50+ Best Lightweight Linux Distros for 2017


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With the feedback and requests we got from our Best Linux Distros for Gaming list, we had to do another list of the best lightweight Linux distros. Actually, some of them fit both our categories. Sure, there are other similar lists our there, but this one has up-to-date info and we’ve personally tried and tested (almost) every distro on our old laptops. It took us 7 months to compile this list and a few weeks to update it with new data! We’ve seen new lists that included distros with their latest update being in 2005. Come on, how is that distro still relevant and good in 2017? And don’t get us started on how each list is just a rehashed version of the same 5 distros. We purposefully included many distros in our list so you have more options to choose from. All distros are free and can run on ~512MB RAM or less. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just pick any distro.

You don’t have to throw away your old PCs and laptops. Install a lightweight Linux distro on them and they’re as good as new.  Lightweight distros don’t even have to be used on old hardware. You can install them on some bleeding-edge hardware and get the ultimate performance. Most distros are portable and can run on a Live CD/USB, without a hard drive. Why should you use other OSes full of bloatware and unnecessary stuff when you can use a perfectly fine Linux alternative?

Anyway, before we go on with the list, a few quick tips on how to choose the best one for you:

How to choose the best lightweight Linux distro for you

These guidelines should help, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just pick any distro from the list below and you’ll be fine.

  • Any Linux distro is better than Windows/OS X when it comes to old hardware. Linux distros and the software that runs on them are far more optimized and compatible with old(er) hardware. If you’re using Windows or OS X and it “feels slow”, switch to a Linux distro. You’re guaranteed to see an improvement in performance. Some older versions of Windows and OS X are fast for older hardware, but they don’t get any support or updates, unlike all distros listed here.
  • Choosing the right lightweight distro will depend on what you’re going to use it for. Some distros are optimized for certain activities, ie. servers and gaming. Are you going to use it for everyday browsing? If so, have in mind that websites have evolved and although the browser and OS itself will perform better, the websites can still be bloated and slow down your Linux. If you’re going to use it for random office tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, or presentations – the lightweight Linux distros will work just fine. Maybe you’d like to use your old laptop as a media device and watch movies on it. You’re good to go, as long as the movie itself is not a full Blu-Ray rip.
  • Another guideline is how much you’re willing to sacrifice. How much OS features do you really need? You don’t really need all that fancy UI animations and 3D stuff. Some Linux distros do have great modern UIs, but they do require better hardware.
  • Previous experience is another big factor you need to consider before you choose a lightweight Linux distro. Are you a beginner? Then don’t use Arch Linux. Have you used Ubuntu before? Then get a lightweight distro based on Ubuntu. Got used to the Windows XP interface and want something similar? Sure, we have the perfect distro for you.
  • Pro-tip: do a bit of research for your hardware and see if the distro supports it. It most likely will, but just to be sure, you can do a quick google with your hardware model and the distro and you should get some results. Most distros can run on a cheap USB flash drive – you don’t even need an HDD/SSD. This is often referred to as a “Live CD/USB”. We’ll include a ‘minimum hardware requirements’ for each distro, so you can check if the hardware stats you have will support the distro. Most of these distros can run perfectly fine on a Raspberry Pi.

Quick overview of the distros included in our list

Now (finally), onto the main part, the best lightweight Linux distros for old computers/laptops. Click on the distro’s name to find more info, screenshots, and download links.

