Revive Your Old PC With Lightweight Linux LXLE

Kev Quirk 22-09-2016

Over time computers get slow. They clog up with things like temporary files, internet history and the general data that your computer needs to run. Not only that, but applications and operating systems get more complex over time. All of this can mean your computer will eventually struggle to cope with the load.


So what can you do to revive that old, tired workhorse? There are many misconceptions around speeding up your machine How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More : some work, some don’t. You could spend money upgrading your machine Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Need a faster computer but aren't sure what you should upgrade on your PC? Follow our PC upgrade checklist to find out. Read More , but this will only get you so far. Why not try installing a new, lightweight operating system?

LXLE (Lubuntu Extra Life Extension)

LXLE is a super-lightweight, Lubuntu-based Linux distribution that should breath life in to most old machines. However, the big difference that LXLE offers over many other lightweight operating systems is that it has a focus on eye candy.

Just because you’re running a lightweight operating system, it doesn’t need to look like something from The Matrix!

I decided to install LXLE on an old Compaq Netbook that I had lying around the house. It’s fairly low-powered, having a first generation 1.6 GHz single core Intel Atom CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and a 160 GB 5400 RPM hard disk drive. This should be the perfect little machine to test LXLE on.

Netbook With LXLE


Install LXLE

The installation of LXLE (available free from is a pretty straightforward process. If you have installed Ubuntu before Install Ubuntu on Your Computer Using a USB Flash Drive Want to try Linux but don't own a DVD burner? Why not use a USB drive instead? Here's how to install Ubuntu from USB in minutes. Read More , then the steps required will be familiar to you. It’s pretty much a “next, next, finish” affair, except for a few screens were you have to enter user and location details.

I managed to get LXLE installed and running on my little Compaq Netbook in around 20 minutes or so. Whilst that may not be as quick as most modern computers, you have to remember that it’s a seven-year-old netbook we’re talking about here. So I was pretty impressed with that.

LXLE Installer

System Performance

Once the LXLE installation finished what it needed to do, my trusty little netbook booted up for the first time, and I had a login prompt after 32 seconds. I entered my password and 10 seconds later, I had a desktop ready to do my bidding. Just 42 from powering on to having a usable desktop is pretty darn good, especially for such an old, low-powered machine.


Navigating around the desktop feels slick, with menus and applications loading with minimal lag. If it wasn’t for the small screen and keyboard, you would think this was a much more powerful machine.

Looking at the task manager that comes bundled in LXLE, it’s clear to see that even on a mediocre machine — such as the one I’m running — there are still plenty of system resources to spare. On my system, LXLE was using just 10% of the CPU and only 160 MB of the 2 GB RAM that I had available. Which means there was still plenty in reserve for when I start running applications.

LXLE System Monitor

Unfortunately, performance is one of the reasons why some people switch to Linux from Windows 5 Reasons Why Windows 10 Might Make You Switch to Linux Despite Windows 10's huge takeup, there has been plenty of criticism for Microsoft's new everlasting operating system. Here are five top reasons why Windows 10 might irk you enough to make the switch to Linux. Read More , but LXLE really does take this one step further. At one point, I had a spreadsheet open, the web browser, a screen shot tool and an FTP client, but LXLE just kept on chugging along, using just 30% of the CPU and 260 MB of RAM — impressive!


Included Applications

The developers at LXLE have clearly put a lot of thought in to which applications to include within their operating system. After all, what’s the point in having a lightweight system if the applications then bog it down? Unfortunately, you won’t find applications like Google Chrome in LXLE, as it uses up far too much RAM Why Is Google Chrome Using So Much RAM? Here's How to Fix It Why does Google Chrome use so much RAM? What can you do to keep it in check? Here's how to make Chrome use less RAM. Read More .

But you will find lightweight alternatives for most applications that users tend have on their machines. Among the applications included are:

LXLE LibreOffice Writer

I’ve been using LXLE for around a week now and I’m yet to install a single application, simply because everything I need is already installed. To me, that says a lot about the amount of thought that has gone in to bundling the correct applications with this fantastic operating system.


What Can LXLE Run On?

Overall, I thought LXLE ran perfectly on my little netbook, so much so that I wanted to see what it was really capable of. So I decided to hop over to my main computer and create a virtual machine with extremely limited resources available. I opted for the following:

  • 512 MB RAM.
  • Single-core CPU.
  • 8 GB hard drive.
  • 16 MB graphics (no 3D acceleration).

Even running on my teeny weeny virtual machine, LXLE still pulled it out of the bag. The performance was obviously slower than my netbook, but honestly, it was marginal. Everything still felt super slick and with a browser running, I still had over 50% of RAM available!

LXLE VM Running Browser

What Are You Waiting For?

Overall, LXLE is a fantastic operating system that will allow you to increase the life of that old machine — and it will look good whilst doing so. Personally, I’m so impressed with LXLE that I’m going to permanently replace Windows 7 Starter edition with LXLE on my netbook.

