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Old 12-29-2006, 02:15 AM   #1
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Question Help switching laptop over to Linux?

Okay I have what may seem like a stupid question but while I'm pretty competent with computers, I don't have a lot of experience in installing OS's.

I have an old laptop, my ex-bf was trying to get it running again but the trouble is I don't have the Windows COA to get Win 95 running and frankly, part of why the laptop wasn't working was because Windows was corrupted. I've been thinking about trying Linux for a long time now and I figure this'll be a good time to do so.

The trouble is, I'm getting very confused with all these distributions and stuff. Plus I want to just wipe the hard drive clean and install Linux on a fresh slate but I have NO clue how to do so.

So here's what I'm dealing with -- the laptop in question is a Fujitsu 535T Lifebook (dates back to 1997). It's got a 133 MHz Pentium, 16 MB RAM, 2 GB hard drive. There's a modular bay that can hold either the 3.5" floppy drive or the CD-ROM drive (the CD-ROM is in there now). I can enter BIOS setup with no problems, but then the Win 95 setup comes up and if I don't enter the COA number it turns the computer off.

I've got DSL now, and a burner on my current desktop so downloading an ISO and burning it to CD I don't think will be a problem.

My question is, what distribution should I go with, and once I get it downloaded and on a CD, how do I wipe the laptop's hard drive and install this new OS?

Also, I have a wireless modem and I'd like to add a wireless card to this laptop once it's running so I can transfer files to my current computer (a year-old Dell with Win XP). Will any decent wireless PCMCIA card work with Linux, or do I have to look for a specific one? And what about transferring files? I know there's problems working on a word processing file on both a Mac and a PC but what about working on one in Win XP and Linux?

Sorry for all the dumb questions but I'm a little confused!

Thanks in advance for any help!!

Mary Jo
Old 12-29-2006, 02:54 AM   #2
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One thing you mention is that you have only 16 MB of ram. I assume you want to use it in a desktop configuration since you mention editing office files with it. To do any decent office tasks like word processing in a graphical environment will require that you have much more ram in order to run something like AbiWord, KOffice, or OpenOffice requires 128 MB of ram just to start up.

You will have to use a distribution that can install in limited ram and then run in the same limited ram environment after installation, unless you can get more memory into the case.

There are really too many distributions to be able to tell you "you should run this, and only this, distribution". The choices you have will depend on your hardware and user requirements. There are several good websites that guide new users in choosing a distribution.

Your questions are not dumb. They are necessary. Try this out:

and do a Google search for "guide to choosing a linux distribution". You should find several good resources to help answer your questions.
Old 12-29-2006, 03:08 AM   #3
Registered: Sep 2003
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The laptop specs aren't anything to write home about so you'll have to go with one of the light weight distros. Anything running Gnome and KDE would be useless.

Ubuntu is the easiest distribution that I have used and works pretty much out of the box (in my experience), but it uses Gnome and as i said this would put too high a demand on system resources. As an example my FC6 install with Gnome and no programs opened uses about 130MB of RAM.

There is a spin off to the Ubuntu project that uses XFCE as the destop environment which is much easier on system resources, but I'm not sure it's light enough. You can read about this distro from it's web page at

Another distribution that comes to mind is Damn Small Linux (DSL). It's specificaly designed to run on older systems with minimal CPU / RAM. It's web page is Also you might want to check out as it lists pretty much all the distros there are that are bieng actively maintained.

As for installing, can you set the BIOS on the laptop to have the CDROM as the first boot device. If so then most Distro's these days make a live CD meaning it will boot into the full OS and you can then install to HDD, or will run their instalation utility. During this you can repartition your HDD for Linux and wipe the Windows partition.


As for the installing
Old 12-29-2006, 05:51 AM   #4
Registered: Nov 2005
Location: Townsville, Australia
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I shouldn't worry about the partitioning Side of things, the on-board partitioner should do the job for you. However if that doesn't work for you try the Gparted Live CD:

if you just want to delete the Windows partition just highlight the partition you wish to delete go to Partition> Delete

Vector Linux 4.3


Puppy Linux





you can find more here

you might also want to check Deli Linux Out, haven't used it yet but have read that it is good for older machines

hope this Helps,


Last edited by jacook; 12-29-2006 at 06:06 AM.
Old 12-29-2006, 08:46 PM   #5
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Wow, I didn't realize how much RAM OpenOffice uses, guess I've gotten spoiled with my nice new Dell!

Thanks for the tips, I'll try that that Damn Small Linux, that sounds like my best shot. Either that or I'll just give up hope on this dino and save up for a new laptop!

Mary Jo
Old 12-29-2006, 09:05 PM   #6
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If DSL gives you problems, you might also try BeaFanTix. 16 MB is very very minimal RAM. Before I gave up on the box, I would see if there is some way to upgrade that.
Old 12-29-2006, 11:29 PM   #7
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Theres a couple websites you can use to search for info if you have problems getting certain items to work..

these two sites are nothing but links to HOW-To's for Linux installed on laptops.. your model isn't listed, but similar model may have similar hardware..
Old 12-30-2006, 07:46 AM   #8
Registered: May 2005
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Unlikely that machine can boot directly from cdrom. There are floppies available to help with that part. You could also network install.

damnsmalllinux uses an older kernel which might be a good thing with hardware that old. If this distribution interests you browse their website, many users of older laptops post at their forum.

As others noted, 16MB ram is really the ragged edge for graphics. The least I have used is 32. This wiki entry suggests 16 might be usable
unfortunately the author doesn't state for a certainty that graphics were running on that install. It might be necessary to shut off a few extras and use the jwm window manager.

No ram hungry apps will be possible. Don't forget to create some swap.

edit/ minimum hardware
so that ram should be possible, just not very speedy.
This distro is only 50MB but can more software is available through apt-get.
Have some reluctance recommending damnsmall to a new user as it is not the most user friendly or best documented. otoh it's free so nothing to lose but time and a corrupt win95.

And welcome to the forums!

Last edited by muddywaters; 12-30-2006 at 08:30 AM.
Old 02-12-2007, 01:52 AM   #9
aes canis
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I wouldn't use either BeatrIX or BeaFantIX with just 16 MB of RAM, as both state at least 32 MB as minimum, ideally 64 MB.


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