Ubuntu 6.06 installation on Legacy PC (low RAM)

Oh, God! Thanks a lot for making me learn more on Linux!
Oh, Ubuntu! Thanks a lot for giving me a stable complete system!
oh, My Wife! Thanks for caring me to work over night!
Oh, My child! Thanks for motivating me with your flash smile!

It is a lot of pain and patience to install Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake LTS on my legacy (to some extent) machine. My machine is of PIII/192MB/20GB/Intel-D815-Chipset. The real problem of installing Dapper on this machine is due to low RAM. I was able to run Live Cd of SimplyMepis 3.4.1.rc1 in excellent speed and able to install during live cd session without any issues. But Ubuntu’s installation was not so easy. I had discussed with Ubuntu forums on compatibility of this machine with Ubuntu. Many Ubuntians had warned me and wished best of luck. Yes, it is true. I had a lot of patience to install Ubuntu. But after installation, it is -breezy- -breezy- -breezy- that is what I can say. Everything (yes, ***every hardware***) worked out of box with nice configuration. To my surprise, all applications are flying like jet. I don’t find any difference between working on PIV/512MB system and this legacy system. You might have read so many reviews about Ubuntu desktop system, so I need not to tell you more on that. But I want to summarize some of the important precautions/steps/consideration while installing Ubuntu 6.06 on any legacy system with lower RAM.

Upto Ubuntu 5.10, we did not have such installation problem on legacy machine. But since Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) has become Live CD (**complete** live cd), it is not cope up with the lower RAM. Here are tips to install Ubuntu 6.06 Desktop successfully on a low end RAM system. What I am suggesting here are more safer to install and increase the chance of successful installation.

1. Boot your machine with Live CD either with option-1 (Start or Install Ubuntu) or option-2 (generice video driver mode). Ensure that you are getting desktop after a few minutes.

2. Don’t click Install icon on desktop. This installation tool is a great one, but not yet stable. This tool in turn call GParted for disk partitioning while installtion, which is also not stable. Don’t run GParted which is available on System->Administration menu also. In my three installation of Ubuntu 6.06, I have faced problem of crashing of GParted consistently. Let us utilize fdisk for partitioning work.

3. Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 to go to console. You will have already live cd user logged in shell prompt.

4. Try to allocate a full hard disk for Ubuntu installation. This technic is to avoid calling GParted in installation wizard. (Console work: You no need to do anything on console)

5. If you want to partition the hard disk for other OS also: Make sure that you have a large free space (not partitioned) available for Ubuntu installation (min 2GB). For example if you want to allocate 10GB for Ubuntu, create a 10GB free space by deleting the existing partition. No other free space size on this hard disk should be more than this 10GB of free space. This technic is to avoid calling GParted in installation wizard. (Console work example: $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda)

6. This is very important. Since live CD creates a root file system on RAM, the installation wizard has no enough RAM to run. This is the most common reason for installation hang. To avoid this we can create a temporary swap partition of atleast 256MB (512MB is fine). (Console work example:
(a) Create swap partition: $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda
(b) Make swap file system (hda5 is swap file system in this example): $ sudo mkswap /dev/hda5
(c) Add swap to the running system: $ sudo swapon /dev/hda5
(d) Make sure that swap is live: $ sudo swapon -s

7. Press Ctrl+Alt+F7 to go to desktop. Don’t run any other program in desktop (please cool, wait! don’t listen music while running installation). Double-click install icon on desktop to run Installation wizard. Now it should not take more than 20 to 30 minutes for entire installation.

8. Ubuntu will create / and swap partition automatically. If you want seperate /home partition, you can add it any time after installation.

Bottomline: 1. Avoid running GParted (use fdisk). 2. Make swap file system available for running live system.

Top moral: Linux makes you to customize your installation according to your hardware configuration. It does not warrant any strict configuration. It is all about choices and freedom.

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  1. I installed Ubuntu 7.1 on a PIII 800 Mhz with 256M RAM. It is a laptop w/out CD, so I had to use a USB CD Drive. I tried the old fashioned way and after 5 hours, I was on step 3/7 and decided to search the forums. This post helped me tremendously, so I am just posting a useless-to-other-readers THANK YOU.
    One possible improvement would be a link on how to use fdisk for beginners, and possibly also what the “swapon -s” results should look like. Imagine you dont understand what fdisk is, then this truly-helpful article becomes useless at step 4,5. Just find a good link, and reference it. Cause ubuntu is all about putting linux in everyones hands, and some havent taken fdisk-101 yet ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. i just cannot start ubuntu after some time i get dialog box with window manager then blank . how do i run ubuntu on my celeron 1.1 with 128 ram .help

  3. hi
    i tried to upgrade my dot-station ram 64mb to 128 rm but the system not started except one bip sound. help me to solve this problem and my external hard disk, card reader can not work on thi system. help me out

  4. I did as you followed and when I return to the desktop and click on the install button. nothing happens. I dont see how to make the swap size a certain size (i.e. 256 or 512). I did not see any options for that when at the shell prompt.

