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Old PCs have a penchant to slow down. Upgrading components such as RAM, CPUs, and hard drives may alleviate performance issues. However an excellent solution to give your old PC a new lease on life is simply installing a lightweight Linux distribution.

Linux distros come in all varieties and flavors. Thankfully, this wide range means there are loads of lightweight distros perfect for aging PCs. Maybe you’ve got an Atom-powered 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC Don't let your Atom-powered netbook or low-specced laptop gather dust in a closet -- install a lightweight Linux distro and start enjoying mobile computing once again! Read More netbook, a Pentium 4 desktop, a Core 2 Duo laptop, or any combination of seasoned hardware. Rather than throwing it out, try a lightweight Linux distro for a refreshed experience. Check out the top 13 Linux distros to breathe new life into your old PC…

1. Xubuntu

xubuntu_1510

Xubuntu is an Ubuntu derivative which uses the Xfce desktop environment The Best Lean Linux Desktop Environment: LXDE Vs Xfce Vs MATE The Best Lean Linux Desktop Environment: LXDE Vs Xfce Vs MATE On a fresh Linux installation, there's not much you can do to speed things up, other than look at your choice of desktop environment. Here we look at three options: LXDE, Xfce, and MATE. Read More . While Xubuntu may not boast the eye candy of GNOME, it does offer a snappy experience. To try Xubuntu, you only need 256 MB of memory. With the Minimal CD, this bumps down to 128 MB. A full install requires 512 MB of memory.

As a branch of Ubuntu, Xubuntu therefore has access to the entirety of the Canonical repositories. It’s a fantastic distro that offers a slew of features and applications with low system resource consumption.

2. Lubuntu

Lubuntu-Desktop

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Lubuntu describes itself as “lightweight, fast, easier.” It’s really an apt description. As the “ubuntu” suggests, Lubuntu is a derivative of Ubuntu and like Xubuntu it allows access to the full Canonical repositories. Whereas Xubuntu utilizes teh Xfce desktop, Lubuntu opts for the LXDE desktop. System requirements are pretty forgiving. The Lubuntu website recommends 1 GB of RAM for web services like YouTube and Facebook. If you’re merely browsing and using programs like LibreOffice, 512 MB or RAM should be sufficient.

The minimum specs for a CPU running Lubuntu is a Pentium M or 4, or AMD K8. That’s pretty low. Plus, Lubuntu comes packed with loads of apps including the LXTask system monitor, Gnome disk utility, and MTPaint.

3. Puppy Linux

Puppy-Linux-Desktop
Image Credit: By Mick Amadio, chief developer, Larry Short, coordinator et al (Free Software Puppy Linux Tahrpup 6.0 screenshot) [GPL], via Wikimedia Commons
Looking for a fast, easy to use distro? Puppy Linux Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Puppy Linux Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Puppy Linux Here, we'll be taking a look at a distribution of Linux that is famous for being able to run with very little hardware requirements, Puppy Linux. Puppy Linux isn't based on another distribution; it is... Read More is perfect for resurrecting an old PC. Boasting a minuscule footprint, Puppy Linux may actually be booted straight from a flash drive or CD. Further, Puppy Linux can even live in-memory. Boot up typically takes less than a minute, even on older hardware. The default ISO is about 100 MB, and with OpenOffice installed Puppy Linux is still under 300 MB (around 256 MB).

Puppy Linux is great as a full install, or simply as a live CD to use on guest PCs. You can even use Puppy Linux to remove malware.

4. Macpup Linux

macpup

You can probably guess from the “pup” in its name, but Macpup Linux is a Puppy Linux derivative. As such, it boasts a similarly tiny footprint. Macpup is small enough to run in RAM. However despite its small footprint, Macpup Linux is a full-fledged distro. A bevy of included office, multimedia, and graphics apps transform your old PC hardware into a new PC.

Macpup Linux is binary compatible with Ubuntu Precise packages. Additionally, Macpup Linux contains the same apps as Precise Puppy, along with Firefox.

5. SliTaz

slitaz_2

If you’re seeking to rejuvenate that old PC and stay secure, check out SLiTaz. While this Linux distro is lightweight, it’s uncompromising with security. Maintaining high performance, SLitTaz uses the Linux Kernel and GNU software. Installable on a traditional hard drive, SliTaz is perfectly suited for a live CD. SliTaz can be used on everything from an aging PC to server or even a tiny ARM device like a Raspberry Pi. There’s even a roll your own distro feature.

The root filesystem is a mere 100 MB, and the ISO image is less than 40 MB. Neat features include an FTP/web server powered by Busybox, Dropbear SSH client, SQLite, and pleasant desktop of Openbox running on Xvesa/Xorg.

6. CrunchBang

crunchbang-shortcuts

While CrunchBang Make Switching From Windows To Linux Easier With Zorin OS Make Switching From Windows To Linux Easier With Zorin OS Linux is not hard to use or understand, but it simply doesn't fit the Windows mindset that most people have. Expecting to do everything in Linux exactly like in Windows is where problems start appearing,... Read More may not still be supported, it’s available for download still and remains a great pick as a Linux distro to give your old PC a new lease on life. Moreover, CrunchBang does have several successors. Aiding in its minimal resource consumption, CrunchBang runs the Openbox window manager. Lots of its preinstalled apps use the GTK+ widget toolkit. Although CrunchBang did use its own repository, many packages come from Debian’s repositories.

As of Feb. 2015, CrunchBang was no longer supported. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic barebones Linux distro that still yields great performance. While CrunchBang is a stellar pick for older PC hardware, it’s well suited to newer high-performance hardware. BunsenLabs and CrunchBang++ carried on the legacy, and are currently supported distros.

7. Legacy OS

legacy-os

Formerly TEENpup Linux, Legacy OS is an awesome, lightweight Linux distro. Legacy OS derives from Puppy Linux. The multipurpose distro comes standard with a lot of apps, codecs, and plugins. Yet despite its feature-rich environment, Legacy OS remains appropriate for older hardware.

There are a few different iterations, including Legacy OS 2.1 LTS and 2.1 Gamer. Gamer inlcudes 100 games, HTML5 browser, and more all on one disc. LTs has more than 200 apps and an HTML5 browser on one CD. Both are capable of supporting Pentium III processors, but they’re also excellent for newer PCs as well.

8. Arch Linux

arch-linux-2

Arch Linux abides by the KISS mantra: Keep it simple stupid. Available in i686 and x86-64 varieties, Arch Linux is lightweight and easy to use. There are loads of derivatives for most any device you can think of. Notable Arch Linux derivatives include BBQLinux, an Android variant, LinHES for HTPC purposes, and Arch Linux ARM which can be installed on the likes of the Raspberry Pi.

With its minimalist approach, Arch Linux dominates as distro. While your PC hardware may be old, Arch Linux operates on a rolling-release system for current, continuous updates.

9. Porteus

Porteus is an entire Linux distro that’s optimized for use as a live CD. Although it’s optimized to boot from a flash drive or CD, it’s installable on a hard drive as well. With 32-bit and 64-bit concoctions, Porteus is one of the best Linux distros for aging PC hardware. It’s capable of booting up in a mere 15 seconds.

Like many Linux varities intended for use on ancient PCs, Porteus is capable of running in-RAM. Because Porteus is Portable and modular, it is a wonderful and unique Linux distro.

10. Trisquel Mini

trisquel-gnu-linux-mini_3

Trisquel is an Ubuntu LTS derivative. The GNU distro uses Ubuntu packages with a GNOME 3 Flashback-based desktop environment. Trisquel Mini is an alternate iteration specifically crafted for netbooks and under-powered PCs. Its LXDE desktop environment, X Window System, and GTK+ graphical displays ensure that Trisquel runs well even on older hardware.