Distro Minimum RAM (MB) Minimum CPU Minimum Disk Space (MB) GUI Release cycle Notes
Lubuntu 512 Pentium 4, Pentium M, AMD K8 or newer CPU. At least 266 MHz 3000 LXLE Standard Beginner-friendly
LXLE 512 Pentium 3 8000 LXDE LTS only Based on Lubuntu
Arch Linux 512 Any 64-compatible machine 1000 Any Rolling For advanced users
ArchBang 256 i686 or x86_64 compatible machine 700 Openbox Rolling Arch Linux made easier
Puppy Linux 128 233 MHz 512 JWM Standard Portable (Live only)
Linux Lite 512 700 MHz 2000 XFCE LTS only Great for Windows users
KNOPPIX 120 i486 2000 LXDE Standard Portable (Live only)
Peppermint 512 Any processor based on Intel x86 architecture 3600 LXDE Hybrid The Cloud Desktop based on Lubuntu
PCLinuxOS 512 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 12000 KDE, Mate, LXDE, XFCE Rolling Not the most lightweight, but it is fast
Trisquel Mini 128 AMD K6 or Intel Pentium II 3000 LXDE LTS only Only free software
Porteus 256 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 512 KDE, LXQt, Mate, Cinnamon... Standard THE portable Linux distro
Manjaro Linux - Xfce Edition 512 1 GHz 30000 Xfce Rolling Very powerful and flexible
Peach OSI 512 700 MHz processor (Intel Celeron or better) 8600 XFCE, Cinnamon, Mate... LTS only 8 different versions to choose from
Pixel OS 512 1 GHz 5000 Custom environment Standard Turn a Raspberry Pi into a fully-featured desktop PC
Modern X 256 366 MHz 3000 GNOME Standard Great for Windows/Mac users
Debian 256 1 GHz 10000 KDE Hybrid Stable, old, modern, popular
Sparky Linux 256 i686 / amd64 CPU 10000 LXDE, Budgie, Enlightenment, JWM, Openbox, KDE, LXQt, MATE, Xfce... Rolling Has the most editions/versions
SliTaz 192 i486 or x86 Intel compatible processors 80 Openbox Rolling The lightweight desktop and server OS
Elive 128 300 MHz 700 Enlightenment Standard Custom lightweight desktop environment
BunsenLabs Linux 256 1 GHz 10000 Openbox Hybrid New and improved CrunchBang
antiX 192 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 2800 IceWM, Fluxbox, JWM, Xfce, herbstluftwm Cyclical Rolling Great Live USB Options
Slax 48 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 220 KDE Standard Portable and modular
Linux Mint 512 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 10000 XFCE, Cinnamon, Mate... Standard Beautiful and easy to use
wattOS 192 Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor 700 LXDE, i3 Standard Lightweight and fully-featured
Zorin OS Lite 512 700 MHz 8000 Custom LTS only Great alternative to the Windows and Mac OS
Bodhi Linux 128 500 MHz 4000 Moksha (custom) LTS only Custom lightweight desktop environment
Tiny Core Linux 48 At least an i486DX CPU 11 FLWM Standard Extremely lightweight, but not recommended for beginners
CRUX 192 x86-64 or newer CPUs 1000 Openbox Standard Unlike any other
Bonus Distros Starting from 3 MB RAM! Starting from 1.44! Mixed. Everything Mixed Our bonus list. You can find anything there.


Lubuntu

Lubuntu is one of the most popular and most widely used lightweight Linux distros out there. Some use it as their main Linux distro on their powerful hardware just because of its performance and beautiful UI.

Lubuntu minimum hardware requirements

It can run on just about anything.

  • Pentium 4, Pentium M, AMD K8 or newer CPU. At least 266 MHz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 3 GB Disk Space (or more)

Anything more is just a plus. The requirements listed here are for the 16.04 LTS release, other releases may have slightly different requirements.

Lubuntu facts and features

The lightweight Ubuntu.

  • Based on Ubuntu, without any bloat
  • Has all the essential lightweight software pre-installed (office, browser, media players etc.)
  • Uses LXDE. Future releases will use LXQt
  • Great and active community support. There are also a couple of active social Lubuntu groups. You can find them here
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Lubuntu


LXLE

As an alternative to Lubuntu, we have LXLE. Based on Lubuntu, it has the performance optimizations of a lightweight distro with a beautiful UI.

LXLE minimum hardware requirements

Similar to Lubuntu.

  • Pentium 3 processor
  • At least 512 MB RAM
  • 8 GB Disk Space

LXLE facts and features

Plug and go.

  • Easy to set up – just install it and you are ready to go. No complex configurations needed
  • Great for Windows XP/Vista/7 users
  • A wide variety of default apps pre-installed
  • Based on LXDE
  • Only has LTS releases
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download LXLE


Arch Linux

Flexible, lightweight and powerful Linux distro. Not recommended for beginners. The screenshot above is from an Arch Linux with the GNOME desktop environment (Elegant Theme).

Arch Linux minimum hardware requirements

Depends on what you’re going to use.

