dsl 2 cheat code to boot into text-only mode.

There are lots more cheat codes for turning stuff off at boot.

The super-low-ram boot option they recommend is:

dsl 1 vga=normal atapicd noideraid nosound noapic noacpi acpi=off noscsi noapm nousb nopcmcia nofirewire noagp nomce
Old 11-14-2008, 10:25 PM   #15
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I got slackware to run on a HP Omnibook 800 with smaller specs than yours


floppy, install, linux, old, ram, slackware

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