If you have a machine that’s less than 3 years old, then LXLE may not be for you, as your machine is likely to run the latest version of Ubuntu 6 Big Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04 A new LTS release of Ubuntu means security and stability. Whether you're upgrading or switching from Windows, let's take a look at what's new in Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus. Read More just fine. But LXLE does fill a niche, and it fills it well. If you have tried other lightweight operating systems and decided against them because they’re too drab, or because they lack functionality, I’d recommend you try LXLE.

Have you tried LXLE yourself? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Related topics: Linux, Lubuntu.

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  1. Sankalp Arora
    July 5, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I have had a lot of fun reading this article 'coz I have been using a core 2 duo processor, 2 GB RAM , 150 GB Hard disk DDR2 and you know what that mean for a Windows Vista user. The PC is really very hard to get sometimes, that it creates a mess even for my programming work also, but I truly think that LXLE have came to rescue me and my PC.

  2. Phil
    September 26, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Five laptops, three desktops. A six inch stack of Linux CDs and DVDs. Retired -- like to play with distros. With LXLE: nirvana -- it has everything! But then there's the next Woof of Puppy.

    • Robin
      March 18, 2017 at 1:40 am

      Wow, that Woof surely looks interesting! Thanks for hinting. ;)

  3. Kevin
    September 24, 2016 at 4:45 am

    I have the 12.04 edition on an old Mac Emechine and it preforms great for web surfing and playing mp4 videos. the only problem is there is no WiFi although this can be overcome with a USB WiFi. I have a dell latitude 1101 laptop that is running LXLE14.04 that works great my son is using it for school. I also have the 14.04 on a Sony VI OI laptop all though it has a problem with the IRQ for the sound card, witch is shared with SM bus controller that causes an annoying popping sound. all these have 1G Ram or less , 50 to 70 MB HD and single core possessors.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 24, 2016 at 10:56 am

      It's a great little OS for old hardware. Like you say, there may be some issues with older hardware, but that can be easily circumvented in most cases - like with your USB WiFi dongle.

  4. HarryMonmouth
    September 23, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    It seems to me that however much difficulty netbooks have running software nowadays was exactly the same level of difficulty they had back when they first came out. They were always clunky and slow. What impresses me is when linux makes a 20th century machine usable again. There are varieties like puppy linux that are completely capable of doing that. I think it is well known that linux is less resource hungry and I reckon that ubuntu probably wouldn't be excessively weighty for a netbook, especially with a few tweaks. I know that folk do strip down the kernel to the bare necessities to create the most lightweight OS possible but what I would really like to see would be a guide on how to choose and tweak the lightest possible version that is a simple easy download so that properly old machines could be used. To people who don't read sites like Make Use Of they are often still using netbooks on Windows because the things haven't died yet. I know my wife would be if I hadn't nudged her to install something a bit more efficient.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

      I think wanting to revive a machine that's more than 16 years old would be impressive, but completely impractical. The HW probably won't be supported by any vendors, and the market would be so miniscule that it wouldn't be worth a developer's time.

      It would be a fun hobbyist project, but I don't think it could ever be any more than that.

  5. Robin
    September 23, 2016 at 9:13 am

    The installer on my copies the 32-bit version of 16.04 kept crashing. So I downloaded again, from a different mirror with the same result. I have installed and run LXLE 14.04 on the same computer without any issues, but with a crashing installer on the newest version, I'm either back to 14.04 or on to Lubuntu.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 23, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      Strange, I didn't have that issue. Have you checked the download is in tact by comparing the MD5?

      If it is, I'd suggest headliner to their forums and asking for help. I'm sure someone will be able to assist.

    • Sad
      September 23, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Me too.
      On my 64-bit desktop kept crashing too. 30 times! And I don't understand why,yet.
      Maybe is the time to get back to Lubuntu or xubuntu.

      • Cyr
        December 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        Just installed a week ago on an old dell Inspiron with PentiumIV, 1 GB of ram and it's running blazing fast. Really good a surprise. A large number of software and a very low footprint.
        And no I didn't have any issue yet. As Kev suggested you should ask on the forum.

  6. Ray
    September 23, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Does this LXLE version use PAE (Physical Address Extension)?... won't work on my CPU.
    I have tried quite a few versions on my 1.6GHz pentium 4M, 2GB RAM laptop.
    I would like to dual boot with windows XP.
    Also, Linux wants to install grub2 on the MBR and it failed for me: forcing me to hunt for my disks and restore the windows MBR.
    Linux is giving up on 32-bit... Linux is dying - unfortunately.
    I have used Linux on my home computers for more than a decade.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 23, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      As I understand it, the latest version is PAE, but the 12.04 version isn't. So you might have more joy with that.

      I don't think it's just Linux that's giving up on 32bit. The world is moving on and 64bit has so many advantages.

