Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

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AndrewXP
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Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by AndrewXP » Tue Mar 18, 2014 9:16 am

Hello there.

Like many people with PCs running Windows XP, I am faced with the imminent demise of support from Microsoft. I have a DELL Dimension 4550, with a 2.53 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 56 GB hard drive and an NVIDIA graphics card. I believe that the Xfce desktop would best suit an old system such as this, but my question is, should I:

(1) Install Linux Mint 13, being the latest LTS version;
(2) Install Linux Mint 16 as it may have a better working environment, then upgrade when the next LTS version appears in May;
or (3) Stay with XP beyond the end of support date, perhaps using a non-administrator account for safety, then install the next LTS version in May?

Thanks in advance for any help,
Andrew.
Mint 13 Xfce 32-bit

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karlchen
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by karlchen » Tue Mar 18, 2014 9:57 am

Hello, Andrew.

Welcome to the Linux Mint forum.

I agree with you that the xfce desktop will be more appropriate for elderly hardware, because afce is less demanding - in particular with respect to the power of the graphics adapater - than e.g. Cinnamon.

My advice would be:
  • Download both ISO images,
    + Linux Mint 13 "Maya" - Xfce (32-bit)
    + Linux Mint 16 "Petra" - Xfce (32-bit)
    verify the MD5 checksums to be sure you are using error free ISO image files.
  • Create a bootable Mint 13 live system. Create a bootable Mint16 live system.
    As we are talking about an old Windows XP machine, I suspect you may have to create 2 bootable DVDs, because old machines usually cannot boot from USB pendrives.
  • Try out Mint 13 and try out Mint 16 and find out which version runs better on your old hardware.
  • Once you have decided which version works better, use the corresponding live medium and turn your Windows XP machine into a dual boot system, booting either Mint or Windows XP
  • The idea of having a dual boot system is to make the switch from Windows to Mint as smooth as possible. On the one hand you will still have access to your well-known Windows XP system if you need it. On the other hand you can start getting used to Mint. Some things will be pretty similar to Windows. Somethings will be slightly different, and somethings will be new.
HTH,
Karl
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EmpireITtech
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by EmpireITtech » Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:01 am

Hello -
Just like karlchen said - welcome to the Mint Community! I can tell you from personal experience it's one of the best, if not THE best, Linux community out there :mrgreen:

To piggie-back off the first advice, my main question would be what do you mainly use this Dell PC for? Emails and web-surfing? Media streaming and gaming?
If it were me, I always like to be on the latest version lol, I'd install LM16 Xfce or MATE and use it until the next LTS version is released and then just save off my files and re-install the OS with the new version. Don't waste time setting up intricate desktops or configuring elaborate programs, because it'll all go away when/if you re-install. This gives you time to play with Linux and with Linux Mint to learn the file structure and apt etc etc.

So it really doesn't matter which you choose if you're going to go with the newest LTS in the future, but one thing I wouldn't do is get LM16 now and plan to stay on it since the support for it goes out in July 2014. Let us know what you've decided and I know you'll get tons of help on these forums if/when you need it :D
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AndrewXP
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by AndrewXP » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:23 pm

Many thanks for the warm welcome, guys.

I use my DELL mainly for email, Internet browsing, online banking and shopping, social networking, uploading and simple editing of digital photos, word processing and spreadsheets; also watching YouTube videos and occasionally TV programmes via BBC iPlayer. I'm just hoping that software such as Adobe Reader, Firefox plugins and the various .exe's which I download from the Internet from time to time will still work, as will my Lexmark All-in-One printer and iOmega external disk drive.

If everything works OK, I'll go on to upgrade my wife's VAIO laptop in the same way (it's also running XP at the moment), and then see if it will continue to live on a network with my DELL and another VAIO laptop which is running Windows 7 (maybe that will need to be Linuxed as well!).

I'll let you know how I get on... :)

Andrew.
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by austin.texas » Tue Mar 18, 2014 2:44 pm

Linux Mint 16 Mate works great on my Dell Dimension 3000, 1 GB ram.
I tried Mint 16 Cinnamon but it didn't work out.
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EmpireITtech
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by EmpireITtech » Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:12 pm

Well here's some thoughts:
1) Thunderbird comes default on Mint, you can also install many other email clients
2) Firefox comes standard, but I'd recommend going to Google and downloading Chrome for Linux as it gives you all you need for watching flash videos on YouTube etc etc
3) For word processing or MS Office type things you can use LibreOffice which comes standard on Mint. You can also change the default Save method to .xls/.xlsx or .doc/.docx or .ppt/.pptx just like you have in Office and also if you send it to a Windows user, they'll be able to open it with their MS Office (the default save for LibreOffice is .ods I believe)
4) For editing photos, there's tons of Open-Source apps that can do that, I use GIMP (which is also available on Windows if you'd like to check it out)
5) Printer drivers should be rather simple to get, although I'm not sure about your specific printer
6) The external HDD should be picked up as soon as you plug it in
7) Adobe Reader isn't needed, Mint has a built-in document reader

