Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements??? - Hardware

This is a discussion on Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements??? - Hardware ; I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive. Before I get rid of it I wanted to ask if there's enough here to ...

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Thread: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

  1. Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a
    PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive. Before I get
    rid of it I wanted to ask if there's enough here to salvage and turn
    it into a Linux file server. Plus, this would sit on a Windows
    network. I would need to get a larger hard drive.

    Is it possible to use this as a file server? Is it possible to get a
    larger hard drive for it? If it's not worth the time and money to
    convert this, then I'll save up and just get a NAS in the future, but
    before I let this one go...

    THANKS!


  2. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl wrote:
    >I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a
    >PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive. Before I get


    I use a 10 year old machine for data storage and as a
    mail/Usenet server. It is fine for anything that does
    not require speed or huge amounts of memory (I used to
    use that one as a print server, but it starts swapping
    and takes forever to print large photographs, so that
    function had to be moved to a machine that could be
    equipped with enough RAM to do the job).

    The biggest problem that I've had with it is needing to
    add USB 2 ports, and the fact that it simply will not
    boot from a SCSI drive or from an IDE drive any larger
    than 40Gb. (Hence the /dev/hda drive necessarily is an
    old, small hard disk.) It now has an add on IDE
    controller so that it can support a total of 8 IDE
    devices. That could just as easily have been a SATA
    controler.

    Another likely problem is that many older motherboards
    will work with a CDROM but will not support booting from
    a DVD drive. That can cause a real problem if you want
    to load Linux from one of the common live-DVD
    distributions available these days.

    >rid of it I wanted to ask if there's enough here to salvage and turn
    >it into a Linux file server. Plus, this would sit on a Windows
    >network. I would need to get a larger hard drive.


    Except for restrictions on what it will boot from,
    larger drives should present no problems other than
    perhaps having to buy a (relatively inexpensive) SATA
    controller card perhaps.

    >Is it possible to use this as a file server? Is it possible to get a
    >larger hard drive for it? If it's not worth the time and money to
    >convert this, then I'll save up and just get a NAS in the future, but
    >before I let this one go...


    Another potential upgrade is if it has built in 10Mb/s
    Ethernet ports and you want your LAN to run at 100Mb/s.
    Again though, that isn't exactly an expensive upgrade.

    --
    Floyd L. Davidson
    Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska) floyd@apaflo.com

  3. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl staggered into the Black Sun and said:
    > PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive. I would need
    > to get a larger hard drive. Is it possible to use this as a file
    > server? Is it possible to get a larger hard drive for it?


    Yes to both questions. You'll want to install something light like Damn
    Small Linux or possibly Xubuntu, though. Fileservers don't need much
    CPU, they need disk space and decent NICs. HTH,

    --
    This is my rifle, this is my GNU
    This is for fighting, this is for $FOO!
    --AJS in ASR
    Matt G|There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see

  4. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    Thanks for the advice.

    As a follow-up question, do you know how I can figure out what hard
    drives this computer will support? You had mentioned possibly
    purchasing a SATA controller card. I'm not sure how to determine if I
    would need that. I'd like to purchase a new one so that I can install
    Linux. I have an old Western Digital WD Caviar Enhanced IDE Hard
    Drive. I don't know how something like that translates to drives that
    are available today.

    Also, the Ethernet port is actually a card that was installed, any
    thoughts as to how I can determine if that card can be upgraded? This
    will be mostly used as a backup so speed isn't as important.

    Thanks for all of the great help!!!



  5. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    I'll definitely look at both of those Linux OS's. With only 128 RAM
    installed, do you know if I should look to increase the amount of RAM?


  6. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    Dances With Crows wrote in message
    :
    > You'll want to install something light like Damn
    > Small Linux or possibly Xubuntu, though.


    Definitely not. Installing such a limited thing as Damn Small Linux on such
    a powerful machine (hey, it was 400 MHz and 128 Mo, not 40 MHz and 12 Mo!)
    would be nothing but a source of trouble.

    And as for XUbuntu, I wonder why anyone would want to install an X server on
    a file server. The server version of Ubuntu would be much better.

  7. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl wrote in message
    <1186498664.023997.31550@i13g2000prf.googlegroups.c om>:
    > I'll definitely look at both of those Linux OS's. With only 128 RAM
    > installed, do you know if I should look to increase the amount of RAM?


