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I have a Windows 98 computer that we still use (the hardware works just fine, but Windows is becoming a bit flaky and I'd rather go problem hunting and solving with Linux rather than Win98).

I'm looking for a very lightweight distribution (with a GUI, not command line) that is able to run the following:

  • An email client which supports POP3
  • A "more up to date" web browser (the banking website refuses to show up in the old Internet Explorer version it's running)
  • An app able to open and modify Word and Excel documents
  • FTP, DropBox, or some way to share and sync files with another computer

That is ALL the software that's needed (though, having Skype support would be helpful, but not required)

It uses a Pentium II Processor, which means it's CPU is between 233 MHz and 450 MHz (I can't seem to find the exact number from within Windows), and 256 MB RAM.

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There are some guidelines here unix.stackexchange.com/q/1500/688. –  Tshepang Mar 16 '11 at 12:21
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

maybe puppy linux? Here the specs:

Puppy has been tested on a very old machines but the best results for the standard release of Puppy Linux to run at a reasonable pace have been achieved with the following:

CPU : Pentium 166MMX
RAM : 128 MB physical RAM for releases since version 1.0.2 or failing that a Linux swap file and/or swap partition is required for all included applications to run; 64 MB for releases previous to 1.0.2
Hard Drive : Optional
CDROM : 20x and up
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There are several light weight window managers. Openbox, XFCE, and LXDE are the primary ones. Then there are some others like Enlightenment, IceWM, and Awesome.

In my opinion, Openbox is the lightest of all of those. A lot of Arch Linux users use Openbox, but it doesn't have a GUI by default; you have to install it through the package manager. It's pretty simple however. If you'd rather have a GUI by default, Crunchbang uses Openbox by default, and it's based on Debian.

If you don't mind installing the window manager yourself in Arch, it does have the advantage of letting you choose which window manager to use. So if you don't like Openbox, you can use something else.

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I use CrunchBang Linux on 2 computers and it uses only 63MB of RAM at startup. Great distro and very functional. Email client is up to you (none is installed by default). There is a very well-done script at install that proposes you, with yes-no questions, to make your fresh distro install bigger (for example, by installing Open Office, or the Java Development Kit).

Before that I tried Lubuntu, which is very good but is a bit more bloated than CrunchBang.

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