Tiny apps for old machine?
October 22, 2010 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Parents with very old PC (e.g. 128 MB RAM, XPHome w/ no SP upgrade!) hooking this machine to Internet for first time. Will purchase newer in near future, but must work with this for now. Looking for apps that will work on this old beast given memory lack. Would portable apps do the trick? Specifically looking for anti-virus, media, browsing, torrent, etc. Recommendations?

AVG Free would not install; Avast did. Would love to have some form of Firefox (portable?). Likely will give them Sumatra or some lightweight pdf reader. A torrent client would be very handy for them. uTorrent (portable)? Other?

I have them downloading Windows updates as we speak. Don't know if they need to install SP2, then on to SP3. Or if SP3 can go straight on as is. Or, if this is even possible with their limited system. I think I just need to prepare them to be able to do very little with this and start looking for something that can work. I want them to have something to use for email, browsing, minor word processing, some downloads.

posted by skypieces to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can they fit any more RAM in the computer? Even just doubling to 256MB would make a difference and should be pretty cheap considering you can get 1GB sticks for £30 or so nowadays.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:52 AM on October 22, 2010

Response by poster: Am looking in to that, actually. Handling this long-distance for a couple of weeks. They live in a very rural area.
posted by skypieces at 8:00 AM on October 22, 2010

For antivirus you may want to check out NOD32, it has much less overhead in terms of slowing the system down than anything else I've tried.

Bittornado is more lightweight than uTorrent assuming they'll be downloading only a single or a few torrents at a time.

Winamp v2.95 still works great so I'd stick with that as opposed to a newer and more bloated MP3 player. You can downoad from here.
posted by reptile at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2010

Sp2 then sp3, assuming both will install fully.

You might try referring them to Liberkey, because it is awesome and can be installed either locally or on flash drive and is persistent for those apps that allow it (firefox.)

Install the complete one, even though they will never need 2/3 of it.
posted by TomMelee at 8:53 AM on October 22, 2010

A browser. Seriously, that's all they need.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 8:56 AM on October 22, 2010

If you can't find a Windows solution that works, you could always send them a Live USB of Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux. I tried them out on an older PC and they worked for me when Windows wouldnt't behave.
posted by golden at 9:00 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

My principal concern would not be hardware but "Dude, srsly! Security!" XP with no service packs applied has more holes than... Well there are a lot. Expect to be part of a botnet within minutes of going online.
posted by Biru at 9:19 AM on October 22, 2010

128MBs of ram isn't even going work well on XP these days. I bet that the browser would use the majority of the RAM on that system.

I suggest installing http://crunchbanglinux.org/

It works well with systems that have little resources to play with.
posted by runit at 9:49 AM on October 22, 2010

posted by eccnineten at 9:52 AM on October 22, 2010

A word of warning, the average unprotected Windows XP machine connected to the internet gets infected in 20 minutes. You don't need to install previous service packs, just go straight for the latest.

If it won't install, consider a new operating system or new machine. An infected machine will be no use to them, will encounter a tonne of problems and no doubt cause pain and suffering for the recipients of whatever botnet gets on there.
posted by mr_silver at 10:44 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm echoing mr_silver -- going online from XP without SPs will just turn the machine into a bot, a probably-unusable one. You really *MUST* install a linux, or figure a way to get the service packs installed.
posted by anadem at 11:04 AM on October 22, 2010

In my experience, Chrome is lighter than Firefox. YMMV.
posted by demagogue at 11:12 AM on October 22, 2010

And as always, http://ninite.com/ could be real handy.
posted by demagogue at 11:13 AM on October 22, 2010

You can update the machine online without much fear of infection. You need to configure the firewall to block incoming requests to all listening ports. By default XP will listen on rpc/file/printer sharing. If the computer is behind a router on its own LAN segment then you don't really need to worry as the hardware firewall will be blocking these requests. You certainly don't need to install Linux. Its safer to download the network install of SP2 and then SP3. Both can be copied onto a USB drive.

Your RAM is a pretty big issue. You can get 512megs of RAM for a song nowadays. For AV you should just go with Microsoft Security Essentials. Its lightweight and free and won't nag you about buying anything. Currently, Adobe Reader and Java are the two most exploited applications, so it doesn't really matter if your run IE or Firefox nowadays. I recommend using Foxit for PDF reading and not bothering to install Java unless you absolutely need it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:32 PM on October 22, 2010

Oh, I recommend VLC for all your media and mp3 needs. Its still fairly lightweight and more or less plays anything.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:35 PM on October 22, 2010

I'd like to suggest Midori for a lightweight browser. It's quite simple to set up the built-in ad-blocking, which might help speed up rendering. As far as media goes, damn dirty ape has it with VLC.

Whatever you do, you definitely need to up the RAM. 512 is the minimum I'd recommend. With that, XP should run ok. Alternatively, have a look at some beginner-friendly Linux distributions, as they tend to use up less RAM than windows, so you get a bit more bang for your buck.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:36 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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