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I found an old computer with no OS, and I'm trying to get it working with Linux (I started with Fedora 19, then tried all sorts of Linux flavors), but I can't load anything on it because it doesn't recognize its original DVD drive, won't recognize any new ones, doesn't have an option for USB booting and nothing works when I preload an OS onto its drive.

Any ideas are welcome.

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How old? Does it have any OS on it now? As is, we really have nothing to work on - throw us a bone here. –  Journeyman Geek Aug 7 '13 at 5:06
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Even old computers can boot from the CD drive. Maybe you're putting a DVD media in a drive that only supports CDs? Or maybe its CD drive is damaged. The easiest solution might be to replace its CD drive. –  Niccolo M Aug 7 '13 at 6:02

3 Answers 3

Try Plop Boot Manager. It is free software designed for use on old machines made before booting from USB was possible (or common, really). Just put it on a floppy (assuming you have a floppy-capable machine) and point your BIOS at the floppy instead of HD/CD/USB/whatever. It will then present you with a menu letting you choose which device to boot from. That is, unless you have a hardware issue that prevents your optical drives from showing up...

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Get a PCI or PCI-E network card and PXE boot a Debiain net-inst from a TFTP server. Use TFTPD32 if you have a Windows system connected to your network and are in a pinch. It's likely that your onboard NIC supports PXE boot as well.

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PXE boot is good thing to try in this scenario (+1). –  Nikolay Aug 13 '13 at 18:28

I would try Linux Zenwalk. This is Slackware based GNU/Linux distribution which can run on relatively old hardware:

Zenwalk GNU/Linux can run on any modern or semi-old computer (Zenwalk is optimized for the i686 instruction set, but backward compatible with i486). These are the minimal hardware requirements to run Zenwalk in Xwindow mode, with correct performance (some lower configs work - ie : PII - , but might be slow) :

 Pentium III class processor
 256 Mb RAM
 4Gb HDD
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