I hate to see older tech being thrown out and was recently offered a Toshina Equium A200 laptop. My mum has owned it for over 10 years. Spec wise it has a 1.73Ghz Pentium processor and maxes at 2GB of RAM. As a daily driver this was getting very long in the tooth but my mum hung on to it until it really did struggle.
I know it very well. I have had it many times to clean up and speed it up a bit, until it just got too much. However, my mum is a Windows user and this machine really was couldn't cope anymore.
So when I was offered it, I immediately thought of wiping it and installing a version of Linux on it. The beauty of Linux is it runs a lot smoother than Windows and with the many distros and desktop environments you can tailor it to you hardware.
My first hurdle was this only has a 32bit processor which means it won't run the latest versions of Mint – as they require 64 bit - and that also means Google Chrome is out of the picture as it also requires 64 bit. Chromium is OK, but it suffers from a lot of plugin issues. However Firefox still seems to be working with a lot less tweaking.
So I plumped for Linux Mint 19.3 and being a low end machine I decided to go for the XFCE edition as it uses less resources.
I booted to the live version via a USB stick and set the installer going. Installation was quick even though this machine has a standard hard drive, which must be over 10 years old.
Installation was complete and all hardware was detected and automatically set up. Compared to Windows (which really struggled) Mint XFCE was very smooth and I was very surprised just how well this ancient machine handled.
Don't get me wrong, it isn't going to win any speed awards, but with the right OS on it you can extend the life of it.
It will primarily be used as a home learning machine for doing school work at home, along side watching Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube. It just about copes with this although full screen video really pushes it. Steam – which my son was hoping it would run – requires a 64-bit processor so that is a definite no no.
Time will tell whether this can cope with being a daily driver under Linux, but so far it is managing far better than I thought it would. Google Classrooms and Google Meet seem to run, but it is clear that it is pushing its hardware limits.
Switching from its original hard drive to an SSD made a huge improvement, but this only affects loading speeds and the operating system. It will only make minor improvements to hardware performance.
This is a 13 year old laptop with limited hardware. The 32-bit CPU and 2GB RAM ceiling really are its main limitations because it stops modern OSes running fully and the RAM is quite low by today's standards.
On the whole I have been impressed how this machine can run with a choice of lightweight Linux and a few tweaks. It has certainly given this struggling machine a last lease of life, but for how long I don't know.
My son is using it daily and I am sure there will be things it cannot cope with, but for now it is handling his home learning work well and given the current COVID19 situation here in the UK where he is doing school work at home that is more important.
I do plan to replace it with something slightly more modern. After all, my Dell Latitude E5410 is only a few years newer but having a 64 bit processor and maxing at 8GB RAM makes a massive difference, running the latest Linux Mint Cinnamon Edition at amazing speeds.
Once again Linux saves the day.
Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at twitter.com/simonroyal