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I have a very old laptop. It runs Windows ME, slowly. It has too little memory to run Ubunto off the CD. It showed the text/list based UI that gives the option of trying so or just installing it on the hard disk, but it just kept loading off the CD forever. I didn't want to risk breaking it permanantly by deleting the Windows OS that does work. Sort of.
I only require an OS to be as friendly as the old list based DOS shells, so Ubuntu may have been overkill, anyways. I won't use it online, its only connection with the outside world will be through CDs and USBs and of course the keyboard & screen. I really want to be able to keep using the USBs, because it would be tedious to copy data from Laptop to PC by hand typing.

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sounds very much like this question:… ... you might want to go through the [linux-distributions] tag for other similar questions: – quack quixote Dec 11 '09 at 19:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Feather linux or if you are a little more technically inclined Arch (a little more difficult to set up, but really a nice distro).

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Xbuntu - DSL - Puppy Linux -

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not sure xubuntu's memory req's are significantly lower than ubuntu's... – quack quixote Dec 11 '09 at 19:25
@ quack: not really, no :) – Molly7244 Dec 11 '09 at 19:41
They are a quarter of Ubuntu's. Although for a Windows ME laptop, that is still too much. – Macha Dec 12 '09 at 17:38

MacPup runs happily on old machines (even from CD or USB), using less than 40 MB of your precious system memory, yet offering a flashy GUI and all the goodies you expect to find in a modern Linux distro.

download size: ~150 MB

p.s.: i recommend the previous 'Opera' release over the new 'Foxy' for such an ancient system. Opera is easier on the scarce system resources than Firefox and the theme is nicer, the 'wood' theme in Foxy has some readability issues.

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