How to Revive an Old Computer with Linux

If you have an older PC that struggles to run Windows, you can bring it back to life by installing Linux. We'll show you how to install a lightweight version of Linux called Puppy Linux on your ancient PC.


Consider what you want, a desktop computer, a server, or a router/firewall.

Clean it with compressed air and test if your PC will turn on safely.

Determine what your PC will boot from (in the BIOS or manual), old ones might not boot from USB, really old ones might not even boot from CD.

If it won’t boot from CD, download floppy boot images of Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux (WakePup for Puppy Linux 1 and 2 series) and once extracted onto a floppy disk, insert them into your old PC.

If you’re on dial-up and don’t want to download Damn Small Linux (50Mb) or Puppy Linux (100Mb), then buy a CD online.

Download SliTaz, Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux and what ever distro you wish to test and burn them to cds or create a bootable flash drive.

Boot the Windows 9x computer with each version of Linux and run the computer from the CD or flash drive. See which version works best on your computer. One may not contain a driver for your hard drive that another one may include. Decide which version you are going to install permanently to your old Windows 9x computer.


Unless you have valuable data on the old PC, consider creating a swap partition (with gParted or Ultimate Boot CD) if you have too little ram (less than 64Mb) to run the distros “live”.



Turn off ACPI or APM if you have problems.

If you like Puppy Linux but 3 series is too slow, consider 2 series (Phoenix), or even 1 series (MeanPup or 109CE).

If you like Damn Small Linux, also consider Damn Small Linux-Not (with Abiword and Gnumeric) or Feather Linux (also derived from Knoppix).

If you have a serial mouse, test whether it is detected and works.

If it doesn’t, then additional configuration can be made with boot parameters/cheat codes. For dial-up modems, consider a hardware dial-up modem for maximum compatibility.

Some gains in performance may be made, once installed to hard disk rather than running live.

Also consider a “frugal installation” for performance gains.

If you spread the word, tell your friends and share Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux CDs, you can build your own local support group to help revive old PCs.


  • DeLi is good with older computers than Slitaz, Damn Small Linux and Puppy but is not live and is harder to install as it requires manual text based partitioning.
  • This old pc can be used as a file server, router, and more.
  • Choose lightweight window managers like JWM, IceWM or Fluxbox rather than GNOME, Xfce (if your computer is old enough) or KDE.


  • If power supply wires have broken do not use the PC.
  • Puppy Linux runs as root.

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