I wouldn't want to experience Vista on a 12 year old system. XP is probably painful enough.
You could probably get Ubuntu on there without too much difficulty given its age. It shouldn't damage anything.
I just received a 12 year old laptop that had the hard drive wiped clean. It originally had XP. Can I install Vista or will that cause problems with the computer? Can I install Ubuntu instead without causing damage to the PC?
What if the Vista CD is defective, will that cause the computer to fail or cause problems later?