Reviving an (almost) ten-year-old laptop with Linux

Discussion in 'all things UNIX' started by Mrkvonic, Dec 18, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Posts:
    8,695
    This is a somewhat incredible attempt to use Xubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin 32-bit LTS edition with non-PAE kernel to try to revive a ten-year old ThinkPad T42 laptop, covering early preparations and considerations, readers feedback, existing installations, new operating system choice and setup, hardware and software usability, applications, media playback, system resource usage, performance, problems, overall reliability and record, future use and other considerations, and more. Old is the new new. Have fun.

    http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/reviving-ten-year-old-laptop-linux.html


    Cheers,
    Mrk
     
  2. Gullible Jones

    Gullible Jones Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Posts:
    1,459
    Thanks for posting this, Mrk. The T42 is not what I'd consider particularly low spec, but too many people consider such machines obsolete.

    BTW, low-end laptops can last a while too. Occasionally you need to fix them - replace a failing hard disk usually - but if you take good care of them, they will keep working. At the moment I have three cheap laptops from ~2007, and all of them run fine with Linux; or Windows 7, for that matter, provided you turn off the default eyecandy.

    (I've also got a G4 Powerbook - single core, 800 MHz, 1 GB RAM. Rubbish video card, but it ran Debian quite well, until the proprietary IDE connector broke. :( )

    Anyway my advice for those of us with low-spec computers is thus:

    - Dust is bad, and easy to forget about. Always make sure your computers don't get full of dust. Even a seemingly small amount can hamper performance in my experience.

    - There are no magic bullets. Let me repeat that: there are no magic bullets. Don't just throw tweaks against the wall and see what sticks. Monitor what's happening on the computer, figure out where the most performance is lost, and fix those cases.

    - Reduce your expectations, and be prepared to turn off stuff you don't actually need.
     
  3. Balthazar

    Balthazar Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2013
    Posts:
    137
    Location:
    Earth
    Interesting read! Linux is perfect for older machines.

    I still use my almost 7-year-old laptop every day. Over the years, I did some upgrades and it still works fine. I can watch 720p movies without problems. Back then, the laptop had 1 GB RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. After a while I decided to double the size of my RAM -> a very good decision. A few years later, I stumbled across an article saying that my motherboard works with 4 GB of RAM despite the manual saying the maximum was 2 GB. I was curious and the 2 RAM modules I would need didn’t cost much at that time. I bought and installed the 4 GB RAM and it worked. The next thing I was doing, switching from 32 to 64 Bit. There were no official drivers and I had a hard time finding an NVidia graphics driver but eventually I found one that worked. I must have tried 20 different drivers, each resulting in a blue screen after a while until I found the right one.

    Another little upgrade was an USB 3.0 express card speeding up data transfer to & from external hard drives. Worth every penny.

    I also exchanged the CPU, buying a cheap one from eBay. I think this has been the upgrade with the least effect. I had 1.9 GHz dual core and I bought 2.3 Ghz dual core. (It was more of a test if I would be able to exchange the CPU without problems rather than an upgrade I expected much of.)

    My CPU and GPU were getting very hot and so I bought little copper plates from eBay HK for a few cents in order to reduce the temperature a little. It worked. Temperatures have been about 7-8 degrees lower than before but I don’t know the actual effect. It could be that renewing the thermal paste and cleaning everything before had the greater effect. I really don’t know but I think of it as a good result.

    About a year ago, I read several articles about Linux and finally I decided to give it a go. I’d need a new hard drive with more space. I had already exchanged the hard drive once but now I wanted to see what possibilities there were at first. I was very interested in trying out a SSD but I didn’t want to spend much money and I wanted to increase disk space not decrease it. I read several articles about hybrid hard drives and bought a 750 GB hybrid hard drive. The right decision because a SSD would not have been faster because of my old SATA motherboard. The hybrid works very quickly and it’s been a surprising improvement regarding booting up and other stuff you do regularly.

    Conclusion:
    A few upgrades here and there can work wonders. I agree with Gullible Jones that there are no magic bullets. If possible, increasing RAM significantly (1 to 2 or more) should be a huge improvement on older computers. You often find these older stuff at a very cheap price on eBay (of course, there are people trying to make money of it as well, saying only the original would work, rare stuff and so on). Almost forgot, using Linux instead or besides Windows is also a huge improvement speedwise.
     
  4. mattdocs12345

    mattdocs12345 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2013
    Posts:
    1,785
    Location:
    US
    I have an even older laptop Thinkpad T30. This one has windows loaded on it.
    You father however, has the sexiest thinkpad, X40. This one is a beauty but the hard disk is 4200 RPM (really slow) and I think proprietary so it's hard to replace it with anything else. Although I read that some managed to put in SSD (or flash, can't remember exactly) after some accommodations.
     
  5. Alexhousek

    Alexhousek Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Posts:
    409
    Location:
    USA--Colorado
    In the article, it mentions taking off 2 previous Linux installations or OS's. But, it doesn't mention how you do that?!

    I, too, have an older laptop that dual-boots 2 different Linux distro's. One is an old version of Peppermint and one is an old version of Mint.

    I would like to know how to either 1) install over top of one of the existing distro's; or 2) wiping both of them out so that I can try out other distro's?
     
  6. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Posts:
    8,695
    What I did was simply zero the partition table, create a new one.
    Mrk
     
  7. Alexhousek

    Alexhousek Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Posts:
    409
    Location:
    USA--Colorado
    I am sorry Mrk, but what you wrote is Greek to me. I do not know how to "zero a partition table", let alone create a new one....

