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Lightweight GNU/Linux distributions

Posted by Bob Jonkman on June 13th, 2011

This is a list of lightweight GNU/Linux (or other free/libre OS) distributions.

I’m specifically looking for a free/libre operating system that will run a Graphical User Interface on a 10-year-old laptop, 700 MHz Intel CPU, 256 MiBytes RAM (but 128 MiBytes would be better), an 8 GiByte hard drive and an 800×600 screen.

If you know of any other lightweight distributions please leave a comment. Also please leave a comment if you can help fill out the chart – the distributions’ documentation is pretty inadequate when it comes to listing minimium system requirements.

Name Minimum System Requirements Windows Manager
CPU RAM Disk Space Video
Mandriva XFCE 2010 Spring         Xfce
Xubuntu         Xfce
Lubuntu 10.04 Pentium II or Celeron 128 MB 1.5 GB   LXDE
Linux Mint Xfce (201104)   114 MB     Xfce
Linux Mint 10 “Julia” – LXDE x86 processor 256 MB 3 GB 800×600 LXDE
Trisquel Mini         LXDE
Crunchbang         Openbox
SlimPup   35-50 MB 150 MB ISO    
Debian         Fluxbox
Arch Linux 2010.05 i686 or x86_64 64 MB 7.5 GB   xmonad
Tiny Core Linux i486DX 48 MB   TinyX
WCLP 25 MHz 486 16 MB 400 MB    
antiX PII 266 MHz 64 MB 2.2 GB VGA  
Dragora GNU/Linux-libre Intel 486 64MB (1GB suggested) 4 GB VGA  
Bodhi Linux 300+ MHz 128 MB 2.5 GB   Enlightenment

I expect this post to be a continuous work-in-progress.


Added 14 June 2011: Thanx for the suggestions from @dwa, @headphonica, @darkestkhan, @flying_squirrel and @circuidipity, all added above.

Added 17 June 2011: @schestowitz points me to a Linux Devices article on Tiny Core Linux.

Added 28 July 2011: @chaslinux reminded me of The Working Centre’s distribution, WCLP.

Added 4 August 2011:Just saw antiX mentioned on

Added 12 October 2013: @tekk writes: @bobjonkman If driver support isn’t an issue, maybe look at . I’d also put slackware on the list for that, maybe freebsd as well?

Added 23 November 2013: Bodhi Linux

5 Responses to “Lightweight GNU/Linux distributions”

  1. Todd Says:

    I was playing with some old Thinkpads at work (forget the specs at the moment, sorry) and had the best luck with Debian plus Xfce, in terms getting to a usable desktop.

  2. Bob Jonkman Says:

    Thanx Todd. I’m surprised that the Debian distro would be lightweight, even with Xfce.

    Is it just the choice of windows manager (& apps) that makes a distro lightweight? Or are there differences in what gets compiled into the kernel as well?


  3. Pavel Says:

    Disk Space: Lubuntu 10.04 – 1.5 GB.

  4. darkestkhan Says:

    It is also a matter of what is compiled into kernel, but Debian’s kernel doesn’t count as a lightweight one. It is as generic as it can get, so _kernel_ itself isn’t lightweight. But IMHO it is the choice of applications and windows manager that makes the biggest difference – it just doesn’t make sense to use KDE4 or GNOME3 on 256MB.
    Though I’m not sure if you can run Debian on system with 128MB RAM (I will admit — I’m basing this on the amount of RAM used by my AMD64 installation, so it may be possible to do).

  5. Bob Jonkman Says:

    Thanx Darkestkhan, I thought Debian might be a bit big. I’ll leave the entry in the table, though, and maybe someone can provide the minimum system requirements for comparison.

    And thanx, Pavel: Lubuntu entry is updated.

    Also thanx to @bnickle for the Arch Linux suggestion.


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