What’s the best Linux distro to use on my ‘old’ Compaq Presario S4200NX?

Kenneth Rath March 19, 2013
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Trying to decide on the best Linux distro to use on my “old” Compaq Presario S4200NX.

Here are some specs:

Compaq Presario S4200NX
Intel Celeron 2.60Ghz CPU
250GB IDE Hard Drive
LG SuperMulti DVD-RW / CD-RW
PNY NVidia GeForce FX 5200 256MB PCI Video Card
Intel 82845G/GL/GE/PE/GV (on board) Graphics controller – not used
Dell P780 17″ CRT Monitor

It currently has WinXP SP3 Pro and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS in a dual-boot setup. The initial install of Ubuntu went ok. However, it was a big headache trying to get Ubuntu to recognize my video card and monitor properly.

I’m trying to decide if I should stick with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or look at a different Linux distro that might be easier to setup or “recognize the system better”.

If anyone thinks a different Linux distro would work better then please let me know.

Thanks! :)


  1. Ala Hu
    May 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    http://distrowatch.com/search.php?ostype=Linux&category=Old+Computers&origin=All&basedon=All&notbasedon=None&desktop=All&architecture=All&status=Active go to this link and choose one based on your preference! I just did this for an insanely old (13 yrs) computer.

  2. fallen heart
    April 17, 2013 at 7:04 am

    head to distrowatch.com it willsurely help.

  3. dragonmouth
    March 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    To all those recommending Mint or some version of *buntu to Kenneth, that will not solve his problem since all those distros use the same Ubuntu core. If he has problems with Ubuntu, he will have problems with any of its derivatives.

  4. Chris Marcoe
    March 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I was looking around for an answer to this question yesterday and the best answer I got was Lubuntu. Mainly because the system requirements were pretty low and it is very small. Not memory intensive at all. So, I'd try that or one of them that is in the article Chinmay Sarupria linked.

  5. Arpit Nadda
    March 25, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Well, you can use Lubuntu or Xubuntu as these are pretty light flavours of linux. I prefer first to try Ubuntu as it might slow down your system as it did to mine. Linux mint too is a good alternative. I recommend only 32 bit versions. However if these too are heavy then go for puppy linux as it is lightest I have used.

  6. Kenneth Rath
    March 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Thank-you to everyone that responded. I appreciate all of your input.

    • dragonmouth
      March 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Sorry but I did not read your question carefully the first time around.

      Your problem is NOT the distribution you are using. The problems is your nVidia video card. For some reason Linux (any distro) and nVidia do not play well together. You need a different driver than the one that was installed by default. Go into the Ubuntu package manager and execute a search for "nvidia". You are looking for a driver with "173" in the name. "GeForce FX 5200" should be mentioned in the description. Install that driver. After you restart X, you should have no problems with Ubuntu recognizing or configuring your video card.

      If you do not have performance problems with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, you do not need to change distros, especially to a "lighter'" one. Your PC can handle any current distro comfortably.

  7. susendeep dutta
    March 20, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Graphics drivers are very troublesome point in Linux OS itself.It can be attributed to the manufacturers.

    So,you can try Linux Mint as it's simple for a Windows user.

  8. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I'm a fan of Puppy so I encourage you to try which one out of three flavors work well with your computer. It's slim and quite versatile.

  9. Réy Aétar
    March 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

    In my experience i found fedora having better hardware support then ubuntu still it varies please try it
    but i dont think u have better option then xp
    if u want to try linux remove the graphics card things will work fine with the onboard chip

  10. Junil Maharjan
    March 20, 2013 at 6:10 am

    I once tried a few distros on my old pc - linux mint, ubuntu, lubuntu, puppy linux, mostly ubuntu based distros. I found that ubuntu was the best of them regarding the installation and the hardware support so i have been sticking with ubuntu. I do like linux mint but ubuntu has been the best for my hardware so i suggest you to do the same.

  11. Yashodhan Bhatt
    March 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Fedora would run equally well..

  12. Rajaa Chowdhury
    March 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I would highly recommend Bodhi Linux. I have installed it in similar hardware and it works like a charm. http://www.bodhilinux.com/

  13. Chinmay Sarupria
    March 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    MakeUseOf has an article on lightweight linux distros for old PC/laptops.

    • Chris Marcoe
      March 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you for this link. I immediately went to it and it made up my mind about Lubuntu. Hopefully, being 2 years old, it is still valid info.

  14. ha14
    March 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    you have to try other linux in order to see which one will work wit your laptop, start with linux mint.
    3d won't work. It'll run in 2d mode, though, automatically.

    Installing Ubuntu on Compaq Presario F733AU Laptop with NVIDIA m7000 chipset

  15. dragonmouth
    March 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I have couple of PCs of the same vintage as yours. On one I use SimplyMEPIS and on the other I use PCLinuxOS. Both are user friendly and have no problems recognizing older software. Both distros are also easier to set up to your wants/needs than any of the *buntus, especially when it comes to uninstalling packages you do not need.

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