    For just a file server, you could remove half ans still have too much. Of
    course, any supplementary memory will act as disc cache, thus increasing the
    responsiveness.

  8. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    On Tue, 07 Aug 2007 14:58:01 +0000, Nicolas George wrote:

    > Dances With Crows wrote in message
    > :
    >> You'll want to install something light like Damn
    >> Small Linux or possibly Xubuntu, though.

    >
    > Definitely not. Installing such a limited thing as Damn Small Linux on
    > such a powerful machine (hey, it was 400 MHz and 128 Mo, not 40 MHz and
    > 12 Mo!) would be nothing but a source of trouble.


    Damn small linux might be a little light for that machine. A 400MHz with
    128MB of RAM is plenty of computer for the task. I used to play movies
    on my old PII 300MHz with 64MB of RAM in windows. Just make sure you
    have some swap allocated for when it gets taxed.

    > And as for XUbuntu, I wonder why anyone would want to install an X
    > server on a file server. The server version of Ubuntu would be much
    > better.


    Perhaps they have a really nice monitor and want to look at something
    more appropriate than 80x25 text on a 32"+ LCD. Or something better than
    a 1024x768 framebuffer. It is easier to extract the needed information
    from a man page when there's a lot more content on a single screen.

    And some people get really bored with looking at text only screens,
    especially if they've worked on mainframe dumb terminals for 20+ years.
    It may not be "needed", but why not. Just because you have X installed
    doesn't mean you have to run it all the time, if at all.

  9. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    On Tue, 07 Aug 2007 13:13:34 +0000, TechieGrl wrote:

    > I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a
    > PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive. Before I get
    > rid of it I wanted to ask if there's enough here to salvage and turn
    > it into a Linux file server. Plus, this would sit on a Windows
    > network. I would need to get a larger hard drive.
    >
    > Is it possible to use this as a file server? Is it possible to get a
    > larger hard drive for it? If it's not worth the time and money to
    > convert this, then I'll save up and just get a NAS in the future, but
    > before I let this one go...
    >
    > THANKS!


    Last year I installed Elive Linux on a P166 with 64mb RAM - it ran quite
    nicely.

    Your main limitations would be that I would not recommend either KDE or
    GNOME desktops, but instead something 'lighter' like Enlightenment or XFCE
    (there are others too).


  10. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    On Aug 7, 10:27 am, Shadow_7 wrote:

    >> And as for XUbuntu, I wonder why anyone would want to install an X
    >> server on a file server. The server version of Ubuntu would be much
    >> better.


    > Perhaps they have a really nice monitor and want to look at something
    > more appropriate than 80x25 text on a 32"+ LCD. Or something better than
    > a 1024x768 framebuffer. It is easier to extract the needed information
    > from a man page when there's a lot more content on a single screen.
    >
    > And some people get really bored with looking at text only screens,
    > especially if they've worked on mainframe dumb terminals for 20+ years.
    > It may not be "needed", but why not. Just because you have X installed
    > doesn't mean you have to run it all the time, if at all.



    I definitely don't need anything fancy at all. This is really just
    going to be a box sitting on the network. Actually, for the most
    part, I probably won't have a monitor hooked up to it except during
    the setup. I'm really just looking to re-purpose this box as a backup
    option for my multiple computers. Originally I was going to purchase
    a NAS drive to sit on the network. But since I have this box and
    since it looks like I may only need to purchase a new hard drive, I
    thought I'd give it a go rather than spend $500+ to do the same
    thing.

    So for me, the simpler to set up and install the better for me. I'm a
    programmer by trade and dabble in hardware only as needed.


  11. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl wrote:
    > I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a
    > PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive.
    >
    > Is it possible to use this as a file server? Is it possible to get a
    > larger hard drive for it?


    This is powerful enough for almost anything (file, mail, news,
    web servers, etc.). Any normal distro would do; I use Debian and
    it never failed me.

    To determine support for your specific hardware, boot your box with
    a current liveCD distro (e.g. Knoppix). It will tell you what hardware
    it recognized. You will then know if you need to replace anything.

    If it recognized your hard drive and network controllers, you are all
    set. If no network controller, buy a new one for $10. If your HDD
    controller (unlikely, but possible), it may not be worth the trouble.

    --
    Alex

  12. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    Shadow_7 wrote in message :
    > Perhaps they have a really nice monitor


    A monitor on a file server?

