Minimum hardware for laptop to use for 5 years

First of all, I’m not sure which category to post this question into, so I chose a very casual one.
I want to buy a laptop, and want to use it for lets say at least 4 to 5 years. I am going to use a window manager, so it will be easy on resources and I don’t want to do anything intense like gaming or editing. I will mostly use the browser with a tool or two at the same time.
So is 4 gb ram enough? Will a nvidia gpu or intel apu be fine? Anything else I should keep in mind before buying a laptop for linux?
Thank you!
Edit: I want to spend as little as possible, while also taking life span into consideration.

That is the bare minimum for Linux. I would not recommend that. When I look at the memory consumption oy my PC right now it is 4.7 GB. with just gnome + firefox + terminal. From my point of view 8 GB is minimum. And by the way, are they still selling laptops with just 4 GB of RAM?

No need for an extra GPU. Intel HD graphics is good enough for your use case.


Thanks a lot!

I like to take used business devices from the reseller market (Lenovo, Fujitsu, HP, Dell).
You have warranty on the systems, they are still young enough and sufficiently fast, but above all maintenance-friendly/easier to repair and the spare parts supply for business laptops is also different than for Amazon consumer devices.
However, I would look for at least 8 GB RAM and a >500 GB SSD/NVMe. A port for a docking station/port replicator and >=USB3.x would be nice. The systems are cheaper with a matte display without touch, and WAN (4G) is usually already included.
The rest is a matter of personal taste (13/14/17" etc).


Thanks a lot for your suggestions!

Isn’t that a bit too much?


  • Fresh boot only Terminal:
free -h
               total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.4Gi       686Mi       5.8Gi       158Mi       1.0Gi       6.3Gi
  • Terminal + Firefox: 1 tab
free -h
               total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.4Gi       1.2Gi       4.7Gi       366Mi       1.5Gi       5.6Gi
  • Terminal + Firefox: 10 tabs
free -h 
               total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.4Gi       1.8Gi       3.9Gi       422Mi       1.6Gi       4.9Gi
  • Terminal + Firefox: 10 tabs + Chromium: 1 tab
free -h 
               total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.4Gi       2.1Gi       2.9Gi       633Mi       2.4Gi       4.4Gi
  • Terminal + Firefox: 10 tabs + Chromium: 1 tab + Brave: 1 tab + Freetube (flatpak)
 free -h 
               total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.4Gi       2.6Gi       1.5Gi       844Mi       3.3Gi       3.7Gi

Same as the last test above:

sudo ps_mem

Private  +   Shared  =  RAM used

                          3.1 GiB


I dont know what exactly makes the difference.

After login:

# free -h
              gesamt       benutzt     frei      gemns.  Puffer/Cache verfügbar
Speicher:       62Gi       3,4Gi        58Gi        15Mi       1,1Gi        58Gi
Swap:           12Gi          0B        12Gi

with firefox started:

# free -h
              gesamt       benutzt     frei      gemns.  Puffer/Cache verfügbar
Speicher:       62Gi       4,2Gi        57Gi        29Mi       1,3Gi        57Gi
Swap:           12Gi          0B        12Gi

But ps_mem says differntly:

sudo ps_mem
 86.4 MiB +  15.7 MiB = 102.1 MiB	Xorg
 89.6 MiB +  13.2 MiB = 102.8 MiB	gnome-software
251.9 MiB +  27.5 MiB = 279.4 MiB	gnome-shell
761.0 MiB + 108.8 MiB = 869.7 MiB	firefox (10)
                          2.6 GiB
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3.4 gb after logging???!!!
I have several tabs on firefox, terminal and another app, and i am using just 1.3 Gi. I am using window manager though.

One of mine - currently in use for everyday jobs and something more:

PC: Sony Vaio VGN-FW56J (2009)
OS: EndeavourOS Linux x86_64
Kernel: 5.15.54-1-lts
Packages: 1569 (pacman)
Shell: zsh 5.9
Resolution: 1920x1080
WM: bspwm
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 (2) @ 2.534GHz
GPU: AMD ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650/5165
Memory: 1242MiB / 3892MiB
$ free -h
total used free shared buff/cache available
Mem: 3,8Gi 1,2Gi 1,4Gi 28Mi 1,2Gi 2,3Gi
Swap: 511Mi 510Mi 1,0Mi

$ df -h -t btrfs
File system Dim. Usati Dispon. Uso% Montato su
/dev/sda1 448G 16G 431G 4% /
/dev/sdb1 932G 402G 530G 44% /home

1 Like

I may have to add that I have a couple of services running which are not necessarily found on a regular PC.
e.g. nextcloud docker image, vmware services (vmware-usbarbitrator), plex media server, tvheadend, …

Sorry, for the confusion. I guess my PC is more kind of a server which does not well compare to a regular PC in terms of memory usage. I should have thought about it before posting.

Did pretty much the same about 2 years ago.
Found a nice, small and light 14 inch Asus with an 8th Gen i3, 8 Gigs RAM, 256GB SSD and USB C for under €500 on Amazon. Very happy with the machine so far and I’m sure it can last another few years if nothing breaks or so. 8th Gen i3 may sound lame but it’s powerful enough for daily tasks and the battery life is nice also!

