Would like to install Linux on an old AST laptop without a CD drive

Posted on 2005-04-25
Last Modified: 2013-12-05
I have an AST laptop Pentium 133 with 24 MB of RAM and a 1 GB hard drive.  I would like to install a small distribution of Linux on this machine to use for internet browsing.  There is not a CD drive in the machine only a floppy.  Is there anyway to connect the laptop's hard drive to another desktop to place a generically configured OS and then move it over to the laptop?  

The laptop also has the ability to use a CD drive I just do not own one.  Is there a connector that would connect the laptop to a regular CD drive from a desktop?  

If either one of these options are not an option is there a Linux distribution that could be installed via floppy?

Thank you for helping me with my OLD laptop!

Question by:johnsonconsult
    LVL 38

    Accepted Solution

    check this one: FD Linux

    Or you can check
    Here is a lot of Linux version run from floppy.
    LVL 9

    Expert Comment

    I've used Debian on lowball laptops like that.  Just need the first couple install floppies then do a network install (provided you have broadband and your nic is supported).  Typically old laptops like that can only run X at either 640x480 or 800x600 and often only at 256 colors...won't be too good of a browsing experience.  Also, don't try to load up a full blown window manager like KDE or Gnome (they may work, but you'll be looking at roughly a 30-60 second delay from double clicking a desktop icon until the app loads...painfully slow).  Try Blackbox or other low-resource, no frills window manager.
    LVL 9

    Expert Comment

    >> Is there anyway to connect the laptop's hard drive to another desktop to place a generically configured OS and then move it over to the laptop?

    You can buy 2.5" to 3.5" laptop IDE adapters....~$5 on ebay, ~$15 at local computer shops for the whole kit (adapter and 5 1/4" mounting bay for permanent desktop installation).  It'd be a pain, but possible (I'd rather do the floppy/network install).  If you have a spare old box kicking around (even a 486) that you could throw a bare bones nix distro on, you could do that then install the 2.5" IDE adapter, hook up the laptop drive (I usually do it as a master/only drive on the secondary IDE channel so you don't need to worry about jumpering anything), then "dd" the working bare bones drive (/dev/hda) to the laptop drive (/dev/hdc).  Not sure if you have to do it partition by partition (/dev/hda1, /dev/hda2, etc) or just from the drive itself....haven't needed dd in a while but easily found on google for proper drive cloning syntax.  Also might be an issue w/ drive sizes, but you chould be fine if the old desktop hd is 1 gig or smaller.  Also, on the bare bones install on the desktop, I wouldn't bother with X and just set that up once back in the laptop (using whatever package management your chosed distro uses....apt-get, rpm, etc).  Google around for what video chipset your particular lappy uses, that way you don't need to waste space downloading a bunch of XFree servers you won't use.  You can usually find old references in misc forums where someone needed help setting up X when their (now ancient) laptop was new...might need to use googlecache for some no longer available.  My P133 was an IBM thinkpad and it was relatively easy to find the info I needed when I did a whole Debian w/ X setup on it (that was the one I had to wait 30-60 secs before anything opened when using Gnome lol).  I've also had success setting up slackware on a P200 Inspiron, and a no-X (I think SuSE) install on a 16 meg 486 compaq laptop (several years ago....SuSE 6.0 I think, haven't powered the thing on in a couple years).  I also have a 486-100 tablet pc (fujitsu) that I've researched getting nix on to...and that one will have to be a "dd" method since it has no other media reading USB, no CD, no floppy.  I just haven't gotten around to messing w/ it yet but many people have had success and all the info is googleable.
    LVL 38

    Expert Comment

    > 24 MB of RAM and a 1 GB hard drive
    With this kind of hardware specification and a Linux newbie, I usually won't recommend the
    installation with a lot customization involved. Being simple will be the major concern.
    However, as fixnix pointed out, internet browsing is resource consuming.
    So you will feel very slow when you try to bring up the webpage......

    I would say, those kind of low end hardware configuration, it good for playing around the Linux
    command-line commands and server softwares configuration (sendmail, dns, dhcp, samba).
    Web browsing or word-processing, you have better find another PC with more memory and disk space.

    Author Comment

    If I do a network install the laptop does not have a network port.  I do have a wireless PCMCIA card that I can use it is a Trendnet TEW-421PC.  Is there a distribution that I can boot from a floppy with network support and that will recognize my network card?
    LVL 38

    Expert Comment

    > Trendnet TEW-421PC
    Wireless is quite new specially 802.11g (54mbps).
    I could find any small Linux distribution have driver built in for this card. Regular PCMCIA Ethernet card (3Com) might be.

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