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Old 12-28-2010, 09:05 AM   #1
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Need a Distribution to run on 32mb RAM, Pentium MMX & Edimax EW-7711UTn

Hi, I've recently been trying to resurrect an old laptop and so I brought a new HDD to replace its broken one. I then figured that Windows would probably be too resource hungry to run on the laptop and so thought I should try to run a Linux Distro instead but now I've hit a wall. I can't find a distribution that will install on this low a spec PC but also will enable me to use the wireless card I've specified, even though the card has Linux drivers bundled with it. Can anyone suggest me a current distribution in the sense it's available as a lot of the advice I've found is years old and out of date, can anybody help?

Plus I'm sorry if this question has been answered before but I used the search function and couldn't turn up anything useful.
Old 12-28-2010, 09:17 AM   #2
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You are looking at many hours of frustration trying to have a pleasant Linux experience on such outdated hardware. I recommend Craigslist, thrift stores, friends/family, etc. and trying to find at least a Pentium 4 with 512mb ram, the minimum specs for a beginner-friendly distro like Ubuntu, Mint, etc. You shouldn't have to spend more than $100 and I bet you can find one for free if you look hard enough. Here is a great article on the topic:
Old 12-28-2010, 09:20 AM   #3
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32M? Oof! Maybe Damn Small Linux? Maybe get hold of some RAM for that poor little thing...
Old 12-28-2010, 09:24 AM   #4
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I searched

Under "Distribution Category" I checked "Old Computer".

Not all of the listed distributions stated a memory requirement on that page but those that did specify a minimum RAM requirement mostly listed 64 MB as their lower limit.

I just checked the system requirements for NetBSD. It requires at least 32 MB RAM. It also requires at least an Intel 486 CPU with coprocessor.

In my experience when you barely meet the minimum requirements of any software you will find that it barely runs at all. I don't know if these experiences would reflect NetBSD performance on a minimal hardware platform.

Last edited by stress_junkie; 12-28-2010 at 09:41 AM.
Old 12-28-2010, 11:54 AM   #5
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I don't think you can run a GUI in 32MB. Tiny Core is designed to run in memory, but you can install it to run from HD and it might just work. The problem starts when you want applications. Dillo for the web is a bit limited, while Pathetic Writer is a real taste of the 80s for a word processor.

Without a GUI, you'd be OK. Just get Slackware.

Of course, you could always get FreeDOS!
Old 12-28-2010, 12:41 PM   #6
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The pentium cpu you can probably live with, but 32MB of ram is really going to kill you. The good news is that most Pentium class motherboards will go up to at least 512MB and most of that memory is pretty cheap. If you can post what machine you actaully have we can probably help you a lot more.
Old 12-28-2010, 02:08 PM   #7
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what is your goal?

If your goal is to have fun resurrecting that old machine, you'll have a good time and learn a lot. I've had a great time geeking out on old hardware.

If your goal is simply to run Linux with few or no headaches, you can get an old P-IV with 512M or at least 256M for less than $100 (or often much less), then you can run any distro out there, with no hassles.

Assuming you're going with the first goal --

As per other posters, upgrade memory to the maximum allowed. Most P-I MMX's top out at 128M, check online for your motherboard max or see the machine's doc, if you still have it.

Memory for P-I MMX is dirt cheap, or you can even get it free if you can find anyone else who has it in an old box lying around. It probably takes PC-66 ram?

Current release of Puppy Linux runs and installs in 128M minimum, prior releases install and run in 64M minimum. Damn Small Linux requires 8M (16 recommended) for no gui, or 16M (24 recommended) for the GUI.

Big advantage to DSL for your hardware -- it runs the old 2.4 kernel and boots from SYSLINUX as well as ISOLINUX. These are sometimes necessary when you're back on a P-I.

Good luck and have fun!


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