Warning icon

New location coming soon: Zurich, Switzerland

Best lightweight Linux distro: Puppy Linux, Tinycore and Other

Best lightweight Linux distro: Puppy Linux, Tinycore and Other

So you own this old PC or laptop that you’ve entirely zinged with. But due to its age and build, it is almost obsolete in today’s world. Their configuration and hardware are not competent enough to handle the newer operating systems that are available today. This is because the most modern OS is built to run modern and more advanced hardware. This makes it seem like your first love may never be able to run and provide the optimal results that it used to.

This can be a completely difficult situation to be in. It’s hard enough that your PC has now become more of a liability than an asset and cannot function as optimally as you wish. It’s harder than you are now contemplating discarding it as should be done with that are no longer productive. Many of us grow psychologically attached to certain equipment and begin to attach so much sentimental value to them, that having to trash them after such a long while would feel the same way as though we are letting goa long time companion.

But before you make the painful decision of discarding your old PC or laptop, you might want to consider an option that could bring your old system back to life and running: Lightweight Linux Distro.

With the Lightweight Linux distro, you wouldn’t need to ever experience the pain of discarding your priceless laptop or PC just because it’s old and no longer suited to meet up with modern needs. In fact, so long as you are able and willing to install certain additional programs and adjust to their mode of operation, a Lightweight Distro has the capacity to function as a suitable operating system replacement for your PC.

What is a Lightweight Linux Distro?

A lightweight Linux Distro is a Linux distribution that can run on a system with lower hardware and resources. Unlike the usual Linux operating system, the Lightweight Linux Distro has lower memory (which is exactly what those older systems ran on). It also demands a lesser processor speed to function. Since the working demands of the Lightweight Linux Distro are not high, your older, low-grade systems can function optimally, and produce the results you so desire.

What this means is pretty simple. Even if your system is running on a below 512 MB RAM, there is an OS that can run your system in the best of conditions and offer you optimal functionality regardless of the RAM size.

Think of a Lightweight Linux Distro as a complementary Linux distribution that is targeted at curing the deficiencies your old computer may have and making it functions optimally to meet current needs as though it were a brand new computer.

In a nutshell, lightweight Linux distributions bring your old PCs to life, offer you more available resources, less bloatware, and crapware, and generally improves and simplifies your computer systems’ operationality to the extent that you can even build your own server with them.

Into the world of the Lightweight

If you are just hearing about the Lightweight Linux Distro for the first time, it might amaze you to know that there are tons of Lightweight OS from Linux out there that can run on your system.

Just like with every other thing, having lots of lightweight Linux distros to choose from possesses a problem for speedy decision making especially for novices who haven’t had any reason to use one before or have even just heard of them for the very first time.

However, we (as always) want to save you the stress of having to run around, searching and trying to make a choice. So we have compiled a list of the top five Lightweight Linux Distro you can find out there. You can consider them your fantastic five. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Absolute Linux.

First on the list is the absolute core. It is a lightweight distro, built specifically for desktop computers. It comes pre-installed with the Firefox browser and LibreOffice suite. Although its build is based on the highly demanding Slackware 14.2, it makes maintenance and configuration very simplistic.

The absolute gets an update almost every year. The most recent release (which was the 15.0 version) was released in February 2018. It is still a beta software and may function with a little bit of unpredictability.

No matter the absolute version you choose, you would definitely have an array of lightweight applications that are compatible with it.

The installer is text-based with no live mode but it is easy to follow through. You can either install using the basic Slackware installation methods or through the autoinstall function if you have no plans of manually sorting the drive.

Also, there is a function that allows you to customize this distro to your taste. What it does is that it enables you to add or remove packages from the install media.

If you would take your time and get used to the Linux experience (which shouldn’t be too long), you would totally enjoy the flexibility of the absolute Linux.

  • Tinycore. 

Minimum Requirements:
Disk Space: 11MB

If you are looking for a tinyOS, then Tinycore is the perfect option for you. All you need is a disk space of 11 MB and RAM size of 48MB, you can have your OS up and running.