    I have a Maxtor hard drive and it was not listed, so I choose “0” for drive type and chose the defaults (Just hitting enter key with no user inputs).

    What am I doing wrong?

  5. Hi Thomas Mariarty,

    1. Sorry for the typo in the article. It should be “Ctrl+Alt+F1”. I have corrected.
    2. Yes, Console is like DOS prompt, but much much powerful.

  6. Thanks for this helpful article. However, I get stuck at step 3. I am an experienced Windows user (since 3.1), also used CP/M and DOS, but new to Linux. I press Ctrl-Alt-1 and nothing happens. Where am I supposed to find this console? Am I right that a “console” is something like a DOS prompt?

  7. Hi,
    After a great effort I finally installed Ubuntu. I have a Pentium 3, with 192Mbytes of RAM and 2 of 40Gbyte hard disks. XP on one and I wanted to install Ubuntu on the second one. I managed to follow the instructions to make the swap file and I ran the installer as described in the very good instructions. But every time I got as far as 15%, “installing the file system”; the system stopped and I had to reboot.

    My success came when I made 4 partitions using the System Manager on XP. I made it so that I had no partition bigger than 10Gbytes and a free partition of 10Gbytes, as the man said. So that makes 4 in all, oh and a swap file of 512Mbytes. Then I said use /dev/hdb – the second hard disk, and use free space, or something like that.

    Now when I boot up I get a menu with about 5 options, Windows XP being one of them.

    Looks good so far, and very fast. Thank you.

  8. >From above discussion I am not very clear about what happens to XP?
    Ubuntu will detect windows installation and give option to boot in windows during startup.
    >Does it works if I use this sequence of commands?
    >$ sudo mkswap /dev/hda5
    Ensure that you replace hda5 with your swap partition number.

  9. Hi,
    I am new to linux.I have a PIII with 192MB ram and Have installed XP already.I do need to install Ubuntu 6.06 from live CD and have 10GB free space.
    What are the exact steps I need to follow? From above discussion I am not very clear about what happens to XP? My XP is in C drive and I want to install Linux in Drive E and I have formatted it already.
    Since I have only 192MB I have to go to command line to create a swap space before installing from desktop.I have observed the commands
    $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda
    is used in example for both creating a large disk space and then to create a swap apace.Does it works if I use this sequence of commands?

    $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda
    $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda
    $ sudo mkswap /dev/hda5
    $ sudo swapon -s
    And then normal installation sequence .

    Please somebody guide me.

  10. Hi Stuart,

    Regarding swap: Create swap partition: $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda

    It will prompt you with “m for help”. Press m for help and follow the instructions to create a new swap partition (If you already have swap partition, you can ignore this step)

    Regarding CD Boot: If you are able to use Live Disk, your system is bootable via CD Drive. Then if your CD-Driver is also a burner, then you can burn the iso file image into CD-R Disc and use the same for booting.

  11. I’m having problems in the terminal. This is my first time using Linux by the way. I type in sudo fdisk /dev/hda and I get a message about number of cylinders for that disk. Then it says Command (m for help):
    and if I put in the next step sudo mkswap /dev/hda5 I get a list of Drive Types going from ?,0,a-z and I’m told to select a type. If I type “sudo swapon /dev/hda5” it just does nothing. What am I doing wrong? Also my cd rom drive doesn’t say CD-R on it, if I try booting it with an ISO burned to a CD-R will it work? (Using Live Disk at the moment).

  12. Great tip! Works for Ubuntu 6.10 as well. I was stumped by the installation on my old laptop with 256MB RAM; now it’s up and running. Thanks!

  13. Excellent advice, I should have thought of this but didn’t. I stumbled across this site while I was installing Xubuntu 6.10 on a 400MHz AMD K6-2 machine with 128MB of RAM and just after reading this entry I noticed the installer froze (after having a very sluggish time of it before that as well).

    Doing this seems to have fixed it and I’m wondering why I didn’t think of it since I’ve done this before with at least one other Linux installation as well.

    Thanks though, much appreciated.

  14. Hi.

    Yes, I forgot to mention, I did get 6.06 Live CD installed successfully using the method above on the Celeron system.

