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Thread: Old hardware brought back to life

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Reykjavk, sland
    Lubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

    Old hardware brought back to life

    Contents: A long, but easy to read collection of advice for beginners and intermediate users. If you have a problem please read in full length and don't get scared by the volume. The fact that the text is long is not an indication that installing is difficult, it's just a result of the text trying to deal with many different problems, also some which are fairly unlikely to encounter. Though the guide was born in 2012 it is receiving steady updates, latest 2019-04-18.

    Various Linux distros are known as a good option for bringing old hardware back to life and the forum is receiving many questions on the topic.

    The thread is created in order to keep the experience and advice regarding old hardware in one place. Many of the considerations, recommendations and warnings from one problem can and should be reused by other people.

    The purpose of the thread is
    1. to keep old hardware useable as long as possible meaning that the computer is able to support not only an operating system but also a selection of everyday applications, for example a browser at a reasonable speed or a movie player.
    2. to prevent people from wasting time on hopeless hardware.

    The main release, Ubuntu, used to be lightweight and suitable for old hardware, but recent releases are targeting new systems with more graphics horsepower.

    The little-known Ubuntu derivative Lubuntu is much lighter, as can be seen in the list of memory requirements for various Buntus, and a good candidate for this purpose. Lubuntu and Ubuntu use a shared repository, so applications known to run on Ubuntu can also be used on Lubuntu.

    Some people are uncomfortable with issuing commands at the prompt. In this guide you are not required to invent your own commands, just copy the relevant ones from the text with control+c and insert them into a terminal. Don't write them by hand.

    1) Which version to install?
    Our starting point is a fresh install of Lubuntu 18.04.2. Many other lightweight distros are available but as a first try we are focusing on this one. Support period is through April 2021.

    18.04 is the last Lubuntu release to use the highly stable but dated desktop environment LXDE. From 18.10 all development takes place in LXQt so no new functionality will be added to 18.04, only security bug fixes. This means that there is no need to report non-security bugs in 18.04, should one be found. Further info about LXQt is available here.

    Sadly the Lubuntu management has decided to abandon 32 bit software for new releases. This means that our focus is 18.04.2 which is available for both 32 and 64 bit installations. When support for 18.04 is running out in april 2021 this post will be updated with what is the most promising operative system at that time.

    In the guide we first test the hardware capabilities before deciding what and how to install but if you can't wait or if it's not possible to run a live boot you can just take the chance and go straight to the install described in 3).

    2) Hardware
    The main rule is that software in the Buntu world works more or less everywhere. Some exceptions apply, though.

    Hardware Age (approx.) Occurrence Examples of applications which don't work Remarks
    32 bit without SSE2 2001-2 Rare Firefox, Chromium, Chrome, Skype
    32 bit without PAE 2003-4 Rare Chrome, Skype Needs a special install procedure.
    See later in the guide
    32 bit with SSE2 and PAE 2000 - 2008 Common Chrome, Skype
    64 bit 2003 - Common
    Skype is still accessible when running a 32 bit computer. Just use the web interface in stead of the old application which needs installation.

    These restrictions are good to remember when reading the thread.

    Let's begin with a simple test to see if the hardware in question is a) fairly old but straightforward to deal with or b) very old and needs some tricks.

    Using any Linux distro, installed or from a live boot, please copy the command into the terminal and run. It takes some seconds to complete.
    sudo lshw -C cpu | grep -i sse2
    If you get a line full of abbreviations everything is good. Chances are that the install is simply next, next, next, finish.

    If the command doesn't yield an output your computer is at least 15 years old. It will be running most open source programs (with Firefox as a notable exception) fine but closed source programs like Flash player and Skype might give problems but do you really need them or are they just an old habit? More important, we are dealing with a slow processor so consider if it's worth the effort, especially if you are new. See post #2 in the thread.

    (Details: The command above checks if the processor has the SSE2 instructions set. In the Intel family the oldest member with SSE2 is a Pentium 4 and for AMD the oldest is a K8. Though SSE2 is not necessary for an open source Lubuntu install it still serves as a baseline for reasonable performance.)

