MyStory: How I Am Using Linux On A 13 Years Old Laptop

This article is first in the series of “my experience with Linux and/or open source”. If you want to share your story, feel free to contact me: Abhishek

My Linux Story

At the end of 2013, I retrieved my old 2002 vintage Acer TravelMate 2420 laptop back from my grandson. He had had it since 2007 when I had replaced it with an Acer Aspire 5735. I swapped it back for a brand new Apple Mac Book Air, as he needed something newer and faster for his college work.

In brief, the Acer TravelMate 2420 is a 14” laptop with Intel Celeron M CPU, 512mb of memory, and a 40gb hard drive. Good basic spec with all the usual connections, and a DVD-RW as standard. I upgraded the memory to 2gb, the most it could support. It was purchased pre-installed with Windows XP Home Premium.

OK. I had an old laptop, a bit battered with cracks around the hinges, but it still worked. I cleaned it out and re-installed XP. At about that time, Microsoft confirmed that they would be pulling the plug on updates and support for XP on 14th February 2014. So I thought to keep it as a spare.

[irp]

Then, in February and March 2014, Computer Active magazine ran a series of articles, ‘Windows XP Survival Guide’. Parts 4 and 5 were ‘Switching to Linux‘ and ‘Make Linux more like Windows’. With nothing to lose, I bit the bullet and so started my Linux journey, and the introduction to ‘Free & Open Source Software’.

Following the articles, I installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, then the Xubuntu XFCE desktop, and finally installed the ‘Windows 7 theme’. It looked good and had the familiar look and feel of the Windows 7 that I was used to on my second laptop.

Then, I found Distrowatch.com. This opened up a whole new world of opportunities. Looking at the Distrowatch ‘hits’ list, I decided to try Linux Mint 15. What a delight, the familiar look with none of the hassle, nor any cost. It took a while to come to terms with ‘the terminal’, but I had the time. Finally, along came ‘It’s FOSS‘ with news, tips, and tricks to help me understand what Linux is all about and to give support and information about what others are using Linux for in this great world we live in.

Over the last 18 months, I have installed a number of Linux distros (I learned the jargon too), and finally settled on LXLE 12.04.3 (now at 12.04.5). What a gem. Fast, simple, easy to maintain. With the age of the laptop, I had to stick with the 32 bit architecture. Using all the free open source packages to do everything that had previously cost me a fortune, all for nothing. That’s what FREE means to me.

13 years old laptop running Linux

This is my workhorse computer, all of my routine daily tasks are done on this 13 year old Acer laptop. Like me, it might be past it’s prime but it still capable of a good day’s work.

This year, I have converted a further five laptops, of various makes, onto the Linux platform. A friend’s Acer to LXLE, two neighbours’ laptops to Linux Mint 17.2 xfce, my wife’s Dell to LMDE v1 Cinnamon, and my own Acer Aspire 5735 to Linux Mint 17.3 ‘Rosa’ Cinnamon. All run LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Chromium, Brasero, and GIMP, giving them compatible software to those previously used in their Windows 7 or Vista environments.

I am enjoying my journey with Linux, proving to myself that no-one is too old to learn something new, and am looking forward to many more excursions down the FOSS way. (That’s a play on words folks. The Fosse Way is an ancient Roman road in England, running 280 miles from Exeter in the South-West to Lincoln in the North-East).

For those already on a similar Linux journey, you will understand my enthusiasm for Linux and F.O.S.S. For those yet to join us, go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

In the end, my thanks to It’s FOSS, DistroWatch and ComputerActive magazine for giving me the information, support and confidence to embark on this wonderful journey.

Roy Davis

Roy Davies

A 70 years old former Production Engineer. I retired 15 years ago, having worked for 40 years for the motor industry in the UK.

The article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated since then. Roy notified me that his beloved laptop finally died.

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  • Hi Abhishek , i need to install Linux os on my 13 years old pc and while installing error
    came that “you don’t have overlapping partitions” this message was shown in gparted , so how to fix this ?

    • I don’t know for sure but it seems like your system is using the old partitioning scheme and that doesn’t allow more than 4 primary partitions. You’ll have to merge a couple of partitions and then use the last partition to create logical partitions in it.

  • I just installed windows 7 home premium back on a laptop i scored for under a hundred bucks and super enjoying the fact that if something doesnt work i can cry and whine about it to microsoft. But linux is fun to fix because i learn alot in the process. For example i disnt even know what a .cab file was until i ran into a wifi card driver problem.

  • One of my favourite machines is my Thinkpad R50 of 2003 vintage, running happily Xubuntu 16.04 32bit, on a 1600×1200 screen. And I am typing this on this machine with 1.5G ram and with the best laptop keyboard that I ever had under my fingers. I really hope that there will be some more years of 32bit Linux ahead….

  • I am typing this on a second hand Dell Latitude D520, which has a Intel core 2 duo CPU, 1 GB of RAM, and is running Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce. I replaced the 160GB HDD with a 320 GB model, and it’s working just great :)

  • Hi Roy,

    Great read. I relate absolutely with your experience.

    I’m 67 years old. I started with Ubuntu 9.04. I am typing this on a single core AMD Athlon PC with 1.5G ram and Xubuntu 15.10 installed in a 12G partition in a 200Mb hard drive.

    I still have XP on dual boot but use it only to check and repair the NTFS filesystem on my external hard drives and internal data partitions. I use NTFS to keep compatibility with the occasional Windows computers elsewhere.

    I am at present using Xubuntu 15.10, 15.04 and 14.04 on different notebooks, netbooks and PCs – most of these in a small network in a school’s library used for video streaming and student assignments and printing to a networked Ricoh multifunction printer/copier/scanner. Scans can be sent over the network to a several of the PCs. Two netbooks are connected to old 15-inch monitors and external keyboards and mice.

    None of the students coming in use Windows on these machines. Two PCs have XP on dual boot but these have never been used for at least 2 years. Except for one quad-core PC, all the others are single-core mostly with 1G ram and a couple with 2G ram. No student has complained about the speed. In fact, they are all pretty snappy.

    I hope more people will consider keeping their old machines and use them with a light Linux distro. Ubuntu (Unity) is not quite suitable because it uses more resources and requires more powerful hardware and more ram to run smoothly. In fact, I have put the word out to friends if they have old notebooks or laptops collecting dust to let us have them for the students’ use.

    Dan