  • Any 64-compatible machine. Has to be 64-bit
  • Minimum 512 MB RAM
  • At least 1 GB Disk Space

Arch Linux facts and features

Make it your own.

  • Fully customizable – you choose which packages, desktop environments etc. you are going to use. You need to install them yourself
  • The official wiki has in-depth tutorials on just about anything
  • As lightweight as you make it be. You install only the packages and features you need. Nothing more.
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Arch Linux


ArchBang

 If you want the power and flexibility of Arch Linux, but don’t want to do the complex set up and installation, you can use ArchBang. It’s based on Arch Linux and it’s inspired by CrunchBang.

ArchBang minimum hardware requirements

Lightweight and easy on the system.

  • i686 or x86_64 compatible machine
  • 256MB RAM
  • 700MB Disk Space

ArchBang facts and features

Arch Linux made easy easier.

  • Can be used as a fully featured desktop and as a Live OS
  • Best of both worlds – based on Arch Linux and inspired by CrunchBang
  • Openbox window manager
  • Rolling release
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download ArchBang


Puppy Linux(es)

Very lightweight Linux distro that should not be installed on a hard disk. It should run on a live CD/USB Flash Drive.

Puppy Linux minimum hardware requirements

Extremely lightweight.

  • 233MHZ processor
  • 128MB RAM
  • 512MB free hard drive space to create an optional save file.
  • No hard drive required
  • CD-ROM/DVD/SD Card or USB Port

Puppy Linux facts and features

Puppy Linux is not a single distro, but a collection of many distros with different purposes and different sets of software.

  • No hard drive required. Can run on a live CD/Flash Drive/SD Card
  • Many different Linux Puppy distros to choose from. The distro in the screenshot above is the “Puppy Linux – Tahrpup” distro
  • Puppy Linux runs in your PC’s memory, as opposed to running on your hard disk, which makes it extremely fast
  • It’s portable – you can save data on your live flash drive and run it on any other computer
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Puppy Linux


Linux Lite

Beautiful UI, easy to use and often used as a gateway from Windows to Linux.

Linux Lite minimum hardware requirements

Full of features, but quite lightweight.

  • 700MHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • VGA screen (1024×768 resolution)
  • At least 2GB Hard Disk Space

Linux Lite facts and features

Considering the UI – it’s a great alternative to the Windows OS

  • Based on the XFCE desktop environment
  • Ready to use out of the box. Everything you need is pre-installed
  • Every release is LTS (5 years of support and updates)
  • One of the best UIs on a lightweight Linux distro
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Linux Lite


KNOPPIX

Another live-only lightweight Linux distro. Bootable distro with a set of GNU/Linux apps and different software. Just plug the live USB/CD, start it, and you are good to go.

KNOPPIX minimum hardware requirements

One of the most lightweight distros.

  • Intel/AMD-compatible CPU (i486 and up)
  • At least 120MB RAM
  • Standard SVGA-compatible graphics chipset
  • 2GB Disk Space (varies)

KNOPPIX facts and features

Plug and play.

  • Easy to use – just boot from CD/Flash Drive and use the distro
  • All the software you need is pre-installed (GIMP, Firefox, Open Office, MPlayer…)
  • Based on LXDE
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download KNOPPIX


Peppermint

The Desktop Cloud Linux. Integrate any Cloud-based (web) app into your Peppermint OS. Doesn’t have a lot of pre-installed apps so you can make Peppermint your own.

Peppermint minimum hardware requirements

Doesn’t need much, but it’s recommended to use more.

  • 512MB RAM (1GB recommended)
  • Any processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 3.6GB Disk Space

Peppermint facts and features

The Desktop Cloud.

  • Easily integrated with web apps
  • Install the software you want – make Peppermint your own
  • Great UI – especially if you’re moving from Windows
  • Based on Lubuntu. LXDE desktop environment
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Peppermint


PCLinuxOS

“So cool ice cubes are jealous” – straight from their website. Easily booted from a Live CD/USB and easily installed on your hard drive. Various desktop environments to choose from and a great UI.

PCLinuxOS minimum hardware requirements

Doesn’t need much. But it would be great if you had more.

  • Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor
  • 512MB RAM (2GB recommended)
  • 12GB Hard Disk Space

PCLinuxOS facts and features

Beautiful, cool, sleek, intuitive, easy.

