Although Linux will install and run on something as small as a 386/16 with no hard disk (you boot from floppies), you cant really expect to run your business on it. When To do useful work when I first started using Linux, you had have to be installed on a hard disk and have at least 4MB of RAM for text-based applications and 8MB if you are running X-Windows. Today, most video cards come with more RAM, and it is likely that you won’t find a new machine with less than 128MB if not 256MB. With prices today, RAM should no longer be an issue.
The amount of hard disk space you need is a completely different matter. Its not as easy to come up with a rule of thumb because each site will want to have a different set of applications. The basic UNIX utilities and programs will fit in less than 20MB. However, there is not much you can do with that. On the other end of the scale, I installed the Caldera Network Desktop with the Internet Office Suite onto a 500MB partition containing a complete RedHat distribution. Today, distributions like SuSE Linux come with up to seven CDs, which will obviously take up several gigabytes when fully installed. I then had to reinstall to make the partition larger because I ran out of space. In the middle is my old laptop, on which I had a 100MB partition and almost a complete Linux installation (no X-Windows).
Most of the commercial distributions list a few example installations and how much hard disk space you will need. Every commercial product I have seen lists how much space you will need. The products that are bundled with a Linux distribution also tell you how much the OS will/can take. It is therefore fairly easy to get an idea of how much space you will need.
For the most part, if you have a standard PC, Linux will run on it. By “standard” I mean that the components are common brands and types, there are no clones and the hardware has been on the market for more than a week.
Today, (August 2006) you would be hard pressed to find a new machine with less than 40GB and those are probably close-out models. Therefore, you could end up installing every single package and still a lot of room left over.
Linux is most commonly available for Intel machines. However, a few commercial versions are available for the DEC Alpha processor. There are also versions for the Motorola 680×0 as well as the PowerPC, SPARC, and MIPS (how many am I missing?). The best thing to do is check the Hardware HOWTO to see whether the hardware you have is supported.