I’d say

  • at least 8 GB RAM
  • SSD instead of HDD
  • no additional GPU

with your use case.
A used machine may lower the price, but old processors have more potential security flaws that may not get fixed.

And yes, battery life can be a problem too…


In addition to what @amarkuni already posted, keep in mind that the internet and browsers these days use more RAM and I think that will only increase through the years.
So 8 GB minimum and perhaps look at a ThinkPad T470/T480, if it is in your price range. Those RAM modules can be upgraded and you still can get those modules.


Ok, this is my run-of-the-mill Linux box:

No docker here, and above all NO NEXTCLOUD ( gave me many a trouble, ditched for instead);
No Plex, but Emby instead;
No wmware, but Qemu/KVM instead;
No (longer, my bad) tvheadend, but Kodi instead.
Worth mentioning Bitwarden and Megasync, plus - when needed - ProtonVPN/transmission-daemon

$ sudo systemctl list-units --state=running

proc-sys-fs-binfmt_misc.automount loaded active running Arbitrary Executable File Formats File System Automount Point
cups.path loaded active running CUPS Scheduler
init.scope loaded active running System and Service Manager
session-131.scope loaded active running Session 131 of User piero
session-3.scope loaded active running Session 3 of User piero
accounts-daemon.service loaded active running Accounts Service
atd.service loaded active running Deferred execution scheduler
avahi-daemon.service loaded active running Avahi mDNS/DNS-SD Stack
bluetooth.service loaded active running Bluetooth service
colord.service loaded active running Manage, Install and Generate Color Profiles
cronie.service loaded active running Periodic Command Scheduler
cups.service loaded active running CUPS Scheduler
dbus.service loaded active running D-Bus System Message Bus
emby-server.service loaded active running Emby brings together your videos, music, photos, and live television.
libvirtd.service loaded active running Virtualization daemon
lightdm.service loaded active running Light Display Manager
NetworkManager.service loaded active running Network Manager
nmb.service loaded active running Samba NMB Daemon
polkit.service loaded active running Authorization Manager
rtkit-daemon.service loaded active running RealtimeKit Scheduling Policy Service
smb.service loaded active running Samba SMB Daemon
sshd.service loaded active running OpenSSH Daemon
systemd-journald.service loaded active running Journal Service
systemd-logind.service loaded active running User Login Management
systemd-machined.service loaded active running Virtual Machine and Container Registration Service
systemd-timesyncd.service loaded active running Network Time Synchronization
systemd-udevd.service loaded active running Rule-based Manager for Device Events and Files
udisks2.service loaded active running Disk Manager
upower.service loaded active running Daemon for power management
user@1000.service loaded active running User Manager for UID 1000
vncserver-x11-serviced.service loaded active running VNC Server in Service Mode daemon
wpa_supplicant.service loaded active running WPA supplicant
avahi-daemon.socket loaded active running Avahi mDNS/DNS-SD Stack Activation Socket
cups.socket loaded active running CUPS Scheduler
dbus.socket loaded active running D-Bus System Message Bus Socket
systemd-journald-audit.socket loaded active running Journal Audit Socket
systemd-journald-dev-log.socket loaded active running Journal Socket (/dev/log)
systemd-journald.socket loaded active running Journal Socket
systemd-udevd-control.socket loaded active running udev Control Socket
systemd-udevd-kernel.socket loaded active running udev Kernel Socket

LOAD = Reflects whether the unit definition was properly loaded.
ACTIVE = The high-level unit activation state, i.e. generalization of SUB.
SUB = The low-level unit activation state, values depend on unit type.
39 loaded units listed.

Oh, sorry: forgot the simple answer after the long listings: In my opinion YES, 4Gb ram is enough (which CPU?); NO, nvidia totally unneeded; ssd highly recommended. As far as “life span”: put this way means so little. Shall we go deeper?

I really think you should target 8GB of RAM if you want to keep the machine for 5 years.

Alternatively, get a laptop where the RAM can be upgraded by the user and start with 4GB for now.

Also, you should consider the CPU. You don’t need a high-end CPU but be cautious of the laptops that are using ultra-low end CPUs with architectures from several generations ago. Sometimes the GPUs inside those are fairly terrible.

Most importantly, try to get a model with a sata or nvme SSD. Models with HDDs or EMC will be much lower performing.

It’s probably safer to go for 8GB RAM,
– BUT –
I have several old (~6-10 years) laptops in use with “only” 4GB of RAM (and zram) and don’t see how I would run into any memory related issues with your described intended usage profile.

If you’re on a tight budget I personally wouldn’t rule out the 4GB option. A decent SSD is a must though.

I booted :enos: on a 10 year old PC with 2 GiB RAM perfectly fine.
And guess what? Only %36.8 of RAM (710.9 MiB) was used!

Congratulations. I didn’t know that this is a contest. :joy:

It is no contest, I just mean that 4 GiB is not the bare minimum. :wink: