Brief: Don’t throw your old computer just yet. Use a lightweight Linux distro and revive that decades-old system.
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 The one which once had good hardware configuration but now those are considered outdated.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 best lightweight Linux distributions that you can use on your older PC.
While our focus is on older computers, you can also use most of these lightweight Linux on relatively new hardware. This will give you a better performance if you use your computer for resource-heavy usage such as video editing on Linux.
Let’s see which lightweight Linux distro you should use.
Best Lightweight Linux distros for old laptops and desktops
I’ll try to order the list in decreasing order of hardware requirement. Which means the lightweight Linux distro at the number one position would need the minimum hardware.
Peppermint is a cloud-focused Linux distribution that doesn’t need high-end hardware. It is based on Ubuntu and uses LXDE desktop environment to give you a smoother experience.
Originally created with the web-centric approach of netbooks in mind, Peppermint has developed ICE application for integrating any website as a desktop app.
Minimum system requirements for Peppermint OS:
- RAM: 1 GB of RAM (recommended 2 GB)
- CPU: Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
- Disk space: At least 4 GB of available disk space
You can get more information about Peppermint on its website:
Next on our list of best lightweight Linux distributions is Lubuntu. As the name suggests a member of Ubuntu family but based on LXDE desktop environment. In fact, it is one of the official flavors of Ubuntu.
Lubuntu also supports older computers that had been buried (Just kidding! You can also use Lubuntu on modern hardware). Lubuntu is the lightest derivatives of Ubuntu so it specializes speed, support for older hardware.
Lubuntu has fewer packages by default consisting mostly of lightweight Linux applications.
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 spreadsheet, Abiword for office, Xpad for notes and there are even more.
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 fewer resources of your old computer. Don’t use resource-heavy apps.
Minimum hardware requirements for Lubuntu:
- RAM: 512 MB of RAM (recommended 1GB)
- CPU: Pentium 4 or Pentium M or AMD K8 or higher
8. Linux Lite
As the name suggests Linux Lite is a lightweight Linux distro that does not need high-end hardware to run it. Even 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 should 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.
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.
Considering that it is based on Ubuntu, you’ll have plenty of support and resources available online as you can follow the Ubuntu tutorials.
Minimum hardware requirements for Linux Lite:
- RAM: 512 MB RAM (recommended 1 GB)
- CPU: 700MHz processor
- Display: VGA screen 1024×768 resolution (recommended VGA, DVI or HDMI screen 1366×768)
- Disk space: At least 5 GB free disk space
LXLE is actually a respin of Lubuntu LTS version. Which means that it is basically Lubuntu but tweaked for a specific purpose, to revive old computers in this case.
Despite being lightweight Linux distro, LXLE tries to provide an intuitive UI and eye candies. The system is tweaked to improve performance and comes with a wide range of lightweight applications installed by default.
Minimum hardware requirements for LXLE:
- RAM: 512 MB (recommended 1 GB)
- CPU: Pentium 3 (recommended Pentium 4)
- Disk space: 8 GB
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 9 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.
Minimum hardware requirements for CrunchBang++:
There are no official hardware recommendations for Crunchbang++. Ideally, it should work with 512 MB of RAM and Pentium 4 CPU.
Openbox is not very beginner friendly but this doesn’t mean you should be afraid to try it:
5. Bodhi Linux
Another light Linux distribution is Bodhi Linux that gives life to older PCs & Laptops. Bodhi Linux is quite known for its lightness. There are not many software pre-loaded on Bodhi Linux so the ISO is 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.
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.
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 for Bodhi Linux:
- RAM: 256 MB of RAM
- CPU: 1.0 GHz
- Disk space: 4 GB of drive space
4. antiX Linux
antIiX is a lightweight Linux distribution based on Debian Linux. It takes pride in boasting of a systemd-free Linux distribution. If you are not aware of the term systemd, then it shouldn’t matter to you that antiX doesn’t use systemd.
antiX uses icewm window manager to keep the system running on low-end hardware. It doesn’t provide many software by default so the ISO is less in size. You can always download and install more software later if you have access to an active internet connection.
Minimum hardware requirements for antiX Linux:
- RAM: 256 MB of RAM
- CPU: PIII systems
- Disk space: 2.7 GB of drive space
The third position on our list of lightweight Linux distro is occupied 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, LXQt, Cli and the GameOver edition. LXQt 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 for SparkyLinux:
- RAM: 256 MB of RAM for LXDE, e17, Openbox, GameOver and 384MB RAM for MATE, LXQt
- CPU: i486/amd64
- Disk space: 5 GB of drive space
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 makes it very easy on resource consumption. 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, it does not come along with bundles of applications. It does have some basic apps, though. 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 corrupt OS and believe me, it helps me a lot.
Minimum hardware requirements for Puppy Linux:
- RAM: 64MB (recommended 256 MB)
- CPU: 333MHz
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. Yeah, that’s tiny, I know.
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.
Minimum hardware requirements for Tiny Core Linux:
- RAM: 46 MB (recommended 64 MB)
- CPU: Pentium 2
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 fewer system resources and has a simple user interface. If you maintain the installations then there will be no problem using any of the light Linux distro listed above.
Finally, thank you for reading the article and don’t forget to tell your favorite Linux distributions in the comment below. In similar read, I recommend reading about the best Linux distributions for beginners. Also, check out some non Ubuntu beginner friendly Linux distributions.