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Linux, Unix, and *nix like Operating Systems Forum

Which flavor of linux?
for a old laptop

 10:10 pm on Aug 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

It’s been a long while since I looked at to install Linux, and with all these distributions on the market today I got a bit overwhelmed. I am looking to install Linux onto my (very) old Compaq Presario laptop (you find interesting things when you clean up a garage).

My plan would be to use this machine as a development test bed, and for starters running Apache, PHP and MySQL. So far FreeBSD and Fedora Core look good to me. Any other suggestions and things to look for (old HW compatibility, drivers, etc).




 10:38 pm on Aug 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

You'll likely want a minimal distro to fit on old hardware - but if you can manage it the newer distros are excellent at hardware recognition. Fedora core or FreeBSD should both be fine. I prefer Mandriva, but pretty much any of the latest edition distro's will do the job. It's not what it was even 3 years ago - out of the box linux tends to install and run probably as seamlessly as a new windows install.


 11:03 pm on Aug 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

FreeBSD is not Linux. It was around long before the first line of Linux kernel was ever coded. Having said that, it's a source-based system, so you would have to compile every piece of software you want to install from ports (unless you use pre-compiled packages). And this compilation process will take forever on a piece of old hardware. For example, you would have to wait 20 minutes to compile Apache -- that's after downloading everything. The ports system is really easy to use, but you will have to spend a lot of time waiting for things to compile.

In my opinion, the most user-friendly Linux distro is Ubuntu.

As far as the old hardware aspect, just don't install any bulky software. Any ditro will be about the same as far as resources go.


 5:34 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you just want to run LAMP (linux, apache, mysql, PHP) I would suggest installing Ubuntu Server. If you need a GUI, Xubuntu or Damn Small Linux should fit the bill. How old is the hardware? More specifically, how fast/slow is the processor?


 6:16 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)


FreeBSD does enable you to compile everything via the ports system, but most are also available as binary packages and unless you have exotic needs it's perfectly normal not to have to use the ports.


 6:18 pm on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)


can you define "(very) old Compaq Presario laptop"? I.e. processor, memory etc.? And do you want to use it as a desktop (i.e. with some kind of GUI) or just as a (test) server?

[edited by: zCat at 6:19 pm (utc) on Aug. 22, 2006]


 10:15 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm using FreeBSD. I also had an old laptop that I wanted to use as a server. FreeBSD is a little difficult to install, but it runs well on an old laptop. The most difficult part would be makeing the install CDs. You may be able to get the boot floppies(or disc) and get the rest off the internet. On my laptop, I have a wireless card( which I normall use) and an ethernet adapter. They both required software on the old machine, so I had to make the CDs. Making the CDs can be a little tricky, and I can tell you I used a lot of CDs trying to get it right. You have to burn the CD as an Image file. Many burning programs, such as nero, work great for this.

This is a decent installation manuel, but its for an older version so some parts may be different.


You can get the files here:


enjoy(if you choose FreeBSD)


 9:20 am on Sep 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks to all for good info.

zCat wrote:
can you define "(very) old Compaq Presario laptop"? I.e. processor, memory etc.? And do you want to use it as a desktop (i.e. with some kind of GUI) or just as a (test) server?

You are right - I should have provided this info in the original post. I managed to displace (again) laptop in question until now – long story…

Laptop is Compaq Presario 1200 with AMD-K6 3D processor and 156MB RAM

I have been debating GUI question, and at the end decided that it would be nice to have that option.
As cminicooperj mentioned, after I settle on the flavor, I need to ‘work out’ how to install it – I haven’t done that in a long while as well, so any heads-up and info is greatly appreciated


 9:38 am on Sep 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

The afore-mentioned Ubuntu and Mandrake will, in my experience, install on just about anything.



 8:32 pm on Sep 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

For the majority of the time, your laptop will be running as a server and you will probably only use the GUI for a few administration tools. If you are going the Ubuntu route, I would suggest using Xubuntu. I have run Xubuntu on a chembook with an AMD K-5 processor and although the GUI wasn't as snappy fast as I would have liked it to be, the machine had no problem running apache and my horrid PHP scripts.


 1:37 am on Sep 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

On FreeBSD, you don't need any gui to do anything, though they are available.

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