Updating in an old computer? [ Objective achieved ]


Hi Cliff,
I’ve been converting old desk&laptop machines to Linux for years. And It was certainly true that installing a Linux OS on an old Windows machine would always yield a faster and more nimble machine. However quite recently I’ve noticed problems occurring; problems that seem to arise from newer software.

You might want to check out a thread started by Corman57 on malfunctioning wifi on an old Leveno laptop. I experienced an identical problem with a different machine from the same era. A problem with no solution so far.

Furthermore, I have an old Acer aspire 7720. In its day it was a fairly powerful machine. It’s usually has 2 or 3 partitions–I like to check out new distros. I also like to have a machine I can do crazy stuff with; a sort of sacrificial lamb. So it’s not unusual for it to develop strange behaviors. However, I recently tried to boot it into Linux Mint 18.3 and it took about 4 minutes to boot up. Since the original installation booted in 40 seconds, I decided to play around a little to try to figure out why.

For me–and for other Linux Mint users–was to switch kernels. I was running the latest series 4.15 kernel. The reason I mention Mint is that it allows you to easily install, remove and activate different kernels. So it was easy to activate a 4.4 kernel:

And suddenly my old Acer was a rocket ship again.

The above screen comes from Mint Update. I have no idea whether Manjaro has such flexibility. If it doesn’t you might want to consider installing Grub Customizer. In a terminal paste:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer , then:

sudo apt-get update , then:
sudo apt-get install grub-customizer

For full information about this app check out: https://itsfoss.com/grub-customizer-ubuntu/ But basically it allows you to choose which partition boots, and if into Linux, which Kernel you want to use. Also you can pre-define which OS you want to boot or have it automatically boot into whatever you last used.

Why this might matter to you is that every Linux installation follows the same path. Live media writes a bare-bones OS onto you drive. You re-boot. When the system’s ready it will inform you there are about 500MB of updates. Among these will be the latest Kernel. Grub Customizer allows to you run the kernel your distro shipped with–usually the most stable if least exciting one.

I haven’t used Linux Mint 19 yet and I know they made changes to the update system. But it 18 you can set the Update Manager to a very conservative setting which will only suggest extremely stable and well-tested kernels, firmware and so on.



I currently run Manjaro 18 on my Intel 8th Gen, gaming rig, kernel is 4.19 LTS, with the option to go up to the 4.20. Plus they offer the 415.27 Nvidia driver, with updates. That solved my graphic and boot issues.

Whereas Debian based distros use the Nvidia 390 driver, and I concur with the practise of staying with the standard drivers offered and maintained by the vendor. As with using the latest drivers from Nvidia, requires you have infinite understanding of how to add, remove and problem solve, if it goes south.

I’ll agree with your assessment with the recent 4.15 kernel since its released last year, being slow to boot. But I encountered similar issues with the BPO backported 4.19 kernel retarding the boot time with Debian on my rig. Manjaro, worked with 4.19 LTS, go figure.

I have seen this before, around the late 2 & 3 kernel series, but not as bad as 4.15 kernel slow boot.


Edit 25/02/19 1600hrs add username


Cool. I had no idea other Manjaro also allowed easy access to kernels. But we do live in the era of kernel regressions, so being able to pick and choose helps a lot.

Sadly, I think we also live in an era a line is being drawn in the sand: on one side newer machines having constantly improving software and older machines being recycled!

I think I’ll install a Manjaro partition on my sacrificial Laptop.

Thanks for the info Mack!


@davemerritt the 19 series make it a bit easier as you have the option to remove old kernels. That are not in use apart from that, it is very similar. Thanks for the Grub Customizer information and link I will try that on my test bed laptop.


It’s a great way to manage multi boot machines. Plus by having it set to “previously booted entry” it will not only remember which partition to load, but which kernel to load from that partition.

So one can boot into the optimal kernel without going to the trouble of removing them one by one.

Thanks for the info about Tara! It and Manjaro are next on my list!


Wait! Let me see if I understand what y’all (@davemerritt and @mack) are saying.

So if I install a new version of a distro on a 10-year-old machine, and if the distro allows (Mint and Manjaro, for example), I can use an older kernel to keep it running well?
And that is a better idea than an old version of the distro?
It sounds like I must have got something wrong. If so, where?

Specifically for @davemerritt: Mine is an Acer Aspire 4220, with a mere 3 GB RAM. What would you recommend there? Specifically, if I wanted to try Manjaro, which parameter should I tinker with, Version or Kernel? I already figured I should stay with XFCE and not Gnome.
I already know Grub Customizer, so booting to a named kernel should be easy enough.



It is called kernel regression, when a newer kernel affects how an older computers system functions, and an older LTS kernel is used, to correct this.

Essentially it compensates for older laptops GPU and its memory usage, is an integral part of the GPU. Plus your Acer 4220 laptop has NVIDIA GeForce 7000M, graphic card.