While Trisquel Mini may be a small Linux distro, it’s packed with apps including AbiWord, GNOME MPlayer, and Transmission.

11. Linux Lite

Linux Lite is a, well, light Linux distro. Prided as “simple, fast, and free,” Linux Lite has really low memory requirements. Based on Ubuntu LTS, Linux Lite is therefore a stable release. Bundled apps include LibdeeOffice and VLC, Linux Lite may be lite on system resources but it’s heavy on included features.

Ultimately, with its balance of function and efficiency, Linux Lite is a great choice for a Linux distro that’s usable out of the box.

12. Bodhi Linux

bodhi-linux

Dubbed the Enlightened Linux Distribution, Bodhi Linux derives from Ubuntu LTS. Its main design principles revolve around minimalism and the Moksha desktop. The default application array only takes up a measly 10 MB of space. Thus, system specs are pretty relaxed. The minimum ssytem requirements are 128 MB of RAM, 4 GB of hard drive space, and a 500mhz processor. Even the recommended specs (512 MB RAM, 10 GB of drive space, a 1 ghz processor) are rather forgiving.

Notably, Bodhi Linux even offers a guide to installing on a Chromebook.

13. Zorin OS

zorin-os

Zorin OS  aims to make PCs faster while improving security and performance. The Windows and Mac OS replacement was dubbed “…without question one of the best Linux distros currently available” by CNET. Thinking of switching from Windows Make Switching From Windows To Linux Easier With Zorin OS Make Switching From Windows To Linux Easier With Zorin OS Linux is not hard to use or understand, but it simply doesn't fit the Windows mindset that most people have. Expecting to do everything in Linux exactly like in Windows is where problems start appearing,... Read More ? Zorin is a fantastic choice. According to the Zorin OS website, it powers such extraordinary systems as the International Space Station. Hey, if it’s good enough for the ISS, it’s probably suitable for your netbook or elderly PC.

While these may be the top Linux distros to breathe new life into your old PC, there’s no shortage of distros. Which Linux distributions are you using to lend your ancient PC a new lease on life?

Original version by Tim Brookes

  1. mlburch
    March 5, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I would also suggest trying legacyos 2010. I believe it's an offshoot of Puppylinux. It runs great on an old celeron pc I had laying around. Very usable os with apps for most common tasks.

    • Tim Brookes
      March 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks for the input, I'll check it out. It's always nice to turn that old PC into something useful!

  2. guest
    January 25, 2011 at 3:38 am

    nice hearing this news I'll try lubuntu on one of my laptop (ibm t22 which is so old that cannot boot by usb disk!) running w2k now.

  3. Gusto
    January 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Cape Verde: why not try a more light weight distro and use Hiawatha instead of apache?

  4. Cape Verde
    January 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I have an Acer that is 4 years old with 1gb of RAM and 2ghz processor single core. It runs Ubuntu nicely but since i started using Lamp it is like a snail. Gotta invest in hardware!

  5. darkduck
    January 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I personally would not name anything *buntu as "light". It is still full-throttle OS with light desktop environment. Puppy and its derivatives (macpuppy, fluppy etc) is really light one. Other example already given is DSL.
    And then... just to name a few: TCL (Tiny Core Linux), xPUD, SLAX.

    I tested some of them, so you may find some useful info at http://linuxblog.darkduck.com

  6. DarkDuck
    January 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I personally would not name anything *buntu as "light". It is still full-throttle OS with light desktop environment. Puppy and its derivatives (macpuppy, fluppy etc) is really light one. Other example already given is DSL.
    And then... just to name a few: TCL (Tiny Core Linux), xPUD, SLAX.

    I tested some of them, so you may find some useful info at http://linuxblog.darkduck.com

  7. Gusto
    January 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Every version of puppy is "lite". The latest LucidPup (lupu 5.2) is 125 MB. If you are bothered by the looks of the basic pup, try Macpup (a staggering 188 MB iso...)

