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I'd like to install Ubuntu on a 12-year-old laptop currently running Win XP. The DVD/CD drive is dead, and the machine can't boot from a USB stick. Moreover, it can't even read a USB stick over 1GB. Is there any way, or is it the impossible dream?

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What are the specs of the laptop? RAM, CPU, etc.. –  Mitch Jun 11 '13 at 20:25
    
Does it have an floppy drive? maybe use an internet installer (if they come that small). Maybe with other distros? –  Dr_Bunsen Jun 11 '13 at 20:29
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If you enjoy hacking (as per en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_%28hobbyist%29), then you could extract the hdd from your laptop, install it on a desktop system, install 12.04 server 32bit, place it again on the laptop and try booting. Chances are you'll get a fully functional server to play with and youcan try installing some (light-weight) windowing environment. Of course, Gnome and KDE are out of the question. –  hmayag Jun 11 '13 at 20:41

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Providing that you have a minimum of 512MB RAM, you could try the 12.04 network Install. To try it out, check out the Network installer.

Another thing that you can try, is downloading the 12.04 ISO, and mounting it using something like Virtual CloneDrive, and use the WUBI installer. See this site for more info.

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This is an excellent suggestion, however I'd be concerned about the GUI-based leanings of 12.04 performing reasonably well. Expanding on the age of the laptop in question - does the Ubuntu install check for any issues and disable portions of the OS that aren't expected to function appropriately? This may be a fact that Big Vic should take into consideration. –  gravity Jun 11 '13 at 21:22

As far I know, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is the last best operating system that runs properly for low specification computer. But it still gives some moment to lag in some applications. I use Acer Aspire D255 with 1,6 GHz CPU and 1 GB DDR3 RAM and it doesn't guarantee woobly effect in compiz become without lagging.

Using lightweight Ubuntu distributions gain performance better like Xubuntu and Lubuntu. I use Xubuntu 13.04 and it only takes 160 MB RAM, and also makes my computer keeps up to date with the newest technology :)

When I installed it on my machine. I used universal usb installer from pendrivelinux.com to make a bootable usb. It works for numbers of machine.

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A 12-year old laptop, with that many broken components, I would not advise attempting to install Ubuntu.

  1. Your broken devices make it very difficult to conceive of a way to get it installed properly or without a lot of trouble. Sure it would possibly work (say, with an external DVD/CD drive, connected via USB), but you may not have that kind of work-around available, or may have to consider some additional expenditures to even attempt it.
  2. The supported versions of Ubuntu (12.04+) would be better to utilize, albeit not mandatory. That said, any version before those (which would probably be more compatible or at least run better) is no longer 'openly' supported, even on forums like this. You may be able to find help elsewhere but, again, is it really worth it?

All said, and specs aside (since Ubuntu can run on fairly old systems reasonably well), it may be worth looking into a cheap used or new system to replace the one you're speaking of.

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The man wants it on his laptop, so I guess it is worth it. –  Dr_Bunsen Jun 11 '13 at 20:28
    
A defective motherboard on the acer 5100 series notebooks made it so that the dvd drive and harddrive on my laptop are no longer working. However, using a spare external usb harddrive and usb dvd rom drive, I have been able to run Ubuntu with no bugs. I now use my old laptop as a desktop. What he wants to do is quite possible and has been done before. In my case, I, in addition to a lack of cd/dvd drive, lacked an internal hard drive and even managed to do it. –  Nil Jun 12 '13 at 0:25

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