The Best Lightweight Linux Distributions For Older PC's
What do you do with your old computers? The one which once had good hardware configuration but now those are considered outdated. Why not revive your old computer with Linux? I am going to list seven beginner friendly lightweight Linux distributions that you can use on your older PC.
Best Lightweight Linux distributions
Let’s start from the #7 of the list and move on towards number one.
1. Tiny Core
Be ready to be amazed by the Tiny Core. I bet Windows’ smallest image editing app will be heavier than Tiny Core Linux. Yes! It is just 15MB in size! Amazed? It takes more time download a low quality small video clip than the Tiny Core.
Well that was about the size of distro but what is inside will also amaze you. It comes with the minimal interface and very few applications installed. If you have an ancient computer then try this out and see the magic. It boots faster than any other OS.
The Tiny Core Linux was forked from Damn Small project but now it is completely independent. This small distro comes with FLTK/FKWM and BusyBox desktop by default. You will find many things missing, for example, hardware graphics but don’t worry you can install them manually if you want.
There are three editions of Tiny Core which are Core, Tiny Core and CorePlus. Core is the base system that has only CLI (Command Line Interface). This will amazingly fit inside the old computer but as this is a CLI so an experienced/advance users can operate it well. The current version of Core edition is only 9MB. :)
TinyCore edition will be for a normal user who is familiar with GUI (Graphical User Interface). A beginner can be familiar with this edition of Tiny Core Linux. The current release of TinyCore is only 15MB in size. :)
CorePlus is an installation image and not the distribution. It is recommended for new users who only have access to a wireless network or who use a non-US keyboard layout. It includes the base Core System and installation tools to provide for the setup with the following options: Choice of 7 Window Managers, Wireless support via many firmware files and ndlswrapper, non-US keyboard support, and a remastering tool. The current release of CorePlus is only 72MB in size.
2. Puppy Linux
As I mentioned above now distributions will be less in size but speedy. Puppy Linux is one of them, Puppy Linux latest release is Puppy Linux 6.0.2 tahrpup CE that is only 199 – 201MB in size. Yes! It’s very small. This small Linux distribution can be booted with a small size USB stick.
Puppy Linux can be booted live with either a CD/DVD/USB and onceits booted you can eject CD/DVD/USB and Puppy Linux will run smoothly. It’s so tiny that it saves everything on RAM which makes it very fast. You can even save any data on the same USB that you are booting the Puppy Linux from. The Quirky 7.0.3 release is even smaller than tahrpup CE, it is only 176MB.
Puppy Linux uses JWM and Openbox window managers by default which is quite simple to use so beginners will have no problem getting familiar with it. If you are using Puppy Linux on old computer then this will more likely to fit into that but do not demand those high graphics applications. Try to complete your work with light applications and tools.
Because Puppy Linux is built to be fast so it does not come along with bundles of applications. But it does have some basic apps. For example, Abiword for word processing, Gnumeric for spreadsheets and assorted graphics editing and media playback programs. Personally I use Puppy Linux to recover data or to repair my currepted OS and believe me, it helps me a lot.
Minimum hardware requirements:
- CPU : 333MHz
- RAM : 64MB (recommended 256 MB)
In our list #3 is SparkyLinux. SparkyLinux is another lightweight but at the same time SparkyLinux also targets modern computers so it has another version which is loaded with applications and make the distro run instantly after installing. Did I tell you what distro SparkyLinux is based on? No? Oooops! Actually SparkyLinux is based on Debian testing branch and it has several desktop environments including LXDE, OpenBox/JWM, e17, MATE, Razor-QT, Cli and the GameOver edition. Razor-QT is quite faster than other mentioned except Cli (Command Line Interface).
As said earlier, it has two editions: Full edition and Base edition. Full edition is loaded with applications so that you do not have to install them manually, but that is not for our old computers. The Base edition is not loaded with heavy applications so it’s light and does not use much system resources. Although Sparky has its own repositories to install most of the applications.
The list of applications installed by default is different for different Sparky, Full, Base and Gaming edition and is available below each edition on the download page here.
Minimum hardware requirements:
- i486 / amd64
- 256MB RAM – LXDE, e17, Openbox, GameOver
- 384MB RAM – MATE, Razor-Qt
- 5GB of hard drive or flash USB stick for installation – 10GB recommended
- 2GB of hard drive or flash USB stick for installation (CLI edition)
Fourth one in our list is Lubuntu, as the name suggests a member of Ubuntu family but based on LXDE desktop environment. Lubuntu also supports older computers that had been buried (Just kidding! You can also use Lubuntu on modern hardware). Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu but has less packages and very lite. Lubuntu is the lightest derivatives of Ubuntu so it specializes speed, support with older hardware.
If you were using Ubuntu earlier then you will not find Lubuntu unfamiliar. Software and repositories are same so you will get all software that you were using on Ubuntu from their repositories. But take care of your system when installing any application. Select an application that can consume less resources of your old computer. Don’t use heavy apps.
