antiX - Lightweight Linux Distro Run on Minimum Memory and CPU

If you have some old computer lying around that is too old to run latest Linux or Windows, but not old enough for the dumpster, this article is for you. We will review AntiX Linux, which is tailored with computers with small amounts of memory and slow CPUs. It is based on Debian GNU/Linux and supports 32-bit and 64-bit x86 processors from likes of Intel, AMD and VIA. The AntiX (that is read Antics) version that is currently newest is 16.1 and it comes with kernel 4.4.10.

Requirements

  1. You need any x86 32-bit or 64-bit computer. I am using 64-bit in this guide, but there are images for both.
  2. Internet connection to download image, either antiX-16.1_386-full.iso or antiX-16.1_x64-full.iso depending on your
  3. An USB flash drive or (for older computers that don't support booting from USB) a blak CD/DVD disk
  4. That is it, nothing more is needed, except some free time.

Install process

After you burn the image to CD/DVD or USB flash drive, and set your boot order accordingly, reboot your computer with media inside and you will be greeted by following grub screen. We need to use the first option, which will boot live session where you can try out the OS and install it

Due to bandwidth restraints we are not posing entire picture of desktop, instead observe the install icon on following picture:

 

After clicking it you will get the window with sources above that will introduce you with available repository channels. We could use Jessie (which is Debian stable release), testing or Sid (which is Debian unstable).

We are going to use Jessie, the stable release. In the next screen we get introduction about AntiX's Debian and Mepis heritage, we can simply click next there

And here we have regular disk operation options. Since use case for this distribution is primarily old computers which cant run new Windows 10 properly or at all, we wont bother with describing dual booting. We are just going to install AntiX to entire disk.

Install process goes pretty quickly

Next we pick where to install GRUB, default is ok.

Timezone and locale selection screen is what follows

And in the end we need to create user and password for the user, along with root password.

Using the AntiX

When you reboot your computer following successful install, AntiX will boot from your HDD. By default, AntiX will boot into IceWM desktop. However, if you downloaded the full ISO image, it is loaded with other desktop environment options. You can use those with right click drop-down menu like this for example:

Here I change to Fluxbox. Every DE has its own ups and downs.  Some are more featureful, but will spend you more RAM while other are more minimalist but also light on features. Which one you will chose depends on personal preference and specs of your computer.

Whichever desktop Environment you chose, chances are that biggest resource hog on your vantage computer will be Firefox browser. So lets see what we can do about that.

sudo apt install chromium chromium-l10n chromium-inspector

Command above installs you the Chromium browser. You can start it by finding it in drop-down menu like this

If you want to do some content creation on your antic PC, AntiX can do that for you as well, as it has entire Debian repository. For example you can install GIMP and Inkscape in a nick of time:

sudo apt install gimp inkscape

Changing defaults

We have shown how to add chromium, but now lets make it default.

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

Next time when you click on a link, it should be opened with chromium.

For more alternative configuration you can select from drop-down menu: Applications --> Preferences -->Alternative Configurator. There you can change all the default programs.

There is also a neat antiX Control Center which is also accessible from drop down menu.

Conclusion

We have successfully installed AntiX Linux, a minimalist distribution of GNU/Linux that brings new life to old computers. You can start searching your basement for your old hardware that can be put to use with this distribution, as this article is over. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

About Mihajlo Milenovic

Miki is a long time GNU/Linux user, Free Software advocate and a freelance system administrator from Serbia. Got introduced to GNU/Linux in year 2003 on old AMD Duron computer, and since than always eager to learn new stuff about this system. From 2016 writes for Linoxide to share his experiences with wider audience

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5 Comments

  1. What are the requirements for antiX? How fast a PC, RAM, HDD space?? How much memory does it use in normal use?

    1. Hi. The wiki page says minimum is Pentium 3 with 256MB of ram. I am skeptical it would run acceptably on such old machine and dont have nothing so old to test it. Oldest I have is Thinkpad X220T with 16GB of RAM and it obviously runs great on that. RAM can be restricted with VM, I have ran it with 1GB into VM and it runs well. But on CPU side, i5 Sandy Bridge core is still a lot faster than PIII core, so I dont know how to test this, i can only give one core to VM, but not less. As for disk, 2.7GB are needed for installer to run.

  2. I'm running it right now on an Acer Aspire One netbook - 32 bit Intel Atom dual core CPU 1.6Ghz and 2 Gb RAM,

    I previously ran ElementaryOS (Freya). It looked nice but was a bit sluggish, but much,much better than Windows 10 or Windows 7 prior to that.

    AntiX is breath of fresh air. Although the default styling is a bit retro like Win 98, it boots quickly and the performance is snappy. It's also well populated with basic apps so it's useable right the start, eventhough what I downloaded is the 32 bit base version of Antix 16.