Linux on very old PC

nedjinski

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Many years ago I built a machine to run XP - it's an Athlon 64 - Opteron 180 with 2GB of ram. With an MSI Neo 2 Platinum it was the hot ticket at the time. It did OK in it's time but as the Windows OS's got bigger and better and needed more resources I built an entirely new machine for Win 7,8,10. The old machine went by the wayside and sat - that was circa 2009.
Recently I thought I would dig it out and play around with Linux. I have installed several distros from full Ubuntu to Xubuntu - anything light weight. No matter which install I use the machine is slow, as in really, really slow. I even put in an SSD with clean installs to see if that would improve speed - almost no change - deadly slow. So I started to conclude that it was just old tech and it was going to be that way. After a couple of days and numerous installs with no change I decided to do a test - by installing a copy of Windows 7 Pro that I had lying around. It was a cranky install with the old bios needing some setup tweaks to get it to read the Windows distro on a USB flash drive. Once I got it installed and updated - shazzam! - the old machine was (relatively) fast again. It's actually pretty useable for day to day browsing and such.
So the question - why wouldn't any Linux distro work as it should? I'm thinking it is totally hardware related, but why wouldn't Linux configure itself and sort out hardware issues the way that Windows has? It's a mystery.
 


guiverc

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You've provided no release details; so I can't really comment on what you tested.

I used boxes as old as from 2003 in QA-testing releases up to 19.04 (ie. pentium M, D, 4 & even sometimes celerons from that era) which of course included Xubuntu/XFCE & Lubuntu/LXDE/LXQt etc (with RAM varying from 1GB to 1.5GB). Those were i386 (in Debian/Ubuntu terms, i686 in linux terms or 32-bit x86) and those boxes worked well - though I didn't use many of those for testing any Ubuntu Desktop release with GNOME (whilst technically the pentium 4/D boxes could 'run' it; it felt like a 'slow walk' and wasn't fun). I still QA-test, but use c2d & higher boxes for releases releases from 19.04 up to current jammy; these are usually 2005 & newer (all those have 2GB of RAM or more).

I still use devices from 2004-2005 (pentium M so x86/32bit only) but I do use those devices differently; being more careful with apps/libs that need to co-exist as the boxes only have 1GB of RAM so I don't want to waste any due to poor-user-choices....

I don't know your CPU, but Yes I believe you'll be able to run a GNU/Linux, but with boxes with 2GB of RAM or less & very old CPUs I do consider the desktop & app choice (inc. OS/release they're on somewhat too) rather carefully - but you gave no specifics in this regard.

FYI: The box I'm replying here on is a 2009 dell (ie. before the i3/i5 or i-series CPUs came out) so it's hardly a new box either; but most importantly is this box has more RAM. Also as Xfce ported from GTK2 to GTK3 it noticeably slowed down just as MATE did having ported earlier... thus release for sure matters in knowing what Xfce stack you're using is... In comparison the LXDE devs abandoned GTK because of this hit switching instead to Qt5 as the L in LXDE meant light (which they blogged about GTK3 not being) which is why its now LXQt which Lubuntu now uses - without release details though we can't know what was in your software stack.
 
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NorthWest

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nedjinski wrote:
I have installed several distros from full Ubuntu to Xubuntu - anything light weight. No matter which install I use the machine is slow, as in really, really slow.
<snip>
So the question - why wouldn't any Linux distro work as it should? I'm thinking it is totally hardware related, but why wouldn't Linux configure itself and sort out hardware issues the way that Windows has? It's a mystery.
The matter of speed will depend on quite a few things. Linux has drivers for lots of hardware, but not all manufacturers assist linux developers, so developers are faced at times with reverse engineering drivers. That means that some linux drivers are not as efficient or comprehensive as the proprietary drivers. On the other side, manufacturers associated with MS supply them with the necessary specifications or information for MS to provide full functionality for the hardware. It may or may not be the case that the hardware you are using is less well provided for by linux.

The choice of a light distro may make a difference. There are many distros quite a bit lighter than Ubuntu and Xubuntu. You can find them with some research at distrowatch.com. In linux there are numerous alternatives for most applications, so finding out how they differ in speed may be useful. For example, a full-on browser like firefox does use more memory and resources in the machine than a light browser like surf or netsurf. There's a bit of learning curve for using a browser like surf, but it's faster than firefox though not as fully featured. The fastest browsers in linux are the text browsers such as elinks, w3m, lynx.

In general comparing MS and linux in a global way is neither useful nor very meaningful. If a person finds that they can do things in MS that are more difficult or less satisfactory for them in linux, then why wouldn't they simply use MS? The comparison ultimately has less meaning as one thinks about what each OS does. There are so many things that can be done on linux that are not possible on MS, that it becomes more a matter of what one wants. For example, on linux one can see all the source code for all the applications that are in use. One can amend it, circulate it, sell it, embed it, develop it as the case may be. That's not available on MS. Linux systems can install and upgrade themselves without rebooting and run live for years. MS always requires a rebooting for it's upgrades. Linux can be run from a usb, a cd disk, a dvd disk, and any of these can be fully featured and also repair damaged systems. MS can't do that. Linux can be moved from one machine to another, endlessly because the drivers are mostly in the kernel and one doesn't have to go and fetch them from websites. MS won't load on a second computer because it will notice the hardware is different and ask for licences and authorisation of some sort. Linux has a total programming universe available freely to the community of programmers to create software, and it has a worldwide network of volunteers who code the endless software. In MS it's altogether different with commercial imperatives. It's chalk and cheese.

There is a learning curve associated with linux if you wish to take advantage of so much it has to offer. If your needs are fulfilled by MS, what sense does it make to try and make linux be just like MS? Linux is so much else and more. To conclude, I would say that you could accomplish far more on your old computer with linux than you ever could with MS despite the fact that you may never get it to run as fast as you would like, but your satisfaction likely depends on what you want to accomplish.
 

Condobloke

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I have installed several distros from full Ubuntu to Xubuntu - anything light weight. No matter which install I use the machine is slow, as in really, really slow.
Question : When you put an iso onto a usb stick, did you try the OS before installing it ?...or did you simply go ahead and hit Install ?
 

Brickwizard

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I was using an Athlon based system up to the first UK lockdown [coroviorus] it ran a sweet as a nut with Mint Xfce, But I did have 4gb ram,
so my suggestion is to increase the ram [pre-used ddr2 is cheap these days] and it should run any distribution

Addendum.
When you tried to install, most distributions will ask if you want to install non-free/propriotry drivers always select yes, this will give you a better chance of the hardware working correctly. Also, to get the best speed try a light or medium weight distribution [Mx-21, Linux lite, Lubuntu, along with several others] will run better than the all singing and dancing [bloated] distributions.
 
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D

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I've run Ubuntu 20.04.3 on an old 2010 Dell Optiplex 380 with a dual core processor and 4 gig of memory.

Your low memory is most likely your problem and will be a problem with most any Linux distro you install.

2 gig of memory nowadays just don't cut the mustard anymore even using Linux.

Most if not all Linux will run comfortably on most any computer with a dual core processor and 4 gig of memory.
 
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BoringZombie

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Go for 8 gb of memory if you can.
 

wizardfromoz

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