An old laptop with a chrome wrench on top of keyboard

Breathing Life Back Into An Old Laptop with Manjaro

  • Adam Douglas
  • opinion

My son had an old laptop that he gave me, because he didn’t have a use for it. So yesterday I got to thinking this could be a challenge to see what I can do with it and at the same time finally get around to trying out Manjaro operating system for the first time. Manjaro is a Linux distribution based upon Arch Linux operating system that is intended to be user-friendly and accessible. I’m a big fan of using the terminal or console, however I decided this time that I would force myself to accomplish everything only using the graphical user interface (GUI). Here is my experience exploring Manjaro from installation to a functional desktop laptop computer.

The Laptop

The laptop itself is an HP Notebook 15-ay013ca that as far as I can confirm was released in December 2016. Reading the specifications below one can see the hardware is quite low. The system original came with Windows 10 Home 64-bit and quite frankly it ran terrible and provided a horrible user experience.

Product number W7B87UA
Product name HP Notebook - 15-ay013ca (ENERGY STAR)
Microprocessor Intel® Pentium® N3710 (1.6 GHz, 2 MB cache, 4 cores)
Memory, standard 4 GB DDR3L-1600 SDRAM (1 x 4 GB)
Video graphics Intel® HD Graphics 405 (up to 2.04 GB)
Hard drive 500 GB 5400 rpm SATA
Optical drive SuperMulti DVD burner
Display 15.6” diagonal HD SVA BrightView WLED-backlit (1366 x 768)
Keyboard Full-size island-style with numeric keypad
Pointing device Touchpad with multi-touch gesture support
Wireless connectivity Intel 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (1x1) and Bluetooth® 4.0 combo
Network interface Integrated 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet LAN
Expansion slots 1 multi-format SD media card reader
External ports 1 USB 3.0; 2 USB 2.0; 1 HDMI; 1 RJ-45; 1 headphone/microphone combo
Minimum dimensions (W x D x H) 38.4 x 25.5 x 2.37 cm
Weight 2.01 kg
Power supply type 45 W AC power adapter
Battery type 3-cell, 31 Wh Li-ion
Webcam HP TrueVision HD Webcam (front-facing) with integrated digital microphone
Audio features DTS Studio Sound™ with 2 speakers

Manjaro Install

Manjaro currently is available in 3 editions, XFCE, KDE Plasma and GNOME. As well each edition has 3 builds to choose from, standard, minimal and minimal LTS (long term support). I felt this hardware can’t handle a lot, so I decided to go with XFCE minimal. I downloaded the ISO image for XFCE minimal and then copied it over to my USB flash drive that uses Ventoy (a multiboot manager). I simply plugged in the USB flash drive into the laptop and powered it on. After a few seconds I was presented with the Ventoy boot menu allowing me to select Manjaro. Shortly after that I was booted into the live Manjaro desktop environment using open source drivers and greeted with Manjaro Hello. This application is quite thought out to allow for the experienced or inexperienced Linux users find what they are looking for to get started. At this stage of course you can just play around with the operating system without installing if one so chooses to do so, but I chose to go all in and launch the installer. The installer is quite nice and guides you through step by step. I’m quite impressed how easy and smooth everything went.

Post Install

I was notified that there were some updates in the Manjaro Settings Manager (MSM) and I was able to quickly open the application and apply the updates without issue. Next I began installing some essential applications using the Add/Remove Programs as listed below.

For a productivity system I figured I might as well set up my printer in case that is ever required, following the knowledge base article I wrote, Arch Linux Install Network Printer, I installed the following via Add/Remove Programs.

  • CUPS
  • cups-pdf (print to PDF)
  • epson-inkjet-printer-workforce-635-nx625-series (printer driver)

All of this went quite smoothly until I tried to open “Manage Printing” (CUPS web interface). The web page was unable to load. Though I was not surprised this had happened, as one needs to start a systemd unit, cups.service or cups.socket. So at this stage I was forced to use the terminal to complete the setup of my printer. To keep things minimal I opted to start cups.socket using the following command, sudo systemctl start cups.socket. Once this was done I was able to complete adding my printer and setting printer defaults via the web interface.

Testing

For the rest of the day or so I used the laptop without any issues. Doing simple tasks such as email, reading documents and word processing whether that be markdown in Remarkable or LibreOffice Writer. I was even able to play numerous videos/movies using services such as YouTube, Tubi and Netflix smoothly without any problems in full screen at 720p and 1080p. Sure the system was a little slow at time and especially during the initial load time, but surprisingly it was enjoyable to use considering the age and lack of hardware. Playing games was not something I tried to test out. I’m sure the system can do it without issues as long as the game is the era of the laptop or just requires low hardware to play.

Summarizing the Experience

The most challenging part of this experience was myself. Many times I wanted to just go to the terminal and get the task done. However, I only did this once due to not having a choice in the matter. Overall this was an interesting experience and I would highly recommend Manjaro for new users of Linux or for those that are just not interested in learning the finer details of any operating system. Saying this though, Manjaro is just as powerful as Arch Linux, and with no limits other than what the user desires. With a good experience and praise though I wouldn’t want to use this laptop as my daily driver mainly due to the lack of hardware and I just prefer using a desktop computer.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.