Compared to other light Linux desktops like Puppy or Sparky Lubuntu has more applications already installed.
GPicView for image viewing, MTPaint for paint, Evince for PDF, Audacious for music, Gnome-Player for video, guvcview for webcam, Chromium for web browsing, Sylpheed for email, Pidgin for instant messaging, Transmission for torrent, Gnumeric for spreadshee, Abiword for office, Xpad for notes and there are even more.
Perhaps you are confused if Lubuntu is a light weight system or loaded with every applications. Well that’s what I don’t know. But overall Lubuntu works good on older computers and consumes less system resources.
Minimum hardware requirements:
- A Pentium II or Celeron system with 128 MB of RAM is probably a bottom-line configuration that may yield slow yet usable system with a standard lubuntu desktop.
- 14.04 32 bit ISO require your CPU to have Physical Address Extensions, or PAE. “PAE is provided by Intel Pentium Pro and above CPUs, including all later Pentium-series processors (except most 400 MHz-bus versions of the Pentium M).” – If you have an error with Celeron M reporting “NON-PAE CPU” and would like to install Lubuntu 14.04, please see this page
- For PowerPC, it is known to run on a G4 running at 867MHz with 640MB RAM.
5. Bodhi Linux
Another lite Linux distribution is Bodhi Linux that gives life to older PCs & Laptops. Bodhi Linux is quite known for its lightness. There are not much software pre-loaded on Bodhi Linux so it’s not big in size and when installed on older computers it runs freely without using much memory. But do not think that you can not install other applications, you can install any application that you need.
The latest version of Bodhi Linux is 3.0 which has several improvements over the previous version. Some of the new features are:
- Enlightenment E19.3
- Terminology 0.8.0
- ePad 0.9.0
- Numix Icons
- Linux Kernel 3.16
- Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Core
Other than this, Enlightenment makes the distro a lot faster. Enlightenment is faster than other window managers that are used in other Linux distributions. If you have any problem using Enlightenment or any other function of Bodhi then there are helpful guides written by the team.
By default Bodhi Linux does not include many applications but there are some basic applications such as Ephoto for Graphics, Midori for web browsing, ePad text editor but, unfortunately, there are no applications for Multimedia. But don’t worry! As I said above you can install other applications through App Center. PPAs meant for Ubuntu also work in Bodhi Linux, mostly.
Minimum hardware requirements:
- 1.0ghz processor
- 256MB of RAM
- 4GB of drive space
CrunchBang++ is also known as CBPP or #!++ or CrunchBang Plus Plus. Crunchbang++ is the clone of dead Linux distribution Crunchbang Linux that was known for simplicity and lite weight. CrunchBang++ supports old computers and runs without any issue. CrunchBang++ is based on Debian 8 (Jessie) with the minimal design interface and built around the minimal and lightweight Openbox window manager.
This project is continuing with the same aim to provide easy to use & lite weight Linux with good functionalities. That’s why Crunchbang++ includes a minimal design, simple & sleek interface.
Some of the default applications in Crunchbang++ are Geany IDE, Terminator terminal emulator, Thunar File Manager, Gimp for image editing, Viewnior image viewer, VLC Media Player for music, Xfburn CD/DVD burning software, Iceweasel for web browsing, Transmission torrent client, Gnumeric spreadsheet editor, Evince pdf viewer, gFTP file transfer client, Xchat IRC client, AbiWord for office.
Any beginner can install and start using pre-loaded distribution instantly. You can download Crunchbang++ Linux torrent from their download page.
7. Linux Lite
As the name suggests Linux Lite is the lite weight Linux distribution that does not need geeks’ hardware to run it, but a beginner will be able to use it on older computers easily. Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) releases. The LTS version gives support for 5 years which means once you install Linux Lite on your computer, it will provide updates for 5 years.
Linux Lite Team says: “Linux Lite is fully functional out of the box, this means that you won’t have to install extra software when you boot your computer for the first time.” This is pretty helpful for newbies as they don’t need to go for some basic apps search to install. Most of the basic apps are built in with OS.
Current release Linux Lite 2.4 has several improvements and fixes. There is added support for exFAT, Android MTPFS, VPN connections, Bluetooth and NTP and many more changes made in this release. Some of the pre-installed apps are Firefox for web browsing, Thunderbird for emails, Dropbox for Cloud storage, VLC Media Player for Music, LibreOffice for office, Gimp for image editing and Lite tweaks to tweak your desktop.
Minimum hardware requirements:
- 700MHz processor
- 512mb RAM
- VGA screen 1024×768 resolution
- DVD drive or USB port for the ISO image
- At least 5 GB free disk space
Installing any of the following Linux on your older hardware will be very easy. The good thing is that there are many tutorials or guides provided by the team itself to help new users. Also you will need to do a little research about the applications you want to install on very tiny distributions. Prefer the application that uses less system resources and has a simple user interface. If you maintain the installations then there will be no problem using any of the Linux listed above.
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