  13. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl wrote in message
    <1186501297.145484.307380@j4g2000prf.googlegroups.c om>:
    > I
    > thought I'd give it a go rather than spend $500+ to do the same
    > thing.


    There are boxes that can work as NAS for 70 EUR or so. When considering if
    this is worth it, you should take your electricity bill into account too.

    Of course, a real computer can do more than these boxes, so YMMV.

  14. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    I demand that TechieGrl may or may not have written...

    [snip]
    > Also, the Ethernet port is actually a card that was installed, any
    > thoughts as to how I can determine if that card can be upgraded? [...]


    To start with, have a look at what the OS thinks that it is and whether it
    supports 100base-Tx (100Mb/s). If it does, you should probably just leave it
    as it is (it's almost certainly supported); if not, a cheap 5-10 card will
    do (IME, these tend to use the RTL8139, which is fine).

    I have here an old PII-based machine (450MHz; chipset is PIIX4). I have only
    one known problem with it (hang on reboot, but I rarely do that to it so I've
    not investigated), though I don't know whether it has the 137GB limit (I've
    not put any HD of sufficiently high capacity in it to find out). The on-board
    USB consists of two USB1.1 ports, though, so I added a VIA-based USB2.0 card.

    --
    | Darren Salt | linux or ds at | nr. Ashington, | Toon
    | RISC OS, Linux | youmustbejoking,demon,co,uk | Northumberland | Army
    | + Generate power using sun, wind, water, nuclear. FORGET COAL AND OIL.

    We came. We assimilated. We left.

  15. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    In article <87643r4dwf.fld@apaflo.com>,
    Floyd L. Davidson wrote:
    >The biggest problem that I've had with it is needing to add USB 2 ports


    Those are a cheap add-on anymore...$20 or so.

    >and the fact that it simply will not boot from a SCSI drive


    Without a SCSI card added on, that's a given for nearly any machine, new or
    old. The only machines I have that use SCSI regularly are my Apple IIs and
    68K Macs. The Mac mini and the various x86 & AMD64 boxen all use a mix of
    IDE, SATA, and USB storage.

    >or from an IDE drive any larger than 40Gb.


    IME, if /boot is on its own partition located somewhere in the first 1024
    cylinders, you should be able to boot nearly any drive. I've not yet tried
    booting an LBA48 hard drive on older hardware, but I've had Linux booting
    without a drive overlay on drive/motherboard combos that would need a drive
    overlay if you had put Windows on it instead.

    >Another likely problem is that many older motherboards will work with a
    >CDROM but will not support booting from a DVD drive.


    If it'll boot from CD, it'll boot from DVD (as long as the drive can read
    DVDs, of course). The tendency with motherboards more than about 10-12
    years old is that they'll boot from neither CD nor DVD. To work around
    that, there's Smart BootManager:

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/btmgr/

    _/_
    / v \ Scott Alfter (remove the obvious to send mail)
    (IIGS( http://alfter.us/ Top-posting!
    \_^_/ rm -rf /bin/laden >What's the most annoying thing on Usenet?


  16. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    In article <1186498664.023997.31550@i13g2000prf.googlegroups.c om>,
    TechieGrl wrote:
    >I'll definitely look at both of those Linux OS's. With only 128 RAM
    >installed, do you know if I should look to increase the amount of RAM?


    It'd be nice, but you can make do with 128 MB. My web/mail VPS is only
    allocated 128 MB, but that's enough for Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, qmail,
    djbdns, and SpamAssassin.

    You said you wanted to use your old machine mainly as a file server. The
    Linksys NSLU2 runs Linux, Samba, and a web interface in only 32 MB, IIRC.
    Except for the web interface, that's the same software that you would be
    running.

    _/_
    / v \ Scott Alfter (remove the obvious to send mail)
    (IIGS( http://alfter.us/ Top-posting!
    \_^_/ rm -rf /bin/laden >What's the most annoying thing on Usenet?


  17. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    TechieGrl writes:
    >As a follow-up question, do you know how I can figure out what hard
    >drives this computer will support?


    As discussed in another thread recently, it will probably support any
    size, as long as you don't let the BIOS detect them (just tell it that
    you don't have a hard disk except the 10GB one). Boot from the 10GB
    hard disk (i.e., the boot partition must be there), and the Linux
    kernel will successfully talk to the other disk(s).

    > You had mentioned possibly
    >purchasing a SATA controller card. I'm not sure how to determine if I
    >would need that.


    You would need that if you wanted to use SATA drives.