Should answer most of your questions :mrgreen:
Linux: Mint 19 Tara Cinnamon 64-Bit

Box 1: Intel Core 2 Quad | 8gb RAM | 500gb WD 7200rpm | nVidia Geforce GTS250
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Aristotelian
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by Aristotelian » Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:18 pm

You should note that "Mint" denotes the underlying Ubuntu kernel and a particular set of default programs (called packages). It is kind of like a brand rather than a specific operating system. That is, the Mint brand includes actually about a half dozen different "flavors", each with different desktops and features. Since you are talking about an older computer, you most likely want the most lightweight distribution, and you will want the 32-bit version. So to be the most specific, I would recommend LXDE or XFCE, as these will be a bit more lightweight than Cinnamon and MATE.

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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by gtsfer » Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:18 pm

If you're looking for really long term support try LMDE. It's a rolling release. It's supposed to be harder to learn, but I just don't see that myself.

Any version of LM should do what you want out of the box. Hopefully even the printer Add is easy too.

:P
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by usbtux » Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:25 pm

Install Linux Mint 13lts alongside Windows XP updated version http://youtu.be/BG6mr2Bbz_A Visions above 13 have pae kernels that may not work with older hardware.
http://goo.gl/DXKgM LinuxMint tutorials.
Running LinuxMint 17.3 Mate. Pepermint 6 & Manjaro 15.12 Capella XFCE
http://goo.gl/WFu0u Installing Mint - the screen cast videos.
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by Timberbeast » Tue Mar 18, 2014 4:58 pm

Hi AndrewXP,

Welcome to Linux Mint. Like austen.texas above, I'm running a Dell Dimension 3000. I'm using Linux Mint 16, with the MATE desktop. I have also have Xfce installed and it runs flawlessly too. I suggest you don't try the cinnamon desktop, because it crashed my machine when I tried to install cinnamon.

I *did* update the ram to 2 gigs, which is all that old machine will run, but that is all. No video card. Just using the onboard video. The only thing that it won't run is Google Earth. But, Google's downsized 'maps' program runs fine.

And like EmpireITech said,
... I can tell you from personal experience it's one of the best, if not THE best, Linux community out there :mrgreen:
I agree 100%. Lots of help here, and believe me, I need it fairly often. :D

Good Luck,
larry
LM 17.1 Mate. There's no windows in this box. Not any more :D

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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by thanosfrag » Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:26 pm

Hi Andrew,

Welcome to the Linux Mint community!

I think other users said it all!

Let me though add a couple more points based on my experience with installing Mint xfce on an old XP laptop.

(a) During the live session check sound, videos, brightness and printers. If something is not working just get back to the forum.

(b) NVIDIA cards are the main culprit for several malfunctions. I would recommend you to read this tutorial before installing the drivers http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=154932 .

Hope it helps. Have fun!

Best
Thanosfrag

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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by chiefjim » Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:11 am

Timberbeast wrote:Hi AndrewXP,

I *did* update the ram to 2 gigs, which is all that old machine will run, but that is all. No video card. Just using the onboard video. The only thing that it won't run is Google Earth. But, Google's downsized 'maps' program runs fine.
Adding ram seems to be overlooked by lots of people. Newer OS's simply need more memory to run properly. Increasing ram still remains the best option to extending life of older systems.
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by xfrank » Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:24 am

I'm facing a similar dilemma. A friend of mine asked me to install a Linux in his oldish xp netbook (atom, 1gb ram). Mint 16? Mint 13 LTS? LMDE? waiting for Mint 17 LTS?
In short, I think the best variant of Mint for that machine now would be Mint 13 LTS Mate or Xfce. It is supported until 2017 and is very easy to manage for a beginner.
Linux everywhere. Active Distros in my many computers: LM17.3 (Cinnamon, Xfce); LM18.1 (Cinnamon,Xfce); LMDE 2 (Mate), MXLinux (Xfce), Debian 9 (Xfce).

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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by Tejas_0 » Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:47 am

AndrewXP wrote:DELL Dimension 4550, with a 2.53 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 56 GB hard drive and an NVIDIA graphics card.
Hi Andrew, your specs look better than mine, except perhaps my graphics card NVIDIA C61 [GeForce 6150SE nForce 430] may be more advanced. Have ~1 GHz processor and 1GB RAM running Petra Cinnamon, so suppose it must be the bus which is the drawback.
Release: Linux Mint 16 "petra"
Edition: Cinnamon 32-bit
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by gtsfer » Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:13 pm

I have had great luck with LMDE 32-bit on an 8 year old Toshiba laptop. I had Xubuntu on it and I decided to try LMDE as I LOVE it. It's a non-PAE machine with limited graphics (on board chip of course).

