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1. Introduction

1.1 Why this document was written.

I got my hands on two elderly laptops, both with just 4mb RAM and small (<=200mb) hard drives. I wanted to install Linux on them. The documentation for this kind of laptop all recommends installing either a mini-Linux or an old (and therefor compact) version of one of the professional distributions. I wanted to install an up-to-date professional distribution.

1.2 What use is a small laptop?

Plenty. It isn't going to run X or be a development box (see Which components to install?) but if you are happy at the console you have a machine that can do e-mail, networking, writing etc. Laptops also make excellent diagnostic/repair tools and the utilities for that will easily fit onto small laptops.

1.3 Why not just upgrade the laptop?

Upgrading old laptops is not much cheaper than upgrading new ones. That's a lot to spend on an old machine, especially considering that the manufacturer isn't supporting it any more and spare parts are hard to find.

1.4 What about 4mb desktop machines?

The procedure described in this document will work perfectly well on a desktop PC. On the other hand, upgrading a desktop machine is far easier and cheaper than upgrading a laptop. Even if you don't upgrade it, there are still simpler options. You could take out the hard disk, put it in a more powerful machine, install Linux, trim it to fit and then put the disk back in the old machine.

1.5 What this document doesn't do.

This document is not a general HOWTO about installing Linux on laptops or even a specific HOWTO for either of the two machines mentioned here. It simply describes a way of squeezing a large Linux into a very small space, citing two specific machines as examples.

1.6 Where to find this document.

The latest copy of this document can be found in several formats at

1.7 Copyright

This document is copyright (c) Bruce Richardson 2000. It may be distributed under the terms set forth in the LDP license at

This HOWTO is free documentation; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the LDP license. This document is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. See the LDP license for more details.

Toshiba and T1910 are trademarks of Toshiba Corporation. Compaq and Contura Aero are trademarks of Compaq Computer Corporation.

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