    The command
    sudo lshw -C cpu | grep -i width
    tells if you have a 32 or 64 bit processor. If it's 64 bit and you have more than 2 GiB of memory then a 64 bit ISO is recommended.

    For people wanting to investigate CPU properties in depth this link gives inspiration.

    Memory: The command
    sudo dmidecode -t memory | grep -i size
    shows the size of the present memory, for example 2*1024 MB. A total of 512 MiB is minimum, 1 GiB is better and if you can go higher then please do.

    sudo dmidecode -t memory | grep -i max
    shows the maximum size of memory that the motherboard supports.

    sudo lshw -short -C memory | grep -i empty
    tells if you have empty slots available for more memory. The output is one line for each empty slot, so if there's no output all slots are used.

    If you are stuck with less than 512 MiB see post #2.

    sudo lshw -short -C disk
    shows the drives of the system, including CD/DVD drives. You can see the size of the hard disk and decide if it's big enough for the intended use.

    If Gparted or the df command show some strange partitions or don't show any at all it is likely because of Fake-RAID. If that's the case and if you don't want to keep Windows which may be installed here I suggest that Fake-RAID be disabled so the disks are functioning independently. The text in the hyperlink explains why.

    Display server
    You might have heard that Ubuntu is slowly switching from X11 to Wayland as a display server. Lubuntu stays for the time being with the dated but highly stable X11. One can see which server is in use by running the command
    inxi -Fxz | grep -i display
    If the output contains X.Org the X11 display server is active and one does not have to worry about people posting this-and-that about Wayland.

    Hardware modifications
    Changing graphics card if we are dealing with a desktop computer and adding a bigger and / or faster hard disk can make a significant difference but in general there's no point in changing the processor; given the socket there's a limited selection to choose from. The only exception are old Celerons which sometimes can be swapped for a much better performing true Pentium. Old spare parts are cheap; take a look at what is offered in the second hand market, what your IT department at work is going to throw out and what you can salvage from a dumpster.

    The older and hence slower the hard disk the more important is zram and/or swappiness, as explained in a later post. 2,5" disks used in portables are generally worse than 3,5" disks in stationary computers.

    Adding memory is the single most efficient step one can take. As mentioned 1 GB is fine, but if the computer can cope with more then by all means give it some.

    If the hardware does not meet these requirements one should consider if it's worth the effort to carry on. There is so much used (say, 4-8 years of age) gear around that one can get for free or cheap. The system requirements of Windows are pushing more and more computers into the ‘old’ category even though they are in good working order.

    Various websites might post lower requirements. Chances are they focus on the operating system itself, not the applications, which is very unfortunate as it only gives people a false hope. If you see something which looks too good to be true, it probably is.

    From time to time people discuss the option of using an old computer as a file server, if it's too old to support a GUI. Before going this route one should consider the size of the hard disk and judge if it's really worth it. A flash drive of 32 or 64 GB is cheap these days. Another idea not worth promoting is giving a kid the old computer for gaming; it's likely to fail because games, also browser based ones, are among the heaviest applications.

    An interesting blog about old hardware and realistic expectations.

    3) Installing the operating system
    First of all: The solution to getting old hardware into usable condition is not old software. When software has reached end of life and is abandoned by the developers no security fixes are provided, and for obvious reasons people should not run such a system. Don't use it, no matter how fast it runs or how much you like the user interface.

    The ISO files for installing can be downloaded from the link ribbon at the top of the page or from a torrent.

    If the computer is one you have salvaged from a dumpster or which has been given to you I suggest that you begin with completely erasing the hard disk.

    Installation should be done from a USB stick, if the computer is young enough to support it, or else from a CD or DVD. Best is to use a wired internet connection. If the install hangs at the very end with no explanation given just push Return.

    A little confusion exists: The standard 18.04 ISO displays a 'minimal' option during install. As of now it does not have any significance; the result will be a full install regardless if this option is selected or not. This notion of 'minimal' is not used any more in the guide and in the following 'minimal' refers to the minimal ISO.

    Should the standard Lubuntu ISO not work then other options exist:
    The alternate ISO is a text-based installation program which installs the normal graphical environment.
    The minimal ISO installs a minimal operative system. After that the user picks and chooses which applications to add.