  • You can install the KDE-based PCOS, LXDE-based PCOS or the Mate-based PCOS. There’s also an XFCE community release
  • Easily installed on a live CD/USB
  • Beginner-friendly with lots of desktop environment options

Download PCLinuxOS


Porteus

Porteus can run on a USB flash drive/CD/DVD or an SD card. It’s THE portable, lightweight Linux distro.

Porteus minimum hardware requirements

Extremely lightweight.

  • Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor
  • 256 MB RAM (can be different depending on which desktop environment you use)
  • No hard disk required. A flash drive with 512MB will work perfectly fine

Porteus facts and features

THE portable Linux.

  • Use it on portable storage devices – USB/CD/DVD/SD card
  • Different desktop environments to choose from: KDE, LXQt, Mate, Cinnamon and more
  • ‘Persistent mode’ is available – save data directly on your rewritable removable storage device
  • 15 seconds boot time
  • Porteus Kiosk‘ is a specialized edition that can be used on web terminals

Download Porteus


Trisquel Mini

Trisquel GNU/Linux is, in a nutshell, Ubuntu with only free software. The default version of Trisquel runs with GNOME, but it has a “Mini” edition which runs on LXDE, which is very lightweight.

Trisquel Mini minimum hardware requirements

The default version is lightweight, but the Mini version is more lightweight.

  • AMD K6 or Intel Pentium II
  • 128MB RAM
  • 3GB Disk Space

Trisquel Mini facts and features

Only free software.

  • Great for any kind of use – home, work, education etc.
  • Based on Ubuntu
  • Mini version runs with LXDE
  • Has different versions to choose from – including Trisquel Sugar TOAST which is designed to be used by children in learning environments
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Trisquel Mini


Manjaro Linux Xfce Edition

Another popular distro for advanced users is Manjaro – you can use the Xfce edition with a pre-installed desktop environment, which makes it easier to get started.

Manjaro Linux minimum hardware requirements

Not the most lightweight system, but very powerful and flexible.

  • 1GHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 30GB Hard Disk Space

Manjaro Linux facts and features

Flexible, fast and powerful.

  • Rolling release
  • Great for beginners and advanced users
  • Based on Arch Linux
  • Uses the Xfce edition (obviously)
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Manjaro Linux


Peach OSI

Lightweight Linux distro that resembles the Mac (OS X) interface. Free, beautiful, easy to use and fully-featured.

Peach OSI minimum hardware requirements

The minimum requirements can be different depending on which version you choose

  • 700 MHz processor (Intel Celeron or better)
  • 512MB RAM (1GB or more recommended)
  • 8.6GB Disk Space
  • VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution

Peach OSI facts and features

Different versions (editions) to choose from.

  • Depending on your needs – you can choose from these versions: Peach TV, The Works, Barebones Multilingual, Netbook, Peach Kids, Peach Pi, Peach Pi TV
  • Multi-purpose lightweight OS. Use it as a desktop OS, for your home theater system, for your kids etc.
  • Based on Ubuntu, but highly customized
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Peach OSI


PIXEL OS

The OS built by Raspberry Pi that can easily run on a Pi.

PIXEL OS minimum hardware requirements

Lightweight, yet powerful.

  • 1GHz Pentium processor. It can run on ARM-based processors too.
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 5GB Disk Space

PIXEL OS facts and features

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a fully-featured desktop PC.

  • Raspberry Pi’s own OS
  • Based on Debian (Raspbian)
  • Lots of pre-installed software (including proprietary software)
  • Can run as a ‘persistent live OS’ – saving data on your removable drive

Download PIXEL OS


Modern X

Based on openSUSE and the GNOME desktop environment. Lightweight and perfect for Windows/Mac users. Not to be confused with “Modern X OS”

Modern X minimum hardware requirements

Extremely lightweight.

  • 366 MHz CPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • 3GB Disk Space

Modern X facts and features

Beginner-friendly gateway Linux distro for Windows and Mac users.

  • Uses the GNOME desktop environment, optimized for speed and Windows/Mac users
  • Different versions available
  • Can run on a live CD/USB/SD card

Download Modern X


Debian

We included lots of distros based on Debian, but we should definitely include Debian too. The Debian distro itself is very lightweight, stable and popular.

