I have had an old Acer Aspire netbook for a few years now. Almost since they started dating. And it just can’t handle Windows 7 anymore – so I decided to try to make it purr with Linux again. Here is how I did it.
Old netbook photo by Shutterstock
After several trips, the trusty netbook was at a point where it was unusable. I was not fussy, I only used it for word processing and surfing the Internet. Ideal for business trips and vacations abroad. But even those basic functions were getting unbearably slow, sometimes taking a few minutes to load. But with some of the lightweight Linux distributions, the old hardware can be made useful again. Even with a depressing benchmark test like this.
My first step was to load Ubuntu. I did this quite simply by following the link on their site to download a USB installer, inserting it, and after saving all the necessary working files, launching the format.
It was all pretty straightforward. Ubuntu has done a good job. Once installed it had all the basic functions I wanted, and although I am not very familiar with Linux it was easily usable.
The problem was, it was still slow.
I hadn’t really researched the recommended specs for Ubuntu, but they are clearly superior to my netbook: a 1.67GHz Intel Atom N450, with 1GB of 1MHz DDR3 SDRAM. Loading Ubuntu had made things better, but it had essentially upgraded it from “unusable” to “unbearably slow”. I was looking for a better improvement than that.
So I sought information at super light Linux distributions, fully aware that the pendulum was swinging in the other direction and that I was passing the mark. I just wanted this little thing to lead something that wouldn’t challenge it at all.
What i decided is CorePlus, the “heavier” version of TinyCore, a super light distribution of around 15MB in total. CorePlus comes with luxuries like support for WiFi and graphics in the operating system, for the “bloated” 75MB plus size. If that couldn’t get the little guy going, then it was a hopeless task.
I downloaded the image from his site and used Aetbootin to make a USB installer. Then I started the new format on the netbook.
This time, things were a little less user-friendly, and for a newbie like me, it was harder to know what was going on. I ended up installing the operating system on the USB drive instead of the actual hard drive, and wondering why it wouldn’t boot properly. It took me an evening to finally do it right.
Here it is today, running Lifehacker:
The good news? It spins extremely fast now. There is no lag, on anything. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my newly free 250GB as all I can do is type some documents and surf the web. That’s great, and in theory CorePlus has everything I need. I could take her on a business trip, write everything down and organize everything, and be happy.
But like I said before, it goes beyond the mark. CorePlus, while being the most “luxurious” option, is incredibly simple. I don’t need anything too special, and I’m happy to work in a terminal for things like WiFi, but I’m planning to meet my netbook somewhere in the middle here.
It may take a few more attempts. I have my eye on Easy Peasy next. But I showed myself and the little netbook (which I call Mutalisk, because Starcraft fans will know it’s from A-spire… Nyuk, nyuk) that it’s possible this obsolete fossil is singing again.
It’s great to have a little netbook that I don’t really care about. It used to cost a few hundred years, and rather than spending a few hundred more now on a new one, it serves its purpose and I care even less. It’s wonderful for the thing I use it for the most – traveling – because if it’s stolen, who cares? Working in the cloud on terrible hardware – it sounds a lot like freedom.