    If booting from USB does not work and if the CD/DVD drive is on the brink of failing it's worth trying the minimal ISO with a size of only 60 MB. Often a semi-working CD drive will accept this.

    Even if a live boot does not work, neither from USB nor from DVD, it's worth a try to install using one of these ISO's.

    During the minimal install you will get the option of adding additional packages (lubuntu and other desktops, various servers, ...) at the end. I recommend that you skip this, doing a command-line only install. After a reboot you just have to run one of these commands
    1) sudo apt install lubuntu-desktop
    2) sudo apt install lubuntu-desktop --no-install-recommends
    3) sudo apt install lubuntu-core
    to get a complete desktop. The commands are ordered from the full-blown Lubuntu (1) to the smallest and lightest (3). After the install, which can take some time, reboot the system with
    sudo reboot now
    Next time you will be greeted with a GUI.

    Regardless of which ISO you choose always use wired internet access while installing, during the first boot and when applying the first batch of bug fixes.

    If you get an error about PAE the easiest solution is to add the forcepae flag. Guidelines are in the PAE text, which also describes other ways to solve the PAE problem.

    If everything works well just skip section 3B and 3C.

    3 B) Graphics processors which need special settings
    For Lubuntu 18.04 most graphics processors work without modifications but some of them are better off with a personal treatment.

    a) Adding the nomodeset boot option is a good all-round attempt at troubleshooting Nvidia and AMD/ATI problems.

    b) If the command
    lspci | grep -i vga

    00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation 82865G Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 02)
    or similar old Intels you could try to create an /etc/X11/xorg.conf file with the following contents:

    Section "Device"
        Identifier "Intel Graphics"
        Driver "intel"
        Option "AccelMethod" "uxa"
    There's a tab in front of the three middle lines. It may or may not give a clearer display than the vanilla install which does not include an xorg.conf. Try with and without, if there's no improvement just delete the file.

    The easiest approach is creating the file xorg.conf in your home directory using any ANSI editor you like. When the file is finished execute the command
    sudo cp xorg.conf /etc/X11/
    in the directory where you created xorg.conf in order to copy the file to the right location. Reboot.

    The xorg solves among other things the problems of Flash player showing strange green/purple colours and a greyed/blacked-out address in Firefox as seen to the right: firefox_intel_graphics.png
    The UXA setting also solves other problems for Intel graphics processors. Use it for general troubleshooting for Intel. For advanced use click here.

    Remember that Intel cards (and possibly others, too) switch to a low number of colours when given a heavy work load like showing a film in high resolution. If you see this it's not a driver or configuration problem but the intended mode of operation.

    c) HP dv6's are infamous for overheating. The problem is partly solved by thorough cleaning of fan and heat sink (see later in the text), but adding the radeon.dpm=1 parameter also helps. More here.

    d) From release 17.04 onwards a number of old graphics processors are partly losing support (see comment #8). If you have one of these and you are not satisfied with the performance VESA drivers are worth considering. See point h.

    e) Cards from Silicon Integrated Systems / SIS are often difficult to work with. There are some threads with advice here, here and here . Most is written for 14.04 and 16.04 but some of it also applies to 18.04.

    f) Advice for very old Nvidia Geforce cards.

    g) 'Malfunctioning' Nvidia cards of the 61xx series are a recurring topic in the forum. Though, what is malfunctioning is not the card but often the software. Do a fresh install of Lubuntu and allow closed-source drivers which are offered during the installation (not after a reboot).

    h) If the graphics processor gives a strange picture using the default settings it's possible to switch to the older VESA standard. It's a good option if everything else fails and it should be promoted more in Ubuntuforums.

    • When installing, at the boot screen press F6
    • A list of boot options appear. Press Escape to close the list
    • Now a string of options is visible, often ending in a double dash (--)
    • At the end, after the dashes, add a space and "vga=791" without the quotes
    • Press return and the install begins.

    More about adding boot options and about VESA codes.

    If the 791 setting works well you could try to increase resolution and / or colour depth with 792, 794 or 795.

