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Linux project ideas for vista era laptop

I’ve got a Dell D830 laptop that I want to play around with.

I’ve installed Manjaro into it to try it out. Bit too much for that machine though. I’m new to linux, some familiarity with Ubuntu/Debian via rpi and popos. I’m interested in doing some sort of nas in the future, but this might not be the best machine for that. What are some basic projects a Linux noob might have fun with on an older laptop?


  • Core2duo T7200
  • 2Gb ddr2
  • 240gb ssd
  • Some low-end quadro mobile chip
  • Dead battery

I’d start by seeing if that chip is ZIF or not. If it is, swap that garbo out for a P86 or P8800. Don’t worry about the heat difference as the wattage is the same, if not up by like 5 watts. Then, I’d get a full 4GB of 800 or 1066 mhz ram in it. Its actually really cheap at recycling centers.

After that you can do whatever the hell you want with it.

debian xfce might be worth a try

I’ve had good luck running LXLE on machines like that.

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I’ve used an old thinkpad of the same era with a busted display (external monitor vga) as a pihole before. The only weird thing is that routers need two dns ~providers~ addresses so I think you actually need two pihole servers?

Nope. Just one.

iirc my Verizon actiontec router didn’t let me put the same up address for dns twice

Pic unrelated

I’ve got a pi3 already serving as a pihole, good idea however.

I have another box (4590, 12gb, ssd) running a simple minecraft server that I would probably convert into a freenas box eventually, this was more for a learning exercise since it’s just setting there doing nothing and I’m in between semesters in uni.

Thanks for everyone’s replies and ideas

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to the op.
first research the specs on the laptop and find out the max processor and memory it can use, get those and install them.
a vista era lappy can run a lot of versions of linux! some pretty fast and some will run slow but they will run.
I install debian on systems like that a lot because of it long term support and also because it runs pretty snappy. it also gives these machines a new lease on life.

there is also a plethora of different uses for old machines that many people often forget.

I ran LXLE on a emachines 1300=02w with a 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e single core and 2 gigs.
Ran like a champ.
There are a bunch of “small linux” distro’s to choose from


Basic projects? Learn C or perl with it.

As in, starting from first steps. That hardware is pretty old and slow, but it is more than enough to run perl or a c compiler for noob learning projects.

Especially if you do it via the command line, which would also help you learn either terminal based vi or emacs…

Moving from Windows to linux a big difference is that you have a heap of free development tools available… even included with the OS.

You can likely find aftermarket batteries for that machine without going to Dell. I have had good success with both batteries and power bricks for Dell.
Make sure your model is listed in the seller notes.
In that era, it is likely that they were not using lithium polymer packs, so you can get some 18650 cells and solder them in.
Try running Linux LXLE on it before putting any money into it. It will probably run better than when it was new.

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It should be fine for a nas. It would be fine for any application which is too graphically intensive.

I also have a Dell core2 duo and it runs Solus fine, as long as I’m not too impatient. Using just a window manager, instead of a full desktop environment, would certainly make it snappier. Still, it would definately make for a better nas than a general purpose laptop in this day and age.

What about a not-a-linux-project? Older laptops are perfect for messing around with experimental OSs like Haiku or ReactOS.

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Problem with using a laptop as a NAS (especially an ancient one with likely parallel ATA internal disk) is … disk capacity.

An old laptop with a second NIC makes a battery backed up firewall (assuming the battery still holds any charge) however.

Luckily it supports sata in some capacity, I have a modern 240gb ssd in it right now, university has started back however so I have’t really touched it. I would probably be using a couple usb hdds except usb2 is a tad slow for large media files.

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Granted, it wouldn’t be my first choice for an application server, but it would be fine for storage.

while laptops are great for their portability they are very limited in their upgrade-ability.
desktop units are better for this because you have so many options.
mobo upgrades allow for more modern computing power and depending on how much space inside the amount of media drives. you can put into the case.

:rofl: Ive made “fooler” computers ( dinosaur cases with modern internal hardware) before to fool would be burglers. and they worked!

even a vista era desktop maxed on processor and memory running Debian or set up as an NAS is still a powerful and useful machine even if it is old.

I would run some containers on the laptop systemd-nspawn containers this way you don’t need to virtualise anything ! Some Vista era laptops don’t have VT-x/d so it would be cool to see minimal distros running without virtualization.

Also, I’d get to know wiregaurd and set up a vpn with it on the laptop. it’s the new way to run a vpn on Linux so you don’t need OpenVPN or ipsec