Linux on Old Windows XP Laptop

Howdy Level One Techs. DFM here.

Well I'm finally taking my first stab at installing Linux! I'm pretty excited, but I don't want to jump into this without checking with my best trusted nerd resource.

What I'm hoping to do with this laptop/version of Linux: Light browsing and basic htpc stuff. No gaming or anything serious (You'll see why when you read the specs).

My parents use this machine to check email, surf da web, and print things.

My questions:

Will I have compatability issues with this older laptop?

What is a good Distribution of Linux for noobs with the above requirements? I'm thinking something with a super easy user interface that will hopefully run a bit faster than the native sluggish Windows XP it came with.

My equipment:

My gaming rig to download and use as launch platform.

I have multiple displays to test and work with it on.

I've got a Patriot XT 32GB usb stick, so I think I'm ready to go! Specs below. She's old but I think she'll do.

Let me know if i'm missing anything!

Operating System
Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 3 (build 2600)
Install Language: English (United States)
System Locale: English (United States)
Installed: 3/23/2010 3:40:13 PM
Boot Mode: BIOS (Secure Boot not supported)
System Model
Hewlett-Packard HP Pavilion dv1000 (EC144UA#ABA) Rev 1

Enclosure Type: Notebook

Processor a
1.40 gigahertz Intel Celeron M
64 kilobyte primary memory cache
1024 kilobyte secondary memory cache
Not hyper-threaded

Main Circuit Board b
Board: Quanta 308F 46.11
Bus Clock: 400 megahertz
BIOS: Hewlett-Packard F.07 06/06/2005
80.02 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
61.86 Gigabytes Hard Drive Free Space

TSSTcorp CD/DVDW TS-L532M [Optical drive]

TOSHIBA MK8025GAS [Hard drive] (80.03 GB) -- drive 0, s/n 65HN3057S, rev KA024A, SMART Status: Healthy
Memory Modules c,d
2040 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory

Slot 'DIMM 1' has 1024 MB
Slot 'DIMM 2' has 1024 MB
Local Drive Volumes
c: (NTFS on drive 0) 80.02 GB 61.86 GB free

Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers - 266F
Primary IDE Channel [Controller]

Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family Display adapterFNI LCD TV [Monitor]
NEC [Monitor] (July 2001)

Bus Adapters
Texas Instruments PCIxx21/x515 Cardbus Controller
Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM USB Universal Host Controller - 2658
Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM USB Universal Host Controller - 2659
Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM USB Universal Host Controller - 265A
Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM USB Universal Host Controller - 265B
Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM USB2 Enhanced Host Controller - 265C
Conexant AC-Link Audio

Virus Protection [Back to Top]
avast! Antivirus Version 5.0.83886625
Virus Definitions Version Up To Date
Realtime File Scanning On
Group Policies
None detected
AC97 Soft Data Fax Modem with SmartCP

1394 Net Adapter
↑ Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN

↓ Realtek RTL8139/810x Family Fast Ethernet NIC
Status: Cable unplugged
Dhcp Server: none responded

Other Devices
Texas Instruments OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller
Microsoft AC Adapter
Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery
Quick Launch Buttons [Keyboard]
Synaptics PS/2 Port TouchPad [Mouse]
Texas Instruments PCIxx21 Integrated FlashMedia Controller (H)
SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller
USB Root Hub (5x)

1 Like

Puppy linux is designed for your kind of old laptop, just install that and you should be fine.

I would make a live cd, that way you can have Linux and Windows on the same laptop. That way your parents won't yell at you because they can't use the laptop. Your parents are probably going to hate Linux.

All suggestions noted.

I am having an issue booting from the usb flash drive bc that option doesn't appear in the boot menu. This laptop is rather old.

Will I have to burn a disc, or is there a work around?

You will have to burn a disk, I don't know of any laptops shipped with Windows xp being able to read boot able USB.

Thanks yeah. I'm just trying to remember if this thing can burn disks.

run LXDE on top of something, such as debian. live cd is just ok as the the live cd will be very slow. best bet is to install a ssd hard drive, clone the existing xp install to it, then partition for a dual boot setup. put in as much ram as it will hold.

a much better idea is a refurbished laptop with a core i-something in it; preferably a business or workstation model (they hold up far better than the cheap consumer laptops). then apply the ssd as needed and partition for linux/windows dual boot. even a core2duo (not a coreduo) would be better than that old xp laptop.

save all their files and documents , then move them over to the new machine.

Figured how to set the USB boot priority.

After downloading the wrong x64 version bc there site has no option for x86, I found the appropriate x86 through a search.

Now I get this after trying to boot.

you can try they make a 386 ver however the cpu is on the low end side.

You can try Linux Lite. It comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions, it's very light weight and is geared towards folks who are new to Linux. I have it running on some very old Athlon processors and it's a pleasant, full featured experience.

Other, perhaps more main stream options would be Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop, or Mint with the XFCE desktop.

With the help Of @freqlabs I got Ubuntu-mate running, but I can't figure how to turn the wifi on. That's right I said "The" Wifi.

I tried to find a driver for the 1394 Net Adapter Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN, but honestly I'm not sure if I'm just doing something wrong.

I can't seem to figure out how to search for wireless networks.

If both the driver and the kernel module are loaded, you should only need to click on the panel wifi applet and it will display all of the wireless AP's that it sees.

You may need an Ethernet connection to the web, in order to search for a driver.

If all else fails, the Arch wiki gives pretty good guidance on how to diag and bring the interface up.

Broadcom uses proprietary drivers. I remember when I first started messing with Linux, I tried to get an old Xeon server to connect with a PCI wifi card that had a Broadcom chip. I had to lug the beast over to my router and plug in an ethernet cable to download the driver. Alternately, you could possibly transfer what you need via USB.

Can you run lspci in a terminal and find out exactly which chip it uses? The 1394 number is firewire. Unless the wifi card is connected via a firewire bus, I doubt that number has anything to do with the wifi card. My understanding is that it is possible to connect two computers together using a firewire cable (hence the 1391 net adapter reference, 'net' meaning network and not internet), but it is probably a separate device.

This Ask Ubuntu Link should point you in the right direction.

Bunsen Labs works well, but it's pure Debian base and while well set out uses text files for much of the config, so potentially less usable for a new user