    The drawbacks for VESA are slow graphics and a limited number of screen resolutions.

    i) If the graphics card is older than

    • Intel: 865 series
    • Nvidia: 5xxx series
    • AMD/ATI: R300 series

    it's recommended to switch to something better. VESA drivers as mentioned above sometimes help but often the only sensible approach is to search for a stronger card.

    If you are thinking of changing card the performance list is useful for comparing various options. Don't get scared by seeing that new cards are tens of times faster than yours, for ordinary use the performance of present day cards is overkill.

    Remember to look up the exact name. There are for example at least four different GeForce FX 5900's.

    3 C) Distros outside the Buntu family
    If you in spite of the advice in 3B still don't get a satisfactory picture, other light distros are worth a try.

    Debian, Puppy (which comes in many versions), Knoppix and Bodhi Linux are good options. More distros are listed here if people want to experiment, but before choosing one of the minor distros remember to check how well it is maintained. Never use an unsupported distro or a distro where bug fixes are released so slowly that it's almost unsupported. This excludes for example Damn Small Linux, which is sadly still mentioned in Ubuntuforums. Please let it rest in peace.

    If you are going to search for something else than Lubuntu it should be because of hardware support or because you prefer another look and feel, not because of lightness. None of the light distros put any significant workload on the system anyway, the load comes from the browser and other (multimedia) applications which are heavy no matter in which distro they run.

    3D) BIOS
    If the install still does not work you could try resetting BIOS to default values and / or upgrade the BIOS to a later version. Before upgrading remember to search the web and see if people have bad experiences with this for your particular hardware. Don't be afraid of general warnings which may not apply to your machinery.

    A working BIOS can often be tuned to yield a better performance, for example by disabling diskette drives and other things which are not needed.

    4) Applications
    ‘Light applications’ is a neverending topic. Only brief advice is given here, otherwise I leave it to the user to experiment.

    Regardless what you install try to avoid snap packages because they tend to consume more memory than classical installs. If you don't know what a snap package is then you are probably doing the correct installs already.

    Adding Flashblock to the browser gives a significant increase in speed. Other ad-reducing plug-ins are worth testing, too.

    Trying a lighter browser like Pale Moon, Xombrero / Xxxterm or Epiphany may or may not speed things up. The packages are small so it’s an easy test to do. The even lighter browser links2 gives a crude text display with embedded images but nothing more - no pop-ups, no animated GIF's and no video ads (scrolling is done with right mouse button or with Page Up/Down). After years of exposure to pages bloated with irrelevant ads and animations it's a joy to see only plain text. The command for installing is
    sudo apt install links2
    More suggestions about browsers here. Stay away from Midori as it is not keeping up with security threats.

    It's recommended to add 'Resource Monitors' to the bottom panel and keep an eye on CPU and memory usage. Just right-click on the panel, and the rest is self-explanatory.

    Lubuntu comes with the light office applications Abiword and Gnumeric in stead of the more usual Libre Office. As we have already required that the computer runs a browser with acceptable speed it also has the power to run Libre Office, so the two applications should not be kept because of lightness.

    If you want to switch to Libre Office the commands

    sudo apt update
    sudo apt dist-upgrade
    sudo apt install libreoffice
    sudo apt install libreoffice-help-xx
    sudo apt install libreoffice-l10n-xx
    sudo apt --purge remove abiword
    sudo apt --purge remove gnumeric
    are all you need (where xx is your two letter country code - not all are available).

    The following bug is said to be fixed in 18.04. Please post your experience in the thread so people can see if it's actually the case. Both Libreoffice and Abiword are known to flicker on various kinds of hardware. An easy workaround is to open Preferences -> Customise look and feel, as seen to the thumbnail to the right. On the Widget tab select Crux and on the Icon Theme tab select Adwaita. Wait some seconds for the effect to take effect before pushing Apply.

    Also other combinations are possible. More options here.

    In addition to a more pleasant view the light theme also gives less processor load and battery drain.

