Updating in an old computer? [ Objective achieved ]

Just wondering.
If I install an older version of a distro (say, Manjaro 16.10) because the laptop is a tad old (2 GHx CPU, 3 GB RAM), is the updating process going to require attention? Will it install resource-hungry updates, thus defeating the purpose?
Sorry, I know this is probably a well-documented issue, but I did a bit of searching and found little to the point. There is a lot on how Linux can resurrect old machines, but no clear guides on preventing the OS from updating beyond the machine’s capacities.


I think the reason for that is: why not just install a newer version? The only answer for me would be to install an already discontinued project. But if you want to run a working distribution, you might as well download the newest version.

I suspect your question comes from a Windows point of view, when it’s made clear that Windows XP is way more lightweight than Windows 10. The thing is, Windows ain’t Linux.

First of all, Linux is so lightweight because many essential programs are more or less the same as 15 years ago, if they don’t need improvement. Secondly, the UNIX philosophy is entirely different from what worms Microsoft has in its brain. Programs are made to be as concise as reasonably possible and most of the time follow a single purpose. Thirdly, I don’t need to explain the customizability of Linux operating systems.

Summing it up:
You can install the newest version of a GNU/Linux distribution without worrying about performance drops. I would say it should increase, as newer versions, especially for well established packages, usually include optimizations in their updates. All you have to do to use an old system properly is the following:

Installation phase

  1. Get a minimal distribution that doesn’t have pre-installed stuff on it.
  2. Use a lightweight combo as the DE, like XFCE, LXQt or even OpenBox.
  3. Install only necessary packages you actually want and/or need.

Usage after installation

  1. Don’t run anything in the background, except it’s absolutely necessary to keep the system running.
  2. When you open a browser, close everything else and use only a single tab within.
  3. Use only a single app at a time. Either browser, or word processor. Not both.
  4. Linux offers many lightweight versions of existing software. Take advantage of that.
  5. Think about what you need the OS for. If your goal only requires solutions not depending on a graphical display of such, then using the system on CLI only improves the performance immensely. I still remember my old server I used a couple of years ago. I thought, too, that it’d be slow but I used it without a GUI and I found it pretty quick and never had a trouble with performance for my personal use cases. The bottle neck actually were the super old HDDs connected to the computer but everything else was more than quick enough.

P. S. :
If someone loads thousands of unnecessary crap items onto their Linux then it’s not lightweight anymore, either.


what he said (@Akito)…

It’s almost always better to do a fresh install… it’s relatively trivial for me - as most of my data is in the cloud (including all my shell scripts I “need”)…

I “recently” tried Manjaro 17.x (XFCE) on a low power Samsung N150 (dual core Atom, 2 GB RAM and 64 GB SSD) - probably the best experience I’ve had on that netbook…

1 Like

having seen some manjaro discussion of late, i was a bit interested in perhaps installing it myself so i did some looking at their website as well as distrowatch. my guess would be that a 2 ghz cpu with 3 gb or ram is a 32-bit machine. looks like manjaro stopped making 32-bit versions after 16. at least that is what shows on distrowatch. i also couldn’t find a 32-bit download for 18 (xfce, mate or i3) on the manjaro site.

1 Like

@01101111 Ah, yes, distributions slowly start to deprecate the 32-bit versions. I think this isn’t a good decision for distributions that are meant to be lightweight.
Though, if the distribution is a rolling or semi-rolling release and not depending on special update repositories, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

1 Like

When one person misunderstands my question, that’s one thing, but when three people misunderstand, it’s on me.

Allow me to rephrase my question.
It is about obsolescence.
Microsoft has long been notorious for pushing consumers to buy newer and fancier machines at a rather rapid rate, perhap’s along the lines of Moore’s Law, a process we can call enforced obsolescence.
But doesn’t Linux move along in the direction of greater hardware requirements, too? Does the update function cause our machines to become slowly outdated too?

Take this as an example.
I have a laptop that is perhaps 10 years old. When it was new, it could work well with a distro (let’s call it Mystery) that was new at Version 10.04.
The user keeps running the update function, and without adding unnecessary stuff like desktops.
After 10 years on the same laptop, what version of Mystery will be on it? Will the update function keep updating it to Version 20.04, and eventually render it non-functional?

So the question: can updates detect whether the machine can handle the requirements of the new version?

1 Like

In a word, No. Unless specifically targeted not to, in my limited understanding.

M$ is notorious for killing their customers computers. When I bought my first non virused up machine, custom built Linux only tower, the shop owner informed me up to 70% of his business was repairing computers nobbled by M$ updates. These were newer machines, than you are suggesting, in your question, of why don’t 10 year old work. Linux has extended their serviceable life beyond their designed end of life. Thus M$ cry foul.

All industries have a standard, and their quirks, open source is transparent by comparison to M$ or fruit, with their must have, closed proprietary codes. Forcing hardware makers to co-operate. To the determent of non cartel members.

A friend of mine, a Graphics Artist, found it very expensive keeping up with fruit’s OS end of life cycle, M$ flog it to death before replacing their sieve like OS.

Instead of bemoaning Linux quirks, embrace them, and if you need to keep certain aspects of M$ for certain uses, keep an old junker that meets these needs, by dusting occasionally.



agreed (also in my limited understanding) that this is not something the package manager has an ability to do. to that end it is up to the user to have a decent understanding of the limitations of their system if they want to avoid these concerns.

a simple example is the discussion of internet browsers for older systems. up-to-date versions of the favorites like chrome and firefox are just built to use more system resources (both cpu and ram, but definitely ram) than when the older computers were put together. as a result, a computer with 1 gb of ram may do just fine with xubuntu or lubuntu, but finding a slim browser like falkon or seamonkey (the first two that came to mind) that will perform in ways a modern user expects can run into issues.

a concrete example of this very thing popped up just a few days ago on my distro’s support site. a user with version 3 (we are now up to 5 so that one is only about 4 or 5 years old) ran dist-upgrade and was served some package in that mix that made the kernel and graphics drive no longer boot.

i didn’t mean by my comment above about having an understanding of system limitations that this particular user should know that one random upgrade would break they whole system. i did mean that in a situation like that having a backup solution in place would have been helpful.

to specifically answer your question @cliffsloane about version 10 becoming version 20 after a number of years, i can’t speak to other versions of linux but know with ubuntu there are certain choices that the user has to make to switch from say 16 to 18 as shown in the link below. what focusing on version number won’t take into account is that the processes and libraries that (modern, up-to-date versions of) linux is built on will continue to receive updates for some time.

1 Like

Well spoken. :metal:


I agree with you on there being little inform about upgrading beyond capabilities. Perhaps @abhishek might know the answer to this with his extensive knowledge.

I am not sure about running an older version Cliff, unless it still has long term support still. I know that Microsoft used to still give security updates after the official ending of support of a windows version, I am not sure that is still the case. That being the case then I would think it might be possible just to have the security updates and nothing more. Again I am not sure on that.

Sorry I can’t really help at the moment. I’ll have a look back at the various things I have saved and see if there is anything in there to help and get back if anything turns up.


Here is a question I have wondered about…
OK …do a Linux install, and immediately do the updates required. a few hours later another “update” is available. What happens to the original files that have already been updated?
I mean… are they appended, or just renamed, and a new file installed? And after 5 -10 years of updates, aren’t they just wasting HDD space?
OR… is the file just replaced, and the old copy removed?
And what about level 1, or 2, upgrades for apps Not installed?
Do the upgrades know what is installed, via some checksum or other
Because I sometimes see upgrades, for an app I didn’t install,
and I de-select it, and right click the checkbox to tell it
to ignore that file.
I also worry that doing so, I’m not shooting myself in the foot, because the file I ignored may be a shared dependency.

Other times there’s extra files that need to be installed along with the specific file and I haven’t got a clue what they do. I select all files level 1 -3, but have a look before applying them.
I don’t bother with any Level 4 upgrades, unless it’s a Kernel, or specific “security” update


1 Like

More than the operating systems, it’s the applications that start requiring more and more processing capacity, RAM and other hardware.

I’ll take your example. 10 years back, you had a brand new laptop, you were using Ubuntu 10.04 and everything was perfect.

Ubuntu used GNOME 2 back then and GNOME 3.28 desktop today. Do they have same system requirements? No.

It’s not that you cannot run Ubuntu 18.04 GNOME on a 10-years old laptop. You can but it won’t be the best experience because the desktop environment itself will consume a lot of resources. Run a few applications and you’ll have CPU running at 100% and perhaps you’ll have an unresponsive system.

How would you know when your system is incapable of running your system? First sign, your system is gradually sluggish with each updated version. Second, there is updated system requirements from the distributions.

So, let’s say you had 2GB of RAM back in 2010 which was decent back then. By the time you were on Ubuntu 14.04, you started noticing that your system is not as smooth as before. By Ubuntu 16.04, you’ll have a real hard time running on 2 GB RAM. Ubuntu 18.04 comes and the recommended system requirements is 4GB for physical install.

You take the hint around Ubuntu 16.04 and switch your distribution.

Yes, that’s one advantage of using Linux. Unlike Windows, you are not restricted to just one operating system. If your system is getting old, you can switch to a distribution that is tailored to consume less resources by the use of a lightweight desktop environment and a suite of lightweight applications.

Unless there is a significant difference between the minimum hardware requirement and your system’s hardware, you’ll get the upgrade to the new version. However, if you barely qualify the minimum requirements, you should start planning your switch to a lighter Linux distribution.


If no one else learns anything from this I certainly have. Thanks @abhishek :grinning::grinning:

dpkg --get-selections
apt list --installed



Even I learn things from the fellow community members :slight_smile: and no I don’t consider myself an expert.


I wrote
" is the file just replaced, and the old copy removed?"

Akito’s answer was the best that I could hope to get.

              ### [Why linux can be updated without rebooting](https://it.toolbox.com/blogs/locutus/why-linux-can-be-updated-without-rebooting-110806)


dpkg --get-selections
apt list --installed

Instead of just a yes or no answer, I got a good look at how the system operates. To me, this is priceless!

Thank you @Akito!

Precisely the issue I have now ( I think)
Still waiting for my RAM to arrive… before committing. :relaxed:

chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra/bionic-updates,bionic-security,now 71.0.3578.98-0ubuntu0.18.04.1 amd64 [installed,automatic]
from running  <apt list --installed>

…is just one of the updates that I find confusing. I’ve only ever installed “Firefox”. Nothing regarding Chromium. So I don’t understand why I would need a chromium update.

Perhaps I’m getting in far over my head…:woozy_face:

1 Like

Chromium is a base for a ton of “different” browsers. Maybe someone even implemented it into another program that isn’t even a browser, per sé.

That said, it only shows the ffmpeg codecs package which is a base decoder for many audio formats.


I think Chromium comes with several distros, so you don’t recall installing it because you didn’t.
My Mint came with it. I never had to install it.

Chromium is the open source version of Chrome, basically. It is in the software manager of Mint. There are other alternatives to it, but they are all based on Chrome so Chrome extensions tend to work on them. I have seen reasoned arguments both ways on using either Chrome or Chromium or others, based on it. I am not bothered either way as I don’t worry about what my system is doing as long as it is working which it does. It is my personal opinion you can get right head over ass if you worry too much, because in the end all you want is a system that works and nought more

1 Like