Browser Linux – An Extremely Lightweight & Fast OS For Older x86 Computers [Linux]

Jessica Cam Wong 08-08-2011

<firstimage=”//” />lightweight osUnless you’re a web developer or programmer, you most likely don’t really need a whole lot of applications aside from a web browser, perhaps a media player, file manager/viewer and text editor. Maybe that’s why a lot more people nowadays own smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, etc, and can get away with not using their main computers or laptops for light web browsing. If you wish to have an equally lightweight operating system with just the tools you need but on your actual laptop, you can use Google Chrome OS or Jolicloud 4 Netbook Operating Systems Worth Checking Out Read More .


Today, you can add another name to this list of lightweight computer OSes. Browser Linux is a fast-booting operating system, derived from Puppy Linux, making it a wise choice for any computer, particularly older machines. The most recent version (v. 401, released in May 2011) comes with Mozilla Firefox 4, though you can also upgrade to Firefox 5 once you boot up, or get other versions of the distro with Google Chrome. Like Puppy Linux, Browser Linux can save changes persistently to a USB flash drive with as little as 2GB. The ISO file itself is about 90 MB.


Installing Browser Linux

If you have blank CDs lying around, download the ISO to your hard drive on a machine with a DVD burner. Burn the ISO to a disc using ImgBurn ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App Read More or Multi CD Combine Multiple ISO Files To Burn A Single Bootable ISO Image There are hundreds of Live CDs available on the internet, many indispensable for desktop recovery. Instead of lugging them all around, why not try using MultiCD to compile them onto one disc. Read More , which enables you to combine multiple ISO files and burn a single ISO image. If, however, you would rather use a jump drive, there’s the always reliable Unetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More .

lightweight os

Once you have the ISO file in your CD or thumb drive, restart the machine and plug in the CD or the USB drive. After 30 seconds or so, you should see options to choose the size of the screen. lightweight os for old pc


Once you choose the appropriate resolution, you’ll be directed to a minimalistic desktop.

lightweight os for old pc

By default, you get Mozilla Firefox, the Geany text editor, a file browser, a terminal, and a network setup wizard. If you click on More Apps, you can also find a PDF viewer, a media player, a calculator, FTP-client, task manager, and even disk mounter.

Additional Apps

You can install additional software, such as Opera, Mplayer, etc. once you’re booted up. The software, which comes in .PET packages (“Puppy’s Extra Treats”) will open in the built-in package manager, which you can also get to by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing More Apps > click the More Apps icon.


lightweight os for old pc

Find “Puppy-package-manager.desktop”.

fast os for old computers

Since this version of Browser Linux is based on Puppy Linux’s latest version, Lucid Puppy, you’ll find the same software by default. You can configure the package manager to update the repos, which brings you more software to choose from.


fast os for old computers

Persistent Save

Since Browser Linux is based on Puppy Linux, it runs completely in RAM. If you want to save settings, like wallpaper preferences, icon set, and other system settings, you can do so by shutting down the computer and choosing Save File when prompted.

lightweight os

You’ll be able to give this file a name and designate how much space you want to dedicate for saving your settings. To reset all system settings, just delete the file.


The authors of Browser Linux also offer another Puppy Linux variant called MinjnPup, which is basically Browser Linux loaded with LibreOffice.

If you have an older machine lying around, hesitate not to try Browser Linux on it. This distro proved really useful to me when my main computer’s cable somehow stopped charging soon after I started a Java programming course. Browser Linux, its web browser, text editor and terminal saved my butt when neither Ubuntu nor Jolicloud could operate smoothly on the machine. I was ultimately very impressed by the responsiveness and the number of applications available on Browser Linux.

For additional lightweight operating systems 14 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC New Life Need a lightweight operating system? These special Linux distros can run on older PCs, some with as little as 100MB of RAM. Read More (like Lubuntu Lubuntu: A Lightweight Version Of Ubuntu [Linux] Love Ubuntu, but feel skeptical about 11.04's new Unity interface? Try Lubuntu 11.04, an extremely lightweight alternative to the main branch of Ubuntu. You'll find the menu-driven interface familiar and the resources hit remarkably low.... Read More ) and live CDs, check out our list of netbook-friendly OSes 4 Netbook Operating Systems Worth Checking Out Read More , and our guide to test-driving Android Try Google's Android Mobile OS on Your Computer with Live CD Read More , Google Chrome OS How to Run Google Chrome OS From a USB Drive You don't need a Chromebook to enjoy the features of Google's Chrome OS. All you need is a working PC and a USB drive. Read More on your computer. What lightweight distros do you recommend?