    A standard install of Lubuntu can't play Flash video. I consider this a big advantage because Flash has all the drawbacks of closed source, and more and more of the major web sites like Youtube are moving from Flash to HTML 5. Chances are that you don't have to worry about Flash at all but if you need it can be installed:
    1. For 64 bit computers the easiest way to get Flash is installing Chrome (not Chromium) where the latest Flash player is built in from the beginning.
    2. A 32 bit computer with SSE2 (the vast majority of them) needs restricted-extras as described below
    3. A 32 bit computer without SSE2 needs the package as described in post 2 in the thread.

    Chrome for 64 bit computers is installed by downloading the .deb file from the Google web site. After that the commands
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt dist-upgade
    sudo dpkg -i <path_to>/google-chrome-stable_current_*
    do the trick.

    A guide for getting Netflix working on 32 bit computers.

    The recent version of Google Earth does not work with older graphics cards. If one wants Google Earth then installing version 6 is the best approach:

    Run the commands
    sudo apt install lsb-core
    sudo apt install xfonts-75dpi xfonts-100dpi
    and after that download version 6.2.2.

    When the deb file is downloaded it is installed with the command
    sudo dpkg -i <path_to>/googleearth*

    sudo apt install lubuntu-restricted-extras
    installs a number of closed source packages necessary for playing mp3 files, Flash and the like. During the install a dialog box asking for permission to install Microsoft fonts appear but as the mouse does not work here one has to use TAB and SPACE to get to the buttons.

    More on getting Flash and other closed-source formats to work.

    5) Drivers
    If open-source drivers are available (for sound, network, bluetooth and other cards) one can expect them to be in good condition because the hardware has been known to the developers for many years giving time for debugging and testing. A plain, default installation performed with wired internet access is often the only step a user needs. Remember to reboot and apply all updates as explained in the next paragraph.

    Afterwards, if a wirefree card needs drivers the dedicated forum has plenty of advice. Please read the sticky notes there before posting. Some good commands for testing network speed are here.

    It might be difficult to enter the password for the wirefree connection because of a fast time-out. The solution is simple: Write the password in Leafpad or similar editor, copy it, open the wirefree application and paste it into the right place.

    If the wifi connection is unstable the first step is to switch off power management using the sed command mentioned. It does not produce any output. Reboot after that.

    The open source nouveau drivers for Nvidia graphics processors have improved a lot during the latest releases, especially for the recent processors. This is one of the reasons why people should always consider the latest Lubuntu and not always cling to LTS. If closed source Nvidia drivers give problems with screen tearing there is a solution for that.

    6) Maintenance
    An often overlooked part of getting an old computer into a useable condition is cleaning the interior dust build-ups, especially around the fan and heatsink. Take care not to damage the fans by forceful vacuuming and remember to only vacuum in the reverse direction of the normal air flow. Best is to block the fan with a tooth pick or piece of wire while cleaning to prevent it from spinning too fast. If we are dealing with a desktop remember that it likely has several fans (for CPU, GPU, power supply and more).

    Short bursts of compressed air also helps. Again, only in the reverse direction of the normal air flow.

    Remember to check that the fan is turning freely after cleaning.

    Many good guides are available describing how to take hardware apart. Here's for example a list for Toshiba.

    On the software side the only maintenance needed is

    sudo apt update
    sudo apt dist-upgrade
    <maybe reboot here>
    sudo apt clean
    sudo apt autoremove
    once in a while. The last command is important because it removes old kernels and saves hard disk space. Without this command the boot partition could fill up with old kernels, causing the whole package management to grind to a halt, so make it a habit of running the command whenever you are in doubt. It should however only be used when the computer is in good working order so there's no need for reverting to an old kernel.

    If the computer does not automatically ask for updates shortly after the install it's especially important to run the commands.

    A file system needs some free space to perform well. The command
    df -Th
    shows in percent how much space is used for various mounts. A good rule of thumb is never letting any of the measures exceed 75%.

    The similar command
    df -i
    shows the number of available inodes. There are many explanations for inodes on the web, for now it will be enough to know that the percentages shown should be as low as possible. If you see high numbers just run the autoremove command mentioned above.

    The command
    sudo find /home -name '*' -size +50M
    tells which files in the /home directory are more than 50 MB of size. It's useful for cleaning if space is getting tight. Remember to empty the trash can afterwards.