The spec sheet suggest your laptop is 64bit and can take a max of (DDR2) 4GB ram, if you want to retain your current 3GB ram, it will limit your options to 32bit only, thus being a very short list.

MX Linux, antiX, Peppermint and Linuxmint Xfce being good 32bit options to consider.

I have done this once under guidance, many moons ago, and it requires an experienced mentor to help you to install the headers, kernels etc, then remove all the non required headers, kernels etc.


Acer Aspire 4220 spec sheet: http://miniputer.com/Acer/Aspire_4220.html

Hope this helps you. :sunglasses:

Edit 27/02/19 1145hrs additional questions

  1. Have you tried to load the Nvidia 390 driver from the driver manager in Ubuntu or Linuxmint
  2. Manjaro has its own Nvidia setting found Menu > Other > Manjaro Setting Manager > Hardware Config
  3. Which architect have you installed 32 or 64bit.
  4. If you want to get to the root of your laptop issues please run this command inxi -Fxz
  5. Carefully list all issues and why you think this is an OS or Hardware issue.


Hey Cliff,

At the risk of being a pedantic jerk, I think the best way to answer this is to start with a mini history lesson.

When I installed my first Linux OS around 14 years ago the Linux world was a lot different. There were only a few distributions. Finding and installing “drivers” and codecs could be a pain. But even back then the simple act of installing Linux turned sluggish sloths into Usian Bolts.

Over the years the Linux kernel constantly improved. These days codecs and “drivers” are integrated into the kernel which makes it much easier for new users to get their system running “right out of the box”. However in the interim Linux has exploded in every direction. There are well over 200 distros now. So the answer to the question “which is right for me” has no clear answer.

The reason I’m writing this is that it’s no longer possible to make generalizations. I think you’re on the right fork by choosing an Ubuntu based distro as I’ve found it to be the most “user friendly” fork.

One final point in my boring historical reverie: Linux, like Windows, aspires to be a “one size fits all” OS–unlike Apple’s IOS which deals with extremely limited hardware configurations. One of the consequences is that as every year goes by hardware improves. The result is that the list of all possible hardware configurations explodes–making it harder and harder cover each possibility. So eventually even Linux leaves stuff behind. 32 bit processing is a case in point.

So, until very recently the best strategy for a Linux user was to always install the latest kernel. Then “regressions” started showing up. Kernels which improve the performance of 99% of machines, for example, could permanently disable the network manager on 1% of machines. And as top of the line machines become more complex and require more complex kernels, older machines tend to get more regressions.

So to finally get at your question, if you asked me this 4 years ago I would have said choose the most lightweight distro you can find. Today I’d guess it’s also the kernel. (If performance is your cardinal issue there’s no reason you can’t do both!)

There a few ways to deal with these kernel issues:

1-Something I’m sure you’ve gone through upon fist boot is the big “update bomb”–where about 700MB of updates suddenly appear. This is because the “live” builds are designed to be very robust and stable, but in no way optimized to your machine. Among these updates will be the latest Linux kernel. De-select it. Stick with the most basic kernel–the one the iso shipped with. My Acer Aspire 7720, for example, purrs like a kitten running 4.4.0-142. With 4.15.0-45 it takes over 5 minutes to boot.

2-If you’ve installed something other than Mint and you installed the latest kernel–and you’re probably still waiting for it to boot :wink: – you can use Grub Customizer to ensure your machine always boots into the optimal kernel–even if the latest kernels are installed! In Mint, Update manager will eventually notice this preference and only suggest the latest version of your preferred kernel. One thing I’ve noticed is that once you find a family of kernels which runs best, the latest version of that family will also run well. Notice, however, if Grub Customizer is set to “previously booted entry” you’ll have to go into “advanced options” in the Grub boot screen and manually select it–which in turn sets this version as default.

3- Linux Mint–up to 18.3 anyway–has an option in the Update Manager menu, and a prompt on first boot to choose your update policy. It looks like this:

If you choose the first it will suggest kernels upgrades only when the versions are proven to be extremely robust.

Finally, Update Manager (click view>linux kernels) offers a comprehensive kernel manager. Here you can safely activate, remove and install kernels.

Welcome to the crazy, beautiful, frustrating and rewarding world of Linux!




Any progress with your conundrum…?


I had to set it aside. In my retirement, I started doing online ESL tutoring, and I am now up to 45 hours a week! They love me, yeah, but 45 hours?!?!
My main machine is humming along on Ubuntu, so when the time allows, I will try a light version of Manjaro (xfce) and play around with previous kernels. That same Acer 4220 wheezes trying to run Deepin, just as @Akito predicted.


You could try this - it was on twitter where I picked it up and it looks interesting for older PCs/Laptops - https://itsfoss.com/q4os-linux-review/


We had broached that topic in another of your inquiries, where we suggested a lightweight desktop to alleviate these issues, hey ho. All part of the learning curve.