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  1. Pizamoto
    October 30, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I have a Toshiba Tablet PC. 1.53 mHz, 1GB, NO hard drive. I'm using Ultimate Edition "Lite". It runs very well on an SD card, once it boots. I had Puppy, which booted much quicker and, also, ran well. But, it doesn't recognize pen input for Tablet functionality, so I switched to Ultimate. Do you know if BL has pen support now?

    • Jessica Cam W.
      October 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      I doubt BL has pen input support if Puppy doesn't support it yet. I think you could request that feature on the Puppy website.

  2. Diego_Rodrigues
    October 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Crunchbang Linux runs pretty smooth on notebooks and older machines.

    • Jessica Cam W.
      October 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I understand it's a very minimalistic OS, but something tells me that it's also geared for users who are a bit more comfortable with Linux. Is that right?

  3. Benmajor2005
    September 30, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Browser Linux =  Puppy Linux - Lots of Apps + Different Window Manager + Some UI Tweaks.  That's a "distro"?  Besides, unless I missed something, calling it "Browser Linux" seems a bit misleading. It implies that it's a truly cloud-based OS, which it isn't.  So, there! I feel so righteous... ;/

    • Jessica Cam W.
      October 4, 2011 at 2:10 am

      Respected operating systems such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint, are considered distros even though they are based off of other Linux distros, have different window managers, plenty of UI tweaks, etc. Thus, I don't see why Browser Linux can't earn that title.

      Also, the distro name isn't that misleading after you've tried it. All applications other than the web browser on this distro are pretty much hidden so the focus is definitely just to go online and surf the web.

  4. Ponneri
    August 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Very true. I just need an OS for an senior citizen who would like to use her 'intel dot station' PC. I am sure she just needs a browser.

  5. Pyro226
    August 20, 2011 at 1:42 am

    How does this differ from puppy linux?  It looks like the UI is a bit smoother (says it uses Openbox rather than puppy's default of JWM and optional IceWM). Were there any other impressive changes made?  I also see that it's only 90MB instead of the 130 for Puppy.

    • Jessica Cam W.
      August 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

      Here are a few differences as far as I can remember: BrowserLinux doesn't come with office applications. Most of the applications in BL are pretty hidden unless you right-click and explore, but Puppy seems to include more programs. It also only comes with one browser, either FF or Chrome, which you can choose when you're in the BrowserLinux website. Puppy lets you choose and set your default browser.

  6. Jose
    August 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Jessica Cam Wong, Thank you for a great work

  7. Joe
    August 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Nice article.  What I don't see here or at the browserlinux site is minimum hardware requirements.  I have two *very* old computers to Linuxify and need to know if they're too old before investing a lot of effort.

    • Jessica Cam W.
      August 21, 2011 at 6:18 am

      Right, the browserlinux website didn't actually list them so I didn't want to give any incorrect information. All it takes to run BrowserLinux is a USB flash drive and Unetbootin though. You don't have to actually install it. :)

  8. Justin
    August 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    How about SliTaz? I haven't found anything more lightweight than it.

    • Pringlepoacher
      August 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

      DSL or Debian squeeze, both of which are small in footprint. Debian has a software array that is larger than most.

    • Jessica Cam W.
      August 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

      That's true. At around 30MB, it's hard to beat in terms of size, but I've found it very hard to install programs on it.

  9. Andy
    August 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    The problem with Puppy Linux (and I assume Browser Linux too) is that it tends not to recognize newer hardware.

    But if anyone has older stuff, i recommend Puppy, which has not onl a browser but also an office suite and other stuff. The computing abilities (considering how much resources it uses, are mindblowing).

  10. Dhanushka
    August 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Ohh Wow, This is a nice article. I was dreaming about a light weight linux version apart from Google Chrome OS. I will try this. Thank You so much, Jessica. All the best.

  11. Anil
    August 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Nice article.

  12. istok
    August 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

    "Unless you’re a web developer or programmer, you most likely don’t
    really need a whole lot of applications aside from a web browser"

    with all due respect, you're an idiot.

    • James Bruce
      August 9, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Just because you say "with all due respect", doesn't make it ok to follow with an insult. I think she was trying to make the point that most users are able to conduct the majority of their computing entirely in the browser nowadays, and that is true for many people. 

  13. fran cisco
    August 9, 2011 at 3:06 am

    wait i thought googol invented this?
    a we browser os


    • Jessica Cam W.
      August 23, 2011 at 6:41 am

      Yes, Google has its Chrome OS, but Browser Linux could be for users that sometimes may want to try something new or want to support projects from developers other than Google.