Debian minimum hardware requirements

Revive your old PC with an old, yet modern distro.

  • 1GHz CPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • 10GB Disk Space

Debian facts and features

One of THE most popular Linux distros.

  • VERY active community and extensive documentation
  • Stable, easy to use
  • Uses only free software
  • You can use the Server version for your server
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Debian


Sparky Linux

Lightweight Linux distro with lots of editions to choose from. Based on Debian with a rolling-release cycle.

Sparky Linux minimum hardware requirements

If you use LXDE, LXQt or Openbox:

  • i686 / amd64 CPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • 10GB Disk Space

Sparky Linux facts and features

Has the most options to choose from.

  • Different editions available – Home, Special, CLI and Minimal
  • Desktop environments available – LXDE, Budgie, Enlightenment, JWM, Openbox, KDE, LXQt, MATE, Xfce…
  • Beginner-friendly and beautiful UIs
  • Rolling release cycle, based on the Testing branch of Debian
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Sparky Linux


SliTaz

SliTaz or Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone is a lightweight Linux distro that can be used both as a desktop OS and as a server.

SliTaz minimum hardware requirements

Depending on which version you use, the RAM requirement can be as low as 16MB. Requirements for the default (core) version are:

  • i486 or x86 Intel-compatible processors
  • 192MB RAM
  • 80MB Disk Space

SliTaz facts and features

Extremely lightweight server and/or desktop OS.

  • Can be used as a server and as a desktop OS
  • Rolling release
  • Use it as a Live OS or as a desktop OS
  • Easily runs on a Raspberry Pi
  • Can be booted and used from the web (internet)
  • Has 4 flavors: base, just-x, gtk-only and the full desktop

Download SliTaz


Elive

The extremely lightweight Linux distro with its own custom desktop environment. Revive your old PC with a beautiful OS with an intuitive UI.

Elive minimum hardware requirements

Fully-featured desktop OS that can run on just about anything.

  • 300MHz CPU
  • 128MB RAM
  • 700MB Disk Space

Elive facts and features

Uses it’s own custom desktop environment.

  • Powered by Enlightenment
  • Based on Debian. Apart from all the apt packages, there are some custom software packages too
  • Pre-installed with all the apps you need – including games
  • Easily customizable and extendable with Enlightenment themes
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Elive


BunsenLabs Linux

BunsenLabs Linux is a distro based on Debian. A successor to CrunchBang, uses the Openbox window manager which makes it a beautiful and lightweight distro.

BunsenLabs Linux minimum hardware requirements

It uses Openbox, so very lightweight.

  • 1GHz CPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • 10GB Disk Space

BunsenLabs Linux facts and features

The new (and improved) CrunchBang.

  • Based on Debian
  • Uses the Openbox window manager
  • Active and helpful community
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download BunsenLabs Linux


antiX

The lightweight distro perfect for both newcomers and experienced Linux users. Used as a desktop OS and as a Live OS.

antiX minimum hardware requirements

Light and beautiful.

  • Just about any CPU
  • 192MB RAM is the absolute minimum. 256MB or more is recommended
  • 2.8GB Disk Space

antiX facts and features

All-in-one lightweight distro.

  • Can be used as a Live OS with many live features
  • Can be used persistently on a Live USB
  • Fully featured as a Desktop OS
  • Based on Debian
  • Has different window managers to choose from: IceWM, Fluxbox, JWM and herbstluftwm

Download antiX


Slax Linux

A modular and portable lightweight Linux distro based on Slackware. Since it’s modular, you can install any software. Just download a module and copy it to Slax.

Slax minimum hardware requirements

Extremely lightweight, especially if you use the text-mode edition.

  • Any Intel/AMD CPU will work. i486 or newer CPU
  • 48MB RAM for text-mode 256MB of RAM for KDE desktop
  • 220MB Disk Space

Slax facts and features

Your pocket operating system

  • Modular, you can install any software
  • Has all the apps you need pre-installed
  • Portable via a Live CD/USB
  • Different editions to choose from, all with different purposes and features

Download Slax


Linux Mint

Linux Mint is one of the popular Linux distros overall. However, the MATE, Cinnamon and Xfce editions are quite lightweight, so they deserve a spot on our list. Note: the KDE edition is not lightweight.

