linux unable to boot please use a kernel appropriate for your cpu

I own an older Dell Laptop--works great--no hardware or software issues running Windows XP Pro. I would like to change the OS on this laptop to Ubuntu (or some other free linux consumer desktop). The problem is no matter what linux distribution I use, or if I try to run one from a USB drive I get this error
[unable to boot please use a kernel appropriate for your cpu]
I have tried debian, fedora, mint, & ubuntu
Initially I thought it was because I was using 64bit installs but I made sure I used only 32 bit installs and all got this error. This is the Dell I am trying to install this one Inspiron 8600 Intel Pentium M 1.5Ghz. 1) Why am I getting this error when I am using i386/32bit distributions and 2) Do you have suggestion of a Linux OS that will work--thank you
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAsked:
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elvaninetoConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You can use a non-PAE kernel for Ubuntu. Try this process to solve your problem:

http://www.webupd8.org/2012/05/how-to-install-ubuntu-1204-on-non-pae.html
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Update
I did find this link (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD) and have been to use that to install ubuntu (its working as of 10AM EST today). Hopefully I will be able to upgrade from the Minimal install to the full features "package" once this install is done.
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Darr247Commented:
Try the Live CD of CentOS and if that boots OK, go for the install DVDs from
http://ftp.usf.edu/pub/centos/6.3/isos/i386/
(note torrents are available there, too.)
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Live CD of CentOS gives the same error

http://www.webupd8.org/2012/05/how-to-install-ubuntu-1204-on-non-pae.html
It installed but there is nothing on it--no browser. Was able to install VLC but I must say after all the complaints I heard about MS and how people said Linux is so much better, so far I must strongly disagree. I had to enter my password 4 times just to install VLC--is this normal for Linux distributions or is this due to this been a minimal install and what can I do to get it to be a "normal"  internet/entertainment desktop?
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Darr247Connect With a Mentor Commented:
I'm downloading
http://mirrors.usc.edu/pub/linux/distributions/centos/5.4/isos/i386/CentOS-5.4-i386-LiveCD.iso
right now, and I have one old single-core pentium M I can try it on (a Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop)... once it's installed, the online upgrades should keep making a compatible (32-bit non-PAE) kernel.

The oldest I see on USF's mirror is 5.8.
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVEConnect With a Mentor Topic Advisor Commented:
I've had one of the older Fedora distro's running on the Pentium-M notebook I had back then. Don't know the version but here's an old one for you to try:

http://archives.fedoraproject.org/pub/archive/fedora/linux/releases/7/Live/i386/Fedora-7-KDE-Live-i686.iso
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
@gerwinjansen I will download it and give it a try after the one Darr247 gave me but I have a question about "old" version--once you ahve it installed can it then be upgraded (how?) to the newer supposedly better and user friendlier desktop interfaces?
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVEConnect With a Mentor Topic Advisor Commented:
>>  can it then be upgraded
Well, the issue is that the newer releases have newer kernels (you have the issue with those). I'm not sure but am thinking it's not very likely that you can upgrade to Fedora 18. I've been installing Debian on an old PC a few months ago, did you try Debian? Get one here: http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/current-live/i386/bt-hybrid/
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
I did not mean an upgrade to the latest kernel (OS version) but to the latest desktop. It is my understanding that you can have more than one interfaces to the OS (am I wrong Gnome, KDE, etc.). Are you saying these are kernel dependent? If not, how do I, can I get the latest interfaces once I can get something to bootup. I did try debian (got this from the readme html file (This disc is labeled Debian GNU/Linux squeeze-di-rc2 "Squeeze" - Official Snapshot i386 NETINST Binary-1 20110121-20:12). I got the same error message using it.
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Went ahead and downloaded http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/current-live/i386/bt-hybrid/--already had it, already tried it--same error.
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elvaninetoConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You tryied the link that i have posted KERNEL NO PAE?
http://www.webupd8.org/2012/05/how-to-install-ubuntu-1204-on-non-pae.html
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Boy since my last post I have tried so many distros that I can't think straight (it has been a somewhat fun experience learning  more about Linux so that's a good outcome of this) but the only one that I can get to install on my non-PAE laptop is a Ubuntu mini 12.4 non PAE distro but that "resulting" desktop has nothing on it, no software with the menu bar on the left side of the screen with NO ICONS (only a "greyed" out strip from top to bottom). How can I get the interface and features to include more of what is found on a regular non-mini distro? How do I test out/try out other desktops/features?
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Lionel MMSmall Business IT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the help.
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