    7) Sound
    For problems with sound the first step in troubleshooting is opening Pulse Audio Volume Control and checking that nothing is muted. Just play around with the settings. Surprisingly often it solves the problem, for example when using USB devices for sound.

    Next step is the sound troubleshooting thread.

    8) Who is going to use the computer?
    If you are installing for a non-technical user some settings are worth considering:

    A) Set software updates to 'automatic' as seen in the screen shot. In some instances the function is reportedly broken so it's nevertheless still a good idea to run the series of update commands described in point 6) above.

    B) Disable the option for reporting bugs. It's not helpful to deliver a system and telling the user to 'just ignore the dialog box about error reporting which might come up'.

    Bug reporting is controlled by the application Apport, which again is controlled by the file /etc/default/apport. Changing enabled to 0 disables the function. The file can be opened and edited by hand, but it's faster to issue the command
    sudo sed -i s/enabled=1/enabled=0/ /etc/default/apport
    The command does not produce output.

    Remember to reboot for the change to take effect.

    9) Environmental impact
    It is a widely held belief that old hardware shouldn’t be used because of power consumption. This is not necessarily true: Old hardware is sometimes less greedy than new, if one compares within the same category (desktop versus desktop, for example). The power consumption of newer machines per unit of calculation is lower, but not the total power consumption of the machine.

    However, the biggest benefits from using an old computer as long as possible is less production of new hardware and less e-waste to be handled, both of which are causing serious environmental problems. Add to this the joy of using hardware without a software vendor trying to force people to pay for a pre-installed operating system.

    If you have managed to bring an old computer back to usable life you should not be ashamed for being old-fashioned but proud of taking care of the environment.

    10) Further improvement
    Third post in the thread gives some suggestions for what to trim and adjust after install.

    11) Still in doubt?
    If this does not answer all your questions you are of course welcome to post but please read #4 first.

    = = =
    Thanks to MG&TL for proof-reading.
    Last edited by mrgs; April 22nd, 2019 at 08:44 PM. Reason: Info about 32/64 bit questions

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Reykjavk, sland
    Lubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

    Hard disk health

    One question when dealing with old hardware is whether or not it's fast enough for the intended purpose. Post 1 and 4 focus on this topic and provide ideas for getting a higher performance.

    Another question is whether or not it's safe to store data on an old hard disk. A hard disk can fail in various ways; here we focus on bad sectors which can develop over time. Fortunately they tend to appear in clusters and not randomly distributed over the disk.

    Error-handling routines in the hard disk firmware are expected to take care of the individual sectors when an error occurs. They are often quite efficient and many well-behaving hard disks have a few bad sectors unbeknownst to the user. However, if I am aware of a cluster of bad sectors I prefer to store data a little away, not right next to it. The post describes how to achieve this. It could be called trading hard disk space for security.

    Let's take an example. The commands can be run in a live boot or in an already installed Buntu.

    First we execute
    sudo fdisk -l
    The top line of the output could look like

    Disk /dev/sda: 74.6 GiB, 80060424192 bytes, 156368016 sectors
    It tells us the number of sectors and that the hard disk is mounted as /dev/sda.

    We would like to investigate /dev/sda further. Next command is
    sudo badblocks -v /dev/sda > badsectors.txt
    which can take long time to run. It searches the entire /dev/sda hard disk for bad sectors and writes their location to a list in a file.

    When the command has finished (for a large disk it might need to run the whole night) open the file badsectors.txt. Say the file looks like

    (and 58 more 125xxxxx-numbers)
    In other words we have one cluster with sector numbers 304xxxx and another with numbers 125xxxxx.

    The larger of the numbers is 125xxxxx. Let's consider to define an area up to and including this sector (and a little more for security) from which Buntu is kept out.

    Since the total disk size is 156368016 sectors we are losing 12600000 / 156368016 = 8 % of the disk capacity if we do so. There will still be 92 % of 74.6 GiB = 68.6 GiB left as useable space. Since a basic Lubuntu install takes around 6 GiB we have plenty left.

    We decide to erase the hard disk completely before installing Buntu. From a live boot run the command
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M
    again assuming that the hard disk is sda. Also this command can take a long time and only the hard disk indicator light shows that something is proceeding.