      I assume you already know this, but MS stopped supporting XP a while back. I'd replace it for something else if I were you.

    • CFWhitman
      September 23, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Your CPU is one of the mobile Intel processors that is capable of supporting PAE, but doesn't properly advertise it. You can install a 32 bit PAE version of Linux by either using the fake-PAE program (which isn't really fake PAE because it won't work on a processor that truly doesn't have PAE capability) or by booting with the forcepae option. To use this option in new versions of Lubuntu or LXLE here are the instructions from the wiki:

      "After selecting language you arrive at the main menu of the installer. Click on F6

      At the boot menu screen the options are

      Try Lubuntu without installing (in the desktop installer but not in the alternate installer]

      With the Install choice high-lighted press F6. (This option needs less RAM than installing from 'Try Lubuntu')

      A menu with a number of options appears. The option 'forcepae' is not there, so press Escape to close the list.

      Now a string of options is visible, often with 'quiet' or 'quiet splash --' at the end. Add 'forcepae' to the string after the two dashes.

      ... quiet splash -- forcepae

      In newer versions of Lubuntu, we should enter forcepae twice

      ... quiet splash forcepae -- forcepae

      according to this link: BootOptions/before--after

      Press return, and the installation begins. "

      LInux is not dying. It's more popular than ever.

    • Ray
      September 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Kev and CFWhitman for your suggestions. I came across them before during my search for a solution. I will try the 12.04 version when I get some time.

      -forcepae did not work for me. It is the first suggestion I see when this kind of a problem is mentioned on the Internet. grub2 had problems (for me) on the MBR.

      For now, I use windows + cygwin on this laptop. Still good to ssh into my Raspberry Pi :-)

  7. William Vasquez
    September 22, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    The biggest problem with any Linux Distro is that there are too many different ways to do the same thing from one Linux OS to the other. Just when I get used to opening a .DEB file, now this other OS has .RPM. And getting drivers for my Nvidia card was much easier in Windows. I spent 2 hours trying to make a .RUN file executable and it still gave me so many errors right at the end, that I just gave up. And if people have an old PC that they are trying to revive, they probably have old printers; video cards; etc. that will not work with Linux. My Canon IP 1700 printer has yet to work with any Linux Distro. Don't get me wrong, in spite of all this, I still use Linux over 80% of the time that I am on a computer, I just wish it could be 100%.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Unfortunately, you're absolutely right and I completely agree. There's a lot that developers can do to try and resolve this issue. Snaps have the potential to fix the installer issues, but it all depends on how well they're received.

      I've actually just finished an article on this very subject, so look out for it over the next few days. :-)

      • dragonmouth
        October 17, 2016 at 3:40 pm

        "Snaps have the potential to fix the installer issues"
        Here we go again with competing standards! Snaps, Flatpak and AppImage with the Linux community unwilling to compromise/agree on one. Choice is one of Linux's strengths but, at the same time, it is one of its greatest weaknesses.

        Snaps may fix installer issues but only for Ubuntu-based distros. Canonical is acting like Linux's version of Microsoft. They create proprietary version of existing software just so they can control its development (ex. Mir, Snaps). They refuse to cooperate in collaborating with the Linux community on working on existing software (Wayland, AppImage, Flatpak). To be honest, the Linux developer community is not interested in collaborating with Canonical on working on its proprietary forks of software. Therefore, the Linux community needs to agree on which standard they will support, Flatpak or AppImage. After around 15 years of hanging around with Linux, I can safely say that we will be stuck with three competing installer standards.

        From what I have read about Snaps, there could be a potential quality control problem with the packages. Canonical proudly announced, as one of the selling point of Snaps, that Snaps will allow the developers to get new/updated packages to the users much quicker because the packages will not have to be subjected to Canonical's vetting process. Sounds to me like a recipe, if not for disaster, then for major problems. Between Snaps and PPAs, Canonical is certainly getting more and more like Microsoft in allowing users to download software of questionable provenance from third party sources. When users download software from the official distro repositories, they can trust that the software is malware free because it is thoroughly vetted. Canonical is shortcircuiting that process ewith Snaps and PPAs.

    • CFWhitman
      September 23, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      In Ubuntu based distributions you can install Nvidia drivers by finding the program named "Additional Drivers" (it will be under a category like "Settings" or "System"), running it, selecting the recommended driver for your video card and selecting "Apply Changes". If you are trying to keep up with the latest drivers, you can usually find a PPA that will take care of that, but most people have no reason not to use the ones that come in the Ubuntu repositories.

      In general, older hardware like printers and video cards becomes more likely to work with Linux, not less. Canon is rather notorious for not having much Linux printing support, though there are drivers for some of their printers. Companies known for good printing support for Linux are Brother, HP, and Epson, but you should still check into any printer before purchasing it. I actually have a Xerox Phaser 3150 laser printer that is no longer supported in versions of Windows newer than XP, but still works fine in Linux.