SUSE on really old laptop

Hey, I heard that Linux works well on systems with poor specs (relative to computer speed this day and age). I have an HP Pavilion N3350, 550 MHz AMD-K6-III, 128 MB RAM, and 4.5 GB HDD that is currently running XP. XP runs unbearably slow on the computer and I’d like to find a better option so the PC is more useable. Really, I just want to be able to use the internet on the computer. I saw that SUSE 11.1 requires a minimum of 256 MB of RAM. Would it run slow on this computer? Does anybody know of another version or distro that would be more suitable for this PC’s specs?

My experience is that it is unlikely you will be able to get openSUSE running any better than WinXP on such a minimal laptop. With only 128MB of RAM, you will not be able to get any sort of performance from KDE or Gnome (they may not even run). You will be forced to go with xfce or tfwm desktop, which have less features that winXP (and of course less than gnome / kde ).

I think trying to find a light weight Linux distribution other than openSUSE is a good idea.

Linux will run on old computers but it doesn’t mean you can have the same kind of experience as you would with more RAM. You have to reduce your expectations accordingly.

Even if you manage to successfully install openSUSE, you will find that in 128MB, it will swap your HD to death, and you’ll die of boredom waiting. You’d be better off with a lighter distro.

This comes up now and then, unfortunately “old” or “low” is not accepted as a search term. Try lightweight, ancient, or some similar search term.

Linux for Ancient Hardware? - openSUSE Forums

My recommendation would be Puppy Linux for this.

rks171 wrote:
> Hey, I heard that Linux works well on systems with poor specs (relative
> to computer speed this day and age).

i wonder who told you that? actually there is no free lunch…Linux
is much leaner than some other systems available, but it is NOT magic
(that is, it won’t run like the wind in what you have there)…

the openSUSE v 11.1 hardware requirements, quoted from are:

-Processor: Intel Pentium 1-4 or Xeon; AMD Duron, Athlon, Athlon XP,
Athlon MP, Athlon 64, Sempron or Opteron

-Main memory: At least 256 MB; 512 MB recommended

-Hard disk: At least 500 MB for minimal system; 3 GB recommended for
standard system

first: i do not see AMD K-6 listed!!

second: openSUSE 11.1 is several years NEWER and much more advanced
than XP, so why might you think it magic enough to breeze along?

third: i can assure you that i personally do not have the patience
needed to WAIT for a system with only 256 MB RAM…

if you are successful in installing (and, i’m not sure you can with so
little horsepower/RAM) you will absolutely WAIT a lot if you load the
default KDE or GNOME display manager…

if, on the other hand you load a reasonable display manager and
lightweight browser you might be happy, but i doubt it…

on the other hand you might wanna try either (or both) Puppy Linux
<> or Damn Small Linux
<> both of which are purpose built for
minimum hardware…

however, if you are doing so to just see if Linux is for you…then
there is no real need to bother, because would you (for example) go
for a test spin in a 15 year old bus, if you were in the market for a
new sports car by the same builder??

whatever you decide, you are welcome here!


i wonder who told you that?

I read it in “Beginning SUSE Linux” and it gave me the idea that I may be able to get my old laptop running again. It would be helpful to have two computers for when my wife is on the other computer. I’m not doing this to try out linux. I already have Open SUSE 11.1 installed on my office and home PCs. It’s fine if 11.1 won’t run well on it, I’d be just as happy trying out another distro, which is the advice I was looking for. Thanks for the suggestions. I think I’ll give small Linux a go.

An AMD-K6 is an i586, but not an i686, it’s missing the CMOV instruction. Even if you did get 11.1 installed, it looks like the last openSUSE that supports i586, the 11.2 milestones are labelled i686, IIRC.

If you had 192MB RAM (any way you can insert a RAM stick?) I could recommend crunchbanglinux, which is Ubuntu with openbox replacing GNOME. AntiX which is based on Mepis and Debian is another I can recommend, but you have to replace their standard kernel with an i486 one or it won’t run on the K6.

No chance of upgrading the RAM. That was already done a while ago and it’s now maxed out. The PC came standard with 32 MB. I downloaded the DSL iso and I will try installing it tonight and test it out.

> I downloaded the DSL iso and I will try installing it tonight and
> test it out.

good luck with it…just as interest, i’d like to know how you get on
with it on that hardware…so, if you think of it, please report back
to this thread…


brassy wrote:
>> I downloaded the DSL iso and I will try installing it tonight and
>> test it out.
> good luck with it…just as interest, i’d like to know how you get on
> with it on that hardware…so, if you think of it, please report back
> to this thread…

Before you start installing, use a rescue system to set your
partitions. In particular, it helps if you have a swap partition ready
to go. My file server is an ancient laptop (~1998) with a 333 MHz CPU
and 128 MB RAM. I don’t run a GUI very much, but a light-weight one
will work.

