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Older Linux Distributions
written May 26, 2020 by Time Traveler
Category: SupportNote Tags: Old distributions, BIOS, UEFI, hd vs. sd    #23
 

Linux continues to evolve, and has done so its entire existence. Due to major changes in the industry, certain critical hardware interfaces have changed over the years, and if you try to run an older linux distribution on a new machine, you may find it will not operate correctly , or perhaps not at all!

We have tried to put notices in shipments containing older distributions, but do not have a comprehensive way to identify and ensure that this notice is included in all shipments when appropriate. The following outlines the important info in this notice:

Thank you for your purchase! You have purchased an older disc that may not boot or act properly on a newer/modern system. In other words, this may only boot or load correctly if it is run from a system that is contemporary from the release of the disc. For example (but not limited to), it may require an IDE hard drive interface vs. a SATA hard drive interface, or must have older VGA compatibility modes (screen resolution issues). Please do not contact LinuxCollections.com regarding operation of this disc.

To better understand what could happen when you try to boot an older distro on a newer system, reviewing the change from IDE (ATA/ATAPI) hard drive interfaces to SATA (Serial ATA) as the main hard disk interface is illustrative. This interface evolution changed the main hard drive designation in the system from /dev/hda to /dev/sda. So often on a newer system, the CD/DVD drive would be on the SATA bus, and most newer systems do not even have an IDE interface. So the initial portion loading the bootable ISO structured disc will work and load the boot portion (because the new system recognizes and handles the initial loading the same as an older system), but when that boot portion tries to load additional portions via script, it will fail if looking for a /dev/hd? device (because there is no such device on the system, or that device is NOT the bootable disc). If the distro is old enough, it may not even know about or treat the SATA interface correctly at all, meaning it will fail miserably when it uses internal scripts to continue the boot process.

It is in the realm of possibility that there may be an option to specify a different device, or overcome this issue, BUT it is totally distribution dependent, and has more to do with the timeframe when the distro was released. There is simply no way for a distro that was created when the SATA interface wasn't even thought of to bypass its designed boot process. In simple terms, the bootable disc (at the time) safely assumed something like this: OK, I just loaded, and it is from a disc. For Linux (at that point in time), all hardware that can read a disc would be on the IDE interface, which means I just need to search and look at all /dev/hd? (meaning /dev/hda, or /dev/hdb, or /dev/hdc, etc., etc.) devices on the system, and find "me", then load the next portion of the boot process. So what happens with this distro boots from a new system, is it looks at those devices (which may not even be there), can't find "itself", was not designed to look elsewhere, so it can not continue the boot process, and it just simply fails.

As mentioned above, there may be ways to get it to boot and properly load, but it also may be impossible if you have a new system. If you are trying to run a 2006 distro on a computer produced in 2020, there is no guarantee it will work. You best bet is to boot on a 2006 system. Note that the reverse is also true - trying to boot a brand new distro on a 2006 system may fail just as miserably, so being able to buy an older distro is awesome if repurposing older hardware. However, this is where you must be aware of what you are doing. If trying to boot an older distro on a newer system, you can try searching online, or reviewing notes (README type files), to (perhaps) find the configuration information needed to make this work. However, please note that LinuxCollections.com is NOT a support organization - we simply put the ordered distribution onto media, package, and ship it to our customers.

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