What operating systems would you recommend for this type of hardware?

Though I keep the question text generic because answers can work for many others, but my specific case is a Laptop Siemens Nixdorf PCD-4ND 486 /DX4/75 (24Mb RAM, 420Mb HD, Res. max. 640x480)

The laptop has diskette drive and a ethernet card, so this are the way to install or move data in.

At the moment I have 2 harddrives, one with windows95 and the other one with a very old and outdated Debian Linux.

I would prefer OSes including graphical interface but also actively supported CLI OSes are welcome.

(I am sure that there are opensource/not main stream projects and distributions which are still supporting this old platform (i.e freeDOS), so if you are no aware of the scene please don't answer saying that there is nothing)

  • 1
    I think all you're going to find is FreeDOS; while some old distros of Linux did run on as low as a 386, I'm pretty sure they've all moved beyond that. For currently-supported GUIs on that low a platform, I think you're out of luck; if you don't care about current support, you may still be able to find copies of Windows 3.11, Digital Research GEM, VisiON, or NewDeal Office out there, all of which were graphical "shells" for MS-DOS/PC-DOS. Dec 27, 2018 at 17:56
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    This is not really the sort of question that we have here (it's asking for a recommendation); if the duplicates don't help you then you might want to look at Software Recommendations.
    – wizzwizz4
    Dec 27, 2018 at 18:52
  • 2
    Perhaps this thread on our SE could help -- Which Linux or BSD distributions still support i386 / i486 / i586 CPUs ?
    – RETRAC
    Dec 28, 2018 at 3:12
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    OS/2 Warp 4 would have supported 486, and was a great os. There are derivatives, however the most up to date require a Pentium processor. Dec 28, 2018 at 9:58
  • At the moment I have in mind installing OS/2 (also i think some eCommstation can work but I am still looking for requirements), FreeDOS with some graphical shells, the old and non supported beOS and Damn Small Linux (2008). By The Way SliTaz Linux is updated and seems to work on 486 with 16MB RAM Dec 30, 2018 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


You should try NetBSD. It would be somewhat bearable with 24mb. Provided you'll recompile the kernel, removing unnecessary drivers and subsystems.

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