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Need a lightweight OS for old laptop

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January 29, 2013 5:46:30 AM

I'm looking for a very lightweight OS for my old laptop. The OS should be capable of web browsing, watching videos online and offline, and listening to music.
It should have support for a USB WiFi adapter.

Specs of laptop are

P4 3.0Ghz
512 mb ram
40 GB ide HDD
On board graphics.
No optical drive.


I looked at Puppy Linux and it seems alright, Need some opinions on it and also open to suggestions.

Thank You

More about : lightweight laptop

a b D Laptop
January 29, 2013 8:23:41 AM

Ch0$3n0n3 said:
I'm looking for a very lightweight OS for my old laptop. The OS should be capable of web browsing, watching videos online and offline, and listening to music.
It should have support for a USB WiFi adapter.

Specs of laptop are

P4 3.0Ghz
512 mb ram
40 GB ide HDD
On board graphics.
No optical drive.


I looked at Puppy Linux and it seems alright, Need some opinions on it and also open to suggestions.

Thank You


You could also try Lubuntu which is Ubuntu but with a lightweight desktop environment, LXDE, and you can add any software from the repositories. I work on a lot of very old equipment and I've run this on computers with as little as 256mb ram.
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January 29, 2013 8:45:18 AM

Ch0$3n0n3 said:
I'm looking for a very lightweight OS for my old laptop. The OS should be capable of web browsing, watching videos online and offline, and listening to music.
It should have support for a USB WiFi adapter.

Specs of laptop are

P4 3.0Ghz
512 mb ram
40 GB ide HDD
On board graphics.
No optical drive.
. . .


There is an antiX-based distro out there called Swift Linux that may suit your needs as being simple and lite enough. Check
it out here : http://linux.softpedia.com/get/System/Operating-Systems... It has only a WM, no DE to worry about.
Or go with antiX, itself.

Any Linux distro should be able to pick up an external USB wifi adapter.

Another one I used on P4s with 512MB RAM was PCLXDE.

Of course, you will have to make a bootable USB stick to install the distro chosen.
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January 29, 2013 9:37:48 AM

Lubuntu is a solid choice, as is Xubuntu (Xfce-based). I personally prefer the design of Xfce, though Lubuntu and Xubuntu each do a great job of delivering a sleek, presentable OS without being too heavy. Another awesome option would be Bodhi Linux - also Ubuntu-based but using the Enlightenment 17 interface.

More eye candy than the other two options and still extremely lightweight and fast. I do a bit more initial configuration/customisation with Bodhi (one or two keyboard shortcuts you may use like alt+F4 aren't bound by default) and an interesting mouse focus behaviour (easily-changed).

So yeah, Bodhi or Xubuntu most of all, closely followed by Lubuntu.

EDIT: A handy list: http://distrowatch.com/search.php?ostype=All&category=O...
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January 29, 2013 2:27:27 PM

Lubuntu would definitely be a good choice. I am sure Bodhi or Xubuntu would be fine too, although I have not personally used them. You might also want to try out the full versions of Ubuntu or Linux Mint (32-bit). I must say I really like the Ubuntu Software Center, which really makes it easy to install packages with a click of a button.

I currently have Ubuntu 10.04 set on the classic desktop on my home office machine (Celeron D, 1 GB RAM) for similar purposes as yours and it runs fine. Regular video playback is fine, but it does have some trouble on streaming video and it could not handle the new "Unity" desktop. You are likely to encounter similar issues, but that is the fault of the computer, not the OS.

When I upgrade next I will most likely try Lubuntu because I read that the new versions of Ubuntu no longer support the old classic desktop.
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January 29, 2013 5:06:20 PM

Aristotelian said:
I read that the new versions of Ubuntu no longer support the old classic desktop.


That's right - it's GNOME 3 based now. So it's either Unity or GNOME Shell (neither are especially lightweight). What you're using on 10.04 (unless you changed it) is GNOME 2, which is less demanding (due to its age) but still not as lightweight as LXDE, Xfce or Enlightenment (Bodhi). Mint uses Cinnamon by default, which is a fork of GNOME.
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a b D Laptop
January 31, 2013 8:44:38 AM

Aristotelian said:
Lubuntu would definitely be a good choice. I am sure Bodhi or Xubuntu would be fine too, although I have not personally used them. You might also want to try out the full versions of Ubuntu or Linux Mint (32-bit). I must say I really like the Ubuntu Software Center, which really makes it easy to install packages with a click of a button.

