Lightweight Linux Distros for Old Laptop (2019)

lightweight linux distros for old model laptops

Do not discard that old PC or laptop yet. You can use a lightweight Linux distro to make them as good as new. Some of these Linux distros are specifically for use in older machines.

You can use any of the lightweight Linux distros and bring your old machine back to life. In as much we focus on the old distros, we do have some new releases that do not require many resources that can re-invent your old computers.

Are you in any or all of the situations below?

  • Your computer is but still feel like you can revive it
  • Your computer is modern but runs on low power
  • You need to install a modern computer to reserve resources to other demanding tasks

If you find yourself in any of the above situations, then the best choice of action would be to start looking for the best lightweight Linux distros for old computers.

1. Lubuntu

Lubuntu Linux best distro

Minimum System Requirements

  • Pentium II or Celeron CPU with Physical Address Execution (PAE)
  • 128 MB of Ram
  • 2 GB of hard drive

As the name suggests, Lubuntu is  member of the popular Ubuntu family. It runs on LXDE desktop environment and as such it one of the official flavors of Ubuntu. Lubuntu works well with old computers, and its lightness is visible in its speed and support for older hardware.

It has a set of applications and software with tools like office, internet, graphics applications, and related utilities. The applications running within Lubuntu utilize fewer resources, and they have better alternatives if need be.

You can access thousands of additional packages via the Ubuntu software repository. When the Operating System is merged with Razor-qt to develop LXQt.

2. Linux Lite

lightweight Linux distro lightweight Linux distro

Minimum System Requirements

  • 700 MHz Processor speed
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Resolution of 1024 X 768
  • 5 GB of hard disk space

From its name “lite,” it means there is no need for high-end hardware requirements. Even a beginner will find a lot of comforts using it for the first time. Linux Lite runs on Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) with a support life of up five years.

The Operating System is functional with no need to install extra software the moment you finish your installation.

Some preinstalled applications like Firefox for web browsing, emails use Thunderbird, Dropbox for cloud services, LibreOffice, VLC media player, GIMP for image editing and Lite tweaks to adjust your desktop settings.

Uses the simplified XFCE desktop environment and the fact that it based on Ubuntu means you will have more support and resources available for you to follow.

3. Tiny Core

Tiny core lightweight Linux distro

Minimum System Requirements

  • 46 MB RAM with 64 MB as the recommended size
  • Pentium II processor

Known as one of the lightest Linux distros, TinyCore has a very small memory footprint of only 16 Mb !. It was developed from the small project into something that can run independently. The distro is minimalistic with very few installed software.

The distro uses the FLTK /FKWM and busy box desktops by default. Some components for hardware graphics may be missing, but you can install them manually. Tiny Core is available in three different editions, i.e. CorePlus, Tiny Core, and Core.

The core is the base system that uses the Command Line Interface (CLI). For advanced users, this distro can work well as long as they do not need the graphical interface, which is available in TinyCore edition.

CorePlus is an image that will work well for users with a wireless network. The installation tools provide for the basic setup of which windows manager to use, wireless support through different firmware files, keyboard support, and a remastering tool

The size may amaze you, but its capability is that of a big Operating System especially when installed on old PCs and laptops.

4. AntiX Linux

AntiX lightweight Linux distro

Minimum System Requirements

  • 256 MB of RAM
  • Pentium III processor
  • 7 GB of hard disk space

antiX is a distribution based on Debian Linux boasting of a systemd-free Linux distribution.  The window manager that comes with this OS is the icewm that keeps the system on low resource demands.

There is no bundled software, but you can always download and install if you have access to the internet.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint distro

Minimum System Requirements

  • 1 GB of RAM with a recommended option of 2 GB
  • Intel x86-processor architecture
  • At least 4 GB of free hard disk space

The orig9nal creation of Peppermint was intended to make it look like a web-centered approach with netbooks in mind. It is a cloud-based Linux distribution with minimal hardware requirements.

The desktop environment is also Ubuntu based and uses the LXDE to give its users a smoother experience. Peppermint uses an ICE application that integrates websites into a desktop app.

It has a perfect user guide that new users may find resourceful with a forum for troubleshooting issues.

6. LXLE

Minimum System Requirements

  • 512 RAM with a recommendation of 1 GB
  • Pentium III with a recommendation of Pentium IV
  • 8 GB hard disk space

LXLE is more or less another version of Lubuntu LTS, which to some people it is a Lubuntu tweak used for a specific purpose in old PCs and laptops. It is light in weight and has the best and intuitive user interface.

Tweaks done on this distro is to improve performance and avails a wide range of lightweight applications installed by default.

7. Bodhi Linux

Bodhi Linux

Minimum System Requirements

  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 4 GB of hard disk space
  • GHz Processor

Bodhi Linux will give life to your old PCs and laptops due to its lightness. It has no extra software making the image size small and runs freely utilizing less memory. The good thing is that you can do custom installations of the software you need.

The package enlightenment makes this distro run faster than other window managers used in other Linux distros. You do not have to worry about using enlightenment or any other package because Bodhi Linux has user guides useful in such situations.

Some essential Apps such as Midori for the web, Ephoto for graphics, and ePad for editing text are available. Applications for multimedia are not available during installation but are available through the App Center.

8. CrunchBang ++

crunchbang Linux

Minimum System Requirements

  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Pentium IV processor

Another name for the CrunchBang is the CBPP or #! ++ Or CrunchBang Plus Plus. The distro is the cloning of Linux distribution CrunchBang Linux known for its simplicity and lightweight. CrunchBang ++ is designed to work with old machines without any bottlenecks.

The distro is based on Debian 9 with a minimal interface design that uses the open box window manager. The overall design is to offer an easy to use interface with good functionalities. This simplicity explains it as a minimalistic, simplified, and sleek interface.

Some default Apps in CrunchBang ++ are Terminal emulator, Geany IDE, Gimp for image editing, Thunar file manager, VLC media player, XFburn burning software, Viewnior image viewer, Iceweasel for the web, gFTP transfer client, AbiWord for office applications, etc.

9. SparkyLinux

sparkly

Minimum System Requirements

  • 256 MB of RAM if you are using LXDE, Openbox, Gameover, and e17. 384 MB of RAM for MATE and LXQt
  • I486 or amd64 processor
  • 5 GB of hard disk space

SparkyLInux is another lightweight distribution that works in both old and modern computers. The distro runs immediately after installation. It based on the testing branch of Debian with several desktop environments.

The distro has two editions: the full and base editions. The full edition has applications that do not need manual installation. The base edition does not have heavy applications meaning it is light and does not eat much of computer resources.

The good thing is that all its applications can be installed from within its repositories. Each edition of SparkyLInux has different default applications. Therefore, you need to choose your flavor carefully.

10. Puppy Linux

puppy linux

Minimum System Requirements

  • 64 MB of RAM and a recommendation of 256 MB
  • 333 MHz processor speed

Puppy Linux is regarded as one of the best lightweight Linux distros that you can find out there because of its small memory footprint, ease of use, customizability and flexibility.  It can easily run on an old PC or laptop and  has many Apps that come bundled in the installation disk. The distro can run from a small size USB stick where it can also run a live system.

Everything it does is saved on RAM making the system very fast, and if you are running a live system from the USB, you can save some data on it. Puppy Linux uses Openbox and JWM window managers as default window managers; the two do not consume most of the system resources.

You use Puppy Linux it is best not to demand much from its graphical applications, it will be best if you use what the system provides for better results. The distro is built for fast performance it does not have bundled application apart from the basic ones like AbiWord for word-processing, selected graphics editing tools, media playback programs and Gnumeric for spreadsheets.

11. Trisquel Mini

Trisquel mini

Minimum System Requirements

  • Uses the minimal graphical user interface requirements
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • Any Pentium processor

Trisquel Mini is a small, and lightweight version of a Trisquel based Ubuntu LTS. The software is made for old machines and laptops that consume little power and with low specifications.

