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Old 01-05-2013, 12:49 PM   #1
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Which distro for low spec laptop

My son has an old Acer Aspire laptop (Celeron M 1.6GHz, 512MB RAM, 80GB HDD, Vista Home Basic). It was always slow and barely met the minimum requirements for Vista even when new, but now is almost at a standstill.

I'd be grateful for any recommendations for an easily set up linux for him that would work on a low spec system. He only really uses it for web browsing, so the most important thing to him would be easy wireless config. Also something that would fit on to a cd would be preferable.

He struggled all through school and has various special needs, so simplicity is vital.
Old 01-05-2013, 01:24 PM   #2
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I would think Lubuntu will meet your needs. Check it out at
But really any distro with a light weight graphical interface would work. For that computer stay away from Gnome and KDE or desktops environment that are derivative from these two, such as Trinity, Mate, & Cinnamon.

Instead stick with distros that are available with light weight graphical interface such as Xfce and LXDE or even better a plain windows manager will be good.

Check Linux Mint Xfce edition ------------>

Check fedora LXDE or Xfce spin------------->

Antix ----------------------------->

Bodhi Linux ------------------------>

Lubuntu would be my choice because the big community out there ready to answer questions and the hardware support the *buntu releases has, and the amount of software in their repository is good and easy to install

Last edited by TroN-0074; 01-05-2013 at 05:54 PM.
Old 01-05-2013, 01:28 PM   #3
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I've had good success using Puppy Linux on low spec machines. you might want to have a look.
Old 01-05-2013, 05:14 PM   #4
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First you need to understand that Linux as a desktop OS contains two parts - the core and the graphical interface ontop. You laptop can probably run the core part of any linux I believe. The graphical desktop part however will be the limiting factor. So you need the distro that is lightweight on the GUI side. You cannot run the latest KDE or GNOME or maybe even latest XFCE on your machine. So you need to have distro which allows you to use some other window manager like Blackbox, Fluxbox or even FVWM or IceWM or there are many many out there.

I personally would recommend Slackware which has that core/GUI part nicely separated and also allows you to choose the desktop environment / window manager of your choice and BTW your specs are good enough for Slackware.

Last edited by wigry; 01-05-2013 at 05:15 PM.
Old 01-05-2013, 10:20 PM   #5
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Slackware is an excellent selection. It's my personal favorite.

If you want a distro with dependency resolution, you might also look at SalixOS; it's based on Slackware and offers spins with different desktops, including a very nice Fluxbox version.
Old 01-06-2013, 01:09 AM   #6
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Lubuntu is quite nice for older systems, and has tons of software readily available.

Zenwalk might be another option.

If you can get another 512 MB of Ram in that device, the modern web browsers will be a little happier. The web isn't what it used to be.
Old 01-06-2013, 02:49 AM   #7
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Salix, simple and fast
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Old 01-06-2013, 03:31 PM   #8
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I'm not going to recommend a specific distribution as I use pretty much only Debian on all my laptops, but I can recommend XFCE. Even the newer versions run very nicely on my 1GHz iBook G4. XFCE gives nearly the same experience as the heavier desktops. I have also tried Lubuntu on the same machine, but everything XFCE seemed more nicely integrated.

I will second the recommendation for more RAM as well, especially using Firefox it is painful with 256MB.
Old 01-06-2013, 04:26 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies. I am currently using XFCE on my two desktops, one Aptosid and one Manjaro, both interesting, both have minor issues which I enjoy learning to overcome. I like the idea of Lubuntu having tried Ubuntu a few years ago and finding it incredibly easy, I have also used the Fluxbox version of Salix recently and think my son would be ok with that (I still have the disk too).
Old 01-06-2013, 07:11 PM   #10
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Choosing a lightweight GUI is only the first part of having a lightweight system. You also need to use lightweight software.
For example, use Abiword/Gnumeric instead of Libre/OpenOffice, Midori (or other lightweight browser) instead of Firefox, ... .
The Fluxbox edition of Salix and Lubuntu should come with a selection of lightweight software, antiX also.
Bodhi comes as bare bones system, relying on you to choose the right software to be installed.
If you are already familiar with Debian it shouldn't be difficult to create a lightweight system on your own, but the pre-built distros for this purpose are of course much more convenient.
Old 01-07-2013, 12:59 PM   #11
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I don't think you need to go for such very lightweight stuff as people are suggesting: you've got 512MB, not 128!

Look at the standard edition of Salix. They recommend a P3 and 256MB. I use it on my old laptop, which has a Pentium M under-clocked to 600MHz. Very, very stable; good software; nice Xfce desktop.

Alternatively, you might consider Fuduntu. They recommend 384MB. It's rolling-release without being cutting-edge, uses Gnome, and is very much aimed at the home user: if you choose word-processing in the menu, it launches Firefox and takes you to Google docs.
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