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What's a good OS for a pentium 1 or 2?
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Author:  mathias [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:06 pm ]
Post subject:  What's a good OS for a pentium 1 or 2?

And by that, I'm also thinking about not necessarily just the OS in and of itself, but possibly also something to do with one a bit beyond that.

For a pentium 1, I'm thinking freedos. For a P2, maybe reactOS or perhaps text mode linux. Maybe even and old version of windows, though that would be kind of ugly(except of course with a replacement GUI).

I know some people run graphical linuxes on P2s, but it seems like a pain having such a slow system, I don't think it's really worth using as a general purpose machine anyway, and I've heard that text mode/curses based MPD is quite good for mp3 playback and such.

Oddly, pentium 1s seem kind of more worth re-setting-up, if the two systems I have are at all typical. It's smaller, probably much better suited for dos compatibility, though pentium 2s still had ISA slots(all of them and even some P3s, I think) and of course quieter, just replacing the hard drive with a comptactflash card would probably make silencing one pretty straightforward from there.

So, DOSes seem particularly interesting to me. I'm wondering how good freedos is, I know dosbox has moderately good compatibility, which seem to be mostly restricted by computing power limits (I've never tried dosbox with a classic dos), so it sounds like it would be pretty good running natively.

Oh, and relating to this, I'm interested in a text/document/whatever editor that's good for writing long winded notes and such. Doesn't have to be something highly tweaked for printing out presentable documents like essays, reports and such, just something that makes writing stuff down neat, if anyone happens to have some thoughts on such a program.

Author:  DanceMan [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

The amount of ram is more important than cpu speed in the question you're asking.

Author:  mathias [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

I doubt the amount of ram has to be that much of an issue, with ones this old I think people repurposing them will tend to take the ram and such from a few systems and put it into one.

The CPU is important too, some of them run rather hot, and there's even some old programs that will not work if the CPU is over a certain speed.

There's another thing that can be important, whether or not there's any USB or perhaps some other form of flash memory.

But like I was getting at, I have something more like a single purpose machine in mind, not a general use PC.

Author:  DanceMan [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

mathias wrote:
I doubt the amount of ram has to be that much of an issue, with ones this old I think people repurposing them will tend to take the ram and such from a few systems and put it into one.


Sigh.

If you immediately disregard the answers, why bother asking the questions? Computers in this class are limited in the amount of ram they will take, no matter how much you have laying around. The amount of ram will severely limit the programs that can be run, first and foremost the browser. An old browser will be insecure; a current version won't run in small amounts of ram. Hence the amount of ram becomes critical unless you don't intend to have it on the internet. If you only run old office apps, it isn't so important, but who now will toss internet capability?

Author:  mathias [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:13 pm ]
Post subject: 

Actually, I don't have an internet connection there where I'm considering most uses for one of these, and I don't think a pentium 1 can have much ram no matter what, unless it's using some motherboard that's intended more for K6-2 chips and such.

Still, one of these takes so long to boot up a relatively complete system, I don't think a lot of people would be able to tolerate that these days.

:sleepy:

I get your point that ram is important for more normal PC's, but I'm thinking a PC of this speed is much better for just a limited set of features, like with connecting one to a stereo or TV....

Author:  ilovejedd [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

Windows 98SE seems to work quite well enough. Boot-up isn't what I'd call instantaneous but it shuts down faster than I have time to blink.

Author:  jhhoffma [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:43 am ]
Post subject: 

If you liking DOS as an OS, then RAM is not important. Most DOS-era programs really want to fit in the original 640K of conventional memory, and are not written to take advantage of extra EMS memory (all the RAM except for the 640k reserved for conventional memory).

I hated DOS back in the day. It seemed like you had to have a separate boot disk for every program: REM this, @echo that...ugh. Glad to be rid of it.

I think alternative OSs are the way to go for you. By staying with Win98, you'd be limited to older hardware/software anyway. Check out FreeBSD or maybe a light Linux distro.

Author:  psiu [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:39 am ]
Post subject: 

Well as it has started to be discussed, depends on if you want to connect to the internet--if so, then Linux is probably your only bet for a modern secure system.

Otherwise, you can set up a retro gaming system with whatever you want to use on it--dos, win95, whatever.

Or use something like Virtualbox and play with all this stuff virtually.

Author:  mathias [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 8:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

jhhoffma wrote:
I hated DOS back in the day. It seemed like you had to have a separate boot disk for every program: REM this, @echo that...ugh. Glad to be rid of it.

Multi boot? Classic doses were limited to 2 gig partitions anyway.

psiu wrote:
Well as it has started to be discussed, depends on if you want to connect to the internet--if so, then Linux is probably your only bet for a modern secure system.

I suppose something like haiku isn't worth it unless you're seriously interested in contributing to it?

Author:  jessekopelman [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 9:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

I don't see how heat is problem for P1. I'm almost certain my 200MMX didn't even have a heat sink. Also, GUI shouldn't be an issue if you stick with something that predates 3D acceleration. Windows 95 certainly ran fine (not that I'd run such an unstable OS given the choices now available). That would open the door for all sorts of X11 stuff on a Linux OS.

Author:  syllopsium [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:57 am ]
Post subject:  NT 4 or a low end Unix

Memory is the important part here. If you're lucky and can stick 256MB in there, XP might be doable.

NT 4 is remarkably light on memory. I have a 20MB 486DX running NT4 and utorrent without many issues. That would be less than trivial to do with any vaguely modern Unix, allowing for the same functionality (yes, including a decent web interface to the torrent). You will, however, potentially need the large disk driver for NT 4. Of course it's also extremely out of date and potentially insecure, so cannot really be recommended.

Otherwise I prefer BSD Unix. NetBSD or OpenBSD. Both are pretty light on memory. FreeBSD and Linux can probably work also.

I'm using a Neostation 3000 - basically a low power AMD Geode system. Pentium 1ish technology at 233MHz or so. It's completely silent, consumes 12W, runs NetBSD and is capable of running various services. Cost me a tenner.

I also have a Cyrix MII-300 based system (Pentium IIish technology). It contains a graphics card, an AWE32, a SCSI card, a Voodoo2 card and an MT32 and a Sound Canvas linked up to it. It works as a DOS/Windows 98 games box and an OS/2 box. Power consumption/noise are not really important as it's only switched on when I need it.

It should be noted that the 486 consumes about 30W - it really is not terribly power efficient. A lot of that is from the old PATA hard drive.

What do you actually want to do with it?

The above set up works for me, but the bittorrent and Unix shell box could easily be replaced by one more powerful Unix box. If you can easily repurpose some old kit it might be worth it, but starting from scratch I'd recommend something more powerful. Multiple low power low speed boxes are generally worse than one higher speed higher power boxes.

Author:  syllopsium [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:10 am ]
Post subject: 

jessekopelman wrote:
I don't see how heat is problem for P1. I'm almost certain my 200MMX didn't even have a heat sink. Also, GUI shouldn't be an issue if you stick with something that predates 3D acceleration. Windows 95 certainly ran fine (not that I'd run such an unstable OS given the choices now available). That would open the door for all sorts of X11 stuff on a Linux OS.


Your memory is faulty. Early P1 (P60/P66) ran very hot. Later ones ran less hot but often required a heatsink. P200+ usually added a fan.

My neostation 3000 has only a heatsink. The metal case is very warm to the touch.

Author:  jessekopelman [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

syllopsium wrote:
Your memory is faulty. Early P1 (P60/P66) ran very hot. Later ones ran less hot but often required a heatsink. P200+ usually added a fan.

My neostation 3000 has only a heatsink. The metal case is very warm to the touch.

You're sure I'm wrong yet you wrote often instead of always . . ? It's possible I misremember and there was a heatsink, but I remember being very surprised by what was on the P4 I bought to replace it (which was barely more than chipset cooler by today's standards). There was definitely no fan on the CPU. Very loud case fan, though. This was a very late model 200MMX, by the way. Bought it new in 1998.

Author:  jhhoffma [ Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:03 pm ]
Post subject: 

My P60 had no heatsink on it, but my P75 did. 1st was a Packard Bell, 2nd was an Acer.

I hated both.

Author:  scdr [ Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:24 am ]
Post subject: 

For a graphical operating system, on P1 or P2, Win 98SE is pretty good choice.

Have an old P1 (233) that connected to a cheap scanner to use as a photocopy machine (copy receipts and rebate forms and store them on disk). Runs Win98 SE. It has served well. Boots faster than many other machines around here, and shut down fast also. (Of course it isn't bogged down with a ton of programs - all those anti-virus, firewall, drivers, etc. slow a system down a lot.)

P2 will run Win98 well, Win 2k okay (as others indicated, lots of memory helps).
Could also consider small linuxes, like Puppy or DSL.

Author:  colm [ Fri Oct 23, 2009 9:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

win2k without the fancy graphics. It is still one of the smartest large working ability machines with a tiny processor I have ever run...xp can shut down some things, but 2k is still the champ . It was one of my disappointments upon getting xp. It stayed a hog in more ways than I could keep up with.
I ran a 233, an amd 233, and a p2 350. Very clever. never ever go for win98 kernel32 again. it is a disaster forever.

Author:  Chris Chan [ Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:10 pm ]
Post subject: 

I liked Win2k on my Celeron533 (P2ish tech at a higher clockspeed) with 160MB of RAM.

Now I run Debian 5.0 + LXDE on my sister's Celeron500 tablet with 128MB. I want to upgrade the RAM.

Skip XP. It blows goats given anything less than 512MB.

98SE was a screamer on my P2/300/256MB, but 98-compatible apps were a pain in the butt to find. Tried Ubuntu on it. Too lazy to configure the ISA soundcard. Too slow anyway. Then I raided the box for parts.

Personally, I wouldn't run any OS that is not receiving security updates anymore. This means no DOS/95/98/Me/2000. (Only because most of what I use a computer for requires the internet. If you're running a single player classic gaming machine, go run whatever.)

These Linux distros are light and meant to be run on old hardware. I've not tried any of them recently though.

DeLi Linux http://www.delilinux.de/
Puppy Linux http://puppylinux.org/
Damn Small Linux http://damnsmalllinux.org/
Zenwalk http://www.zenwalk.org/ (tried this several versions ago on a Celeron1700)

Author:  zodaex [ Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:12 pm ]
Post subject: 

Chris Chan wrote:
Personally, I wouldn't run any OS that is not receiving security updates anymore. This means no DOS/95/98/Me/2000. (Only because most of what I use a computer for requires the internet. If you're running a single player classic gaming machine, go run whatever.)


What the hell man? That's not True! Windows 2000 users are still receiving their new security updates just fine like they always have for the last decade. Security updates don't end for win2000 until this July!

Author:  stevea [ Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:14 am ]
Post subject: 

freedos is (last I looked a couple yrs ago) an open source clone of MS-Dos. No real feature upgrade. I'd consider it a Neanderthal OS, (a kernel actually) and not viable myself.

There are several Linux distros specifically aimed at low dram and legacy cpus. Check out puppy Linux for example.

Author:  zodaex [ Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:22 pm ]
Post subject: 

stevea wrote:
freedos is (last I looked a couple yrs ago) an open source clone of MS-Dos. No real feature upgrade. I'd consider it a Neanderthal OS, (a kernel actually) and not viable myself.

There are several Linux distros specifically aimed at low dram and legacy cpus. Check out puppy Linux for example.


+1 Vote for Vector linux. Great for old CPUs and low memory systems.

Author:  ntavlas [ Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have tried running win xp on a 500mhz celeron with good results. It did have 512 megs of ram though. It should be doable on 256 megs as long as you trim the fat a bit. If that`s not worth the time and effort win 2k should be a good alternative.

Author:  zodaex [ Sat Feb 13, 2010 11:06 am ]
Post subject: 

bewodo wrote:
I have used win98se on my p1 laptop (used to be with win959, so far it works perfect, i use it e.g. just to browse news.... there are also even simplified version of win98 in internet, with that you need even less resource...
How do you download cut down win98 isos without getting viruses? Every lite win98 I try seems to have build in worms :( . Please provide a link if you can I need this so so bad cause I play lots of Rouge Squadron 3D and Duke Nukem forever which only work in winx9 o.s.es and I want to improve me framerates and load times.

Author:  diver [ Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:03 am ]
Post subject: 

For old CPU's Linux is the way to go, possibly with a lightweight graphical shell. Win 98 has such severe security issues that its an option only if the machine is not connected to the internet.

Author:  scdr [ Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:36 am ]
Post subject: 

zodaex wrote:
bewodo wrote:
I have used win98se on my p1 laptop (used to be with win959, so far it works perfect, i use it e.g. just to browse news.... there are also even simplified version of win98 in internet, with that you need even less resource...
How do you download cut down win98 isos without getting viruses? Every lite win98 I try seems to have build in worms :( . Please provide a link if you can I need this so so bad cause I play lots of Rouge Squadron 3D and Duke Nukem forever which only work in winx9 o.s.es and I want to improve me framerates and load times.


I would use tools that let you streamline it yourself (e.g. 98lite).

Author:  ntavlas [ Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:57 pm ]
Post subject: 

It`s been a while since the OP posted his question but I`ll post my recent experiences running some light/old OSes.

I have tried quite a few lightweight linux distros such as salix and vector. While relatively light, I wouldn`t run them on anything less than p3 class hardware with 256 megs of ram. They seem to have more cpu overhead than windows xp which run fine on a p2 based celeron @ 500mhz (along with office xp).

Puppy linux run pretty nicely when used along with the bundled apps and WM. It might be the best compromise between speed and funcionality on the linux side (there`s also DSL and Tiny linux which I haven`t tried.)

On the windows side, 2000 and xp should be doable on a p2 with plenty of ram. On a pentium 1 you might want to try NT4 as long as you have 64 megs of ram or more . If not, you might as well not bother unless you want to use it specifically for retro games, music playback etc..

Such old hardware might be usable as a productivity machine but once you`re on the internet you`re going to run into trouble. Flash can bring a core 2 to it`s knees, nevermind a p1-2. Javascript could also be a problem.

Author:  Fayd [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:46 am ]
Post subject: 

i'm dumping K7 era CPU's and assosciated hardware because i have no use for them. i'm even beginning to dump early K8 era. (socket 939)

p1 and p2 are completely useless. my father had a p3-600 mhz dell mid-tower that he was using for a specific task. i talked him into a new lenovo q100 (the fanless atom based nettop) to replace it, and he couldn't be happier with it.

Author:  scdr [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:52 am ]
Post subject: 

Fayd wrote:
i'm dumping K7 era CPU's and assosciated hardware because i have no use for them. i'm even beginning to dump early K8 era. (socket 939)

p1 and p2 are completely useless. my father had a p3-600 mhz dell mid-tower that he was using for a specific task. i talked him into a new lenovo q100 (the fanless atom based nettop) to replace it, and he couldn't be happier with it.


Not really green computing, though. (Neither the dumping, nor upgrading computers that are still performing their task adequately, nor providing a new q100 when you are dumping machines of comparable performance.)

At the very least I hope you are offering your K7 and K8 era hardware to others who can use it. (I know various people for whom that would be an upgrade.)

Author:  Brian [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 4:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

I used vLIte to strip down a copy of XP beyond recognition, then I replaced the shell (explorer.exe) with some free software whose name I don't recall. It was all very lightweight. I had a mail client, MS Office 1997, and a web browser with no flash and no java. Web browser was "offbyone" for simple sites, and I struggled to boot Internet Explorer when offbyone failed to render something important.

Target system was the Craptop (R.I.P.): 233MHz Pentium, 96MB RAM, 4GB HDD.

You can hardly even listen to an MP3 on a 233MHz Pentium, and the internet suddenly becomes Web 1.0 again. CAD software and MATLAB laugh at it. Reading a .pdf is a chore. I do not miss it.

People are setting perfectly good, underclockable Pentium III's at the curb.

Author:  kaelin [ Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's a good OS for a pentium 1 or 2?

I have a 400MHz VIA C3 thinclient. It is slow, small and uses about 14 to 18 Watt. Puppy Linux and Tiny Core Linux boot and run just fine. I have not tried the other dozen Linux distros I put on a USB stick with Pen Drive Linux. I use it as a backup Internet browsing computer.

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