DSL should work, another option is Puppy. Parted Magic isn’t bad but doesn’t transfer easily to a hard drive. You might try a minimal Slackware or Debian install. Both of those will work but prefer more ram.

I got it installed last night pretty easily, but I didn’t get a whole lot of time to toy around with it. I noticed it still runs kind of slow in it’s current configuration, though. It takes a while for apps to open up and browsing the internet was arduous. I’m not sure why that would be, but it must be the computer because on my other computer browsing the internet is quick. It certainly is a minimal distro. I may try a different one out or I may just put Windows 98, which is what it came with, back on it and see how that goes.

I left Windows with win95, but when I did, I vaguely recall that win95 had superior desktop features to the Linux desktops I was using at that time (in 1998). I missed the win98 updates to Microsoft’s line, as I was a converted Linux user back then.

Still, you could take a look at this wiki to see what sort of desktops are available, as typically it is the (1) the desktop and (2) the browsing application and (3) the internet link - that causes slow browsing : Comparison of X window managers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I can not recall any more what desktop I used, but I do recall it having very few features …

Still, desktops to consider are:

If you want speed, stay away from KDE, away from Gnome, away from xfce, away from apps like firefox, as they will all slow things down on an ancient pc.

Try Puppy Linux I have used it on some really old Laptops with great results. Though you might need to back up one or two distro numbers or go with a “reto” kernel if you have booting or shutdown problems. Don’t worry there is always 2 or 3 version numbers on the Puppy site.

Good Luck

Which web browser did you use? Try something like links in graphical mode or dillo. Both will refuse to run much of the extra features available on modern websites.

It looked like firefox to me the last time I used it, but I’d have to check again to be sure. It was whatever came standard with dsl.

I’m a big openSUSE fan, but openSUSE is not really setup for minimal PCs. I was trying to help a friend get some good performance out of an old PC, and I stumbled across the Elive CD Where Debian meets Enlightenment (a debian derivative that uses the Enlightenment window manager). Hence it is both light weight and has lots of eye candy.

Your old PC may even be too slow for it. I note minimal requirements: Where Debian meets Enlightenment

  -  More than 200 Mb of RAM: Any version of Elive
  -  Between 128 and 200 Mb of RAM: Gem version will be sufficient
  -  Less than 128 Mb of RAM: Maximum Elive Revolution* version or older
  -  Compiz Version: Requires at least some 3d acceleration (not really
  much) and 200 Mb of RAM, with a processor of 600 Mhz will be OK " 

The stable version of Elive is not free. One has to donate some minimal amount ($10 or maybe a bit more). One can download an unstable version for free for testing Where Debian meets Enlightenment (and if works, go buy the stable version).

I booted to the unstable version on the oldest PC in our house (an 8-year old athlon-1100 with 1GB RAM and a nVida FX5200 graphics). The liveCD comes with proprietary graphic drivers (one has to pick the correct driver). The Englightenment desktop is nicely tune with a Mac style tool bar on the bottom. The desktop ran FAST. Real FAST.

I had to run alsaconf to configure the sound on my old PC, but thats no drama.

IceWeasil browser played both CNN and Youtube videos no problem. It even passed my wife’s Thai web site test (although the IceWeasil Thai fonts were sorely lacking). It comes with mplayer already installed.

It has apt-get as a package manager, so one has access to the massive debian repositories. (Of course by installing many apps, one may lose the speed of response in general).

It has hplip and configured my printer OK (with some help from me).

And it has a smattering of semi-light weight applications (spreadsheet, word processor, etc … ).

IMHO this Elive liveCD is worth a look for users with minimal PCs (ie 200MB RAM or so, and a 600MHz CPU). I think I may fire off $10 to the packager of this distribution, if nothing else for entertaining me for a couple of hours (even if I don’t install this - … but who knows, maybe I will install it).

I wish openSUSE could put together such a light weight package.

I have lost track of the number of times that friends have asked me if they can install Linux on some antique PC, and of course, I do not have any specific answers, … just fuzzy maybe statements.

I spent a bit of time this weekend researching and playing, and came up with the following short list of minimal distros to play with

  • Elive (has Enlightenment window manager). Needs 100MHz CPU and 64MB of RAM for one of the older versions. More recent version needs a faster CPU and more RAM
  • DSL (D**N Small Linux). needs 16MB RAM on a fast 486 CPU. But that will be slow !! Better off with 64 MB RAM and a Pentium with 200MHZ CPU
  • Puppy Linux. Needs 64MB RAM for versions before 1.0.2. More recent versions need 128MB RAM and 166MHZ CPU
  • Vector Linux. Needs 32MB RAM and 166MHZ CPU. I suspect much more RAM is desireable.

there are other minimal Linux distros’ but the advantage of the more popular (ie the above short list) is that there are typically more applications and better support (ie larger community).

AntiX 8.2 was just released. This will run in 128MB. It’s based on MEPIS/Debian.

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