I have an old laptop someone gave me that only has 64Megs of RAM on it and runs WIN XP. I wanted to wipe the drive clean by installing Ubuntu Desktop to remove any shred of personal information on it and to make it useful to someone else. But the Ubuntu installer keeps failing because there is not enough RAM. Is there another version of Linux that would easily install on a 64 Megs of RAM system?

2nd part of question, what do I do with this old laptop? It doesn't have a battery anymore and has to be plugged into the wall to run. Assuming I can install a good Linux distro on it, who do I give it to? Salvation Army? I'm looking to just have it be useful to someone or some organization for spare parts or some basic computer usage.

  • About clearing for sure the existing data, you might want to check this question : superuser.com/questions/10114/dispose-or-recycle-hard-drive – Gnoupi Sep 3 '09 at 12:40
  • Destroying the hard drive physically is probably going to prevent him installing Ubuntu on it. I suggest this question's answers instead for wiping the hard drive: superuser.com/questions/4678/… – jamuraa Sep 3 '09 at 12:44
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    The question I linked to is about clearing data, with it working after too, not only destroying (even if it proposes ways for this too). About the question, something is surprising me. 64mb of RAM, and WinXP runs on it ? Or there are some tweaks that I'm unaware of, or you are very patient. – Gnoupi Sep 3 '09 at 13:34

A "boot and nuke" CD is the way to go, something like http://www.dban.org/ should do the trick. This will allow you to securely and easily wipe the hard drive.


I've donated my obsolete machines to Goodwill. They have an agreement with Dell where the machines are recycled. You could also look for local charities that might have a need for computers, or perhaps your local library.


Here's a list of very small (and therefore probably low on RAM usage) Linux distros. Damn Small Linux is probably best for you since it is designed to use a GUI and be extensible via APT.

But you can first start Linux via Live CD and run something like dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/sda to wipe the HD.

As for who to give it to, there are few people for whom such outdated hardware would be useful enough to deal with its limits. Perhaps just put it on ebay or craigslist for free.

  • I was just about to mention giving it to people interested in old hardware. Beat me to it :) – Isxek Sep 3 '09 at 13:42

You will have to look at older versions of lightweight distros such as Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux or other versions that run XFCE as the GUI. They can run on 64mb. More of the current versions require atleast 128mb.


I think PuppyLinux can manage with a very small footprint.

The Minimum Hardware Requirements page.

CPU : Pentium 166MMX
RAM : 128 MB physical RAM for releases since version 1.0.2 or
failing that a Linux swap file and/or swap partition is required for all included applications to run;
64 MB for releases previous to 1.0.2
Hard Drive : None
CDROM : 20x and up


If the laptop is not much use to you then it's unlikely to be much use to a charity.
When I've tried to dispose of work machines in the past I found that charities that redistribute computers have a minimum specification they accept which would be higher than that of your old laptop.

Once you find a minimal Linux install you could try some of the ideas at Instructables such as the Hanging Laptop Digital Painting.

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