Linux Mint minimum hardware requirements

Depends on the edition, but all are pretty lightweight.

  • 700MHz CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • 10GB Disk Space

Linux Mint facts and features

One of the most popular distros.

  • Very active community
  • Beautiful user interfaces
  • Stable, reliable
  • All the software you need pre-installed
  • Lots of different editions to choose from
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Linux Mint


wattOS

A lightweight, fully featured OS that you can use as a Desktop OS, as a Kiosk and just about anything. Based on Ubuntu and has two editions to choose from.

wattOS minimum hardware requirements

Depends on what version you use, but still very lightweight.

  • Any Intel or AMD CPU will work
  • 192MB RAM for Microwatt. More if you use the LXDE edition
  • 700MB Disk Space

wattOS facts and features

Lightweight and functional.

  • The Microwatt Edition of wattOS is extremely lightweight and based on the i3 tiling window manager
  • There’s also an LXDE edition which can be used as a fully featured desktop OS. Great for beginners
  • New version (R11) is coming soon this year
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download wattOS


Zorin OS Lite

A great alternative to Windows and Mac OS. The “Lite” version is relatively lightweight, but it’s still in beta.

Zorin OS Lite minimum hardware requirements

Light and ready to use out of the box.

  • 700MHz Single Core
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB Disk Space
  • 640×480 resolution

Zorin OS Lite facts and features

If you’re using Windows or Mac and want to switch to Linux on your old laptop.

  • All the software you need pre-installed
  • Different desktop layouts (themes) to choose from
  • Compatible with Windows apps via Wine (pre-installed)
  • Intuitive and beautiful UI
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Zorin OS Lite


Bodhi Linux

A minimalistic Linux distro with a custom-built window manager – Moksha, which only needs 100MB RAM to run.

Bodhi Linux minimum hardware requirements

Minimalistic and lightweight.

  • 500MHz – any CPU
  • 128MB minimum
  • 4GB Disk Space

Bodhi Linux facts and features

The Enlightened, Minimalistic, Lightweight Linux Distribution.

  • Has a custom “desktop environment” (window manager) – Moksha. The WM is very lightweight – needs only 100MB to run and it has every feature you’d need
  • Different versions/flavors to choose from
  • An active community ready to help
  • All the apps you need pre-installed
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Bodhi Linux


Tiny Core Linux

Tiny Core Linux (TCL) is THE most lightweight distro we have on our list. It’s portable too. Though, it’s not recommended for beginners. There’s extensive documentation, so if you want to learn more about it, you can.

Tiny Core Linux minimum hardware requirements

The most lightweight.

  • At least i486DX CPU
  • 48MB RAM
  • 11MB Disk Space (can be more or less, depending on which Core you use)

Tiny Core Linux facts and features

Fast, flexible and powerful. Not recommended for beginners.

  • Different “Cores” to choose from: piCore – for Raspberry Pis, Tiny Core – with a GUI, MicroCore – without a GUI and more
  • Extremely lightweight with lots of possibilities – customize it to your needs
  • Runs in RAM
  • Portable
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download Tiny Core Linux


CRUX

Lightweight distro using the Openbox window manager – recommended for advanced users only. It is not based on any other Linux distro.

CRUX minimum hardware requirements

Extremely lightweight if you preform a custom chroot installation.

  • x86-64 or newer CPUs. i686 (Pentium-Pro, Celeron, Pentium-III) or lower processor won’t work.
  • 192MB RAM. 16MB if you preform a custom chroot installation
  • 1000MB Disk Space – can vary depending on what you use

CRUX facts and features

Unlike any other.

  • Not based on any other distro
  • Uses the lightweight window manager Openbox
  • Doesn’t have a GUI installation
  • NOT recommended for beginners
  • Easily installable (and usable) via a USB flash drive.

Download CRUX


Conclusion and bonus distros

The distros above are our “main” lightweight Linux distros. It should be enough, but if you’d like to compare more distros and explore the vast world of lightweight Linux distros, move on to our Bonus list.
This list (including the bonus one) is quite large, so there must be some errors or typos, even though we reviewed it a couple of times. If you notice any errors, have any questions, or if you have a suggestion for a distro, please leave a comment!

