How old is an old computer?

Once in a while I wonder what people understand with an old computer. It seems some people think everything build or bought two years ago and not fast enough for the latest 3d games is an old computer that needs a lightweight Linux distribution to be useful.

Some people in different Linux discussion forums seem to think that every 32bit computer is an old computer and severely low in specifications. According to some the hardware is not fast enough if it cannot be used with every possible useless Compiz effect turned on.

I myself tend to think that an old computer is something that was build and sold at least seven to eight years ago. At the moment I have four such computers and two of them are actively used. For example, just now I write this post with an HP e-Vectra that has a 1 GHz Pentium processor and full 256 Mb of RAM. I bought it a few months ago for 50 euros that I considered an acceptable price as the computer had been upgraded with a hard disk of 250 Gb. I have been quite happy to use Vector Linux with this nice small desktop computer. Runs fast enoug for me.

On the other hand, the monitor I use is not very good. It is a 17" CRT monitor likewise by HP. I got it for free from a recycling center just like I got this nice HP keyboard. Unfortunately, the monitor must be used with maximal 100 % contrast that is the only contrast that can acceptably be read, at least when the text is black on white background.

The laptop I use for my studies is an old Macintosh iBook with 600 MHz processor and 384 Mb RAM. I got the laptop free from my father who had already two newer Macintosh laptops. I just reformatted the hard disk and installed Debian on it. Works like a charm!

I still have one Toshiba laptop with 100 MHz CPU and 40 MB RAM. I think I have Slackware 11 installed on it. For some time, I've been thinking about starting to use it again on a daily basis. I like the keyboard better than the one in iBook. And nobody would steal the laptop if I would leave it on a library desk and go to drink a cup of coffee in the café.

What is the oldest computer You still use on a daily basis? Are You happy with its performance?


Craig said...

Anything over 4 years I consider old too. My current desktop is about that age and am looking for a replacement. I also use a 12yo Pentium Pro 200 overclocked to 233MHz that was my main computer for almost 10 years. Had 128MB RAM and a 4GB 7200rpm SCSI disk that I paid a lot of money for, but I'm so glad I did back then. While everyone around me was upgrading, my beast kept chugging on. I still use it with Debian Etch & DWM and it works fine for most tasks. Runs Firefox 3.0 happily so I can surf for help when I break my main machine. ;-)

I also have an old 200mHz NEC laptop the battery died on that I'm considering using as a low power server at the moment.

Jorge said...

Too old to be useful: anything that doesn't have a LAN connection (RJ45) or -- even worse -- USB. Also, anything with less than 64MB memory.
Old but still usable: 64+MB (preferably 128+), at least 600MHz.
Slowly getting old: less than 1GHz, less than 512MB memory; anything that doesn't handle newer versions of browsers.

Sometimes a small upgrade (memory, disk, a LAN card) is enough. [Too bad sometimes -- at least where I live -- old memory DIMMs are almost as expensive as a new motherboard + 1 GB memory]

Mikko said...

@Jorge: Now that you mention it, I completely agree with the point about USB. The 1.44 disks are something I rather would not use anymore :-)

Anonymous said...

I recently gave up on a P2-266Mhz 'kitchen computer' - caseless motherboard jammed in kitchen cabinet with 15" monitor and sawed-off keyboard (yes - really sawed right off the keypad) so it fits in a standard kitchen cabinet. Closes up and hides the thing. Used to run LTSP through it, but lately was just DSL.

Wanted a bit more use out of it so upgraded to a small desktop P3-500Mhz machine with Linux Mint Fluxbox.

Regular business computer is a five year old P4-2.4Ghz, travel with a P3-500Mhz laptop for presentations.

Play games on a P4-1.7Ghz (better graphics card than the newer machine).

All machines were rescued from Craigslist or about to be scrapped, maybe an ebayed cpu or ram.

Xubuntu on everything (except the recent kitchen pc).

Anonymous said...

Also to add,

The most common reason I see for the computer-upgrade-because-the-old-one-is-too-slow is due to Windows users getting viruses and loading too many programs and clogging up the hard drive.

Reinstalling with Linux makes those machines really run well - for a much longer time yet. I do see some Linux size creep with each launch.. I used to travel with a 300Mhz laptop running Xubuntu 6.06, but it doesn't run nice with Open Office on 8.04.

Mikko said...

@Anonymous: We will probably soon get even newer used hardware for free when the people start to buy computers with Vista. :-)

rokytnji said...

Just found this blog courtesy of Mikkos sig. I guess I run old equipment.

1. I have 2 Amrel RT 686 Laptops.
2. 1 panasonic CF-48.
3. 1 Compaq 1540 DM

All work wirelessly and have internet access using different distros of linux.

KenBW2 said...

I have an (at leat) 11 year-old PC that I'm trying to bring back to life. Modern distros give me a kernel panic at boot, but I've got Puppy Linux and DSL working (the former crashes due to lack of ram). One day you'll live again :(

seksybeast said...


I have PIII Compaq Deskpro, which has 512MB ram and 650Mhz processor. It's running Debian with LAMP stack with a message board and bunch of other useful stuff like Mpd and samba. Uptime now is about 130 days. Works just great!

calvin said...

hoo rah! go old computers. great blog. thats basically all i do. i mean when you boot up your ubuntu and make it lo-fat, you wouldn't expect it to work well on a Pentium II but hey, mine is great. boots up using 45mb ram. =D

kinda just blabbing away but really cool dude, i found someone else who has alot of old junky computers and isnt afraid to use it!

drop me an email?

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cheap computers said...

I like the keyboard better than the one in iBook.

Fastest Weight Loss said...

I'd say 10 years is the age of an old computer. My current computer is about 4 years old, and still can run pretty much anything you can think of. It was practically top of the line when I got it, and so I'd imagine it'll last for a good while.

cagwait said...

Nice blog, just stumbled upon it.
Yeah i would classify a old computer now as anything less than a 1 GHz with 500MB ram. l currently run debian unstable with fluxbox wm on a 600mhz machine which i picked up for a bargain on ebay and it runs quite reasonable with carefully chosen applications.
My workplace has just upgraded its computer system and ive taken home a AMD 850mhz which was destined for the skip which im cleaning up now.