Old laptop /Linux question

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Graf Zahl
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Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Graf Zahl »

I got an old laptop, 11 years old, equipped with a 3 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and a Geforce 9600M GPU and 4 GB RAM where the hard drive has broken down.
I'm considering getting a new SSD and install Linux on it - but I'm not really sure if this old system is still good enough for any kind of modern use, be it running a web browser or doing C++ development.

So, anybody here have any experience with running Linux on such an outdated system? The GPU in it is at least good enough to run most normally sized Doom maps at a comfortable 60 fps with GZDoom, but obviously cannot compete with my current desktop system even remotely. But it's not a toaster GPU like all this Intel garbage from a few years later.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by dpJudas »

If you have an USB key, I suggest you install a live cd image on it and give it a go. That's the easiest way to get a reliable answer.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Rachael »

It'll run Linux sure - but you should use a lightweight distribution. Systems like Linux Mint or regular Ubuntu are 100% out of the question on a system like this.

The best ones for a system like this might be Lubuntu, but if you hate the lack of customizability, you can also try Xubuntu. Lubuntu's interface will probably seem more familiar to you, though, it's a little bit closer to Windows.

Furthermore, it is a kind of system that would probably benefit from using 32-bit rather than 64-bit. But the processor sounds like it can support both, so you can try both of them and see which one runs better for you. In my experience running Linux on old systems - just because it supports 64-bit doesn't mean it works best with 64-bit. You really have to try both and see which work better.

Yes, I have experience running Linux on systems that are this ancient. It's the same tech as my MacBook from 2008.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by drfrag »

What about Ubuntu Mate 64 bit? Should be okay there, it was a pretty good laptop and there are modern lowend slower ones.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Rachael »

Ubuntu Mate is a bit heavy on resources compared to the other distros I mentioned. It'll definitely run, but probably not the best experience.

When you're talking old tech, you really want to go resource saving as much as possible - Ubuntu Mate simply doesn't do that.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by dpJudas »

I'm suggesting the live image mostly because this kind of question is impossible to answer.

If the question is if Linux will run, then its of course yes, but I'm guessing Graf is just as much asking if it will run acceptably. That's a very subjective question where I would often answer no where many on this forum would probably still answer yes.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Graf Zahl »

Rachael wrote:It'll run Linux sure - but you should use a lightweight distribution. Systems like Linux Mint or regular Ubuntu are 100% out of the question on a system like this.


Thanks, that's what I feared.

Rachael wrote:Furthermore, it is a kind of system that would probably benefit from using 32-bit rather than 64-bit. But the processor sounds like it can support both, so you can try both of them and see which one runs better for you.


The CPU is definitely 64 bit capable, but under these circumstances I'd rather check if I can get something better from eBay. It was just a thought when I found that thing while cleaning up.

dpJudas wrote:If the question is if Linux will run, then its of course yes, but I'm guessing Graf is just as much asking if it will run acceptably. That's a very subjective question where I would often answer no where many on this forum would probably still answer yes.


Yes, that was precisely the reason why I asked. Makes little sense to invest money here and then find out that it's too slow for any serious kind of work.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Rachael »

dpJudas wrote:I'm suggesting the live image mostly because this kind of question is impossible to answer.

If the question is if Linux will run, then its of course yes, but I'm guessing Graf is just as much asking if it will run acceptably. That's a very subjective question where I would often answer no where many on this forum would probably still answer yes.

There is a lot of truth to this - however - I have actual experience running Linux on the era of technology that Graf is talking about. The biggest enemy here is always background processes - and Linux suffers from them just as much as Windows does, especially on more established distributions (ie big names, Ubuntu etc).

Whether or not it runs acceptably is a subjective answer, sure - but there's many ways to skin the cat, and if you're careful how you install software you should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls that cause this to be a question where people begin to answer "no".

The technology from this laptop is just barely new enough to run a very bare Linux distribution acceptably. I have a laptop that's even older and crappier than this - and it can't even run bare stuff (like OpenBox) well at all. I also have a desktop that's got a first-gen Core i7 with a Radeon 3000-series card with 4gb usable RAM, and it runs Ubuntu Mate 64-bit acceptably well.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by dpJudas »

Rachael wrote:Whether or not it runs acceptably is a subjective answer, sure - but there's many ways to skin the cat, and if you're careful how you install software you should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls that cause this to be a question where people begin to answer "no".

This is why it is so subjective, because the second you need to decide on how to skin the cat the machine is ready for replacement as far as I'm concerned. Hell, I replaced my last computer just because I was bored and wanted to try an AMD Threadripper for the fun of it. It really comes down to your personal income and how much enjoyment you get out of tweaking computers. :)
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by drfrag »

I don't like those lightweight desktop environments and MATE is based on GNOME2 so it's not very demanding. I'm running Win10 on a low end 4 GB AMD laptop and it's bearable, Ubuntu should be much better. I've used Mint MATE 32 bit on a dual core Pentium much slower than yours with 2 GB and it's okay. Just try a live distribution.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Rachael »

dpJudas wrote:This is why it is so subjective, because the second you need to decide on how to skin the cat the machine is ready for replacement as far as I'm concerned. Hell, I replaced my last computer just because I was bored and wanted to try an AMD Threadripper for the fun of it. It really comes down to your personal income and how much enjoyment you get out of tweaking computers. :)


Well - it's gonna be a couple hundred euros to find something better than that on ebay, but you're right :P
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by drfrag »

That said the main concern would be system ram obviously but 4 GB should be enough for development on linux.
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Caligari87 »

I had a laptop older and crappier than this (something like 1GB RAM), and it ran Lubuntu acceptably at the time. Under the hood it's got all the same base as Ubuntu so 95% of the Ubuntu tutorials and repos you find will work with it just fine. The UI isn't great, but it is functional once you get used to it.

lubuntu.net wrote:Our tests show that until version 14.10 lubuntu can be installed on a Pentium II or Celeron system with 256 MB RAM to get a usable system. With 512 MB of RAM, you do not need to worry much. The recommended "lubuntu Desktop" from version 15.04 onwards is 1 GB of RAM. For Internet services like Facebook, Youtube, and Google Docs about 1 GB RAM are needed. For local programs like Libre Office and simple browsing habits 512 MB RAM are usually sufficient. For PCs with less resources, there are alternative lubuntu installers on the download pages, that provide a basic running system for those systems.


That laptop might be old, but its specs aren't necessarily slouchy.

8-)
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Marisa the Magician »

Honestly, other than the fact you'll have to track down legacy nvidia drivers, you can pretty much run an up to date kernel and whatnot in there. I have this one 10 year old laptop with a G102M and setting it up like all my other Arch installs wasn't hard.

GZDoom even runs on this thing (although like with the other ancient laptop I had, the sw renderer outperforms the gl renderer).
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Re: Old laptop /Linux question

Post by Matt »

I've gotten a lot of old computers doing useful stuff with antiX.

The biggest blocker that I've seen so far is browsers - Firefox runs so slow on my EeePC 900 now no matter what I do that by the time I've clicked on a link and it's taken me to the new page I've forgotten why I was navigating to that page.

Things have been better with PaleMoon, if just getting it to something tolerable, and antix-viewer is basically seamlessly smooth though I don't know how much functionality it really has.

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