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Installing native Linux on an external hard-drive to be used internally in an ancient Pentium I Hi, I have some small experience with Linux - back in my university days, ...
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  1. #1
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    Installing native Linux on an external hard-drive to be used internall


    Installing native Linux on an external hard-drive to be used internally in an ancient Pentium I


    Hi,

    I have some small experience with Linux - back in my university days, the computers in the student's computer lab in my faculty were running Linux, but as I was always logging a laptop around, I hardly ever used any of the school's computers, and when I did, it was mostly to run SPSS, which ran on Windows systems, so I didn't to use Linux much at all.

    I've been meaning to correct that oversight for years, but usually I was loath to install a 2nd operation system on a computer already running a perfectly good one, be it Windows or Mac OS.

    Now, however, I have a unique opportunity to do just that.

    I was cleaning the attic and found my very first laptop, from the mid `90's. Most of the time, I throw away old laptops when they break down, and it isn't economic to fix them, so I end up buying new ones. This one, however, I set aside because my father bought himself a new laptop back in 99, and he gave me his old one, which was superior to mine, so I migrated. Which meant I now had a working laptop sitting around, and so I kept it as a backup system and dumped it in the attic - and promptly forgot about it.

    It is a Pentium I, 120MHZ, 16MB RAM (basic + extended).

    It used to have a detachable CD player - which is missing, and a detachable 3.5" floppy disk drive which is still present, but as I don't actually own - or have access to - any other computer with a floppy disk drive, (nowadays, when new computers no longer come with as much as a CD/DVD-R drive, finding a FDD is nigh impossible) it is pretty much useless for my purpose. The PCMCIA modem seems to be missing, too.

    So basically, there's no direct input method for downloading/installing anything on the computer.

    I found a way around that, though.

    The hard-drive, however, is also detachable in its small drawer, so I pulled it out, connected it to an IDE(44 pin)-to-USB adapter, plugged it in to my newest laptop as an external storage drive, and wiped the hard disk clean in preparation for installing the new OS on it - through the newer computer.

    Then I started googling all sorts of combinations of "Linux" and "old computer", "Pentium 1", "small distribution" &etc. and started looking up small Linux distributions that work on an ancient computer like that one, and that's when business started getting confusing.

    First I took a look at Lubunthu and Bodhi Linux, but they seem to be relatively huge. (The computer's hard drive is only 3 GB large, and I farther partitioned it in two, thinking to re-install Windows 95 - if I could get my hands on a copy - on one partition, and Linux on the other.)

    I then looked at even smaller distributions like antiX Linux and Slitaz, and further under-sizing to Puppy Linux, (or WaryPuppy, its distribution for old computers,) but even that probably won't reboot on my computer. DamnSmallLinux and even TinyCore Linux just might, but I got confused again.

    It seems all Linux distributions - whether large or small, are either for 32-bit or 64-bit computers, and I haven't figured if my computer is a 32-bit one, or is it only 16-bit? I'm thinking the Pentium is a 32-bit processor, I was pretty certain of that, but then the hard drive says it's formatted to use 16-bit words, so I'm not entirely sure.

    And further more, I'm going to install it from a computer running Windows 7, but not on a hard-drive the same computer would be ruining but on the one for the old laptop. So I got completely confused with which kind of download I should go for - a live installation? A full installation? A frugal one? A download for installation from windows? Add to that, I'm pretty confused as to how exactly I am supposed to install Linux in the first place - I don't seem to see any executable files I could run, so I'm pretty much at a loss.

    I've read through several threads and articles about running Linux on old computers, but it's been my observation that what most people posting on those threads refer to as "old computers" I think of as "has it really been that long?" computers. I mean, Intel Celeron, phew, that only came out practically the day before yesterday!

    Most of those discussions, when talking about "really old computers" refer to Pentium IIs and IIIs with a minimum of 500MHz and 256 - 512 MB of RAM. Which apparently places my "old computer" in a category all of its own. Probably about the time dinosaurs walked the Earth.

    I decided there was no resort other than asking the community directly.

    So my question is, which distribution you think would best suit my needs, what kind of an installation I should download, and how exactly to go about installing it on the old hard-drive connected as external HDD to a new computer.
    Last edited by teledoR; 09-02-2013 at 09:52 PM.

  2. #2
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    Your best bet will probably be Tinycore which is what became of DSL. When Damn Small Linux stopped develoment, some of the developers moved on and developed Tiny Core. It is a 12MB download. Next best is probably Slitaz which in its current version is 36MB.

    A Live CD of a Linux distribution will usually boot and you can use it the same way as an installed system except that it is a read-only system and nothing is saved on reboot. The CD will also usually have an option to install once you boot to the Desktop. The installation from windows will usually be something like a virtual machine. Ubuntu and many of its derivatives have a program called 'wubi' (different names on different systems) that installs Ubuntu as a program inside windows and creates a menu entry in the windows bootloader. Another option is software such as unetbootin or pendrivelinux (as well as others) which have versions you can run in windows with the primary purpose of creating a Live/Install CD on a flash drive.

