Xubuntu on Dell Dimension 4500

Last weekend a customer presented me with what he thought was a five-year old Dell Optiplex. It was actually a twelve year old Dimension 4500 with Microsoft Windows XP Home and was agonizingly slow. In any case, XP was rapidly approaching its end of life.

Dell Dimension 4500I feared that this PC was also at its end of life. Dell.com reported that it had shipped in 2002(!), and its hard drive SMART indicated over 50,000 power-on hours. Still, its CPU was a 2 GHz Pentium 4, so I decided to beat this dying horse a bit more before putting it out to pasture.

This desktop PC contained two 512 MB DDR memory modules. Both Dell and Crucial.com advised that this motherboard couldn’t address more than 1 GB of memory. Google revealed that in fact this motherboard could accept two 1 GB DDR memory modules, so I installed two 1 GB DDR memory modules, for a total of 2 GB. The BIOS reported 2048 MB total memory. Yesss!

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Unfortunately the PC wouldn’t boot from a Xubuntu 12.04 live DVD. No wonder: this PC contained a CD-ROM drive, not a DVD drive. It also could not boot from a USB drive.

No problem. I booted from a Ubuntu minimal install CD, installed it, and used the sudo get-apk install xubuntu-desktop command to download hundreds of megabytes and install Xubuntu 13.10. (I don’t know how — or if it’s possible — to install anything but the newest release with the get-apk command.) It ran, but the display would occasionally blank and log me off. Not good.

I wanted to try Xubuntu 12.04, not 13.10, but how could I do this on a PC with only a CD-ROM — not a DVD — drive? I found a clever program called plop boot manager that installs on a boot CD-ROM, which in turn passes control to a boot thumbdrive in a USB connector. I created a plop CD-ROM and a Xubuntu 12.04 boot thumbdrive. It worked! Xubuntu 12.04 runs nicely on this old Dimension 4500.

Now I just need to replace its 50,000 hour hard drive. Maybe it’ll run for another twelve years.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

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