Best distro for old windows XP laptop computers?

I was given three old laptops in near mint condition by a friend who inherited them but did not want them, each with Windows XP. I’ve tried several distributions on them, some of them wouldn’t install at all, some did but ran slowly, some worked really well but wouldn’t connect to the internet (I’m using a wifi dongle) and others appeared to be fine but ground to a halt as soon as I tried browsing the internet. The laptops each have 1GB Ram 1.86Ghz intel celeron processor, and 80GB HDD space. I know I will never turn them into gaming machines or something daft like that, but I’d like them to be usable for just browsing webpages for some light reading, checking e-mail and possibly watching youtube. I plan to give two of them to other people if I can get them going. I don’t think it would have been safe to keep windows XP on them from a security perspective, even though it was the best windows Microsoft ever made (back when they actually cared about the user experience).

Does anyone else have experience of using Linux on computers from this era?

My suggestion would look at what the specs needed for the distros
for now yours falls into mm only just Maybe OK
Upgrade the ram,

the HDD you have should be OK with Linux the 1.86Ghz intel celeron processor mm
For what you want and need, Good enough.
Go for a lightweight distro ( not heavy cpu useage)

Two distros on the one page at end of page
read what’s required yours should fit in as an install, if it can installed on a usb it can be installed on a light on resources machine.

Slax based on Debian Linux
Slax based on Slackware Linux

I go for both install and compare how the machines respond to the 2 distros.

Make sure to Verify the checksums

Debian and Slackware are both rock solid Distros and most spins from them are really good.

other choices might be :

Puppy Linux
DSL (Damn Small Linux)

That last one will even run on a 486 (allegedly) - and XP era laptops aren’t much better than a 486 :smiley: anyway…

I reckon doing nearly anything (even internet browsing, even especially internet browsing) is going to be nearly beyond these…

I don’t throw anything out… I’ve got a couple of XP era Thinkpads T40/41/42 - last time I tried Linux on them I think I had to find a Debian that did not default to a PAE kernel, as the T41 CPU was not PAE compliant… I think they did FreeBSD reasonably well too…

But seriously - a Raspberry Pi3 is a better computer than these by the sounds of it…

1 Like

You reckon that the two Slaxs would be of use or @HelenPixels machines are just not up to it ?

Okay guys thanks, I will give these a try and see how I get along with them. Hopefully one of these will be suitable. I don’t need the computers do do any heavy lifting or gaming, that’s what my windows 10 machine is for.

My suggestion would be to put them somewhere away in some closet and forget about them, not really worth the time or trouble.


So if @HelenPixels gets either distro installed and running would that count as news of the day?


I guess you guys above covered the topic very well. Couple of things I want to add:

Yes and no. Those machines are probably around 13-14 year old, Dell, HP? Those days they were pretty well built. According to the hardware, also cheap like hell. They can be upgraded for less then a $100 ea. RAM, SSD would be easy but CPU could be a pain, if at all possible. And yes, they are not worth taking them to a shop…
My wife has a 13 year old HP laptop, I put an SSD, increased RAM to 4GB, and a “newer” CPU in it, and it runs Mint Xfce like a champ.
With a 200 year old Celeron, 1 GB ram you will get nowhere. Watching Youtube videos? Forget it…I’m surprised they were ever capable of running XP.

1 Like

The first time I tried XP (early release on a Warez website - incidentally around the same time I first got ADSL instead of dialup) was on a Pentium II 266 with 128 MB of RAM, and it was better than Windows 2000 on the same box!

I was a tad disappointed, 'cause now running Windows NT was a “consumer” thing and could no longer feel like an elitist :smiley: (I’d previously used Windows NT 3.51, 4.0 and 2000) - and never ran Win95 or 98 or “ME” on computers I used - it was either Linux or Windows NT (occasionally dual boot - but I mostly didn’t and had separate devices to run each).

Note : I did put Windows 95 / 98 on my kid’s PC’s… Yeah - we always had a lot of computers in my house :smiley:

1 Like

I used to have a Dell desktop with XP running in it. 3GB RAM, old Celeron CPU. That thing was slow like hell and got frozen every two hours.

I have a Toshiba p30 - 32 bit ,Pentium processor,4Gb of ram.
It originally ran XP, then I set up a multiboot with XP and Debian.
Ran it like that for years, did lots of R programming on it.

Now it runs Void linux with Xfce, and I am experimenting with Antix 32 bit version. It is slower than my more modern desktops, but it is still usable. Void can be kept to a minimal size and it works with my WiFi adaptor.

Void is a bit of a learning curve. I can help if you decide to try Void.


Come on people, be real, it is time to let go of that era, either store them or donate them to
a museum. I have two hand-me-down laptops, one Dell XPS and a Dell Inspiron, they both
are running W10 and Linux.

Oh come on let @HelenPixels have some fun & learn :melting_face:

Whatever!!! My best suggestion, if @HelenPixels needs Linux, then do a EasyOS on a cd
or a USB, if the machines even have a usb port

This is why I collect old slugs that are of ZERO use today…

Due to the lottery of longevity in my DNA, I don’t know if I’ll kick the bucket like all the men in my patrilinear tree around 65 or so (for the last 3 generations or so) - or like the men on my mum’s side in their 90’s… And that’s not far off (my mid 60’s not my 90’s!).

Anyway - I collect shitty old good-for-nothing computers because it will be fun and chock full of the nostalgias, to make musem pieces run again, when ALL my days are free… Most of them are kinda “special” (e.g. 68000, PowerPC, Sparc or MIPs from the heyday of UNIX RISC [or non Intel in the case of 68000] computing) but I always really liked Thinkpads and Thinkcenters (especially ones with IBM logos)…

So I collect these old boat anchors for shits and giggles… I NEVER EVER expect to use them for anything practical this side of the year 2000… Seriously - EVERYTHING in the web needs a couple of cores and 2 GB of RAM at the very least, HTML5 wants multiple cores and 512 MB RAM just to render a shonky page of text!

So - if I kick the bucket around 65 (and the way things are heading - I won’t be eligible for the old age pension till I’m 67 at the earliest) my missus (if she outlasts me) and daughters will be stuck with the task of clearing out my accumulated junk…

[quote=“daniel.m.tripp, post:15, topic:10222”]
This is why I collect old slugs that are of ZERO use today…
I have my share also!!!

They ran XP just fine, but then XP was specifically designed to be light enough to run on most computers of the era, which had previously been running windows 98SE, NT or 2000. I know I might be flogging a dead horse with these, but I just want to see if it’s possible.

I have just tried the 32 bit debian based slax, it runs well, however there is no option for connecting to the internet so that is out.

Yes and probably still does!!!.But those machines are worth more, in their present state
rather than being hijacked by some linux install. You do what you want, but just like I and others, it is time to move on.

Does it have to be Linux?
FreeBSD and OpenBSD both have i386 versions

1 Like

If you are using a WiFi dongle, you need to look around and find one that Linux supports.
If it is not a USB dongle, then support may be hard to find.