    I don't seem to see any executable files I could run
    If you mean files with an 'exe' extension, you can stop looking because you won't find any as Linux doesn't label executable files with that extension.

    If it is post 1995, you should be able to attache a CD drive to it an boot it. I can't imagine it would boot from a flash drive.
    The problem you will have if you put the old hard drive in the new computer to do the installation is that the hardware on the new computer will be detected during the installation and you will have problems with pretty much everything when you put it in the old computer as all the hardware will be different.

    If you are really up for a challenge, you could try older versions of Slackware which is the oldest Linux version still existing. You can download from the site below. If you've not used Linux before, I expect it would be very problematic. I believe Slackware 1.0.1 was released in mid 1993.

    Older versions of Slackware
    Last edited by yancek; 09-02-2013 at 11:17 PM.

  3. #3
    Linux Guru rokytnji's Avatar
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    I own a old door stop like you have.

    http://i44.tinypic.com/1t3fk7.jpg

    I have installed and ran
    FreeDOS | The FreeDOS Project
    blueflops | Free software downloads at SourceForge.net
    KolibriOS official site
    MenuetOS

    Those are your choices for a inexperienced Linux user. Not much will be capable with that

    120MHZ, 16MB RAM
    I have not tried installing the below on top of Freedos because they charge for it.

    NewDeal Office 3.2a

    Forget Bohdi,AntiX,Lubuntu,Slitaz with a GUI on that boat anchor. If I sound harsh. It is probably because I have spent wayyyyyy toooooo muchhhh time trying to make that
    boat anchor of mine into a viable appliance. Linux or no Linux.

    As far as installing goes. For Blue Flops. Just leave the hard drive in the notebook and boot the external floppy drive. For cd Install. Pull the drive and install via external like you planned. When it comes time to install the boot loader (grub). Install to MBR on the detached external drive of the notebook.

    Welcome to some frustration and long hours. Happy Trails, Rok

    Edit: @yanek, His ram will choke on loading any Tiny Core or Slitaz gui I bet.

    P.S. Mine is 16bit pcmcia and I have the dial up pcmcia modem and a Wireless B Netgear 16bit pcmcia card (no encryption possible) that goes with my boat anchor.

    Maybe? Maybe Not.

    http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=51478
    Last edited by rokytnji; 09-03-2013 at 12:13 AM.
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    teledoR,
    I think Blueflops is your friend here, IF you can get someone to make floppies for you. Same for FreeDOS.

    I had a real honest-to-goodness IBM Thinkpad with a 386-33MHz, a 60MB HDD and 12MB of RAM. It was running Windows 3.11 on DOS, then I decided I wanted Linux on the machine instead. okay, go: Debian Slink was the best avaialble then, but anything with a floppy boot is good. I used the floppy I had on my 486 at the time to format floppies. For Windows use rawrite.exe to put the boot image on a floppy, for Linux use dd; the processes are well documented. Booted from floppy, told to install, inserted driver floppy when told in order to use a PCMCIA ethernet port to get the rest of the distribution from an externally shared CDROM. I wanted to add mc as a program, so I had to compile it externally, ftp it onto the Thinkpad and put files into the right locations to make it work. No X, but I probably could have used twm if I had to. Joe, ispell, lynx and mc were my programs of choice and I liked it!

    YOU, on the other hand, might have to trick it... The USB attachment for your 3GB drive might look like a USB disk instead of a PATA disk. If so, see if Unetbootin will just install an older Debian onto it. You'll have to get the older version, slink or potato, as an iso file and point Unetbootin in that direction. Stay away from Gnome or KDE from the time, they were not nice graphically. twm or fvwm or even Windowmaker might do if you need X, but there exist CLI programs for graphics, if you must have them.
    ALSO must do:
    - pre-format the HDD as follows: 25-30 MB for swap, 200MB for / and the rest for /home. I say this as the older distro will not take much room and the /home will make the drive portable if necessary. Use ext2 for / and /home.
    - Be prepared to use LILO instead of GRUB as the older ones didn't have the option; GRUB was available later as an add-on. Either way you'll have to edit a conf file to change the boot disk to hdd1 instead of sda1 or whatever.

    Ask!

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    Oh dear...

    Quote Originally Posted by yancek View Post
    Your best bet will probably be Tinycore which is what became of DSL. When Damn Small Linux stopped develoment, some of the developers moved on and developed Tiny Core. It is a 12MB download. Next best is probably Slitaz which in its current version is 36MB.
    So I guess even DSL won't work for me?

    A Live CD of a Linux distribution will usually boot and you can use it the same way as an installed system except that it is a read-only system and nothing is saved on reboot. The CD will also usually have an option to install once you boot to the Desktop. The installation from windows will usually be something like a virtual machine. Ubuntu and many of its derivatives have a program called 'wubi' (different names on different systems) that installs Ubuntu as a program inside windows and creates a menu entry in the windows bootloader. Another option is software such as unetbootin or pendrivelinux (as well as others) which have versions you can run in windows with the primary purpose of creating a Live/Install CD on a flash drive.
    But that's not what I'm after.

    I'm looking to install Linux on a hard-drive partition of its own, a native installation, I believe it's called. Only I want to install it on the had-drive while it's physically connected to another computer, because that's the only way I can access it. And in this case, the other computer is a Windows machine, so I have to install from Windows, but not inside or around Windows.

    If you mean files with an 'exe' extension, you can stop looking because you won't find any as Linux doesn't label executable files with that extension.
    So what files am I suppose to look for? (Assuming I will be installing from within Windows...)

    If it is post 1995, you should be able to attache a CD drive to it an boot it. I can't imagine it would boot from a flash drive.
    It's a laptop, I can't just pop it open and put hardware in. And this laptop is weird. Like I said in the OP, it has its extremities in detachable drawers you can pull out and replace with other drawers - and the CD-drive drawer is missing, unfortunately.

    The problem you will have if you put the old hard drive in the new computer to do the installation is that the hardware on the new computer will be detected during the installation and you will have problems with pretty much everything when you put it in the old computer as all the hardware will be different.
    Oh, I haven't considered that.

    If you are really up for a challenge, you could try older versions of Slackware which is the oldest Linux version still existing. You can download from the site below. If you've not used Linux before, I expect it would be very problematic. I believe Slackware 1.0.1 was released in mid 1993.
    I'm probably getting ell over my head here...

  6. #6
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    Thanks for your prompt reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
    I own a old door stop like you have.

    1t3fk7.jpg
    Add another inch or so of thickness and you get my machine...

    I have installed and ran
    FreeDOS | The FreeDOS Project
    blueflops | Free software downloads at SourceForge.net
    KolibriOS official site
    MenuetOS

    Those are your choices for a inexperienced Linux user. Not much will be capable with that



    I have not tried installing the below on top of Freedos because they charge for it.

    NewDeal Office 3.2a

    Forget Bohdi,AntiX,Lubuntu,Slitaz with a GUI on that boat anchor. If I sound harsh. It is probably because I have spent wayyyyyy toooooo muchhhh time trying to make that
    boat anchor of mine into a viable appliance. Linux or no Linux.
    Just so I understand - those Linux distributions are prompt line only, with no GUI?
    If so, I might as well give it up for a bad job at the outset. I stopped using DOS ages ago and never looked back. Much.
    But the computer should be able to use a GUI - it ran Windows 95 or 98, I don't remember which - and Win95 was distributed on a CD, but also on floppies. so it shouldn't take much more space than maybe 20 MB, I think. If the computer was able to run that, surely it should be able to run a comparable Linux system, dont you think? I mean Linux, it is said, had a similar GUI back then, and even earlier than Windows got it.

    As far as installing goes. For Blue Flops. Just leave the hard drive in the notebook and boot the external floppy drive.
    I don't think I even know anyone with a floppy-drive. My dad's office used to maintain a couple of old DOS machines just so they could run some software they commissioned back in the `80's, but they finally gave in a few years ago and got new software - I think off the shelf this time - running on new computers, and threw the old ones away. Not that it would have mattered - my dad has retired back in July.

    For cd Install. Pull the drive and install via external like you planned. When it comes time to install the boot loader (grub). Install to MBR on the detached external drive of the notebook.
    Could you please elaborate on it? Just so I know we're on the same wavelength here.

    Quote Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
    Welcome to some frustration and long hours. Happy Trails, Rok

    Edit: @yanek, His ram will choke on loading any Tiny Core or Slitaz gui I bet.

    P.S. Mine is 16bit pcmcia and I have the dial up pcmcia modem and a Wireless B Netgear 16bit pcmcia card (no encryption possible) that goes with my boat anchor.

    Maybe? Maybe Not.
    Thanks again.

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    The installer will ask where you want to install the Master Boot Record: on the boot sector of the primary internal or on another disk. Choose another disk, your 3Gb-USB.

    Also, the installer will write a conf file that thinks the (temporary) external disk is external only, and the internal disk is not the boot disk. When you put the 3Gb back into the older laptop it'll try to boot from the external disk which that machine will not have. You'll have to edit /boot/grub/menu.lst to change the boot order to internal first. When the installation is complete and all the files copied, reboot onto the external (still plugged into the newer machine). Edit the grub.conf to reflect your desired boot order then run update-grub after editing the menu.lst file.

    I think you'll be better off without a GUI. You can install gpm (general purpose mouse) to have a mouse for copy/paste, and later maybe find a GUI. But first get the machine running.

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