Choosing a Linux OS for an old laptop for newbies

I have a friend that recently has just revived an old laptop he had.

it’s old Fujitsu laptop with

Core 2 duo T5750

and 1GB of ram (but he is planning to buy some more, how much more is TBD)

he came to ask me about installing Linux on it. unfortunately, although i am just as blind as he is when it comes to linux :stuck_out_tongue:

so we are asking what would be the ideal/good enough option for the laptop as we are both going to start learning from here on out.

so the main uses of the laptop is gonna be for :

  • general light desktop use

  • a remote desktop terminal to access his main desktop PC on-the-go

  • light games (either old games or just 2d games)

  • if possible, android games, but we’re kinda skeptical of the laptop being capable of android emulation

also, how much would 32bit or 64bit matter here?

A Core2 Duo is 64-bit so that’s the flavour of choice here. As for which distro, I’d suggest one without systemd, so something like Devuan. Others will probably recommend other distro’s, that do include systemd, but IMO systemd should be expelled from the Linux kernel as it does not adhere to the core *nix standard “build a tool for a task and make it the best for it” whereas systemd does “everything” but mediocre at best and sometimes badly. Even so, it’s a huge resource hog and that’s precisely what that laptop doesn’t have: resources :roll_eyes:

But I digress.

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I’d suggest one without systemd, so something like Devuan.

Recommended because midweight, not because lacking systemd, but is lacking systemd anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

MX Linux’s flagship XFCE desktop is a good start for older systems.

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While I admire the idea of Devuan going off maintaining additional init system options, for a newcomer to Linux, I think it could cause some unexpected complications.

Additionally, being a derivative of Debian with a smaller user base, it would mean that for any potential issue, one would need to remember to search for “debian <description of issue>” to get more-distro-specific help.

For a newcomer to Linux, at least initially, I would probably recommend starting with one of the primary distros that have large userbases, and which many other distros are based on:
Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, or OpenSUSE

That way if you encounter an issue, odds are that someone else with your distro or at least a derivative has encountered it before and written up a distro-specific solution.

I have not used it myself, but Pop OS sounds like it is so close to upstream Ubuntu that it would probably be fine, but again, you would need to remember that even though you installed Pop OS, when there are issues or software minimum requirements, you are in effect running Ubuntu.

Maybe Ubuntu MATE (Ubuntu with a less resource intensive desktop environment) would be a good fit?

@keikei I should warn you, pro/anti-systemd has been a bit of a weird minefield with some people, if you need to get assistance on a Linux forum or IRC room, it could be best to avoid bringing up systemd unless it is directly related to the problem at hand

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Yeah, I think that answers to this question should focus on recommending a linux distro for noobs with a lightweight desktop environment (I doubt @keikei knows what systemd is which is fine). I personally would recommend something like linux mint with xfce. Mint is great for beginners coming from windows and xfce is a lightweight but solid desktop environment. It is based on ubuntu so most of the troubleshooting information online for ubuntu is applicable to mint.

Another vote in favour of Ubuntu vs Debian/Fedora/OpenSUSE, I think Ubuntu comes with repositories for certain media codecs preconfigured, whereas Fedora and OpenSUSE need to be configured to use the RPMFusion and Packman repositories respectively.

I am not sure how Debian does or does not do this.


My go-to for any Linux newcomers, older machines (or both) is Lubuntu. Light on resources, looks nice, easy to navigate, well supported due to the Ubuntu base.


MATE is not that much more resource intensive than LXDE, is it?

With the GNOME 2 heritage, MATE issues seem like they would be easier to resolve than XFCE or LXDE. That is why I would vote MATE at any rate.

Whatever favour you go for make sure you recommend a SSD. It will make the experience seamless and snappy on most distros, and will be required for anything graphically heavy, like gnome.

I’d personally recommend Linux mint xfce, but only if your friend gets 4gb ram.


eyup. this. never even heard of systemd. or xfce.
(feels like explaining ignition dwell time to a non car person)

but either way. he has bought and installed the 4gb of ram. and went with Kubuntu for now. (also tried android OS just because)

but we’ll both have to read up on this xfce thing

also is trying to figure this out atm. the laptop is rather confusing. it’s has a SATA port, the original hdd seems to be an IDE drive with an adapter on the bracket, that has been glued on to the drive. the optical drive is also a PATA connection.
hopefully a normal ssd sata drive and just plug and play in this case

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Its one of the many kinds desktops Linux can use. There are a bunch out there, some that are more hardware intensive than others. XFCE is one of the lighter ones, pretty well suited to a Core2 kind of machine.

There are a bunch of Ubuntu versions made with different desktop environments. For XFCE, look at “Xubuntu”. I’d also take a look at “Lubuntu” for the even lighter LXQT or “Ubuntu MATE” for the slightly heavier MATE desktop. Apart from the desktop, they’re all pretty much the same under the hood, just Ubuntu.

They all have their quirks, its really a matter of taste rather than which ones “better”. Linux is all about options, have fun with it!

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Hi. Consider Q4OS, Debian based. Very light on resources, especially with Trinity DE.

I’ll chime in for Lubuntu also. I ran a local “dev server” (ran SSH, FTP, Apache HTTP Server, PHP, and MySQL on it.) for my websites off of an 11" Acer E11 Intel Celeron dual core laptop for the longest time; rarely had an problems other than a handful of long load times when I would use it to scrape other websites for information.