It Uses the minimal LXDE desktop environment and X windows system, which is a perfect alternative to the GNOME or KDE/ Qt Apps. You can use the Synaptic Package Manager to install your software.

The installation media can run as a Live CD medium. The graphical presentation is more or less the same as the Ubuntu one.

12. MX Linux

MX-Linux

Minimum System Requirements

  • A CD/DVD drive (and BIOS capable of booting from that drive), or a live USB (and
    BIOS capable of booting from USB)
  • A modern i686 Intel or AMD processor
  • 512 MB of RAM memory
  • 5 GB free hard drive space
  • For use as a LiveUSB, 4 GB free

MX Linux is a stable and popular Linux distribution based on Debian whose current version is 18.3 at the time of penning down this article. By default, it ships with an XFCE desktop with lots of features and customizations. The UI is quite basic and simple. This simplicity echoes the MXLinux philosophy and beginners should easily get started and Professional users can make customizations that can suit them. MX Linux is renowned for its high performance while at the same time keeping it simple on the UI. It comes with several built-in apps that let you do everything from managing your repositories to tweaking your desktop and so much more.

13. Devuan Linux

Devuan-Linux

Devuan Linux is a fork of Debian that surprisingly runs on the older SysVinit instead of the latest systemd init that is now used by modern Linux distributions. However, it comes with its own package repository which closely mirrors Debian's upstream. It comes with Xfce as the default desktop background which is ideal for PCs with low RAM and CPU resources.

Minimum system requirements

  1. At least 15GB hard disk space
  2. A minimum of  2GB of ram; but the more the better
  3. USB or CD/DVD boot support

Conclusion

That is all we had for you today. We hope you can make a more informative decision when selecting an old distro to revive your old machines. Installing any of the lightweight Linux distros above would be a good gamble because of the readily available support forums and tutorial guides.

When dealing with small distros, there is no need for detailed research because all you need is an application that depends on fewer system resources and has a simple user interface. As long as you maintain the installation, you will never have problems using any lightweight Linux distribution.

Do not forget to tell us about your favorable Lightweight Linux distro that you have used or plan to use in one of your old PC or laptop.

Winnie Ondara 7:11 am

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12 Comments

  1. Used lots of these..... But what about Devuan? It's the sensible fork of Debian, and it runs very well with minimal resources.

  2. Good call on AntiX. It is light weight, offering at least 4 light window managers. Your screenshot shows AntiX 13. But AntiX 19 was just released based on Debian buster (the latest).

    Related is MX linux, also out with the MX-19, buster based, just out. Fast and stable, but they call themselves a medium weight distro.

    Both have a community repository with all kinds of updated packages available and custom tools to make administration easy. And the forum is friendly and helpful !

    1. I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure it would even be much faster if you are a little adventurous to try out one of these distros.

  3. All of my PCs would be considered old. All have been upgraded to 8Gb of ram, and SSDs. The newest is a Lenovo T420. I also have a Lenovo T400, and an M58P desktop. All of these older machines run SolydK in a dual boot with Linux Mint 17.3(KDE). All of these machines were purchased off-lease, none were expensive.
    I can see where a low-end or really old machine may need a lightweight distro, but none of mine do. I do think that older PCs should be put to use as much as possible.

  4. There is a tiny but very noticeable typographical error: Your caption for item 9 is "SparklyLinux" but obviously it should be "SparkyLinux."

  5. Typos: your title for #8 is "CrunchBang ++" but you refer to it four times in the first paragraph as "CrunchBag". :\ And, again in the last paragraph of that section.

    With that out of the way ;), can you help me understand the difference between Lubuntu and LXLE? You say that "LXLE is more or less another version of Lubuntu LTS." Why would I pick one over the other? I'm not concerned with the RAM/disk requirements. I'm more interested in how they perform on older processors.
    Thanks!