I have an old desktop computer which I am trying to install Linux to. It looks Dell-ish to me. So far I have tried Linux LiveDVD (I have no LiveCDs) and the computer only has a CD drive. The BIOS is too old to support boot off of USB, and an attempt at using Ubuntu's Wubi software failed, saying that it could no install. The computer has the ability to boot from floppy. I have 5 floppys, but both old computers (Windows Xp Pro and Ubuntu Linux 10.10) collapsed in uninformative IO errors every time I tried to read or format them (even dd didn't work). I may be able to get my hands on some different floppys, but I need to get Linux on this thing. I think the computer has:

  • A CD drive
  • A floppy drive
  • Etherent Internet (shared through another computer)
  • An Intel CPU
  • Windows XP Pro
  • Plenty of spare hard drive space
  • USB ports

I have a multitude of DVDs at my disposal, I might be able to get some floppys, a Linux Live USB, a Mac, and a Linux laptop. How can I install Linux to this thing? NOTE: I have physical and admin access on all of the computers. EDIT: The computer currently has Windows XP Pro.

EDIT: I solved this problem by going off and getting some floppys and a stack of 30 CD-Rs. Thank you for putting up with the bizarre question.

EDIT: This computer seems to be borked. I am going to be trying to figure out how to pull out the hard drive and access it through a computer, as opposed to a heap of overheating electronics that are old and dusty.

  • what os does it have now? – Journeyman Geek Dec 21 '11 at 23:39
  • Windows Xp Pro. I also have another old computer right next to it running Linux, it that helps. – Linuxios Dec 21 '11 at 23:42
  • I guess I'm a bit confused; the obvious first choice would be to download and burn a LiveCD of whatever distribution you prefer. Can you identify why this is not an alternative? – Myrddin Emrys Dec 21 '11 at 23:54
  • I don't have any CDs. Only DVDs (45 of them). I was just wondering if there was a way to do it with existing hardware. As I said, I may be able to get my hands on some working floppys though. – Linuxios Dec 21 '11 at 23:56
  • 2
    It is possible to install Ubuntu using only floppy drives: help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/WithFloppies – iglvzx Dec 22 '11 at 0:09

I've used unetbootin from windows to bootstrap installs before - assuming you have sufficient hard disk space and ram (i'd recommend using a minimal install disk) and preferably a wired internet connection. No cds or floppies required, but you will either be booting a disk image or using said disk image for a 'proper' install

If its an older system, you would be best off with debian or vector linux light

  • I've got plenty of hard drive (at least 60 GB) and the computer has 1GB RAM, so I think that will work. I'll try it! – Linuxios Dec 22 '11 at 1:24
  • I didn't work, failing with the error that it could not find the GRBLDR because /dev/sda0 was NTFS and the rest were NULL. Any thoughts? – Linuxios Dec 22 '11 at 15:35
  • hm, /dev/sd entries are supposed to start with 1 not 0. Something is a little odd here – Journeyman Geek Dec 22 '11 at 22:31
  • Maybe it was /dev/sda1. I was not paying terribly much attention. To the lovely stacks of numbers scrolling down the screen. – Linuxios Dec 22 '11 at 22:33
  • hm, the fact that its ntfs should not be an issue, unless perhaps the drive was not cleanly shut down – Journeyman Geek Dec 22 '11 at 22:49

Sorry if I'm misinterpreting your post here, but if the old computer only has a CD-ROM drive, have you tried buying some CDs to make a liveCD? Are you in a time crunch and can't make one?

Is the hard drive IDE? You can get devices that allow you can plug an IDE drive into and then plug it into a newer computer via USB. You could always try and get a hold of one of those and use the new computer as "proxy hardware" to install the OS on the HDD and then move it over to the old hardware once it's done.

  • I know that I could use a CD, and there was no misinterpretation here, but I was wondering if there was a way to do it with my existing resources. And, as I said, one of those things will be floppy drives soon. I was hoping to avoid buying any hardware (although I may be able to get a CD soon. Maybe.) – Linuxios Dec 21 '11 at 23:54
  • Oh OK, got ya. Yeah, at this point I've given up already and have headed down to the store to buy some cds :) – Safado Dec 21 '11 at 23:57
  • I'm feeling persistant today. Anyway, buying CDs for this one computer seems like a grand waste of a few dollars (especially when I have 45 4.7GB DVDs sitting around). – Linuxios Dec 21 '11 at 23:59

I would guess you have a second computer available, and that is what you are using to access superuser? Why not temporarily pull the DVD drive from it, and attach it to your old box. Do the base install, and the return the drive.

  • Not an option. The other two computers are a laptop and a Mac Mini. – Linuxios Dec 22 '11 at 1:22

I ran out of options and patience for this. I scraped the computer, saved the hard drive, RAM, floppy, and disk drive, and got rid of it. Even after trying to boot from a Ubuntu LiveCD, a Smart Boot Manager floppy, and a DSL CD, nothing has worked. Niether has the proposed solution of unetbootn. Sometimes hardware is too old to easily salvage. I now have a different old computer that runs Linux like a charm (its an old Dell). The one I scraped was Sony, so that might have something to do with hardware support. But I also have an old Sony VAIO that runs Ubuntu perfectly (Xubuntu 10.04). Gotta love hardware computability with Linux.

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