I recently had the opportunity to put Linux on a couple of old laptops. There were an Asus Eee PC 1015BX (2011, originally with Windows 7 Starter 32 bit) and a Dell Inspiron 15 N5050 (released 2011, also with Windows 7).
The Asus Eee PC is the most challenging as it has a fairly low spec and passive cooling. This caused significant problems when trying to install various flavours of Linux, as the install process works hard but the Linux core monitors the temperature and shuts the thing down if it gets too hot! The photo illustrates the cooling system eventually set up – an old air filter fan blown into a Pringles tube through a plastic bag. The laptop was propped up on two bits of wood to allow an air channel underneath. It worked well! The install was a complete replacement of Windows 7 as there isn’t a lot of space on this device.
Once I had a basic system up and running I installed the package lm-sensors to enable checking the machine monitored temperatures, and thermald in an attempt to make it throttle back if the temperature gets a bit high. So far this seems to work.
I eventually decided on 32 bit lubuntu 18.04.4 which is working fine; no problems with wifi or wired networks (I used wired during the install), though I have installed vlc media player for video (which works) as the provided player seemed to run out of resources.
The Dell Inspiron is much better specified so I didn’t anticipate any problems with a normal up to date install of Ubuntu 19.10 64 bit. Again, a wired network was used during the install, which when complete had WiFi working fine (this didn’t work during a live DVD test, but the install locates the proper drivers). I shrunk the Windows 7 partition to leave almost half the disk for Linux before the install, to keep the Windows 7 files (the partition can be mounted from Linux, so there should be no need ever to log in to Windows 7 again!) and allow dual booting, which works fine as always.
So that’s two more old machines nicely recycled to extend their working lives considerably!