If you have an old desktop or laptop, then there are many lightweight Linux distros available that you can easily install and enjoy a lag-free computing experience. There are a variety of options that you can choose from such as Puppy Linux, Linux Lite, or Lubuntu. You can also install Debian or Arch Linux and use a lightweight desktop environment.
You might be running insecure Windows XP on your old computers because of the machine’s outdated hardware configuration. Here is a good thing, you don’t need to do that anymore. There are numbers of Linux distributions available that are specifically built to cater to the needs of such desktops and laptops. Apart from being lightweight, these are quite fast and secure.
9 Best Lightweight Linux Distros for Old Computers [ 2019]
Modern Linux distros are specifically designed to help a large number of users who run modern hardware. As a result, they have become too bloated for older machines, even if you delete files manually. Without a large memory system and an extra core or two, there is a chance that these distros may not deliver the best performance.
Thankfully, there are many lightweight distros, trimmed and tweaked by expert hands so you can easily use these to breathe new life into your older hardware.
The ability to trim down and use as few resources as possible is one of Linux’s biggest selling points. Linux is able to bring old computers back from the dead and make them fully functional again with fewer resource systems. There are a huge number of great distributions out there that aim to be as lightweight as possible and tailor themselves to lower powered machines.
But there’s one point that needs to keep in mind when working with lightweight distros – they usually support ancient kit by cutting away just everything that you take for granted, such as scripts and wizards which make everyday tasks easier.
That said, these lightweight distros have the capability of reviving older hardware and can even function as a replacement of your operating system that you are currently using if you’re willing to adjust to their way of working and install some extra programs as necessary.
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1. Bodhi Linux
Whenever a user performs any search query like light Linux-based operating systems, there are chances that the user is looking for Linux distro that can be installed and run on an old computer having limited hardware capabilities. Bodhi Linux, the Enlightened Linux Distribution, is one such lite Linux distribution and in the year 2011, it has witnessed its first release in the year 2011. According to the Bodhi Linux official website, it can run on a just 500mHz processor.
Bodhi is based on Ubuntu LTS; however, it remains fairly updated and releases shortly after the release of a new LTS. Bodhi uses its own tools and desktop environment, that is custom made to enable all users to make the most of the distribution.
Moksha desktop environment is the main hallmark of Bodhi. As mentioned above it is a fork of the popular Enlightenment E17 desktop that backports some features from the releases of newest Enlightenment while preserving the look feel, and also the low overhead of E17. Moksha is extremely lightweight, simple to use, and modern for such a low resource desktop.
Minimum hardware requirements for Bodhi Linux:
- 500MHz processor
- 128MB RAM
- 4GB storage space
2. Puppy Linux
If you’re looking for a Linux distro with a cute name but with a special purpose, then you definitely need to check out Puppy Linux. One thing to here is that Puppy Linux isn’t like some other distro. Instead, it can be built from some packages of distros like Ubuntu and Slackware. The choice of binaries will determine the availability of additional packages. In other words, if you’re comfortable with apt-get, then you should go with Ubuntu version.
Puppy is quite strange in the distribution world. It is somehow not exactly one distribution. Instead, it’s a collection of distributions with the same configuration and different base distributions. The Ubuntu versions are really outdated, but the Slackware one is current. However, you can choose to use Puppy, it’s a great choice on low power systems.
The latest release is Puppy Linux 7.5. As this Linux distro is based on Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus, it’s named as Xenialpup. It comes both versions 32-bit and 64-bit, one can install them on UEFI and BIOS enabled PCs.
Minimum hardware requirements for Puppy Linux:
- 333MHz processor
- 256MB RAM
3. Linux Lite
Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu and it is specifically developed to provide help Windows users particularly those having old machines that are running Windows XP – into the world of Linux.
This distro features similar tools like Firefox (having built-in support for Netflix), VLC Media Player and LibreOffice are also preinstalled. It also includes the zRAM memory compression tool that is used to make it run faster on older machines. You will also notice a special Lite Upgrade utility.
All in all, Linux Lite manages to do something that other Linux distributions struggle in. Even after maintaining a lightweight stature, it comes with all major tools and successfully delivers uncompromised performance.
Linux Lite 4.2 is the latest release of Linux Lite. With this release, Redshift has made sure that your screen temperature adjusts itself as per daytime and night. This release with minor refinement is based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.
Minimum hardware requirements for Linux Lite:
- 700MHz processor
- 512MB RAM
- VGA screen 1024×768 resolution
4. Ubuntu MATE
Ubuntu MATE is the most lightweight distros among this list. The latest release of Ubuntu MATE turned out to be the most important release as it came with a transition to GTK3+. This distro also gives you a lot of layout options such as Mutiny, Cupertino, Traditional, Redmond, Netbook, Pantheon, and Contemporary. It is one of my favorite Linux distros when it comes to Raspberry Pi.
