Best OS for an Older Laptop?
February 21, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

What's the best-performing OS for a Toshiba Satellite 2595 CDS with 64 MB RAM and a Celeron 400 MHz processor?

Just picked up this laptop. It's in pristine shape and I'd like to get some use out of it...Internet, maybe MAME or NES emulation, watching some AVIs. Here are the specs:

Trident 9525DVD Video with 2MB RAM
TEAC CD drive
V.90 Modem
Two PCMCIA slots (I have a Motorola WN825G Wireless Card)
4 GB Hard Drive
Intel Celeron 400 MHz

It's currently running Windows 2000 Pro. Is this the best choice? Would 98SE be better? Can this hardware run XP? How about Linux? I'm a Linux virgin, but would love to give it a try. Is there a distro that will work with these specs and the Wireless PCMCIA card and a complete Linux NOOB?

I'm open to any suggestions. What would run the smoothest and make the most of this hardware?

posted by Otis to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can upgrade the RAM to 256, it will make a big difference. I use Ubuntu Linux on a 256mb/400mhz laptop, works great for web browsing... I would guess it's too slow for emulation.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:46 AM on February 21, 2008

Win2k is really pretty good, so I wouldn't bother trying to change it for 98se or XP. If you have the linux bug, Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux are good on older systems with low memory.
posted by malaprohibita at 7:46 AM on February 21, 2008

The memory is definitely what's killing you here. If you had 128 MB, I would agree with malaprohibita, but with 64 MB it's probably worth downgrading. Remember that you may have a really hard time finding all the drivers you need for a fresh install, though.
posted by pocams at 7:49 AM on February 21, 2008

Best answer: You can't (or shouldn't) run XP. Or even 2000. 64 MB is the minimum requirement for both systems, and you're going to be seriously hampered by a lot of swapping with either. You could try installing XP Lite, but even so... running something like Firefox is absolutely a no-no. If you could throw another 64 MB in there you'd be in better shape, but in reality for any modern operating system 256 MB is the bare minimum you should be using.

Honestly, I would put 98SE on there.
posted by fusinski at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2008

400 mhz? There are folks on Metafilter whose everyday computers aren't any faster than that. Some of them will probably show up to brag about this fact.

If you're a Windows geek, and you can elaborately tweak the Windows install (I'm thinking disabling services, removing every unnecessary component, etc.), then I'd say Win2k. If you're a Linux geek, there are a bunch of tiny distros. If you're a wannabe Linux geek, try Xubuntu. If even Linux geeks think you're a geek, try BeOS. It runs great on hardware from that era, although you might have trouble w/the wireless card.

And, to echo everybody else: I know you don't want to throw a lot of money at this project, and I don't want to overstate it, but, really, maxing out the RAM in this computer will change your life forever.
posted by box at 8:07 AM on February 21, 2008

I bet Xubuntu would fly on it. I ran it on an old 233 mHz G3 iMac and was very impressed with responsiveness.
posted by Scoo at 8:17 AM on February 21, 2008

Xubuntu, or a Debianish install. DSL is brilliant, Puppy's great, but you have enough potential oomph in a Celeron 400 to do more in terms of OS. nthing get more RAM; eBay may be your best bet. The difference will be very noticeable.

(I've run DSL and Debian on a P233 Tosh Portégé w/ 96MB RAM. My sister runs a very stripped-down XP on a 1997-vintage PPro 200 desktop w/ 128MB RAM. You have to admire the robustness of that darn processor.)
posted by holgate at 8:43 AM on February 21, 2008

Fluxbuntu is quite nice, and would run on that.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Xubuntu, and make heavy use of web applications.
posted by yesno at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2008

Or try getting a hold of Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which is so cool that Microsoft doesn't sell it to customers.
posted by yesno at 8:49 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have run both DamnSmallLinux and VectorLinux on a laptop with half that much memory, though I would hate to have that be my everyday computer.
posted by mzurer at 8:51 AM on February 21, 2008

Even the default Xubuntu install won't work without more RAM. There is an alternate install you can use, and Xubuntu will run on 64 MB once installed, but you'd really need at least 128 MB.

Here's a thread about optimizing Xubuntu for your machine.

There's some old information about your model and Linux on TuxMobil. It's old enough that it won't really help you make a decision about with distro to install, but it might help you get things working if they don't straight off the bat.

Judging from a quick skim of those links, it looks like running Linux on there is going to involve more than popping in a CD and following a wizard, but it's definitely doable. I say give it a try!
posted by natabat at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2008

yesno: The fact that Microsoft MAKES that but doesn't tell consumer customers makes me really angry, we're talking Hulk Smash here. I've got lots of friends who don't need the latest greatest. I've even got some legacy hardware myself that could really use it.

This is the kind of thing that I understand could really drive someone to piracy.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 AM on February 21, 2008

Or try getting a hold of Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which is so cool that Microsoft doesn't sell it to customers.

WinFLP still requires 64MB RAM minimum. It really doesn't decrease the memory footprint all that much. You get hosed up as soon as you want to run more than one application at a time.
posted by fusinski at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2008

fusinski: Yeah, but I have a friend who's running Windows 2000 on a cheap system another friend put together for him. It was made to be inexpensive so it's only got a simple graphics card and ~600mhz bare processor, but it's got 300mb+ of memory. Windows Fundamentals sounds exactly like what he needs.
posted by JHarris at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2008

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but WinFLP, Win2K, and WinXP all have the exact same memory and processor requirements, both minimum and recommended. WinFLP, quite frankly, only reduces the hard disk footprint. It's really not a good OS recommendation for what he has. None of the above will run half decent with 64 MB of memory, I guarantee it.
posted by fusinski at 1:06 PM on February 21, 2008

Just spend the $14-20 needed to upgrade the memory and a lot of these suggestions look a lot better.
posted by samsara at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2008

Does Microsoft still put updates for windows 95? Because the latest version of that, properly tweaked, would run just fine.

Otherwise, I'd install XP and turn off all the fancy bits, make a permanant 2gb swapfile. And maybe pop for some more memory.

Or try one of the Linux versions. But I've found that any of the really useful apps are still going to be memory hogs and thrash the drive.
posted by gjc at 7:25 PM on February 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. I went with 98SE. It took a little time to track down all the right drivers, but everything is up and running now...pretty snappy too, and much better than 2000 was. I didn't know the 2000 minimum requirements were equivalent to XP.

I wanted to go with Linux, but there are no native Linux drivers for either one of my wireless adapters, and there were plenty of horror stories about trying to get them to work, whereas with 98, it was a simple install.

I'll be saving my pennies for a memory upgrade.
posted by Otis at 5:33 AM on February 22, 2008

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