    P. S. Never mind, sounds to complicated. (Unless you can point to a tutorial or similar.)
     
  8. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Posts:
    8,695
    Did you read my:
    Installation guides?
    Uninstall guide?
    Gparted guide?
    Dual boot guide?
    Mrk
     
  9. Alexhousek

    Alexhousek Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Posts:
    409
    Location:
    USA--Colorado
    I've read a great deal of your work. However, I confess to not reading all of it. I like your writing style.

    I'll go take a look at the stuff I might have missed.
     
  10. Baserk

    Baserk Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Posts:
    1,317
    Location:
    AmstelodamUM
    Lovely review, just my cup of tea oc, running Fedora on an R51.
    Troopers those machines, unrelenting, almost shellshock resistant, combining no-nonsense with sophistication and allowing to run software for aeons.
    OK, not aeons but still. A CMOS battery and a hard drive every ten years, that's it.
    It's like a Jesus machine that will give fish, give, give and give some more. Unique business model indeed.
    Nostalgia ftw.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  11. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Posts:
    5,238
    I don't run Linux currently, but am running Windows 7 on a seven year old laptop (which was a fairly high end at the time of purchase). It works just fine and to be honest it is more than fast enough for everything I use it for without having to disable anything. I'm running Windows 8.1 on an even older laptop and it run fine too.

    Unfortunately many people think that when they start having problems with a computer they need to replace it with a new one, because it's too slow because it's old, or it's having problems because it's faulty, when quite often there are just software problems causing issues (which can be fixed e.g. with a clean install) and there is nothing wrong with the computer.
     
  12. mack_guy911

    mack_guy911 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2007
    Posts:
    2,677

    please correct me so far i know redhat 6 do not support non-PAE kernel i have old lenovo system n100 core 2 duo system running ubuntu 10.04 now planning to replace it with xubuntu

    thanks for your review very informative :))
     
  13. Ocky

    Ocky Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2006
    Posts:
    2,677
    Location:
    George, S.Africa
    A nearly 10 yr. old laptop very low spec, shared memory etc. and I am running Xubuntu 12.04 32 bit, full house apps. absolutely no problems experienced over the past 1½ years or so. More responsive than some much newer and higher spec. laptops loaded with Windows 7.

    Low spec and old.jpg
     
  14. wat0114

    wat0114 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Posts:
    1,984
    Location:
    Canada
    For me the xfce de is the ~snipped~:D for older hardware.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2013
  15. topo

    topo Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2013
    Posts:
    66
    i have a hp compaq sr1365cl with 1.5 gb ram, 80gb hd with 61 gb free space running winxpsp3. i'm very interested in trying linux. i would like to set this machine up as dual boot. i've been watching you tube vids on installing and setting up unbuntu 12.0.4. because it will be supported to 2017. what would you guys think i should try? i think i can boot from a dvd with this hp. i have some dvd+rw 4.7 disc will the unbuntu installer burn to one disc? i will use the machine for email, surfing, watching some streaming vids(hulu,crackle,etc). i also use logitech wireless keyboard and mouse(computer hooked to hdtv), will they work on linux? thanks
     
  16. catilley1092

    catilley1092 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2011
    Posts:
    19
    I have the same notebook as the OP (ThinkPad T42), it shipped with XP Pro & I custom ordered the factory re-install CD's, but there was so much bloat that I felt it best to just install XP Home from scratch.

    It's still slow, compared to my 3 main computers, very much so, but it's not fair to compare a P4 to a 4th gen i7-4770.

    However, there's a little discussed Linux OS called Lubuntu that fires up almost as fast as Windows 7 on my i3 powered Toshiba built in 2010. It takes XP two minutes to be ready to browse, Lubuntu is ready to run almost as soon as it loads. Plus it runs much cooler. XP has been patched so much that it impedes performance. Performing a clean install & getting it to update is a challenge, due to some svchost.exe process that eats 99% of CPU. Not the case with Lubuntu 12.04. It's also great for low-spec PC's.

    http://lubuntu.net/blog/lubuntu-1204-now-available

    As to having to replace components, I did have to put in a new CPU fan (along with heatsink), found on eBay for $25. However, I should not have used the installed paste that was in like 15 droplets. I've since found a great brand of paste at a good price, Arctic Silver Ceramique 2 Tri-Linear, ran out a couple of days ago, another tube is on the way.

    When it gets here, I'm going to remove what's on there & apply that brand. It's great paste, but it does take 24 hours of usage for it to cure properly, it's very thick & doesn't run all over the place. Cooling is critical to keep these older computers going.

    The CD/DVD drive isn't a burner, but I have others that I can use via USB.

    When XP support is gone, it will become a full time Linux machine. Linux Mint 13 also runs good on it.

    Glad that someone besides me is still using this machine, it cost over $1,400 when new.

    Cat
     
  17. NormanF

    NormanF Registered Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Posts:
    1,438
    10 years old?

    I run the best platform Apple ever built - the Mac Power PC. Its tough, rugged and old faithful.

    No one writes viruses for it simply because Apple switched to Intel processors. No updates but who cares - Apple has never been good with long term support of its products.

    And every one shoved Power PC users into the cold after Apple abandoned them. But its still possible to run updated browsers, get a modest set of software and one can happily compute forever.

    And old Mac Power PCs are going to be dirt cheap because Apple gave them the kiss of death. Have Leopard? Its still a champ in booting up and in running applications. And installing and removing applications through dmg. is a breeze! :thumb:
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.