I currently have Ubuntu 10.04 set on the classic desktop on my home office machine (Celeron D, 1 GB RAM) for similar purposes as yours and it runs fine. Regular video playback is fine, but it does have some trouble on streaming video and it could not handle the new "Unity" desktop. You are likely to encounter similar issues, but that is the fault of the computer, not the OS.

When I upgrade next I will most likely try Lubuntu because I read that the new versions of Ubuntu no longer support the old classic desktop.



I put Unity, KDE and LXDE on a computer along with some favorite software. I then made a Remastersys copy which I installed on a flash drive. During start-up, depending on the computer I'm fixing or installing Ubuntu, I start one or the other. This way I can start low ram computers with LXDE or the Unity or KDE desktops as warranted. I actually like the Unity, took a little getting used to but now I'm happy and I can see it as being easier for pads and phones, Ubuntu was just 18 months ahead of 8. Now if I only had a Galaxy phone...
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February 1, 2013 3:38:26 AM

Funny thing just happened, After 9+years of faithful work, my laptop finally died on me.
Thanks for all the suggestions,but it looks like my hope of having a media-lap wont be coming true anytime soon.
Cheers
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February 1, 2013 3:38:51 AM

Best answer selected by Ch0$3n0n3.
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February 1, 2013 3:19:39 PM

chamaecyparis said:
All meet the criterion OP stated, "very lightweight." XFCE does not, KDE certainly does not.

Let us keep on track! :pt1cable: 


You don't seem to know much about Xfce. Wiki it, check out the site, look up Xfce-based distros on distrowatch.com and you'll have a hard time finding a description that doesn't feature the word 'lightweight' in the first couple of sentences. If you want benchmarks, you'll find tonnes on Phoronix.

OP - that's bad news about the laptop, but nine years isn't bad going :-) Thanks for best answer.
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February 2, 2013 5:20:23 AM

Maybe the point is moot with regards to the OP; however, your inexperience and lack of attention to detail behooves my response with a simple reference from a reputable source -- https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Desktop_Environmen...

" . . . very lightweight" does not include XFCE. It is bloated compared to JWM, Ice WM, LXDE or e17, for instance. My point remains. Suggest furthering your experince base. Thanks for the challenge!
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February 2, 2013 8:39:34 AM

Now you're gonna tell a complete stranger you know nothing about that he's inexperienced? Because that makes you look like an expert by comparison right? People like you make me sick to my stomach. Utterly pathetic.

I don't know why I'm even wasting my time on you, but I've benchmarked Xfce and LXDE on my R-Pi and Xfce actually gets better results in some cases. For numbers I can back up with benchmarks and not just descriptions I read on the Arch wiki:

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=ubun...

Xfce is actually faster than LXDE in several cases. Overall, there's gonna be no noticeable difference. Feel free to dig up some cherry-picked benchmarks where LXDE does better if you like, but I'll waste no more time on you. Crawl back under your rock.
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June 22, 2013 2:58:35 PM

Dude, you have an Intel Pentium 4 3 Ghz! That's even faster than mine. I have an Intel Pentium 4 2,66 Ghz.

Why would you need a lightweight operating system if your computer is powerful enough to run Windows XP? Windows XP runs great on my computer, and mine is even slower than yours! My computer does also have an 40 GB hard drive and mine also has an on-board graphics card. However 512 MB RAM is quite a lot and surely enough for browsing the Internet, watching videos and listening to music, your computer will perform better if you have more RAM. My computer has 1014 MiB RAM.

I recommend Windows XP. If you want to have a lighter operating system, I would go for Windows 2000 Professional. If you are running Windows 2000 Professional, I recommend to update immediately to Service Pack 4 and to install all available updates. Because of the fact that the most software these days doesn't support Windows 2000 Professional anymore, you need older versions of some programs. Then you need Opera 11.64, Mozilla Firefox 12, VLC Media Player 1.1.9, Windows Media Player 9, Internet Explorer 6, WinRAR 4.11 (or the latest version of 7-zip), Java 6 update 24, Adobe Flash Player 11.1.102.55 and Acrobat Reader 9.5. Avast! Antivirus will run on Windows 2000 Professional.

If Windows 2000 Professional isn't lightweight enough, Windows 95 or 98 would be an option. However Windows 9x is pretty unstable and you will need even older versions of programs.

Puppy Linux is an option, but note that Puppy Linux has heavier system requirements than Windows XP. Windows XP is lighter because it doesn't take that much RAM as Puppy Linux. Windows XP can run on an Intel Pentium 233 Mhz and Puppy Linux can't.