Additionally, Ubuntu MATE offers a polished Linux experience that will surely make the transition of any Windows user a quite pleasant experience. Often, we undermine the small Linux distros that don’t use many resources but that’s not the case here. You should give it a try.
Minimum hardware requirements for Ubuntu MATE:
- 750MHz processor
- 512MB RAM
- 1024×768 resolution or higher
Lubuntu was designed for older machines primarily and uses a desktop environment based on the lightweight LXDE, that is less resource hungry than mainstream Ubuntu’s Gnome 3 desktop. This distro comes with a plethora of office, multimedia, internet, and graphics apps, and other than that a wide assortment of some useful tools and utilities.
It comes with all the important software that you might need. You will get Mozilla Firefox, PDF reader, email client, CD burner, MP3 player, MTPaint, Word processor, and more. If you have any familiarity with Ubuntu and you are in search of a distro for an older PC and virtual machine, then you must give it a try as I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
Minimum hardware requirements for Lubuntu:
- Pentium II or higher
- 258MB RAM
6. Arch Linux
Arch distro is as lightweight a distribution as you may need. You can easily run a minimal Arch Linux install with a minimal environment such as LXDE or a tiling window manager such as i3.
I would recommend you to try out a lightweight window manager such as i3. This will be more of a learning curve as compared to some other desktop environment. You also have an option to go for barebones Openbox window manager as well.
There’s a famous saying that the fastest DE is not having one at all and in that case, you’re willing to convert Arch into a lightweight and fast Linux distribution with a desktop environment, you’ve got choices like great LXQt and Xfce.
One thing you need to keep in mind before going for Arch Linux. You have to make sure that your machine isn’t based on 32-bit architecture as the Arch developers have stopped offering 32-bit images because of the decreasing popularity of the 32-bit platform.
Minimum hardware requirements for Arch Linux:
- 512MB RAM
- 64-bit architecture
LXLE is a lightweight version of Linux that is based on the annual Ubuntu LTS release. Similar to Lubuntu, LXLE also uses the barebones LXDE desktop environment, however as LTS releases are supported for 5 years, it emphasizes stability and hardware support for long-term.
The primary aim of LXLE is to revive older machines, the distro is specifically designed to serve as a ready to use desktop and it is tailored to appeal to existing Windows users.
It comes with full-featured apps like LibreOffice, Audacity, GIMP, etc. that are pre-installed. It’s an amazing option that you can go for and ditch your old Windows XP and adopt a modern looking and intuitive desktop. Just like the other entries on this list of the best lightweight Linux distros, LXLE will not likely pose many challenges to a beginner. It also comes with an app called uCareSystem that you can use to update all the packages, install new updates, get rid of older Linux kernels, and much more.
Minimum hardware requirements for LXLE:
- 512MB RAM
- Pentium 3 CPU or higher
8. Peppermint OS
Peppermint OS is another Ubuntu LTS derivative, but there is one-factor counting in its favor, design. There are so many ways, Peppermint OS blows the competition out of the water simply by looking much nicer and quite user-friendly as a result. The main goal in creating Peppermint OS was to provide an OS that can easily compete with the likes of ChromeOS without retaining the functionality of a full Linux desktop. This distro uses LXDE as its desktop environment and unlike a lot of other LXDE distributions, it utilizes the capabilities of GTK’s theme to present a desktop that looks quite modern and less minimal without increased overhead.
Minimum hardware requirements for Peppermint OS:
- 512MB RAM
- Intel x86 architecture CPU
AntiX is my longtime favorite for older computers. It is based on Debian Stable and offers its own customized desktop environment called antiX Magic for low power hardware. AntiX, as it is based on Debian offers a huge range of packages, and is quite well supported. It was designed with USB drives by keeping in mind. You will definitely have no problem booting and running antiX off of a USB drive.
Minimum hardware requirements for antiX:
- Intel 64-bit and 32-bit architecture CPU
Final thoughts and Recommendation
There you have the list, the best lightweight distributions that can help you revive your older computers. As any Linux distribution can be pared down to be resource friendly, so if you have a real favorite, then it is great and you should go for it. These operating systems were designed for more minimal installations, so these are going to be more complete and ready to use faster.
Linux has a lot to offer. That’s why there are so many great choices for Lightweight Linux Distros for 2019 that you can easily choose from. By keeping in mind, the easy installation and hassle-free experience, my recommendation for you to use are Bodhi Linux, Linux Lite or Ubuntu MATE on your old computer. So, if you’re an experienced Linux user and loves to build your own system, then you should go for Arch Linux + Lightweight DE option.
That’s it for today. Don’t forget to mention your thoughts in the comment section. Till then enjoy your old computers with a touch of new life as we will be back soon with another interesting topic to share with you.
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