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I have a friend who wants to learn unix-like CLI (linux or anything, doesn't care) for some web admin tasks (installing apache and so on)

He only has very old hardware to spare:

  • AMD P6 II 300MHz
  • 64MB RAM
  • HD is more recent: 60GB

I tried the latest Debian & Ubuntu server- to no avail, or I would not have slept all night because of the sheer noise of the computer fan- but I digress...

Do you know any modern linux distrib that supports such an old hardware? Or should I use a very old distrib? (Debian Potato comes to mind)

Or is the hardware definitely too old?


The problem I have with both Ubuntu and Debian is that the installer stalls at 74% (languages, locales). The requested language is Swiss French with a Swiss keyboard (QWERTZ). I don't know if it is relevant...

Also note that (although it will change later, of course) the box did not have any network connection. It may look strange for a would-be server, but it's only for learning at home.

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I started running Linux on 386 computers with 4M of RAM. It is not too old. – Michael Dillon Nov 5 '09 at 8:56
Debian Lenny should run on such hardware easily. Maybe you should describe what your problems are with your install. I've got it running on a machine with similar specs. – sybreon Nov 5 '09 at 10:08
@sybreon: thanks for your comment, I updated the question accordingly. – cadrian Nov 5 '09 at 10:16
Incidentally you should be able to pick up some dirt cheap second hand RAM. Which would boost what is currently the weakest element of the system. – Dan Carley Nov 5 '09 at 11:14
You say he has spare hardware. Does that imply he has proper hardware, on which he could run linux virtualized? – Posipiet Nov 5 '09 at 11:58
up vote 4 down vote accepted

OpenBSD will run fine on that spec.

It was the first sans-GUI operating system that I sank my teeth into many years ago.

Indeed I still ran some of those same machines, at much lower specs than you give, until recently. When I got tired of the clutter, noise and power consumption.

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According to the Damn Small Linux wiki, the minimum requirement for Damn Small Linux with X-Windows is 64 Mb. Also, according to this Pupply Linux Forum, you can run Puppy Linux on a machine with 64Mb of RAM.

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+1 for puppy linux – phoenix8 Nov 5 '09 at 12:07
And another for DSL. Simply amazing to get that functionality out of what, 50MB? – pboin Nov 5 '09 at 20:10

I suggest to you to install Debian by netinst and setup only what you need (apache, etc). Debian NetInst

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If the aim is to learn the Linux/UNIX CLI, does he have a relatively recent PC/Laptop that can run VirtualBox and just install Linux/BSD in a VM?

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+1 It's clearly a better solution than installing Linux on an old harware... – sebthebert Nov 5 '09 at 18:08

On that hardware, I'd really be going for NetBSD, FreeBSD, or OpenBSD. Linux is a bit heavy on 64MB of RAM of late without going to uLibc and other stripped/non-standard/embedded solutions. Debian netinstall or Slackware would work also. Unfortunately, they don't hold a candle to the BSD documentation (and if he wants to learn the CLI, the FreeBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD handbooks are priceless).

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I have Centos 5.3 (no GUI) on a 400MHz PIII with 512MB of RAM running Hylafax, Nagios, MRTG and Apache as a proxy server. As that isn't much better than what your friend has, Centos may be worth a try, especially if you leave off the gui. I've tried to find the minimum hardware requirements for Centos but can't find them.

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i started with freebsd and til this day, the mail server at my old job (5 yrs ago) is still running it. Now I manage a RH network and they have pros and cons to both.

share|improve this answer above link has so many distro you try from them.

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