After getting some old, but fancy hardware from my friends, I want to setup a second PC running ubuntu. Due to the fact that the hardware is more than five years old, I'll have to tweak some things to work with acceptable speed.

Does anyone have some recommendations what do to? And yes, I need a graphical interface :)

  • 2
    Can you be more specific on what hardware you're getting? Just saying "old" doesn't really mean anything...
    – dkuntz2
    Feb 27, 2011 at 21:03
  • 1
    CPU: Intel P4 1,7 GHz RAM: 380MB GPU: Nvidia GForce 4 onBoard
    – pschmidt
    Feb 27, 2011 at 21:15
  • Sounds slightly hotter than my MythTV frontend (P3 1GHz, 384M RAM). I run Ubuntu 10.04 on that without too much problem, but it really mostly for MythTV and some lightweight gaming.
    – jwernerny
    Feb 28, 2011 at 15:26
  • You might consider using xbuntu because of the lower CPU and RAM usage.
    – alexyorke
    Apr 27, 2011 at 11:07

6 Answers 6


380MB RAM is pretty low, but should be fine running a lightweight OS.

If you want to stick to an Ubuntu based distro, I recommend Lubuntu. It uses the LXQt desktop environment. Watch out when installing heavy packages; try to find an alternative. Firefox is known to take a lot of memory, if the browser provided with Lubuntu suffices, stick to that one.

I'm using Lubuntu as portable distro on my USB flash drive, and it runs pretty smoothly. Xubuntu (Xfce DE) is a great option as well, but it’s not as light as Lubuntu.

  • I tried different distros like Arch, X/Lubuntu, but directly compared, the memory footprint of those distros, especially their interfaces, is not very diverse. But I'll try to look for those "lightweight" packages. Thanks
    – pschmidt
    Feb 28, 2011 at 0:05

Try Lubuntu. It has LXDE, which requires less RAM as all the other DEs. Check this one: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Lubuntu#System%20requirements


My school's technology club uses, almost exclusively, six or seven year old Dell Optiplex computers (because they're what we have, and we don't have the money or resources to get new or better things). All of those computers are running 10.10 perfectly fine.

We don't have any tricks up our sleeves, we just did a basic install. Sure, they've been tweaked a little (they're using Nautilus Elementary instead of plain nautilus, and the Mint Menu + DockbarX instead of the default panels, but they're almost a vanilla 10.10 install).

Thus far, we've yet to have any problems with them. Last year we had them running 9.04 (a couple got an upgrade to 9.10, and one got an upgrade to 10.10). They all work fine. Before that, they were running Windows or various other distributions (we've even got some of the old disks). We've never had any problems with the "old" hardware.

The only difference between those computers and my own computer are that they're running 32-bit, and don't have all the applications I use.


Try to get more RAM. There is nothing which can replace it.

I have seen machines with 256 MB RAM and even 196, but it's not fun - you allways have to close something, pick smallest programs for a job and wait while swapping.

If you can't get more RAM, don't use OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice, but plain editors, maybe abiword.

Replace Firefox/Thunderbird with opera.

Lubuntu sounds reasonable.

  • Thanks. I upgraded RAM to 512 MB. But this is not the one and only Bottleneck. Are there some other tweaks (deactivating deamons, uninstalling componentents, ...) that may will work?
    – pschmidt
    Feb 28, 2011 at 13:01
  • I'm running Ubuntu on a 10 years old computer AMD Athlon XP 1600+ which I upgraded from 250 MB ram to 623 MB. The only issues I encounter is that Firefox from time to time seems to hang for a while and that manipulating images in GIMP with a size greater than 5000 * 4000 pixels is very slow. Feb 28, 2011 at 18:22
  • 1
    @pschmidt: It depends on what you have installed, what you need and how often, and maybe graphic card, hard drive and other components. Some of the live monitors take an asthonishing amont of RAM: disk/cpu/net-activitiy, www-whether daemon, pretty clock applet and so on. If you don't or rarely print, you may deactivate CUPS, for instance. 3D-effects are pretty expensive. With an well supported graphics card it might be no problem, but else it can slow you down dramatically. Feb 28, 2011 at 22:13

I have been successful with Xubuntu. And knowing that it is an official project from Canonical makes me trust it better.

Other option that you have is to use the old computer as a thin client with UbuntuLTSP


Fast osses on low end hardware I used sucesfully:

Lubuntu -using it now on my 1600 mhz (2gb ram) Atom laptop. It's very, very fast.

Zenwalk -also great speed, but a tad more difficult to use (based on xfce)

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