Operating systems for really, really old computers

Post by Mark

I have an old PIII 500 with 256MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive lying around which I wanted to give to someone. I didn’t want to install Windows on it since the person isn’t very good with computers and always ends up getting viruses and trojans installed on his system. The computer was going to be used for Internet browsing, chatting on MSN and Yahoo and copying and view pictures from his digital camera. I decided to install a Linux OS.


The first Linux OS I installed was the latest version of gOS which was released two days ago. From the screen shots it looked like a really friendly and easy to us version of Linux and thats what I was looking for. After installing it I realized that the operating system was running very sluggishly on this really old computer, it wasn’t going to work.

I then remember I had bookmarked a website from Digg which had a list of Linux distros that were meant to be run on really old computers. I went through the list, did some research and in the end decided to try two different ones, TinyFlux and Wolvix.


I tried TinyFlux first and although it ran really well the user interface wasn’t very friendly. I then decided to try Wolvix and not only did it perform really well but the interface was fairly friendly looking with a Mac like dock at the bottom and large friendly icons everywhere. I decided to stick with Wolvix and after playing with it for an hour I think its pretty impressive for an OS thats under 250MB in size. It has Firefox, a music player, video player, photo viewer, and a whole bunch of other softwares all included and there is a ton more I can download all for free.

This is actually the best part of Linux, its free and the majority of the software for it is free. Another good thing is you can try out the OS without installing it, you just run it straight from the CD and if you like it you can install it if not you just eject the cd, reboot and you are back to your old operating system.

If you want to check out the list of Linux distros for old computer click [Here]
For gOS click [Here]
and for Wolvix click [Here]

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18 comments, add your own...

  1. Did you check that his digital camera had linux support, official or third party? Also do you mean that the linux distro had audio/video support for popular formats such as MP3/Divx out of the box? Most distros cant include any of that due to copyright issues.
    If I were you I would install a year or two old version of a popular Linux distribution such as Suse, Fedora or Ubuntu. For Linux, most software such as media players and chat clients are distributed as source code. If you are a newbie and cant compile them yourself, you are better off pulling a compiled version for a specific distribution from third-party sites. These sites are mostly maintained for top Linux distros only.

  2. Mark says:

    Yeah both his camera and phone mounted onto the desktop without an issue and without the need to install any kind of software.

    Wolvix also plays Audio/Video support for all the popular formats right out of the box, even allows you to add songs to your ipod. It comes with a whole bunch of stuff and it runs really well so I don’t know why I should go back to an older distribution or why you would even recommend something like that. Wolvix is updated often and has everything he needs and more.


  3. nxman says:

    I’m Running Linux Ubuntu and it rocks!

  4. did you try RedHat or UBuntu? they are the best in my opinion

  5. I still have (what you should really call it old) a working pentium II 366 mhz 18GB Thinkpad notebook, running SuSE Linux and IBM mainframe emulator. :)

    You could try another distro called Damn Small linux


  6. Mark says:

    UBuntu was actually the system I had installed on the computer awhile back and it was very slow with really long boot times and softwares taking forever to launch.

  7. Abdullah says:

    coool , I should try it sometimes

  8. TRiPLE M says:

    I use ubuntu which is the best…its easy to use and looks cool.

  9. Mark says:

    Yeah I read a lot of positive reviews about ubuntu but it just was too much for this old computer to handle.

  10. holla says:

    Hello i can’t read. Mark did u try Ubuntu?

  11. Mhm says:

    What about ubuntu ??? :S

    http://www.ubuntu.com check it out

  12. Ahmad says:

    some Linux OS can run from flash memory or bootable CD have any of you tried that?

  13. Я says:

    The ‘smallest’ Linux distro is Damn Small Linux (DSL) which is only 50MB in size. I use it on my pen drive or ext. HD to recover windows systems from crashes.

    Light n neat.


    Ubuntu is too clunky for that sort of PC specs. A full distro will seriously slow down that PC, so look for the ‘lite’ versions.

    Debian is good too worked well on an old Dell C series laptop (PIII w/256 RAM).

  14. Я says:

    Sorry just noticed that I posted the same link as Lamya did. Worth a try since it got two votes! ;)

    Lamya, didn’t know you’re a geek in hiding.

  15. Mark says:

    Ahmad yeah the ones I checked all booted from the CD, they call them Live CD’s, very practical and you have the option of installing them on a flash memory.

  16. Mark says:

    Я There are distros smaller then 50MB
    check out the section for distros under 50MB in size

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