    Eeebuntu Base however is over 500 MB in size...

  8. Gusto
    January 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Every version of puppy is "lite". The latest LucidPup (lupu 5.2) is 125 MB. If you are bothered by the looks of the basic pup, try Macpup (a staggering 188 MB iso...)

    Eeebuntu Base however is over 500 MB in size...

  9. Nhee Ghee
    January 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Puppy is still an ugly dog.It has improved the icons and wallpaper but the dialogs have an amateurish appearance one should be embarrassed to show when spreading the word about Linux. Also there is no "lite" version of Puppy; it typically comes loaded with a large number of apps. For a true lite version you need something like Eeebuntu Base (soon to be Aurora Base) or the bizarre Tiny Core Linux.

  10. Anonymous
    January 6, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Another well-known small linux distro: Damn Small Linux. It can run on a 486 with 16MB RAM!

  11. lucky
    January 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Xubuntu is nowhere near Lubuntu or any other Lxde based distro when comes in being light on resources.

    • stlouisubntu
      January 7, 2011 at 2:07 am

      lucky is right. Use Xubuntu if you like Ubuntu and the Xfce desktop, but don't use it because you need an OS that is light on resources. It isn't as it consumes nearly the resources as gnome.

  12. Guest
    January 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    What is missing from each of the distro's description is the minimum system requirements such as RAM, MHZ processor etc.
    Thanks.
    From a real neophyte.

    • Lgwlinda
      March 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Did anyone every give you an info on system requirements? I have a laptop running (or rather "chugging" along like the little engine that could) XP Home SP2 664 MHZ, 256 MB of RAM that is not upgradeable. DSL (damn small linux) will not work on this machine no matter what I do or how I do it.

  13. kubrick
    January 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Try Salix OS.
    Its a great distro based in Slackware, that comes with XFCE or FluxBox.
    Really beautiful and cheap in resources.
    :)
    Cheers!

    • llewton
      January 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm

      Salix really could/should come up with a live CD for the Fluxbox edition... In this day and age that shouldn't be too difficult.

      As for Xubuntu mentioned in the post as being able to "give a new lease of life to old computers", you gotta be kidding me :) It's heavy like a ton of bricks.

      Puppy has to be the fastest distro I've ever tried, and it seems very functional, software selection and hardware support-wise.

      Crunchbang has gotten lighter since it switched to Debian as base (by almost 80 MBs RAM at cold start lighter on my machine), but that distro really is just Debian netinstall and some convenient scripts.

  14. Guest
    January 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    What is missing from each of the distro's description is the minimum system requirements such as RAM, MHZ processor etc.
    Thanks.
    From a real neophyte.

  15. llewton
    January 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Salix really could/should come up with a live CD for the Fluxbox edition... In this day and age that shouldn't be too difficult.

    As for Xubuntu mentioned in the post as being able to "give a new lease of life to old computers", you gotta be kidding me :) It's heavy like a ton of bricks.

    Puppy has to be the fastest distro I've ever tried, and it seems very functional, software selection and hardware support-wise.

    Crunchbang has gotten lighter since it switched to Debian as base (by almost 80 MBs RAM at cold start lighter on my machine), but that distro really is just Debian netinstall and some convenient scripts.

  16. kubrick
    January 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Try Salix OS.
    Its a great distro based in Slackware, that comes with XFCE or FluxBox.
    Really beautiful and cheap in resources.
    :)
    Cheers!

  17. Inkysplat
    January 6, 2011 at 11:55 am

    those are all very well but if you've got hardware pre-2000 you might struggle running some of those.... if you wanna go real hardcore try running muLinux http://www.micheleandreoli.it/... off a floppy on a 486!

  18. Inkysplat
    January 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

    those are all very well but if you've got hardware pre-2000 you might struggle running some of those.... if you wanna go real hardcore try running muLinux http://www.micheleandreoli.it/mulinux/ off a floppy on a 486!

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