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Old 08-20-2018, 09:10 PM   #1
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Question Loading LINUX onto an OLD PC which has Windows XP

I am totally new to LINUX.

Should I consider loading LINUX onto an OLD PC now running Windows XP?
We have many files currently saved on this PC. Can we keep XP on the computer and also load LINUX? How much RAM is required? Are there other requirements and limitations?

Thank you and best regards,
Old 08-20-2018, 09:17 PM   #2
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Please post the specifications of that PC.

It is quite possible that a computer from the XP days does not have enough RAM to support a major contemporary Linux distro. For most distros, 2GB would be barely adequate, 3GB would be okay, and 4GB or more would be preferable.
Old 08-20-2018, 09:57 PM   #3
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Why fix what isn't broken?
Old 08-21-2018, 01:53 AM   #4
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^ meaning that windows xp is probably the right OS for that old machine.

...but i remember that xp suffers from the same windowsitis as all other windows versions - it gets bogged down over time...

whatever you decide to do, you should back up your important data.
Old 08-21-2018, 02:27 AM   #5
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Welcome to LQ.

As frankbell has requested, we really need the details of your XP machine.

Another route you could consider would be to continue using your XP machine and buy a used desktop PC or laptop and install Linux on that.
Later you can transfer your XP documents etc onto this Linux machine.

Personally I would phase out XP asap. Other views are available.

This link may help you:

As ondoho recommends, whatever you decide to do, you should back up your important data.

Last edited by beachboy2; 08-21-2018 at 03:43 AM.
Old 08-21-2018, 03:03 AM   #6
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Recommend upgrading to a light to midweight Linux distro.

(AntiX ('full' version), or MX Linux are my suggestions.)

Check out how much disk space your personal files are taking up, then copy them to an external/USB (pen)drive, for later putting onto your 'new' Linux computer.

(You should notice immediately that it runs faster now.)
Old 08-21-2018, 04:06 AM   #7
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I have put Slackware 14.2 on a PC that has XP.
I have one now that is a dual boot. It can boot both Linux and XP.
I don't remember exactly what that machine has, but it is around 900 MB of main memory and a 64 GB hard drive.
If you are NOT going to run programs with huge memory requirements, then you won't need Gigabyte memory sizes.
I was running Linux 2.2 in 16 MB of memory.
I have Linux 4.4 running in several machines, from 200 to 900 MB of main memory.

If you run too many programs, it will start to swap memory out to the swap partition (the hard drive will have huge activity and everything gets really slow).
If that happens, you will probably have to quit programs, and wait it out, until the machine comes back to life. It is a pain. Don't run that many programs at one time again. That is the limitation of an older machine with limited resources.

The main problem is going to be the install disk. It will have a Linux image and a ram drive that will attempt to load into your main memory.
If the main memory is too small for the installer then you will have to use another method.
When the installer Linux and programs were built, they assumed a new requirement of Gigabyte memory rather than bother with doing
extra work to keep the memory usage within the range of older hardware. It is not that it could not be done, there just were too many people saying that you need at least 2 GB these days (which you really don't), and too few old machines with less than 500 MB for them to bother with. Making an install that has to dance around in a small memory footprint is tricky.
It is those install programs that are going to be the problem.

On the IBM Thinkpad that I last did, I could run Linux installer. but I did not have space to compile until I could delete the old operating system.

I also did one where I installed Linux 2.4 in one partition, and then used that to upgrade to a newer Linux 4.4 in another partition.
The installer for Linux 2.4 would run easily, but the Linux 4.4 installer would not run on that machine because it used a huge ramdisk for the install program binaries.
I could install Linux 2.4 from the boot CDROM. It had much smaller main memory requirements for the boot CDROM installer.
Once Linux 2.4 was on the machine, I could run that to install from the Linux 4.4 install disk. This does not use the ramdisk, so it does not have any large main memory requirements.

Now if you have MONEY, then you don't bother and you get a newer machine. You can even specify that the new machine have at least 2 GB of memory.
Then you won't have any problems to deal with. You can run any program that you should encounter, probably three at once.
That does not really help you much if you really want to use the old machine.

Linux can be done on a small older machine, but doing that can also use up alot of your time.
There may be some limitations due to the older CPU.
If the CPU is old enough that it does not have SSE2 instructions, it won't run the latest Mozilla Firefox browsers that you can download for free.
If you have tried to install any of the newer Firefox versions, you may have encountered this already.

You can compile a custom kernel for the old CPU, and remove alot of hardware drivers for devices that will never be on that machine.
This will make a lean and small kernel, and you won't have to use one of the huge kernels that have drivers for most EVERYTHING.

I can no longer get programs that run on the XP, but I can do things with Linux.
The XP operating system has survived a long time and is still mostly functional for most tasks, even internet usage.
Running an old browser is a security risk, so don't visit any risky sites, and don't keep valuable information (like bank accounts) on the computer where hackers can find it.

The XP I now maintain is going to be removed, because it is a security risk and programs cannot be upgraded.
Once I get the last user to switch to Linux, it is going away. That machine already has Linux 2.6 in dual boot, I just need to upgrade it to Linux 4.4.
Even on the old CPU, Linux has a Konquerer browser and Firefox browsers.