    If you have an PATA connector (you probably have), it's probably
    easier to just buy a PATA (aka ATA aka IDE) disk and just plug it in
    directly.

    Depending on the safety requirements, you might want to buy two disks
    (preferably from different manufacturers) and use them as RAID1 using
    the md driver.

    >Also, the Ethernet port is actually a card that was installed, any
    >thoughts as to how I can determine if that card can be upgraded?


    Just pull it out and plug in a new PCI card. BTW, Gigabit Ethernet
    cards are pretty cheap nowadays, it hardly pays to buy a 100Mb card.

    - anton
    --
    M. Anton Ertl Some things have to be seen to be believed
    anton@mips.complang.tuwien.ac.at Most things have to be believed to be seen
    http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/anton/home.html

  18. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    scott@alfter.DIESPAMMERSDIE.us (Scott Alfter) wrote:
    >In article <87643r4dwf.fld@apaflo.com>,
    >Floyd L. Davidson wrote:
    >>The biggest problem that I've had with it is needing to add USB 2 ports

    >
    >Those are a cheap add-on anymore...$20 or so.


    Great, you understood how small that problem is.

    >>and the fact that it simply will not boot from a SCSI drive

    >
    >Without a SCSI card added on, that's a given for nearly any machine, new or
    >old. The only machines I have that use SCSI regularly are my Apple IIs and
    >68K Macs. The Mac mini and the various x86 & AMD64 boxen all use a mix of
    >IDE, SATA, and USB storage.


    Not booting from a SCSI drive when it is an ASUS P2B-DS board is
    significant. There's something wrong with the board.

    >>or from an IDE drive any larger than 40Gb.

    >
    >IME, if /boot is on its own partition located somewhere in the first 1024
    >cylinders, you should be able to boot nearly any drive. I've not yet tried
    >booting an LBA48 hard drive on older hardware, but I've had Linux booting
    >without a drive overlay on drive/motherboard combos that would need a drive
    >overlay if you had put Windows on it instead.


    Still, *that* particular motherboard won't boot from a larger disk.

    >>Another likely problem is that many older motherboards will work with a
    >>CDROM but will not support booting from a DVD drive.

    >
    >If it'll boot from CD, it'll boot from DVD (as long as the drive can read


    Not true.

    >DVDs, of course). The tendency with motherboards more than about 10-12
    >years old is that they'll boot from neither CD nor DVD. To work around
    >that, there's Smart BootManager:
    >
    >http://sourceforge.net/projects/btmgr/




    --
    Floyd L. Davidson
    Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska) floyd@apaflo.com

  19. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    Here in comp.os.linux.hardware,
    TechieGrl spake unto us, saying:

    >I have an old, old Gateway. Probably about 10+ years old now. It's a
    >PII 400MHz with 128 RAM and currently a 10GB hard drive.


    That machine is twice as fast as this one. Literally. :-)

    >Before I get rid of it I wanted to ask if there's enough here to
    >salvage and turn it into a Linux file server.


    Sure. It'd make a good firewall box, too.

    Use Samba (smbd) to share your filesystems, and they'll look like
    Windows drives on the LAN.

    --
    -Rich Steiner >>>---> http://www.visi.com/~rsteiner >>>---> Mableton, GA USA
    Mainframe/Unix bit twiddler by day, OS/2+Linux+DOS hobbyist by night.
    WARNING: I've seen FIELDATA FORTRAN V and I know how to use it!
    The Theorem Theorem: If If, Then Then.

  20. Re: Convert Old PC to Linux - Minimal Requirements???

    Here in comp.os.linux.hardware,
    Nicolas George spake unto us, saying:

    >Dances With Crows wrote in message
    >
    >:
    >> You'll want to install something light like Damn
    >> Small Linux or possibly Xubuntu, though.

    >
    >Definitely not. Installing such a limited thing as Damn Small Linux on
    >such a powerful machine.


    Older versions of DSL came with Synaptic (it could be installed after
    the default LiveCD boot, giving access to all sort of software.

    I'm not sure about the most recent versions.

    --
    -Rich Steiner >>>---> http://www.visi.com/~rsteiner >>>---> Mableton, GA USA
    Mainframe/Unix bit twiddler by day, OS/2+Linux+DOS hobbyist by night.
    WARNING: I've seen FIELDATA FORTRAN V and I know how to use it!
    The Theorem Theorem: If If, Then Then.

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