Installing on Old Machines (Survival Guide)

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Linux is famous to run on almost any machine including the old 386!? This guide will aid users who have old machines, it will highlight common problems and solutions.

I'd recommend reading all the necessary parts before installing, as you just may bump into such a situation.

Harddrives and partitions

Some distributions will give a simple partition setup but some may require additional preping to get the GUI Installation.

Getting LBA support

You may of installed your system but it won't boot. Linux reads the registers hard coded into the harddrives and ignores the BIOS readings. Handy since the BIOS doesn't support LBA. Make sure your boot partition is at the beginning of your harddrive, below the first 1024 cylinders. The odd distro forgot to make sure the boot is at the top

Example of simple partition:

 /dev/hda 745GB Samsung 0-9732 Cylnders
Mount start End Partition FS Type
boot/ 0 1 Native [ext2]
swap/ 2 106 Swap
/ 107 19732 Reiser

Large SWAP File to boot GUI Installation

Save hassle with fdisk, prepare your first boot with the installation cd of debian CD. It kinda preps your harddrives with the nessary partitions quite well. Then go ahead and use your primary distro CD.

Monitor Discrepancy

Some monitors on old machines were not made by the company who made the machine.</p>

Finding the apporiate driver

If the graphics setup fails using SAX2, Just google "monitor [model number]" you may find that your monitor is made under a different manufacturer.

Example of such a case:
Compaq Presario 1725s Monitor is made by LG Electronics.

Old Sound Issuses

Some setups warn about probing old legacy drivers. It is ok to probe but may not provide a correct configuration, but it will generate a few options for you to try out one by one. You should look up your motherboard/Sound Card spec which would tell type of sound driver to use, if you lazy just probe and hope :D

One way to fix the symptoms described below is ose the the alternative PNP driver instead. For example a compaq Presiaro 4840 uses ESS 1688. When you start to add your driver will see there are two or so to choose from. Try the pnp first and then the others.

Common Symptoms

Sound doesn't always start
Sound works in KDE but not in NON-KDE games
PCM volume gets put to "zero". (Some apps may do this)

Perfomance Notes and Tweeks

Use KDE not Gnome (Gnome is still power hungry). Gnome is good on faster machines however KDE has been developed longer and is more efficient on slow old machines.

  • Disable Services that are not nessary
  • Reduce the ammount of terminals (leave 2 or 3 :D)
  1. edit /etc/inittab
  2. Comment out for example "6:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty6"