Suggestions for rather old PC on Linux

Hi All,
So at work I have salvaged an old PC which we call bronze builds, there are build that are 10 years old and the motherboard died a few weeks ago.
So rather than the extra pieces like RAM and CPU go to waste I thought I would find a motherboard from my spares and a new PSU and use it in my office as a Linux box for messing around in my downtime, considering all my office time is downtime I will have a lot to do.
So, I am expecting to have a dual core with 2GB RAM and possibly a GPU (Nothing fancy just some bog standard gpu)
Now I am stuck on a distro, it has to be minimal so Debian, Arch and Ubuntu minimal all come into consideration, my software choice does not matter too much as I will be mostly using I3 and either Termite or URXVT + ranger

What would you recommend for this type of system? I will be running it as x64 bit also.


I think the main question is what is going to affect your baseline performance. Having a lightweight desktop environment is a good starting point but I'd look at other things such as a lightweight browser. Browsers such as Firefox and Chromium use a lot of juice. One decent alternative which comes to mind is Midori, although I haven't used it in a while so I'm not sure if I should recommend it.

I3 can be extremely lightweight, but there are customizations which will eat a lot (relatively speaking) of resources. I don't recommend using a compositor like Compiz or Compton. IMO, you really don't need it to get a decent looking desktop.

Since its an old machine I think I'd try with Debian. I suspect they're the most likely to still work on such an old machine. Could be wrong ofc.

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Slackware works will on old machines and its just a lovely distro.

i3 will be customised with a icon theme and other things dealt with in /etc/i3/config, I plan for most of the heavy lifting to be done via the terminal, So I will use either Termite or RXVT (Undecided yet) and ranger, I have tested this basic setup on a VM and I am getting around 90MB of RAM usage and a 4 sec boot time.
Additionally I don't plan to use a login manager, ill just exit the xinitrc file for it, I much prefer this method now compared to a login manager.
I used Midori a while ago, seems okay but time will tell I suppose, only issue I have is to my knowledge it does not have support for uBlock origin, so I may see if I can find a really lightweight browser based upon either Chromium or Firefox.

Never really tried Slackware, I have heard good things about it though, may try it in a VM and see what its like.

You like it or hate it. Its called Slackware because they like to stick to old ways. You can still learn a lot from just using that OS.

doggo linux. i luv doggos

On the alt-browser front, I've played around with Midori, QupZilla and PaleMoon, and always ended up going back to Firefox because of general problems or missing/under-provisioned features with the "lighter" browsers.

  • Midori: Crashes too often, especially when loading a page with multimedia elements. Pretty much unusable to me.
  • QupZilla: I was unable to get HTML5 video working properly with the gstreamer framework installed, and some pages I visit don't function correctly unless switching the user agent string. Ended up spending too much time managing the browser vs. using it.
  • PaleMoon: Crashy, sketchy plugin support, and doesn't support Off-Main-Thread Compositing (or at least didn't the last time I tried it). The latter feature can be a boon for older, low-spec PCs that have a GPU supporting OpenGL 2.1 or better.

Of course, YMMV, and I'd be curious to know of anyone's success stories with any of the above.

Side note: I highly recommend using an ATI GPU with the open-source Radeon drivers on a junk rig. The old ATI gear has supported OpenGL 2.1 in hardware since as far back as 2003 while Nvidia didn't do so until they'd moved past the GeForce FX series cards. Making use of OpenGL acceleration in VLC, MPV, Chromium, and Firefox (by way of OMTC) while keeping any "desktop compositing" off/uninstalled has netted me a much better overall experience when using old equipment (including 32-bit Northwood P4 systems just to see if I could).

I have an older AMD GPU installed on it, I could run off the iGPU but better just to have a little more power, was laying around anyways.
I don't think I will have compositing as I wont be using anything 3D related really.