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Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 2:28 pm
by BoDill
A friend of mine just gave me an old laptop, and from what little information I can get to come up on the screen, it has Windows CE, Version 6.00, dated 2006. He gave it to me to "play with or throw away", so its fate is not important. I have a friend who could use a computer, as he is now using his cell phone for a few things, and I would like to help him advance a little by giving him the laptop, provided that I can get it "working".

As I said, its software seems to be from 2006, and though I can get it to show that it is connected to the internet (the little TV screen in the lower right hand corner lights up), I can't get it to do anything. So, I was wondering if I could figure out a way to format the disc (perhaps I would take it to the local computer shop to do this stuff), could I download a recent version of Linux into this laptop.

If more information is needed, please tell me whatever a computer illiterate person like me will need to know to get the information, and I will try to get it. If, on the other hand, this whole idea is a waste of time, just tell me that and I will throw the laptop away.

Thank you in advance,

Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:02 pm
by daveinuk
Hi BoDill,

basics are: you'd need to burn an iso file to USB preferably to boot from, change the boot order of the machines BIOS to get it to boot from USB, then when in the 'live session' working from the USB you'd check everything is as it should be before going ahead and installing, that bit can be as simple as telling the installer to use the whole disc and following a very easy to use installer. It may help if you can boot the machine first and tell us what it's spec's are? Processor/RAM would be good and they type of graphics, Intel/Nvidia etc? then folks can give you better suggestions as to which version to install, for the record, a nice light version such as MATE could be ideal if it's average spec's.

Hope that helps ............

Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:42 pm
by richyrich
Take a look at VectorLinux, I have it running flawlessly on an old Pentium 3 Thinkpad.

Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 4:14 pm
by BoDill
To daveinuk and richyrich and All,

Thank you very much, I am encouraged. What I intend to do is watch for posts for a couple days, and will probably print all the responses and take the whole project to someone who knows more about this kind of stuff than I do, as I don't want to screw this up and waste the computer.

Eventually, I will come back to this post and tell you the outcome.


Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:55 pm
by rene
Well... a Windows CE device could even be an ARM device rather than x86 and certainly it will not be possible to install a (standard) Linux distribution on that. I'll admit to never having seen a Windows CE laptop in the wild though and maybe that's theoretical -- but I am in fact under the impression that most CE devices would be ARM based.

Isn't there a "Computer" entry in the menu that you can right-click and view properties of? Or a semi-regular Control Panel and/or Device Manager through which to view information? And no brand/type information on its exterior?

Whatever you do, don't throw it away. It is likely extremely underpowered for sensible use but I'd try and reinstall/restore the original Windows CE system fresh. If nothing else, it'll make for a nice gadget...

Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 2:46 pm
by BoDill
To rene and all,
At the risk of boring you to tears, the following is my best effort to answer your question about a "Computer" Entry:

On the screen that comes up when the computer is turned on, in the upper left hand corner there is a tiny icon that looks something like a cell phone with the label "My Device", and when I "Open" it, I get a page of folders and a couple other icons, including "Control Panel".

When I "Open" Control Panel, I get another page of Icons including "System" (which looks like a computer and monitor combination). If I "Open" the "System" icon I get a small screen (Window?) that says;

"System Properties"

Within that small "Window" there are selections named; General, Memory, Device Name, and Copyrights.

The info on the "General" page is;

Microsoft Windows CE, Version 6.00 (Build 3122)
Processor Type: WMM-A8505
Memory: 228384 KB RAM
Copyright 2006

On the "Memory" page is;

Storage Memory: 28554KB, Program memory: 199840 KB, In use: 64KB

And on the "Device Name" page is;

Device Name: WindowsCE

The "Copyright" page lists several "Third party technologies".

If this information tells you anything about how I (or someone more knowledgeable than I) can upgrade this computer to be useful, please let me know.

As always, Thank you very much,


Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 3:40 pm
by rene
That is useful, and, yes, that is an ARM device. Of probably 200-400 MHz or so and with on the order of 256M RAM. No, you are not going to be able to use this as an even half-way standard Linux machine, desktop or otherwise. It being "an ARM device" says it's not an even powered by an Intel-compatible CPU.

As to storage ("hard disk", though in flash form in this case) it lists 32M -- with M as in M and not as in G. Not sure that even makes sense but even as an ARM device this laptop is underpowered. Not a phone person myself but I expect you need to search long and hard to find even a phone from the last 5 or so years less powerful than this.

Which isn't to say that a technology enthusiast -- generally also referred to as "nerd" or "geek" -- couldn't have a week or so of great fun trying to get a clean WinCE or Android version on there. It appears you are yourself not the type and not any general "store" is going to do this either but please don't bin the thing.

If all else fails, go stand on a streetcorner and wait for a male of approximately 20 years with cellotaped glasses to pass. Ask him what 2 to the power 20 is in decimal and if he replies "100000 in hexadecimal" give him the laptop. You'll have done a good deed.

Re: Linux onto an old laptop

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 4:01 pm
by BoDill
To rene and all,

This may well be my last post to this topic, but thank you all for your help and advice. For now, I will pursue more realistic endeavours, but if something interesting happens regarding this laptop, I will let you know.

Thank you again for your time and patience,