We’ve invested a lot of our time and efforts into this post, so if you want to support us, you can do so by purchasing anything from the different affiliate links we have throughout our site. If you’re feeling generous, you can also donate and help us to continue writing more content like this. Contact us for more info. Thanks!

Bonus list includes:

  • Distros that run on 3 MB RAM, on a floppy disk!
  • Distros issued and maintained by the United States Department of Defense
  • Distros that completely run in RAM and can still be used after removing the live CD/USB
  • Distros used on web servers for web apps
  • Distros based on Slackware
  • Distros based on distros based on distros our main distros list has (is this a tongue twister?)
  • Distros NOT based on Linux. Although they are not based on Linux, they are still lightweight, free and/or both
  • …and more!

Go to the Bonus List


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18 thoughts on “50+ Best Lightweight Linux Distros for 2017

  • Karl Schneider

    I know you’ve probably got 100 comment like this, but I think OBRevenge would have been a great distro to add to this list.
    OBRevenge is developed by Jody James who has also released KRevenge and Mate Revenge. OBRevenge uses Arch Linux as a base and is unique in the way that Jody uses the Openbox WM with an option of panels from XFCE, Mate and LXDE. You can also use the wisker menu out of the box. He also includes a couple handfuls of apps created in house to handle graphics drivers, GRUB, Codecs, panel switching, etc.. He takes Arch and Openbox and makes it super easy to install and use.
    It is very very fast and easy to customize. Definitely worth checking out.
    Jody is also easy to get in touch with on G+ and addresses any bugs or issues very quickly. He has also helped out with the ArchLabs distro project. (which is another great light weight distro)

  • erik dubois

    I noticed your article and checked if ArchLabs was inside the list.

    It was not never our goal to be the best lightweight linux distro (and it is still not) but we are getting that response from the community. Openbox is ofcourse quite lightweight. In the next release we added i3wm, a tiling manager, that consumes almost no MB.

    Would appreciate it if you gave ArchLabs a trial run. This Friday 7/4/2017 we will release R2-D2, our latest release, where in retrospect ‘theming’ is THE topic.

  • Al

    I recently was given an Asus Eee PC/Netbook and tried ot install different small/light distros on it and the only one that worked is Refracta.

    Based on Debian so not very much to learn about.

    • THRadmin Post author

      We should definitely include Devuan and Refracta in our list.

      Some of the testing we did was on an Asus Eee PC. All distros in our list work perfectly fine on the Eee PC, until you open up some modern website with hundreds of resources, which is totally expected.

  • CFWhitman

    I noticed that in the chart it lists Debian as having KDE as the desktop. In the screenshot, it appears to show Debian with GNOME 3. Of course, you can choose between several different desktops when installing Debian, of which GNOME 3 is the heaviest and KDE is closer to the heaviest than the lightest.

    A distribution that is not included which I thought was worth a mention is Salix. Salix Fluxbox is very lightweight, but even Salix Xfce is lighter than a number of the ones included. The repositories for Salix are not extensive, but they have the basics covered. I run it on an old Pentium 4 Thinkpad from around 2003 (or perhaps 2002) with 1GB of RAM.

  • hablador

    This erik dubois appears everywhere and offers that archlabs.Erik there take care of archlabs and do not fit into everything. And archlabs need to be cleverly explained, and not enough and not everybody is like you!

  • kenn

    ~~ I cant have scanned every thing available, but so far as I can tell, most Linux Distro reviews are purty lightweight in themselves.
    I’d like to see a review come out that tells me if I can customize the clock — can I change the colors of the foreground and background. And does the distro have two panels — top and bottom, and are they customizable in size, icon placement. Can I really change the desktop names on the work spaces? Can I “easily” install SoftMaker-SoftText apps ? Is there decent Bible software available — again easily? What sort of icon does the internet connection have — do I have to guess what that thing in the upper panel is, or is it obv.s ?
    Again — maybe I’ve missed something over the years, but if so —
    point the way, hey ?!
    thanks
    kenn

  • Тони

    Изпробвах вече около 25 дистра и ще продължавам да се забавлявам. Голямо Благодаря !!!