If the hard drive is not big enough to have a couple of 32 GB partitions for Linux, then the XP data will need to be removed.
You need at least one 32 GB partition to have Linux with most of the user programs.
Having a second 32 GB partition just makes it much easier to upgrade to a new Linux release.
The partition could be smaller than 32 GB, but you will then have to limit what you install.
I have Linux 2.2 on a 2 GB partition. Fewer programs and less bloat in those days.

Kernel : 4 MB
modules for smp kernel : 110 MB
modules for custom kernel : 16 MB
Linux 4.4 bin : 900 MB total
Linux 4.4 share minimum: 2 GB (highly dependent upon what programs get installed)
Linux 4.4 share my typical: 6 GB (which includes several large game datasets)
So a minimum partition would be about 10 GB. You might even get it in 4 GB but it would be tight and would limit the large programs, but would be capable of being used to install another newer Linux.
After install, my Linux partition uses about 22 GB (with compilers and many development tools). The Linux partition is usually now about 33 GB, but that includes a large amount of user data.

For most people, the amount of user data they actually want to save would easily fit on a small memory stick.
Save what data you have on the XP to someplace safe, no matter what you decide. You are supposed to make backups every one and a while you know.

Last edited by selfprogrammed; 08-21-2018 at 04:45 AM.
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Old 08-22-2018, 09:56 AM   #8
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Well, we have got some bad advice here! Linux needs 2GB? Slackware for a total beginner? The one sensible point is that we really do need to know something about the computer.

The amount of RAM you need will depend on the user interface since, unlike Windows, you get a choice. A very basic GUI will compensate for the fact that operating systems, even Linux, have got bigger since XP came out. The popular solution for very small computers is AntiX: that will run in 200MB. It woudn't be fast and it wouldn't allow a lot of large programs at the same time, but 200GB would do. If you have 500MB, then MX Linux would be possible and less spartan. With 1GB, any 32-bit distro that doesn't have a demanding GUI would be happy: Linux Mint with the Mate desktop is very good for a beginner, or Xubuntu.

The second point is the CPU. If this is a 32-bit computer, then the CPU needs to be Intel. The 32-bit AMD processors will not run any current Linux web browser. If it's Intel, then Pentium II would just do with AntiX, but Pentium III or Pentium M would be better. I'm using a Pentium M at this moment, with Xubuntu. If you have one of the early netbooks, with an Atom N270, nothing will speed up that, but AntiX will creep along best.

Last edited by DavidMcCann; 08-22-2018 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:23 PM   #9
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I definately second AntiX/MX.

My low powered netbooks have been running on AntiX for a few years now, & whilst it became painful trying to use firefox with the 1GB that it came with, just upgrading to 2GB made it fly, in comparison.

Nowadays, even 2GB doesn't allow for speedy internet access on an Atom - but I still use a laptop with a 1.3GHz Celeron & 2GB ram for my daily email checking, & the occasional browsing.
Old 08-23-2018, 03:43 AM   #10
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There are many choices in which Linux to use.
My brother tried SUSE, and had all kinds of problems. He finally dumped that machine on me and I replaced the SUSE with Slackware 14.2.

If he wants something pre-packaged and not requiring any computer smarts, then those packages would be a good choice.

If he knows more about computers (he did not actually say), and does not want a pre-packaged system, then Slackware is possible. It does not have many restrictions, you can configure as you please. On the downside it leaves you to figure out the requirements for each package installed. I started with Slackware as my first Linux in 1998, after briefly trying Red Hat for a week. I found out quickly that Slackware had more than that Red Hat. I install a lot of compilers and tools.

About the browser. I run Athlon, 32 bit, Slackware 14.2, Linux 4.4.88 kernel, and it runs the Konquerer and Mozilla FireFox browser just fine.
This Athlon has got the SSE2 instruction set. I suppose you mean the old 32 bit Athlon that did not have SSE2, and the problem with the free download FireFox that requires SSE2 instructions. The control for compiling Firefox without SSE2 is still there. I don't know which distributions are shipping FireFox compiled for SSE2 and which are not. Don't check for 32 bit (that is not cleanly discerning and is too confusing to even explain why), check for the SSE2 instruction set. I think even the XP system information on the CPU will tell you that.
If you know the CPU does not have SSE2, there are hard choices to make.

I would be tempted to get a copy of that AntiX/MX myself. I have little use for most of the current bloat in programs.

Which brings up the other choices you have to make:

For an old computer, due to size and CPU power, for your X windows windows manager, you probably should use XFCE4,
and not KDE, and definitely not GNOME. KDE and GNOME try too hard to look like windows, and they are heavy loads for CPU and memory, mostly due to questionable features.

You will need to decide if you want: Akonadi (a unified database for personal information), Nepomuk (a unified database for information), Baloo (it will try to index every file it can reach as if you could not possibly find anything on your own), and strigi (desktop search). Otherwise, you may mistakenly think that a virus has taken over your computer. They are unnecessary and resource hogs. You may have to install them but can leave them disabled.

Last edited by selfprogrammed; 08-23-2018 at 04:39 AM.
Old 08-23-2018, 06:53 AM   #11
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Another excellent choice for a PC with low resources, essentially Debian Stretch, but pared down in size, equipped with a great GUI environment, and able to expand as much as necessary to support most current apps:


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