You’D be Stupid NOT Installing this Small Linux Distros That Are Super Lightweight

Your old computer would surely benefit being used again and these Linux distros are very light weight on resources


Do you have an old computer gathering dust? Or perhaps a USB flash drive sitting unloved in a drawer? Well, you can give them a new lease on life by installing a tiny Linux distribution! These mini Linux distributions are perfect for breathing new life into old hardware, and we have nine of the smallest Linux distributions to choose from. But before we jump into the options, let’s first go over how to create a bootable USB flash drive.

The first thing you’ll need is a tool to create a bootable USB flash drive. For Windows users, the best recommendation is Rufus, while Linux and macOS users should try Etcher.

Rufus is one of the fastest, smallest, and lightest USB burning tools available for Windows. It has decent customization options and can automatically detect your USB flash drive. Engraver is the open-source USB burning tool of choice for Linux and macOS users. It is small, very fast, and incredibly simple to use.

Now onto the mini Linux distributions!


Key Takeaways

1. ArchBang: A full-featured desktop operating system or a portable live operating system based on Arch Linux that requires only 256 MB of memory.
2. Tiny Core Linux: A minute 21 MB installation including a decent GUI, perfect for running on older hardware.
3. Absolute Linux: A 64-bit Linux distribution based on Slackware, featuring the agile IceWM window manager and an installation size of around 2-3GB.
4. Porteus: A complete Linux distribution optimized to run from a USB flash drive, with options for different desktop environments and support for running from removable media.
5. Puppy Linux: A very lightweight collection of Linux distributions built using the same tools and principles, with no more than 300 MB of hard disk space required.
6. SliTaz: A small, fast, stable, and easy-to-use distribution with a range of hardware support and the ability to mostly run from system memory.
7. AntiX Linux: A frequent updates distribution well-known for being one of the friendliest options for old hardware, with the ability to run on as little as 256 MB of RAM.


You can reuse your old computer and a USB flash drive by installing a tiny Linux distribution.

​Mini Linux distributions are great because they require less system resources than other options, but still provide a full operating system experience, and we have nine of the smallest Linux distributions to choose from.

Before you begin: How to create a bootable USB flash drive

The first thing you need is a tool to create a bootable USB flash drive. You’ll need to burn the little Linux distribution to bootable media before doing anything else. There are many tools you can use to create a bootable USB flash drive. However, the best recommendation for Windows users is Rufus, while Linux and macOS users should try Etcher.

Rufus

A Rufus dialog showing various disk properties and options for burning an image.

Rufus is one of the fastest, smallest and lightest USB burning tools available for Windows. It has decent customization options and can automatically detect your USB flash drive. Additionally, Rufus can detect the type of ISO you’re trying to burn and apply a common setup for any tiny Linux distribution.

Unload: Rufus for Windows

Engraver

The Etcher GUI displays very simple icons to manage the image burning process.

Linux and macOS users should use Etcher, an open-source USB burning tool. Like Rufus, Etcher is small, very fast, and has a great GUI that makes the tool incredibly simple. Etcher doesn’t have many settings, but it works well the vast majority of the time. Windows users who find Rufus confusing can also use Etcher as the tool is also available for Windows.

Unload: Engraver

Now on small Linux distributions!

Archbang tiny linux distro

ArchBang is based on Arch Linux and is inspired by CrunchBang, another small Linux distribution. ArchBang is essentially Arch Linux made lighter and reduced in size. It includes the power and flexibility of Arch Linux without the complex setup and installation, but in a small Linux distribution package.

ArchBang runs on i686 or x86_64 compatible machines, uses 700 MB of disk space and requires only 256 MB of memory.

ArchBang is a full-featured desktop operating system or a portable live operating system. It’s fast, stable, and always up-to-date, making it a handy minimal Linux distribution for anyone with an old computer.

tiny core linux tiny distro

Tiny Core is a Linux distribution developed by Robert Shingledecker, the lead developer of the former distribution, Damn Small Linux. Although the Damn Small Linux site is now dead, you can still find active ISOs online.

Tiny Core Linux TinyCore installation is a minute 21 MB including the base distribution and a decent GUI. The basic installation requires at least 46MB of RAM to run, but you’ll need a bit more (128MB recommended) if you want to run additional apps and other software (while the MicroCore only requires 28MB!). Note that you will need to use an Ethernet cable to connect with the TinyCore as there is no wireless support again.

The best option for most people is to install CorePlus, which comes in at 106MB. CorePlus has wireless support, support for non-US keyboards, installers for alternative window managers, and other handy configuration utilities.

absolute linux tiny linux distro

Absolute Linux is a 64-bit Linux distribution based on the Slackware project. It ships with LibreOffice and Firefox pre-installed, but doesn’t mess with heavy desktop options like KDE or GNOME. Instead, Absolute Linux uses the agile IceWM window manager.

It’s not the smallest Linux distro in terms of actual download or installation size, rounding up to around 2-3GB, but it will run on most hardware through its lightweight overall package and minimal hardware requirements.

Homepage of porteus tiny linux distribution

Porteus is a lightweight yet complete Linux distribution optimized to run from a USB flash drive. Don’t have one? Do not worry! Porteus works on an SD card, CD, DVD, hard drive or other bootable storage media. It’s small and insanely fast, letting you boot up and get online while other operating systems are still thinking about booting up.

Porteus runs on any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor (there are also i586 versions available), requiring only 512MB of disk space and 256MB of memory. You don’t need a hard drive because it can run from removable media. If you use Porteus on a removable storage device, you can take advantage of its “Persistent” mode, saving data directly to the storage device.

It’s available in both 32-bit (perfect for older computers) and 64-bit. Porteus Kiosk Edition is also available, which is a minimal system locked down for public use on web terminals. You can choose to download Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE Plasma, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, Xfce or Openbox versions of Porteus – a substantial range of options for a small distro.

puppy linux tiny distro

Puppy Linux is a very lightweight Linux distribution that runs best from a USB flash drive, SD card, CD, DVD, or any other bootable storage medium. You can install Puppy Linux on hardware if you want, but there’s really no need if you have your bootable USB flash drive with you.

It’s also worth noting that Puppy Linux is not a single distribution, nor is it a Linux distribution with numerous “flavors” (for example, Ubuntu variants include Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and so on). Rather, Puppy Linux is a collection of Linux distributions built using the same common principle, the same tools, and a specific set of “puppy” applications.

At the time of writing, there are ten official Puppy Linux distributions. All require no more than 300 MB of hard disk space. However, they have different CPU and RAM requirements, starting at a 300Mhz CPU and 256MB RAM. As always, the more power you have, the better your distro will run, even if it’s a tiny Linux distro.

To learn more and choose the right version, go to the official Puppy Linux distribution download page.

slitaz tiny linux distro

SliTaz, or Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone, is a lightweight, full-featured Linux graphical distribution. Simply put, SliTaz is small, fast, stable and easy to use, the perfect combination for a small Linux distribution.

The minimum requirements of SliTaz include a compatible Intel i486 or x86 processor, at least 80 MB of disk space, and 192 MB of RAM (however, this may drop to 16 MB of RAM depending on the version of SliTaz you are using). However, it is worth noting that Distro Watch suggests that SliTaz can run on an i386, while a commenter on this article explains:

Through testing and reading forum posts, I’ve determined that the current 32-bit version targets the i586, but CPUs without the CMOV instruction fail to boot the kernel. Thus, Intel Pentium Pro and AMD Athlon processors are minimal.

Unfortunately, I no longer own hardware old enough to specifically clarify any of these statements, but rest assured that SliTaz is built to support a range of much older hardware.

An interesting feature of SliTaz is that it runs mostly in your system memory. Once you start SliTaz, you can remove the bootable USB flash drive for other tasks. SliTaz also has a “persistent” feature, which allows you to store your personal data and settings on removable media, ready for use the next time you start. Note that you will need to keep the media on your device for this feature to work.

antiX tiny linux distro

The small Debian-based antiX Linux distribution is not only small, but also receives frequent updates, offering tweaks, new features, updates, and more. AntiX Linux is well known for being one of the friendliest Linux distributions for old hardware, with many people turning to this mini Linux distribution to get an old laptop up and running again.

The minimum recommended RAM for AntiX is 256 MB, although it can run with less. You will also need a 7GB hard drive for installation.

Even though antiX Linux is small, it still looks good. The basic installation package includes the IceWM window manager, which offers a lot in terms of customization. Then there’s the integrated antiX control panel, which allows you to customize a wide range of antiX features.

bodhi linux tiny linux distro

The penultimate tiny Linux distro to check out is Bodhi Linux. Bodhi Linux is a full-featured Linux distribution based on Ubuntu LTS that uses the Moksha desktop. Additionally, Bodhi Linux comes in three variants: Standard edition, AppPack edition and Legacy edition.

The Standard Edition has limited options and apps, while the AppPack Edition offers more features, apps, and options out of the box. Of the three, the Legacy edition is the smallest, designed to work with older, less powerful hardware.

Bodhi Linux’s minimum specifications require a 500 MHz processor, at least 512 MB of RAM (up from 128 MB in 2022), and 5 GB of disk space.

desktop linux lite
Jerry Bezencon/Wikimedia

On the latest minimal Linux distribution, Linux Lite. Now, Linux Lite is not the smallest Linux distribution, but it runs well on low enough hardware. Based on Ubuntu, the minimum recommended specs are a 1GHz processor with 768MB of RAM, along with 8GB of storage, which most modern hardware far exceeds. So you can imagine how well Linux Lite will run on an older machine.

Furthermore, Linux Lite is a tiny Linux distribution designed to be easy to use. Specifically, Linux Lite was developed to help Microsoft Windows users transition to Linux, with a similar user interface, familiar programs such as Firefox, Thunderbird and VLC included in the standard distribution (and the option to download other available packages).

You can bring your old computer or other hardware back to life with any of these super small Linux distributions. These lightweight Linux distributions are a great way to give a single computer to a relative who doesn’t need the bloat of a more complex operating system.

Conclusion

Don’t let your old computer and USB flash drive go to waste; breathe new life into them with a tiny Linux distribution! With options to suit every requirement and hardware, there’s no reason not to give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how well these mini distributions run on older devices, providing a full operating system experience without requiring the latest and greatest hardware.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use any tool to create a bootable USB flash drive?
A: While there are various tools available, Rufus is recommended for Windows users, and Engraver is a great choice for Linux and macOS users.

Q: Do I have to install these mini Linux distributions on my computer?
A: No, many of these distributions are designed to run directly from removable media like USB flash drives, SD cards, or CDs, while still providing a full operating system experience.

Q: Can I customize these mini Linux distributions to suit my needs?
A: Yes, many of these distributions offer different options for desktop environments or pack pre-installed applications, allowing you to customize your experience to your liking.

And there you have it! Give these mini Linux distributions a try and bring your old computer back to life. Whether you choose ArchBang, Tiny Core Linux, Absolute Linux, Porteus, Puppy Linux, SliTaz, or AntiX Linux, there’s a lightweight and efficient option for everyone. So dig out that old computer and USB flash drive, and get started on your mini Linux adventure!

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