    When finished the message no space left on device will appear. This is normal.

    Some consider the command overkill but at least one should erase the master boot record and the partitioning scheme. This is done by the (quick) command
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=512 count=1
    After this
    sudo fdisk -l /dev/sda
    shows an empty (unpartitioned) disk as expected.

    While we are in the live boot go to the desktop and click Install. When reaching the installation type dialog box select something else for getting to decide the partitioning.

    First click new partition table. With the partition table in place the partitions can be created.

    Click the plus sign. As calculated above we decided to let the first 10 GiB of hard disk space go in order to get to more trusty ground so we define a primary partition of around 10 GiB from the beginning. Set it to do not use.

    After it's created highlight the free space and press plus again. The remaining space goes to a new partition formatted as ext4 and mounted as / (root). Normally it will be fine to create it as a primary partition but of you plan on doing many experiments an extended one gives more freedom later.

    If you want a separate /home partition this is the time for creating it.

    Rest of the installation is standard.

    The first reboot after installation can take longer than usual. Apply all updates and reboot again.

    sudo fdisk -l
    should show something like

    Disk /dev/sda: 74,6 GiB, 80060424192 bytes, 156368016 sectors
    Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    Disklabel type: dos
    Disk identifier: *
    Device     Boot    Start       End   Sectors  Size Id Type
    /dev/sda1  *        2048  19531775  19529728  9,3G 83 Linux
    /dev/sda2       19533822 156366847 136833026 65,3G  5 Extended
    /dev/sda5       19533824 156366847 136833024 65,3G 83 Linux
    df -h
    Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
    udev            1,9G     0  1,9G   0% /dev
    tmpfs           382M  1,2M  380M   1% /run
    ### /dev/sda1 is not mentioned here ###
    /dev/sda5        64G  5,6G   55G  10% /
    tmpfs           1,9G  7,2M  1,9G   1% /dev/shm
    tmpfs           5,0M  4,0K  5,0M   1% /run/lock
    tmpfs           1,9G     0  1,9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
    tmpfs           382M   12K  382M   1% /run/user/1000
    We see that sda1 spans 19529728 sectors (12600000 required) and is unused; only sda5 stores data for the operative system. 64 GB is available.
    Last edited by mrgs; June 21st, 2018 at 02:06 PM.
    Bringing old hardware back to life. About problems due to upgrading.
    Please visit Quick Links -> Unanswered Posts.
    Don't use this space for a list of your hardware. It only creates false hits in the search engines.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Reykjavk, sland
    Lubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

    Really old hardware

    The original post dealt with fairly old hardware. Here are some additions for really old stuff.

    A) Old as in 'not SSE2-enabled'
    Lubuntu itself and most of the popular open source packages run fine without SSE2. The main problems are Firefox and a few closed source applications like Flash and Skype which depend upon SSE2 so if you don't need them you can just install the regular way.

    Regarding the browser: Pale moon is an option for 32 bit computers without SSE2. If you want to try the browser, just download the compressed archive, extract the files and doubleclick the file named palemoon. Remember to look for updates yourself as they don't appear through the normal apt channel. Firefox offers an Extended Support Version for computers without SSE2.

    Some solutions for the other SSE2 problems are

    • use a better alternative (HTML 5 in stead of Flash; Google Talk, Ekiga or other alternatives in stead of Skype)
    • For Flash: Install an old Flash package which does not need SSE2.

    The link above displays a bunch of ads and might try to install some Windows junk onto your computer but as you are probably running Buntu when clicking the link it does not matter. The package works fine but remember that it is unmaintained so security bugs are left unfixed. After installing the package the computer should not be used for sensitive or personal data.

    The new Flash package included in Chrome which requires a 64 bit operating system as described in original post is updated automatically. Also Flash included in restricted-extras is updated.

    An additional problem is that 'older than SSE2' indicates that the processor is... old. If it's an AMD Athlon XP (from 2000-2004) it is likely to be accompanied by Nvidia Geforce 2 graphics which A) is slow compared to today's standards and B) needs special settings as described in the post above.

