No. of Recommendations: 0
I have a Dell Box, with
Intel Core i5 CPU 650@3.20GHz, 8GB RAM, 64 bit OS
into which I can slip a HDD dedicated to Linux, or...

I have an Toshiba atom laptop with
1.6GHz CPU, 1GB RAM and 160GB HDD. 32 bit OS

For both of these I have spare HDDs I can dedicate to Linux.
Which would you recommend for a stark newbie.

My first home computer (1996) was a white-box with an 32-bit Intel Pentium processor. It had 32 Meg RAM that I increased to 64 Meg. The maximum the mother board would accept. When I got sick of Windows 95, I bought an additional hard drive and put Red Hat Linux 5 on it. It worked fine with no problems. Since I had used UNIX at work since about 1980, I had no troubles and no learning curve with Linux.

I bought a Toshiba laptop for a friend of mine later, but I never used it myself and we never put Linux on it.

I suggest you use a 64-bit machine, and your Dell box would be fine. Unless that is a spare computer, stick a second hard drive on it for Linux. Leave the first hard drive for Windows; in the past, and perhaps now, Windows must be the first hard drive in the system. Linux does not care.

Secondly, the more reading I do, whether its Google or Youtube,
the more strife I see between boosters of the various Linux systems,
in a Chevy vs. Ford kind of pi$$ing contest, each belittling he other.

Should I just pick one and disregard the warring factions and
concentrate on the one I chose?

I agree that it is a pi$$ing contest. I had a friend who was not experienced in UNIX/Linux and he installed one distro of Linux after another, and he never used one long enough to get the hang of it. And that was over 10 years ago. There must be more distros of Linux out there now than there were then. Do not fall into that trap.

I have run only Red Hat distributions on my own machines. 5.0, 5.2. ..., 7.3, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3,4,5,6, and I have never had trouble with any of them, no matter what peripherals I had on them. The earlier ones even had dial-up Internet connections on a serial port. So I cannot give an unbiased recommendation. Red Hat distributions cost about $1/day (payable annually) and up, depending on the level of support you want. I get the bottom line of support: essentially none. My Linux friends use mainly Ubuntu and Mint. I have booted them into my machine from CD, and they work, but I do not like them very much. From CD, they are impossibly slow. My suggestion would be to hunt up local computer clubs and see which one has a bunch of Linux users and run whatever distro most of them run. Not because it would be the best, but because you could get local support.

My second computer was also 32-bit from VA Linux Systems. It ran fine too for over 10 years with no problems other than by the time I got rid of it, it was too slow. It had two 550 MHz Pentium III processors, 512 Megabytes RAM and two 10,000 rpm SCSI hard drives.

My third computer was a home-assembled 32-bit machine with two 3.06 GHz Xeon processors, 8 GBytes RAM, six 10,000 rpm SCSI hard drives ... I ran RHEL 3 on that. I think I upgraded it to RHEL 5.

My current machine is a 64-bit Dell T7600 machine with 8 GBytes RAM and a 4-core processor. It came with Windows 7 Professional on it (still there for Income tax program and Garmin GPS map updates).

Never in all that time have I ever had to get a driver for anything. The drivers that come with the Red Hat releases always ran whatever peripherals I had.

Most tutorials I find are aimed at installing a system on a USB drive.
I have several 64GB usb thumb drives, as well as USB exterior drives up to 250GB.

I have run Ubuntu and something else from CD-ROM and something else (Ubuntu?) from a thumb drive. They work. I never actually installed them. If you have a spare hard drive, I recommend doing a real installation onto it. Even if you do not have a spare hard drive, these days they are so cheap, you might as well buy one. Last time I bought one, I got a 1 Terabyte SATA drive for under $100. I did not even need it, but I had 2 drive slots empty, and it was so cheap ...

Which of the above would you go with at my non-existent experience level?

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