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Linux for low-end hardware and internet browsing

What UNIX or Linux would be the most suitable for my old laptop HP Compaq nx9010 hardware?

Hardware specs:

Chipset: ATI Radeon IGP 345M (RS200MP) / ALI M1535+

CPU: 2.0 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with 400-MHz Front Side Bus and 512-KB L2 cache

512 MB DDR SDRAM (256 MB SODIMM in slots 1 and 2)

80GB 4200 rpm


802.11b, 802.11g

It will be mainly used for Internet browsing, office work, wireless networking.


3 Answers 3


I would give Ubuntu a try, you can test drive it with the live CD before committing to it (ie installing it). The advantage of Ubuntu is that it's very good at detecting the host hardware and configuring itself and you would get a complete system. FWIW, I have Ubuntu running on an older netbook inside a Virtual Machine and it's workable so it's not that resource hungry. If you look around you'll find some smaller distributions specifically aimed at Laptops (though not so much in the recent past since laptops have become much more capable now).

Your biggest limitation on your system is the amount of RAM you currently have, if you can increase it, everything will work better all around. It may mean you have to replace one (or possibly both) of the chips already in the system depending on how the system is set up. Most systems only have max 2 memory slots, and others require identical memory modules in both of their slots.

Here are some links for more research:

How to choose the best Linux distro for laptops might have some useful information. And here's a discussion on LinuxQuestions.org about Best Linux Distribution for Laptop? (though this is from 2009)

Finally, from January of 2012 What’s the Best Linux Distro for Older PCs and Laptops? has some opinions to share.

  • 1
    I'm using Ubuntu 12.04 on an AMD Sempron 2400+ (an "antiquity" not as powerful as a P4) w/ 1GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 9600XT AGP (another antiquity). I can watch some flash video but not in HD, I have to stick to the 480p max. But it is working perfectly for all other tasks. So agreed, Ubuntu is a good choice.
    – Huygens
    Jun 12, 2012 at 13:12
  • @larry I hope this answer was helpful to you. If so, please consider accepting it by clicking the checkmark next to my answer. Thanks.
    – Levon
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:01

I'm using xUbuntu on 2 similar machines - Pentium M 2Ghz/1.6 Ghz, but both have 1GB RAM, and I can only recommend so.

More RAM is much more useful than a faster CPU, since the speed drops dramatically when it starts swapping, and 1GB isn't so much if you have some office software running and a browser open with several tabs.

Unfortunately, DDR-1 RAM is pretty expensive today - much more than recent RAM.


I would go for Linux Mint. Others have suggested Ubuntu, which is great, but I would have thought that Unity would struggle on those specs.

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