    B) Old as in 'limited RAM'
    If you have less than 512 MiB of memory then running a full GUI while installing could be too much workload, so the alternate and / or minimal ISO are worth trying. Another option is the 9w installer, but be aware that more manual steps are involved than when using the standard Lubuntu, and a beginner would probably find the process complicated.

    People's taste and patience are different but in general the speed of such a system will suffer. Web surfing will be limited to the lightest web sites, for example.
    Last edited by mrgs; June 19th, 2018 at 07:28 AM. Reason: Typo

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    For a early Athlon64 3200+ with 2 GB or RAM, I still plan to install Lubuntu14.4 LTS
    Do you recommend the 64 bits or 32 bits variant?
    As I have enough RAM, I tend to the 64bits one: nowadays, I think that most people do use the 64bits, and thus, these program are better tested and supported. What do you think?

    For those hesitating between different distributions, I just tried the multicd script ( ) so that I can put 5 live cd on the same iso (which I will put on a usb HDD). Pretty handy! Don't forget to rename the Ubuntu derivatives (e.g. LXLE or Bodhi) to xxx.ubuntu.iso so that the script can handle them!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    Both 32 bits and 64 bits should work well. The 64-bit system will use more RAM for the same tasks, but should be faster. I don't know for such an old 64-bit system if there will be regressions. In other words, I can't really tell, please try both and compare

  6. #6
    ibjsb4 is offline Ubuntu addict and loving it
    Join Date
    Sep 2012

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    You should be good with 64bit. If you do run out of ram, your system will use your swap partition. If this happens, you will see an overall system slowdown as swap is way slower than ram. But with 2G, I'm thinking your good.

    I have 4G ram and run 32bit, but this is because I run some software that eats up my ram and I try to stretch it out (32bit will use less). And still on rare occasion I have ran this into swap. About 64bit being faster, that also depends on the software you run and find it not to be a concern for me.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    Quote Originally Posted by sudodus View Post
    The 64-bit system will use more RAM for the same tasks, but should be faster.
    Indeed, the 64bits takes 35% more RAM just on start! I am surprised that is that much!

    I started the live CD of different distribution to give an idea of the RAM usage. CD Started on a Virtual Machine with 1 GB of RAM (tried both under Virtualbox in Debian and HyperV in Windows 8.1, they give similar results).
    The RAM used on start is the one seen in "Task Manager" or with "free -m", considering the 2nd line '-/+ buffers/cache' under 'used'
    Distrib archi kernel RAM on start in MB
    Debian Live LXDE i686 3.2 100
    Bodhi i686 3.8 110
    LXLE 12.04.4 i686 3.2 125
    Lubuntu 14.04 i686 3.13 155
    Lubuntu 14.04 x86_64 3.13 210
    Mint 17 MATE x86_64 3.13 400
    Ubuntu 14.04 x86_64 3.13 630

    Ubuntu as live CD under HyperV is so slow and almost unusable. All other reacts quite fast, especially the LXLE variants. Bodhi and LXLE are based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS ; Mint 17 is based on Ubuntu 14.04
    Last edited by eric13; June 16th, 2014 at 10:51 PM. Reason: fix debian live LXDE

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Reykjavk, sland
    Lubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    If performance and swap usage is a problem then you could take a look at post #2.
    Bringing old hardware back to life. About problems due to upgrading.
    Please visit Quick Links -> Unanswered Posts.
    Don't use this space for a list of your hardware. It only creates false hits in the search engines.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    Thanks for sharing your test results

    You wrote Debian Live LXLE. Do you mean Debian Live LXDE?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Re: Old hardware brought back to life

    Hello I have an Acorn Aspire 1 netbook, with 1 Gig of RAM, and have just put Lubuntu 14.04 LS on to it. It works well. Just wondered if Lubuntu can do the same trick as Windows 7 where a fast SD card, Scan Disc Ultra, can be used as memory. Thought this might to make it a bit faster. Is it possible? Any ideas would be appreciated.
    I've noticed that Lubuntu does not have Calibre in its list of software but is in Ubuntu. I expect I'd need to learn how to install it if I want to try it.
    Thanks for all the advice.

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