    Re: Alternative CD – it would have been an option – if I had known about it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Depending on CD size, it would have been another week to D/L it on dial-up, so I used what I had ๐Ÿ˜›

    But all running OK, so I’m happy.

    Keep up the good work guys!

  15. Maybe a small note to be added to this article for clarity:


    e) NOTE: The point of this is to minimise RAM usage – therefore we want to choose ‘Use maximum continuous unpartitioned space’ or similar – this avoids having to load GParted?, avoiding excess RAM usage/and/or bugginess due to low RAM/GParted stability issues… therefore avoiding the install crashing for whatever reason it was doing so before.

    So we DO NOT want to select ‘Manually partition harddisk’ – we use command-line fdisk/cfdisk instead, or ‘Use maximum…’ as per above, then continue with the install.

    I hope someone finds this update useful, as I found the article extremely useful.
    May need editing to get the point right, but it is basically there.

    FYI: Celeron 400MHz/192MB RAM – install was hanging/crashing on endless loop while attempting to run ‘Use manual partitioning’.

  16. Hi Vijayakumar,

    I think you mean this http://www.dotstation.info/ configuration. I believe that it comes with some customized redhat linux; erasing it, Win-XP is installed. With 64MB RAM, you can’t install Fedora Core. It takes around 100MB for a running system if you want graphical desktop.
    1. You can try Arch Linux for such low end system if you have some linux experience.
    2. Otherwise I hope this link http://avilella.googlepages.com/inteldotstation will be more useful for you.
    3. You can try Damn Small Linux (DSL) or Puppy Linux also which can run very well on low end systems.

  17. Hi, I am having Intel dotstation with 300MHz,64MB RAM. Presently running Windows XP. I want to install Fedora Core. Please guide me. Thank you

  18. Hi!
    I ‘ve a celeron 1.2Ghz 128MB RAM 30GB PC with Windows Xp. I tried top install ubuntu 6.0 with the free installation CD (live CD). After asking for the option to boot, I choose 1st option of install. Then i see some programming being done & there is some checking also with every answer as OK. thereafter a brown screen appears & i see a dialouge box. On it i see, ubuntu logo & “windows manager” as text only. Then, nothing happens & only the brown screen remains. If i try to eject the cd, it is not possible & i can hear the cd being used. Ultimately I ‘ve to restart the PC forcefully.

    Plz guide me how to solve this prob. Thanx in Advance.

  19. Thanks for sharing your experience, MattJ. Yes, you are right, alternative-cd’s one of the purpose is our case. But this posting guides install the Ubuntu 6.06 with ***Desktop CD*** on low memory legacy PC. This guide may be helpful for someone who ordered/burned desktop cd (without knowing that there is an alternative cd for this purpose).

  20. Hey, I have PC with about the same spec, but it is a 100MHz.

    I still managed to install Ubuntu (well, Xubuntu – faster!) using the ‘Alternate Installation’ ISO provided on the download page. It is not a LiveCD, but takes you straight to a text-mode installer.

    Installation was simple (though long), and system worked fine, except a problem with an old graphics card I have. This was easily fixed, after I visted #xubuntu :).

  21. your comments really helped.. i’ve been struggling with an Intel Dotstation C-300 with 128 MB RAM and i was about to give up on Ubuntu.. anyways in my struggle i have deleted the swap file on the hd.. my machine only allows to boot through an USB-CDROM.. so the live CD has no hd on boot to create a swap partition and with only 128 mb ram i can’t reach the console to create a swap partition.. so you see i am really stuck.. is there any hope or I have to upgrade my ram to be able to reach console?..

  22. Thanks a lot. I actually did install on a brand new machine. However, I opted for a cheap machine to add in our small internet cafe. Its sister machine worked fine with Windows XP, but I really prefer Ubuntu. However, your posting made me realise that the limited RAM I opted for caused the problem. I’m going to see how it performs after the install completes. The above makes me hopeful that we could possibly manage with the lower RAM. If not, I’ll just have to expand it! Thanks for bringing a depressing struggle to an end!

  23. Thanks a lot! My problem is a little bit different, but your solution is great for me. I was able to install ubuntu on my celeron 1.7G/512M pc regular way, but I prefer Kubuntu and when I try to install it, the partition utility hangs consistently. Iยดm gonna use your solution right now.

  24. I am very new to linux. I am trying to load an IBM PIII laptop with 192 mb ram; I tried making the
    $ sudo fdisk /dev/hda5 file like you said but after I exit and try to swapon it says- swapon: cannot stat /dev/hda5: no such file or directory

    I think I am doing something wrong thank you for your help!

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