It installed on the laptop no problem. Found all drivers and even a USB attached wifi device. (plugged it in before install, I cheated) Ubuntu won't even install on it. Might be worth a try.
Last edited by gtsfer on Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by wheeledgoat » Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:14 pm

+1 on the slowly dipping a toe in, and doing a dual boot for now (assuming a trial run of LIVE boot DVD works well). be sure to test your printer, HP is great for open source support, I'm not sure about Lexmark. hopefully you'll be ok. I see you getting along just fine w/ Linux for all the other things you listed.

In fact, that plan (outlines above) will work perfectly; do a dual boot with 16 for now, and try everything out. Get used to linux mint while keeping XP on dual boot as a comforting backup.

And then when the next long-term-support comes out this summer, hopefully you'll be comfortable enough with linux to do a full wipe of that box, get rid of the dual boot, and go with Mint 17, which will be a long-term-support version!

good luck!

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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by Webtest » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:08 pm

Hey AndrewXP ...
I have older machines and can't dump XP because my wife's requirements and because of a special County Library e-book app and iTunes. I run Linux almost exclusively but I have never installed Linux. I run many LiveMedia versions of Mint on locked SD cards and locked USB thumb drives (Kanguru Blu). DVDs are an alternative, but some versions take forever to boot from optical media. I have had success with Mint 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, and 16, mostly Gnome/Mate 32 bit, and Korora 20 Mate. I keep all the old versions because every time a new version comes out something else turns out to be missing or broken/damaged (at least on a LiveMedia system) ... Brasero, USB creator, video driver, etc. The only caeat is that if you need to install extra software for any reason (like handbrake, etc.), you need to save all of the repository files specific to that version because they disappear when, or even a little before, the support expiration date.

So, you can do a LOT of meaningful testing from a LiveMedia system without having to worry about dual-booting. I use my locked LiveMedia systems with the HDD (in a drawer tray) turned OFF especially for banking ... there is absolutely no way to compromise the OS if it is read-only! It always boots to a virgin clean system. On the few occasions that I need to save something, I temporarily insert another USB stick and remove it after the save operation.

Best of luck to you ... try a LiveMedia flavor or two.
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Re: Upgrading an ancient PC to Linux Mint

Post by Ginsu543 » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:30 am

AndrewXP wrote:Hello there.

Like many people with PCs running Windows XP, I am faced with the imminent demise of support from Microsoft. I have a DELL Dimension 4550, with a 2.53 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 56 GB hard drive and an NVIDIA graphics card. I believe that the Xfce desktop would best suit an old system such as this, but my question is, should I:

(1) Install Linux Mint 13, being the latest LTS version;
(2) Install Linux Mint 16 as it may have a better working environment, then upgrade when the next LTS version appears in May;
or (3) Stay with XP beyond the end of support date, perhaps using a non-administrator account for safety, then install the next LTS version in May?

Thanks in advance for any help,
Andrew.
Just to give you another perspective among the many excellent suggestions posted above:

I just completed my project of restoring a Toshiba Portege R200 I bought in 2005 to modern usability, which included both hardware (busted cpu fan and ram upgrade) and software (goodbye, Win XP; hello, Mint!!!) replacements. The modest specs I was working with are: 1.2 GHz Pentium M processor, 1.25 GB RAM, 60 GB 4200rpm HDD, and onboard Intel Mobile 915GM Express video.

I was able to install the full Linux Mint 16 32-bit Cinnamon onto a 32 GB USB 3.0 thumb drive (Patriot Tab) from which I boot as the primary drive. This allowed me to make my 60 GB 4200rpm HDD my storage drive. I did this as an experiment to see if the USB drive would be faster than my 4200rpm HDD. While it did not result in a huge difference, it did give me a 50% boost in read speeds (despite the fact that I think the USB 2.0 bus is limiting me) while maintaining comparable write speeds. All that to say, I can actually run Mint 16 Cinnamon fairly well on my laptop. It does take a while to boot up, but once booted, it does everything I need a laptop to do. Things got even snappier when I replaced the original 1 GB PC2-4200 RAM module it came with with a 1 GB PC2-6400 RAM module I happened to have on hand from another netbook I own. The higher FSB rating of the PC2-6400 (800 MHz) as compared to that of the PC2-4200 (533 MHz) seems to have improved the overall responsiveness of the OS.

If my R200 can run full Cinnamon, you may be able to as well (and certainly the less resource-hoggy flavors like Mint Xfce or LMDE). I was faced with the same dilemma as you, but I decided to install Mint 16 to play with for a couple of months before Mint 17 comes out sometime in May. I thought of installing Maya (the latest available LTS version), but I wanted to take advantage of Cinnamon 2.0 (which got rid of direct Gnome dependency) which seems to work much more smoothly than earlier versions.

Hope that helps!
Main: Intel Core i7 920 D0 @ 4.0 GHz | Asus P6X58D Premium | 12 GB Mushkin Redline PC3-12800 7-8-7-24 | EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti | Mint 17.2 Cinnamon 64 / OS X 10.7.3
Portables: Toshiba Portege R200 | Mint 17.2 Cinnamon 32 / Dell Mini 9 | OS X 10.6.7

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