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We all have a common issue whereby there is an old PC lying around and we want to revive it using a secure Linux distro (vs. using the un-updated native OS, likely Windows) that is both user-friendly and snappy.

Use case:

I have an old Dell Latitute 131 L (specs here). I am considering dual-boot installing Linux (it already has XP).

Specifications

  • 256 DDR2 RAM
  • 50+ gig free disk space
  • AMD Turion 64 X2 (64-bit dual-core mobile CPU) 1.6 GHz

How do we know which distribution to choose? Are there any risks to picking older versions of a given distribution?

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    If you can afford $10-$20 for another 1-2GB of memory, you won't have to make any compromises on which distro to use. – Mark Plotnick Jun 2 '14 at 18:41
  • This is an opinionated Q, please refrain from asking these types of Q's. See the help for more info on appropriate Q's for the site.unix.stackexchange.com/help – slm Jun 2 '14 at 18:50
  • @slm I was afraid of that :-) I know opinion-based questions are very frowned upon in SO but I figured I would chance it. – David Brossard Jun 2 '14 at 18:51
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    Yeah I would try and reform the Q, perhaps there's a way to appease the rules and get your Q asked in some form. – slm Jun 2 '14 at 18:52
  • I just did that. Actually what would be great is some Linux wiki with a matrix of hardware requirements to Linux distro possibility... – David Brossard Jun 2 '14 at 19:58
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For simplicity & easy install, you could use Linux Mint or Ubuntu; and just install a simpler (LXDE) Desktop Environment. This will speed up the 'snappiness' of the GUI, while sticking with a modern (and theoretically more secure) distro.

As always, performance largely depends on what you want to use it for. The above recommendation of a RAM upgrade is definitely the best single, reasonably priced addition to speed things up quite a bit.

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Two good, lightweight Ubuntu-based distos are Lubuntu and Xubuntu. You should look into those. If you are feeling adventurous you can try Arch Linux. Arch gives you a bare minimum environment, so you will have to build your own system from the ground up. This requires a little more knowledge, but ArchWiki has a good guide to get you started.

  • Thanks. I've tried Xubuntu in the past and didn't like the UI. I will look into Xubuntu. I'm doing this for a friend who is not tech savvy so I take it Arch Linux is off the table. Thanks again. – David Brossard Jun 2 '14 at 18:50

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