Linux has a reputation for resurrecting older hardware. The problem comes when old drivers are needed. My ancient (not pre-historic) Gateway 4026 laptop was stuck on Ubuntu 9.10. I couldn't upgrade, version 10.04 wouldn't even boot the live-cd, 10.10 ran but the wireless was unstable. With all the trouble I had with Ubuntu 11.04 on my desktop, it took a while to want to try it.
I did the usual backup of files (thank god for jump drives!), slipped in the CD and the net cable to the router.
It does the location, user ID, password, then gives you some hard drive options. I always choose manual manipulation. I select the partition that had the previous OS, erase via reformat, select file standard, check to boot from here (/), click the do it button.
It installed without a hiccup, even warned me I didn't have 3d acceleration hardware and when it came up was in a state that didn't need it. This did not happen on my desktop PC. Anyway the desktop that came up was Ubuntu Classic or regular Gnome. Then I had to open a terminal, type 'sudo apt-get install unity-2d' to install the new Unity desktop with lower resource requirements.
I was scared that the wireless would be a problem. I googled the forum pages, found I could install two apps to end my quest. Since my wireless chips were unsupported anymore there is one app to find a legacy driver and another to install it. I installed both, rebooted the laptop, configured the connection and had stable wireless. It is totally like the Twilight Zone that this beat up old laptop sports the new Ubuntu 11.04. I am checking out the Unity desktop, have wireless and it all runs pretty good.
Time to put the orange cones away, take down the yellow tape and get back to work.