I am have come across my old computer in my attic. It is a very old windows 98 HP computer. I can give more specs if needed. I was wondering if I could install Damn Small Linux on a flash drive and boot to it and install it over the current operating system and run linux properly without an internet connection. Like what is there to do on a linux system without internet? will this be a good learning environment for me to familiarize myself with linux? Should/Could I possibly try to take apart the operating system and look into it. Another added on question is should I maybe run archlinux instead of DSL and temporarily connect to the internet to get that set up or is that too advanced for me and even that old of a computer. The reason that I cannot connect to the internet is because I am going to be hooking this computer up in my bedroom and the internet is in my parents room and I do not believe that this old of a system can run with wireless internet. However, I can temporarily connect via ethernet cable but not for long.

  • 3
    Don't install a rolling release like Arch; without regular Internet access you are better off with one of the LTS releases.
    – jasonwryan
    Dec 18, 2013 at 5:24

3 Answers 3


Yes of course you can use Linux with no internet access. For one thing, Linux first came out in 1991, a time when the internet was in its infancy and very very few people (if any) outside academia and the military had access to it.

I used Linux for years when my only connection to the internet was a 14.4 kbit/s modem so I was not connected for most of the time I was using the machine. Still today, Linux does not require the internet, no OS does.

As for which distro, I would recommend either choosing one that is as old as your computer or one of the more modern minimalist ones. As Zelda said, make sure you can install from CD since USB and even DVD may be a problem. Back in '98-99 I was using Mandrake (now Mandriva) and then switched over to SuSe (now openSuse). I had a perfectly decent KDE desktop and everything.

Basically, you want a nice stable release that does not require constant upgrading. So, either go for one of the old ones (you can still find the old ISOs online) or go for a LTS release.

  • 1
    With no connectivity, even updates may be less of a concern. After all, the attack surface is much smaller, so all you're looking for in updates is bug fixes and new features. That is, nice to have, but hardly critical.
    – user
    Dec 18, 2013 at 14:40
  • @MichaelKjörling yes, absolutely. Especially since a computer that is not connected to the internet is safe from any attack that does not involve physical access to the machine.
    – terdon
    Dec 18, 2013 at 14:42

You should be able to run one of the smaller distributions.

Most important is that a computer with Windows 98 might be a 90s kid and so is not likely to boot from a flash-drive (or even worse, has USB 1.0—USB 2.0 was released in 2000.

I recommend you prepare for CD install, as a system that old problably even doesn't have a DVD drive—as required by some recent full-fledged installs like Ubunut 13.10, nowadays.

Compare the specification of your computer—CPU, minimal RAM, minimal disk space, CD install—with what the Linux distributions you want to install requires.

  • Ubuntu (and perhaps others?) actually has a minimal install version: help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD. From their website: "The Minimal CD will download packages from online archives at installation time instead of providing them on the install CD itself." As the poster has the possibility of connecting to the Internet initially this does give a larger choice of Linux distribution perhaps. Dec 18, 2013 at 15:07

Well you could play around with unix utilities, look up how the file systems works, do some coding etc.

But from time to time you will get stuck when trying to do something (let's say figuring out how to use a certain text editor etc.) and you will need internet to look up how to do that. Get a wireless router and install a wifi card in that computer and install whatever you like but start with something easier like Ubuntu or Linux Mint or something like that.

If you need, you can always go more "hardcore". I am answering this question assuming you are not that familiar with linux so excuse me if you are.

P.S. Chunk questions into smaller paragraphs and points so people are more willing to read them.

  • 2
    Well, apropos, man, and info exist for a reason :-) I don't think solving most issues really requires the internet.
    – Chris Down
    Dec 18, 2013 at 4:50
  • Well, when I get stuck, I google. When there was no google, I manned. And man pages are just references, not guides. :) Although yes, people should get used to reading man pages.
    – mmtauqir
    Dec 18, 2013 at 4:52
  • 1
    don't go with Ubuntu or Mint. go with a lighter flavor with LXDE. if you think Unity's actually gonna function on a Windows 98 computer, you must be joking.
    – strugee
    Dec 18, 2013 at 7:46
  • True, I did not consider that aspect. LXDE is a good choice for a light OS.
    – mmtauqir
    Dec 18, 2013 at 8:02

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