Golden Oldie laptops for distro-hopping testing, etc. (on bare metal)

Everyone likes having a nice, smooth, newer machine as their daily driver. But what about an older, cheaper laptop, just for testing purposes? Say you want to try a new distro (and a VM won’t do, to see how it handles each piece of real hardware, including Bluetooth devices, and sneaking past real-world UEFI nastiness, on that first install).

Or, say you want to prototype running some new server service (like Nextcloud), before you do a “good copy” install in the cloud on a VPS (and keep the prototype still running on real hardware afterwards, to try upgrades on, before unleashing the same upgrade on the real VPS server, something which I actually do with Nextcloud, which I install from a “snap”).

It can be tricky to find laptops where everything “just works” in Linux. Many laptops mostly work, but then one thing or another doesn’t work. Say, the power management is still a bit buggy (when you sleep, and wake up the laptop), or say, the built-in SD Card reader doesn’t work.

Can anyone vet specific older laptops (say, 7-10 years old, definitely with at least an Intel i3 CPU, or AMD equiv.), as “just working”? Price range of, say, roughly between $300-$500 US on the used market, readily available.

BTW: I’m aware of using VMs for testing purposes, and there are great servers like ProxMox to run many VMs on a server, and I’ve also heard about PCI passthrough as well, but installing on real laptop hardware to me is a simple and effective way also, much more readily approachable by newbies.

This is also useful for newbies to Linux, who want a cheap, realistic-to-find-used machine where they can get their hands dirty, playing around with reckless abandon pretty much, without potentially threatening their existing Windows install, and workflow, and also avoiding the less-than-ideal situation of dual-booting.

I’ll go first. The Lenovo Thinkpad X230, or X220. With RAM and an SSD drive upgrade these still work great, if you use a lighter-weight distro.

There’s also a Coreboot installer for the X230. Extra flex points to be had there. :wink:

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I agree with the X220/230 great little laptops I have a X230 here at Distrohoppers Towers. The Lenovo 430’s are also good little larger screen laptops that work well with Linux. I also use my Toshiba Z30 to do Test reviews on (currently OpenSUSE Tumbleweed) and the PC I’m on at the moment.

Dell’s are also a Good and I have run Linux on:
All of these can be picked up with varying spesification at reasonable prices within your price range.

Personally I would also suggest the earlier Lenovo X61 and X200 laptops as well, yes they are only Core2Duo but as a great and cheap backup machine or one you can take traveling without the worry over breakage or theft as you can pick these up for less than $100 on eBay.


I totally agree on Dells and Thinkpads.
I exclusively use older and refurbished hardware.
My main machine is a Dell Latitude E6320 i5 and upgradable to 16 GB RAM.
The other two machines are a T400 and X200, great machines albeit the Core Duo. They can use 8 GB of RAM.
All of them work out of the box with every Linux distro I tried.
They are all cheap and powerful enough.


The Thinkpad T430 has a little bigger screen (14" ocer 12") and higher res (1600x900). Still has (in my case) the i5-3320 and with 8GB RAM and an SSD runs Linux very nicely.

I got my T430 and both X230 Thinkpads from as refurbished machines and am extremely happy with them for what do. I don’t do gaming or heavy duty video rendering.


Hi – I am also interested in the T430. I found this Linux Mint forum series of posts to be very helpful: See in particular the posting of ‘AndyMH’ – very good description and advice about what to look for if you want to purchase a T430.


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I have used mostly Dell laptops, some pre-Lenovo Thinkpads and a Samsung to boot and rarely have an issue, particularly with older hardware that by now is well supported. I guess the potential is always there to encounter an unsupported wireless card or maybe the graphics card as well. For instance, my Samsung is just old enough that the card isn’t supported by Nvidia anymore. Nouveau works however so it’s good enough. I guess my point is if you find a decent system for a fair price it’s probably worth trying Linux as it will likely work, albeit with some minimal effort perhaps.