From my experience I can tell you that Windows XP and Puppy Linux are great operating systems. I have two operating systems installed in this computer: Windows XP and Puppy Linux. They run great. I like both of them, however I mostly use Windows XP because Windows XP is compatible with the games I play.
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June 22, 2013 3:36:49 PM

Yeah I often wonder why people with old/low-end systems don't just run XP. The typical argument for that would be that a lightweight Linux OS runs fast like XP but is also modern and up-to-date. But if you have old hardware anyway, do you really need support for new hardware?

Main arguments against XP would be security (a LOT of viruses have been written for XP after all!) and lack of customisation. Three colour schemes is a bit limited. Course most people leave their OS with the default look anyway so not a consideration for everyone. You know this thread is over four months old though? Pretty sure the OP has their solution and is probably quite familiar with it by now :-)
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June 22, 2013 4:12:42 PM

sam_p_lay said:
Yeah I often wonder why people with old/low-end systems don't just run XP. The typical argument for that would be that a lightweight Linux OS runs fast like XP but is also modern and up-to-date. But if you have old hardware anyway, do you really need support for new hardware?

Main arguments against XP would be security (a LOT of viruses have been written for XP after all!) and lack of customisation. Three colour schemes is a bit limited. Course most people leave their OS with the default look anyway so not a consideration for everyone. You know this thread is over four months old though? Pretty sure the OP has their solution and is probably quite familiar with it by now :-)


Windows XP is still getting security updates. But, even if Microsoft would drop the support for Windows XP: if it still works like a charm and runs the software you want, then what is the problem?

I like the way how I can customize Windows. I am running the classic Windows-theme because I don't like the default look of Windows XP. If you are running a good antivirus-program and won't do stupid things, Windows XP will be pretty safe from viruses. I know that this thread is four months old. Ch0$3n0n3 has probably found a suitable operating system for his laptop. If not, then perhaps my comment is still helpful. Otherwise my comment may be helpful for other people who are visiting this page and have a similar problem. :) 
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June 22, 2013 4:40:17 PM

Yeah it's pretty plasticky looking. I liked it at the time, but not so much now. Though I think I'd still prefer it over the ancient Windows 9x look :-)
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July 3, 2013 12:50:17 PM

I use Lubuntu 13.04 on my Turion 64 x2 1.8GHz lappy. It only has 1GB of ram, but it runs great. While WinXP also runs smoothly on it, gnu/linux has a whole lot of great software that often performs better, Gimp being a prime example of a program that is way faster in linux. The other side of the coin being WinXP drivers tend to "just work", where linux drivers can be a pain to install.

Anyone who thinks they are stuck with the default WinXP themes needs to google uxtheme.dll. Hard to believe this is not common knowledge!
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July 3, 2013 1:04:29 PM

Well I was never under the impression there we no alternatives. Problem was no official alternatives. Plastering unofficial third party skins all over any version of Windows is rarely a good idea. With Linux it's kind of all unofficial (nature of open source software) and it's designed to be modular / pulled apart so it's not so bad.
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February 14, 2014 2:37:40 PM

I have dual boot XP and Lubuntu, the latter is just way faster.
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February 18, 2014 12:00:35 AM

Upgrade the RAM to the maximum capacity (ideally 2GB) and give the machine a more modern hard drive, and there could still be some life left in it. Could run Windows 7 with the GUI eye candy turned off. I have a web browser with many tabs open and often other applications running, and task manager shows under 2GB of memory used.

If you don't like Windows 7, I suggest CentOS 5 or 6. It's a clone of RHEL, very stable OS and updates are guaranteed for many years. The 5 and 6 are relatively "outdated" compared to the upcoming 7, but older software tends to run faster on older hardware. Again, 512MB is sort of minimal amount of RAM.
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March 14, 2014 4:56:14 PM

Ch0$3n0n3 said:
I'm looking for a very lightweight OS for my old laptop. The OS should be capable of web browsing, watching videos online and offline, and listening to music.
It should have support for a USB WiFi adapter.

Specs of laptop are

P4 3.0Ghz
512 mb ram
40 GB ide HDD
On board graphics.
No optical drive.


I looked at Puppy Linux and it seems alright, Need some opinions on it and also open to suggestions.

Thank You

Choose Linux Mint MATE Edition. You will have access to the latest debian/Ubuntu features without the excess. I have installed it on my personal computer and 5 family members as well. If you have a better gpu lying around then go with Cinnamon edition. You will not be disappointed, especially if you consider puppy/dsl an alright distro.
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