Have a question for TechnoG ... He already has a swap probably, since has been using LM9. Would the installer detect and use that one ?
Agree with Techno on a couple things he's already said. Being LM9's support is really a long way from expiring. If you like it and it's running really well ... something to consider. Other than that and just an opinion, a testing partition and definitely some time running live session can be good things for someone. Don't really think anybody can say what will run best or you'll like the most. Guessing the best way to try em, is install on a testing partition and try em out. When you get to the part in the installer that lets you choose where to put grub. Tell it to put it in the new installs own partition. Not the sda. ie: The testing partition is on sda5, in the installer I tell it to put grub into sda5 ... not the sda.
As for a testing partition, most people will definitely have room on their hdd for a 10gb or so testing partition and setting one up should only take a couple mins using gparted/etc. Doesn't have to be very big, 10gbs should be plenty. Ya might have to resize this or that partition a lil bit to add that new small partition, but it's not tough. Google about gparted or ask in a forum like this if you can't figure out how, aren't sure about whatever. But partitioning and gparted imo ... Aren't rocket science.
Then once you're done installing that new Mint to the testing partition, fire up LM9 ( or LM whatever you're using), open terminal and
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To add the new install to your LM9's grub menu, so you can boot that new install and test drive it. ( leaving your other install intact.) Then you really get to see how well it works installed and how ya like it. If ya don't and want to install/try another one. Just repeat the process above, install the next one you want to try by overwriting and formating the install on the testing partition, tell the installer to put it's grub onto it's partition during install. Try it ... c whatcha think and proceed in an orderly fashion. Until you find what Mint works best for you.
As long as you're putting the new installs bootloader ( grub2) onto it's partition, not sda and updating LM9's grub to boot them. Whenever ya move on to the next or if ya decide you don't want this or that Mint. You can always install something else on your testing partition and w/o having to bother restoring LM9 grub. Which isn't tough ... just think it's easier to do it as decribed above. So you can test which Mint's right for you, to your hearts content. While still keeping LM9's bootloader in charge of it and that OS intact.
Betting LM has a bunch that would run well for you. Guess it's just deciding which of them you like, which runs best on your hardware etc. Hard to tell w/o giving some of them a try. Guessing also .. with your amount of RAM, you could use practically everything Minty here and have it run well enough. Have older hardware myself, so tend to stick to lighter weight gnu/Linux, Mint has a bunch of releases it appears that are made for lighter desktops ( xfce, lxde ... even windows managers like fluxbox ) Bunch of stuff.
Also believe someone in your situation can definitely benefit from learning some tweakage. Only have 512mbs/ddr2 on this dinosaur PC, LM10 ran ok default. Ran much better after uber tweaking it, default LM 10 ( 32bit w gnome) was using like 270mbs. After tweaking ... had it down to 120mbs.
Tweakage includes but is not limited to some of the following.
1. Disable startup apps you don't want/need from automatically starting every time ya boot. Disable the ones you don't need in the control center, or in Mint's main stuff ( gnome etc). For their lighter weight releases ( look around in or ask in that release's forum section how to do it.) I also found and used an app called bum ( available in synaptic or software manager) to disable some you cannot get at in Mint's control center. There's another app called .. rcconf. One or the other will do.
If unsure whether it's safe to disable a particular thing, ask, google etc. Don't just disable everything in the Control centers startup apps section, or using bum/etc. Some of that stuff your OS needs to automatically start and disabling it will give you problems to sort out. If in doubt, ask, google ... If still in doubt, leave it set the way it is.
2. On LM main stuff with gnome, I liked to lower visual effects and had tinkered around with compiz settings to reduce eye candy I didn't want. Was really no apparent diff visually, I mean I didn't loose anything noticeable in LM10 doing it.
3. Adjust swappiness, so the swap doesn't get used as much/often.http://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxt ... o-high:-Ub
Took me quite a bit of time experimenting with and learning to tweak LM10, been awhile and honestly can't remember what all I did, the above stuff is some good one's though. Also borked my OS many times in learning what I could safely tweak and get good results with. Guessing just about anything Minty can be tweaked, on a box with low RAM the Mint main stuff LM9-12, imo could definitely benefit from a user tweaking it a bit ( or a lot) to better suit their hardware.
PS, this might be more than you wanted to know, just my 2 cents and I tend to babble. Plus ya never know, others might like the info and need it later on down the line or whatever. With gnu/Linux, often seems a bunch of ways to go about summin. Thought this one was a good approach for people who want to look over options. I mean how do ya know what Mint is right for you, unless ya try them and see for yourself ... etc. Hope it helps someone.