Ideas for a Distro on old PC

Greetings folks!

I am hoping to get some recommendations on a distro to try out and load on a piece of really old tech. I was gifted an old Gateway desktop PC that is currently running Windows XP (albeit quite poorly). Some specs on it:

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 CPU 2.80GHz (2 CPUs)
Memory: 494MB RAM
Graphics: Integrated Intel Graphics Controller 64MB

I am not quite a novice at Linux, but not quite an intermediate user either. Mostly, I consider myself lucky!

I am looking for something different from Mint or Ubuntu perhaps, which I have on my primary and laptop computers.

Is there a good light-weight distro you can recommend that would be good for a machine like this? I am not looking to do big stuff with it. Just a side machine, web surf, and basic things, etc.

Any ideas or tips are welcome.


Linux Lite has all the basic stuff you need and may be worth a try. I know you said about looking for something different than Mint, but have you tried Mint Mate which is a 32 bit? Or even Puppy Linux is worth looking at.


Thank you for the suggestions! I completely forgot that it is running 32 bit, not 64. I guess I’ll have to mind that when choosing a version then.

Puppy Linux sounds fun! :dog:


i have bodhi’s legacy 5.0 release running on a core two duo (2.5ghz) but with more ram. when i first start up, it only uses about 180mb of ram. i have found that running firefox pushes it over 500mb, but bodhi ships with the midori browser which is also quite lite. i just watched a youtube video and it stayed around 350mb while doing so. i noticed that the ram+buffers was around 800mb while doing so. i would imagine that could be handled by adding a swap partition. running libre office also keeps it less than 300mb.

bodhi is based on ubuntu, but the moksha (based on enlightenment) desktop is very different from standard ubuntu. i have run the regular version on my regular laptop for the last year or so and have enjoyed it :slight_smile:

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Think you will struggle with mint as you just do not have enough memory … 1 gb min … unless you have some space and access to fit more your motherboard can take more depends on how you have it configured plus if you have to buy more not worth spending on.
Other solution would be Lubuntu as that gives you a working good looking screens etc but again with memory limits could be a just works
Puppy is great but not a easy end user product without installing on the hard disk and removing things you don’t use or need for a clean screen

If you go for mint or Lubuntu then given your spec you may need to do the install with forced Pac

PAE, Physical Address Extension

Here is a guide to minimum installation

I think if you go for mint then you may need an older version such at 17 mate 32 bit with forced Pac

It demands less but still gives a great desktop feel closer to a modern working screen and is still supported even if you do not do the upgrades to ,1 or ,2 or ,3


Puppy should run well on that hardware. Antix may be worth a try also. good luck.


I would recommend ToriOS, because from all “old computer” distributions this resulted to be one of the most reliable in my experience. This OS runs on the oldest left-over hardware that can barely run (or should I say walk?) still today.

One of the biggest pluses about this OS is that it is based on actual Debian, as opposed to a majority of other “tiny” distributions dedicated to old computers. E.g. Puppy Linux is independently created. The Ubuntu based alternatives are still not lightweight enough for your system, in my opinion, especially in regards to Lubuntu, etc. ToriOS certainly is, though.


Hi woelfe

From your description, it sounds like you could have a Gateway 7310S PC circa 2005.


Personal experience of machines this age are mixed, a 2006 Dell Vostro 1000 (AMD CPU & 4Gb DDR2 maxed out), I was able to get do what you asking with some unique issues. 32bit is the only viable option, plus a non-sytemd architect worked best.

PCLOS LXDE (64bit) did perform the best of the bunch of the distros tried, using a traditional desktop. But native resolution should have been 1280x1024 but at best 1024x768 was achieved. It ran HOT, but much cooler the others.

Graphics will be your biggest issue, memory is a premium, if you can source extra memory, i.e 4Gb you’ll be half way to having a useful email, web browser and document writer if you can find a light weight word-processor.

Ideally, to keep this vintage PC running cool, OpenBox, with little to no graphic input apart from opening a browser or a Doc file. Would benefit you.



Thank you for the information! I was worried about the memory after reading more about Puppy and some other distro’s. I am not even sure if I can find memory quite that old at this point.

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Wow, thanks, I had not heard of ToriOS before. I will give them a look!

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Hi Mack! I found the model number on the back of the case, it shows Gateway 510 X for the model.

This would make it a bit older than the 2006, more of a 2003-04 era. So everything you mentioned will likely be an issue with the memory and being able to run basic apps. I was not thinking that heat or running hot would be an issue.

I will have to see if it is possible to find that type of memory out there, or if I have open slots on the MB. I have not opened the case yet.

I appreciate the suggestions!

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Minimum Hardware Requirements for Puppy Linux 4.1.2

  • 233MHZ processor.
  • 128MB RAM.
  • 512MB free hard drive space to create an optional save file.
  • No hard drive required to boot a Live Disc.
  • CD-ROM or USB if your machine will see it older bios may not

Lately, I’ve been “playing” with very many Puppy distros. Today, I’ve settled on “Stretch” Puppy. Small footprint, but loaded pretty wel, and very fast. In fact, this email(on Firefox), is being composed, and will be sent, using Stretch. I think you’ll really like it.


Here I am running 2 desktop PCs (AD 2005)each with a Pentium 4 CPU very nicely with Lubuntu 18.04 ,but with 2.5 GB and 1GB RAM respectively . Some time ago I bought additional RAM for one of the units on eBay at a very low cost . Hope to keep running with the 2 machines until April2023 (end of life of 18.04) ,because by that time 32 bit distros will possibly no longer be available.

Lubuntu is also my advice for users switching to Linux ,because the desktop is similar to that of Windoze .

Any apps on Lubuntu are installed via the command line which is also used for updating/upgrading .

Frank in County Wicklow -Ireland


Get 2 gig of ram, 4 would be better, if possible and run ubuntu. I run Mint also, they say it runs better on older machines. I prefer Ubuntu. Ram makes the difference. Swap slows you down drastically.


Thanks! I did try to get one of the Puppy distros to load from USB and managed to make it work using PLoP boot loader. For whatever reason, I am having issues booting from USB. I have enabled all the USB settings in BIOS, including “boot from USB”, but in the boot priority listing it does not give option for USB. I will have to look at a few more options with Puppy and see if there are any I like. I think I ran 4.3.2 version.

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Even trying these distro’s from Live CD, I am absolutely seeing the need for more RAM.

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Thanks, Frank! Appreciate the recommendation there. The RAM is absolutely a factor. I did find that for a little money I can purchase some upgrades. The motherboard will allow up to 4GB of RAM. I found 1GB sticks of similar for about $16 (USD). I may find better deals on Ebay or used options.

I have not given Lubuntu a look. I did boot Xubuntu from Live CD and while it was challenging with my RAM, I really did like that version. I’ll burn the Lubuntu one and give it a look soon.

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Take a look at Cloudready from Neverware - it’s a ChromeOS fork that is really good [and getting better all the time via regular updates - unlike many others] and is available for 32 bit machines so should do all you require. They maintain a list of ‘supported devices’ [i.e. those known to them] but even if your kit is not on their list it is still worth giving it a shot as it could have a good chance of working. I did it successfully with an old laptop recently and let them know so they could add to ‘supported devices’ - good luck !


I tend to stick with ubuntu, but I like to play around with Q4OS. It’s a very light Debian distro that runs on my oldest machines. It has a ms-windows look to it, so you can work with it just as you would on a windows pc, but you get the linux goodies with it. It’s an enjoyable little thing, I think. :slight_smile: