DIY: How to find Linux versions needed for older hardware

Jack Wallen answers a TechRepublic member's question about the requirements needed for running Linux distributions on older hardware.

Read my answer to TechRepublic reader Peter Brazitis's question about Linux hardware, and then please post your suggestions for the member in the discussion.

Q: I loaded Ubuntu 7.04 on an older computer, no problem. However, when I tried to upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04, neither my CD nor DVD drive could read the set-up disk -- and they couldn't read the replacement disk (which I asked for and received) either. Is there a web site I could access that would list the minimal hardware requirements needed to load and run Linux versions? A: I have yet to come across a site that lists the minimum hardware requirements for all Linux distributions. Each distro will list out the minimum requirements to meet the needs of their releases.

For older hardware and newer distributions, the answer to this question is simple, depending upon which route you want to take. If you are looking to stick with Ubuntu, I highly recommend using the Alternative Installer. This is the text-based installer that will get you where you want to go. With older hardware, you will have to avoid using Ubuntu Unity because the graphics most likely will not power the newer desktop. Because of that, I would go with something like Xubuntu or Lubuntu. For really old hardware, consider the likes of Puppy Linux or Damn Small Linux.

Although Linux has always been well known for resurrecting older hardware, some of the distributions are migrating away from that "feature." But even though the major distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, etc.) will not typically install on your older hardware, there will always be distributions that will. And even with those distributions, you are still getting newer kernels and updated software packages -- just not all of the bloat and the resource-needy desktops.

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I'll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)