I am doing this just for fun, I have several more powerful machines at hand but thought it would be cool to resurrect an approximately 14 year old machine with a Pentium II processor. I will have to reinstall the RAM so I am not sure how much I will manage to put in there.

So should I use FreeBSD or Damn Small Linux as the distro for this project? I anticipate that I will use it mainly from the command line, though a very basic X-Windows manager would also be welcome.

I am actually leaning towards FreeBSD, since all my prior experience has been with Linux (Ubuntu and Fedora mainly) and this would be an opportunity to explore FreeBSD.

Any suggestions as to distribution, advice or suggestions?

6 Answers 6


Since you're doing this just for fun and would like to have an opportunity to toy around with a different OS, you might as well try out OpenBSD.

From my experience, I had no problems installing and running a fairly recent OpenBSD version on a system with Pentium I CPU at 166MHz and 24 Megabytes of RAM.

Usually resurrecting and toying around with old boxes is fun, but you're probably won't use them for long -they're noisy, take up space and the energy they consume is not worth it.

  • 1
    I second this... though you didn't specify OpenBSD, it works very well on older hardware and uses very few resources in its default configuration.
    – gabe.
    Dec 5, 2011 at 22:02

It depends on whether you want to use that machine or just learn something new.

If you are not familiar with FreeBSD it can be your place for experiments with that OS (of course it doesn't prevent you to make something useful with this computer).

If you have clear objective and tight schedule I recommend to use OS that you are familiar with - Linux, but not DSL. DSL is pretty old - last release is from 2008. My favorite minidistribution is SliTaz - ISO image is around 30 MB, and there is a lot of packages in repository. There is also some WM in it, but I don't know the details because I'm using base image (8 MB).

On the other hand if the goal is not so unusual (normal desktop/terminal without changes in firewall/kernel and without weird hardware that require additional drivers/kernel modules) there is no difference what you choose - you work with applications not with OS and on FreeBSD and Linux most of application are the same.


I think a easier way is use ArchLinux. You can install what you want, a lightweight WM like fluxbox is good enough.


Entirely Opinion Based

I am using a Thinkpad T60. It is not an extremely old system but was originally designed for Windows XP. I recommend using FreeBSD i386 because it is simple to install, fast, and requires relatively little in the way of work in terms of getting it to work. Something as old as your system should also be functional but another alternative would be https://www.netbsd.org/ and they too are fairly functional. I would have used them but the wifi firmware was not functional out of the box in netbsd. I think you cannot go wrong with a BSD install on older systems.

The options for 32 bit installs has grown incredibly small with many distributions abandoning older hardware all together. I find it heart breaking because I began my journey into Linux using old hardware and now you cannot use many distributions of Linux on 32 bit systems any more.



This distro has an 8 MB file system and runs on i486 computers within 24 MB of RAM, but provides a complete command line environment (busybox, bash, iptables, dropbear...) and is ready for Internet access.


FreeBSD 4.11 would fit them best

  • 3
    You should explain why it would fit best. The asker already knows about FreeBSD, and is (was) looking for advice about how to choose that over other options.
    – Mat
    Oct 12, 2012 at 6:02

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