Ditto to everyone saying Lenovo T4??. I’ll just mention that having multiple friends running 420’s and 430’s, the one thing I think was introduced at the 430 point was the inability to run after market batteries. In most cases you can still find reasonable “genuine” batteries online, but all my 420/520 boxes have run generic 9 cell batteries with no problem.

I have also had great luck with older i5 Latitudes, just don’t remember the models.

8gb and SSD are a must.

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My laptop is an Asus lightweight, an X550CA, 4GB ram soldered in, and an I3 processor. It has held up well, it’s about 5 yrs old. I just put in an SSD, and it runs like new. Amazingly with only 4GB, it multitasks well, no lag, and is surprisingly quick. Boots in seconds thanks to the SSD, and Arch. Arch with XFCE and Firefox run under 1 GB of memory, so it has it’s uses. I have not had problems with distros on it. Debian, Ubuntu, Arch installed with Zen all work fine…

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I just enjoyed Choose Linux, episode 18, and Joe R. and Drew of Doom gave their recommendations as to an older minimally decent Linux laptop to get started with. Their opinions (very quickly summarized), to which I’d say ditto:

  • At least a Lenovo Thinkpad X220.
  • At least 8GB of RAM (Joe thought you could squeak by with 4, with XFCE).
  • At least an SSD, not a spinning rust disk.

I’ve owned my Acer Aspire 5750 for over 7 years, and even though it never got good reviews, it’s never failed me with Linux, which I put Ubuntu on it after bringing it home (and doing all the Windows 7 updates. I’m not a gamer and after upping the memory to 8G and putting an SSD in it I haven’t found an operating system that it won’t run. I am looking at an older Dell or Thinkpad that might have an I7 in it. While I’m not an Ubuntu fan I always load it on my laptop to see what the new releases are all about. Like @TerryL, I don’t do any heavy lifting with my laptop, even though it is all I have, with the exception of my Fire HD.

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I bought an Acer Aspire 5542 (4GB, 320GB HDD) about ten years ago now, Windows 7, though I’m running Debian Stable on it as I type and it’s perfectly useable for my day-to-day needs. I’ve tended to choose their hardware mainly due to having low funds though I’ve found their reliability acceptable, though not brilliant. I bought their Aspire V5 model too which runs Debian very well too, though it currently needs repair. I have to say with Acer, my respect for them increased multifold when we had the Olympics here in London some years back and I believe the entire IT systems for the Olympics were run using Acer hardware - counted for a lot in my book!

I use a Toshiba Satellite C55-A (Intel i3-3110M, 8GB RAM (upgraded from 4), 500GB hard drive) as my daily driver. Yes, it’s old, but I’ve never had a “new” computer, so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing out on and I don’t need the latest and greatest.
I haven’t encountered a distro it won’t run, and I’ve tried Fedora, Manjaro, Debian, Solus, OpenSUSE, and just about every Ubuntu derivative, and it runs them all. Gnome and KDE are a bit laggy, of course. It doesn’t have Bluetooth, so that’s not an issue. WiFi has always worked out of the box, and of course with Intel integrated graphics I never have to bother with everybody else’s driver problems.
I think it can be had for around $200 used.

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Exactly like me. :slight_smile:

I think my 8 year old Hp Elitebook 8460P qualifies as Golden Oldie. It is my only laptop, but it has a i5 2520m, 8 GB of DDR3 and 1 TB SSHD. The system did run Ubuntu 18.04 and I booted from ZFS. Now I have upgraded via Ubuntu 19.04 to Ubuntu 19.10 to check whether my PCs would still work with the new add-ons for ZFS.

Once per week I update the system and its 10 Virtual Machines (VM). I moved my work to VMs. It does run the same VMs as my desktop, so I don’t have to get used to another system. Response times are good due to the memory cache and the solid state cache of the SSHD. The VMs run almost completely from memory cache (1.5 GB) with a cache hit rate of more than 90%