Reviving Old Hardware Through Linux Distributions

Each country has some type of defense technology and place and most of these technologies are somehow being run by computers regardless of how basic or how complex they are. For old hardware, finding the right board and the right system for a planned role is still complicated. But experts say that there is no hardware for which a working Linux is not available.

For convenience, however, elderly veterans and soldiers of war are rather issued the latest laptops for elderly veterans. The old model laptops and desktop computers are being revamped using Linux technology.

Resurrecting an Old Laptop with Linux

Almost each of the following aspects would have deserved its own workshop for a practical presentation. This entry-level contribution to the productive recycling, upcycling and optimization of old devices and mini-computers should therefore only address the basic and essential aspects to show what is actually still possible with old hardware.

Limitations on very old hardware

From a CPU Pentium III or AMD Athlon and a working memory from 256 MB you will always find a Linux distribution that is appropriate for the hardware. However, trying to breathe new life into old notebooks and PCs has numerous pitfalls. You should take the following obstacles into account beforehand:

  • Is the performance (CPU, I / O interfaces) really sufficient for the intended purpose? This can often only be verified by trying it out. In general, it is not advisable to plan significantly more than ten-year-old computers as a surf station. Even modest Linux browsers like Midori overwhelm old single-core CPUs under one GHz and the graphics adapter.
  • Is the power consumption of the old device tolerable for continuous operation? A PC veteran will hardly consume less than 60 to 70 watts, notebook oldies are 40 to 45 watts. A lot has happened here in the past decade. With new boards, mini-PCs and netbooks you get five to a maximum of 20 watts.
  • What operating noises does the old device cause? The question doesn’t matter if recycling takes place in a server role in the basement, but buzzing fans and singing hard drives are definitely out of place in the living room.
  • What about the device’s bootability? Old computers are often not bootable via USB. If there is no working optical drive then it will definitely be tight. Puppy Linux itself offers a makeshift installation, despite the inability of the BIOS to boot from USB (“BootFlash USB Installer”). The Plop boot manager provides USB start-up support if there is a DVD drive and the computer can boot from it first.
  • Which peripherals should be used – and are there drivers for them? Problems with the graphics adapter can usually be corrected using start options such as “Safe Video Mode” or similar. It becomes more difficult and sometimes hopeless if exotic sound cards and WLAN adapters are to be used and an exchange of the hardware is not in question, because the motive of recycling is to preserve these components.
  • What about CPU extensions like MMX, SSE, SSE2? The CPU extension PAE, which is well known to Linux users (more on that below), is by no means the only hurdle when recycling old computers. Unpleasant surprises can even be expected with oldie-specialized Linux systems: Puppy Tahr’s standard browser (Palemoon), for example, refuses to start if the CPU lacks the SSE2 extension. In the example mentioned, a Midori browser helps, but will not provide an acceptable surfing experience in such and similar circumstances. MMX, SSE, SSE2 and many other CPU properties can be diagnosed well in advance with the HDT analysis program.

Conclusion: You will still get Linux running on hardware before and around the turn of the millennium (candidates will follow below), but it will be difficult to find a meaningful role for it. Internet surfing is almost impossible, and the threshold for a data server is around 512 MB RAM and a CPU clock of one GHz. The Open Media Vault NAS system presented below already demands more (from one GB RAM). Using a veteran as a desktop system only makes sense in a narrowly specialized role – for example, as an MP3 player.