Really slow response from Ubuntu LiveCD

David Curtis dcurtis at
Mon Aug 18 16:59:02 UTC 2008

Denver Gingerich wrote:
> On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 11:29 AM, Bob Jonkman <bjonkman at> wrote:
>> Hi all:  Yesterday I was trying to fix someone's really old PC by
>> removing Windows98 and installing Ubuntu (7.10).  The PC dates from
>> 1999, and holds a maximum of 128 MiBytes RAM. I tried installing more
>> RAM, but the  motherboard configuration switches max out at 128 MiBytes
>> and additional RAM just isn't recognized.
>> With Win98 still on the computer I tried to run the Live CDs Ubuntu
>> 7.10 and Kubuntu 7.10 so that I could rescue all his documents by
>> copying them to a thumb drive (Win98 doesn't support thumb drives
>> without additional drivers).
>> Unfortunately, both Ubuntu and Kubuntu were abysmally slow.  It took at
>> least 30 minutes to get through the booting and get to a file browser
>> so that I could copy the files (which took less than a minute).
>> Dragging a window couldn't be done in real time - it took over a minute
>> for the window to appear at the new location, and in the meantime the
>> mouse cursor was completely unresponsive.
>> I also tried Knoppix 4.10 (a CD from 2005), and in comparison it was
>> wonderfully snappy and responsive.
>> I left Win98 on the computer, since I didn't want to risk such poor
>> response with Ubuntu installed.
>> Is it possible that Ubuntu would work much better once installed on the
>> hard drive?
> It will work a bit better because there is a large read/write
> filesystem available, but it will still be very slow.  You should use
> Xubuntu on older systems.  For more details, see:
>> If so, what might be causing the poor performance on the
>> Live CD?  Are Live CDs known to be much MUCH slower than installed?
> If you don't have much RAM, they will be very slow.  Live CDs have two
> file systems available to them: a very slow read-only file system (the
> CD) and a very fast read/write file system (a partition carved out of
> RAM).  If you don't have much RAM, then you must read directly from
> the CD for most operations, which is painfully slow.  Furthermore, the
> partition carved out of RAM reduces the amount of RAM available as
> general-purpose memory so your system will be slower than usual.
> If you have lots of RAM, then the Live CD can cache most of itself in
> a RAM partition and then it seldom needs to read from the CD.  Thus it
> will be very fast.
> On an installed system, the OS has a somewhat slow but fairly large
> read/write file system available to it (on the hard disk), which the
> Live CD does not have.  So an installed system will be faster than a
> Live CD system on a computer with little RAM.
>> How come Knoppix was so much better?
> Because you used a very old version that was optimized for the systems
> of the time, where 128 MB RAM was not uncommon.  An Ubuntu Live CD is
> not expected to run properly on a system with 128 MB RAM.  Note that
> the Ubuntu system requirements page linked above suggests you use the
> alternate install CD (not the Live CD) on a system with less than 384
>> I'm sure everything would work better with more memory, but this PC
>> hardware isn't capable of more than 128 MiBytes.
> As mentioned earlier, give Xubuntu a shot.  I installed it on a
> computer with a 500 MHz Celeron and 384 MB RAM and it works just fine.
>  It should work fine with less RAM, too.
> Denver
I've got a suspicion this machine is an old PII laptop. Am I right? If 
so, Xubuntu might be too much for it.  You might want to look at Puppy 
Linux [1]. Or if you feel adventurous, try a LowMem install, thats a CLI 
install with a GUI you build on top of it [2]. I had success with this 
by installing 8.04 CLI with Openbox on top on an old Toshiba PII 96Meg 
laptop. Why? Don't ask.




More information about the ubuntu-ca mailing list