Nevertheless, do not allow its size fool you. It’s a little Megas, as it comes packed with all of the necessary packages, and also has a wide range of functionality. It comes packed with speed, flexibility, and power.

The tiny core has three variants that you could choose from; picture – for Raspberry Pis, Tiny Core – with a GUI, MicroCore – without a GUI and more.

It has extensive documentation so it’s easy to learn more about the OS. But it is not an advisable choice for a beginner.

  • Puppy Linux.

Minimum Requirements:
RAM: 64MB (recommended 256 MB)
CPU: 333MHz
Disk space: None
512MB free hard drive space to create a save file (optional).

Yes, that’s the first thing you want to know about the puppy. It occupies no space on your desktop or system. It is operated from a flash or Disk Drive. It’s almost a plug and plays OS.

Since it doesn’t run on your hard drive, but on your memory, it runs extremely fast. Using the puppy gives you a wide range of distros to choose from.

Since the puppy Linux is built with speed in mind, it doesn’t come with a lot of applications to save some basic apps like the Abiword for word processes, Gnumeric for spreadsheets, media playback, and other editing graphics apps.

Do keep in mind that you cannot run any high graphics application on this OS.

  • Lubuntu.

Minimum Requirements:
Pentium 4, Pentium M, AMD K8 or newer CPU. At least 266 MHz
RAM: 512 MB
Disk Space: 3 GB

If you love Ubuntu, then you would love Lubuntu. You can think of it as little Ubuntu. It is Ubuntu without all add-ons. It is the most popular and most used of all the Lightweight Linux Distro. One of the things that set the Ubuntu apart is that it runs on anything at all. Some people love it so much they use it as their main Linux Distro on their high-end hardware computer. It is the lightest variant of the Ubuntu family. It comes with all of the basic system necessities pre-installed. It can be easily installed and even used via flash drive.

If you want the sweet Ubuntu interface on an older system with good speed and usability, then try Lubuntu.

  • Porteus.

Minimum Requirements:
CPU: Any Intel, AMD or VIA x86/64 processor
Disk Space: 512 MB
RAM: 256 GB

The fascinating thing about the Porteus is that it comes in a 300 MB compressed state (for the Cinnamon and MATE editions only) and can create the file system with extreme ease. It comes with pre-installed apps. All other additional apps can be installed as modules. This makes the OS very fast and responsive.

This OS can run directly from system memory due to its incredibly streamlined build and interface. The Porteus is available for both 32 and 64-bit systems.

The distro has many variants that one could make choices from.

One unfortunate deal about the Porteus is the fact that newer versions do not allow for the rebuilding of OS.


Making a comparison of the different Linux Lite OS we’ve discussed so far would be based on some criteria:

  • User-friendliness.

Some of the OS that we have discussed thus far are more user friendly than others. The Tinycore, for example, is not user-friendly at all and should only be recommended for tech experts. Those who have used Ubuntu won’t have much problem coping with the Lubuntu. The puppy Linux, on the other hand, is user friendly, almost anyone could get a hang of it.

  • Requirements.

The requirements for running Each OS are different. The Lubuntu, for example, needs quite some space (being one of the largest in the group) while the puppy Linux can run on a little flash drive. One on the list could even run on a memory card.

  • Size.

From the Tinycore all the way to Ubuntu represents a range of different sizes. The puppy Linux is minute when compared with a lot of the other OS on the list.

  • Minimalism

When it comes to minimalism, it’s a whole different ball game. While all the OS are lite, some are pretty little. The puppy Linux and the Tinycore are on this end of the list while the Lubuntu leads the race for the largest Lite.

How to Choose

Making a choice of what Linux lite OS you are interested in using goes past a random selection (although that might suffice). But the truth is that selection has to be done on more careful criteria for the best results.

Choosing a lightweight Linux distro isn’t the same thing as shopping for food items for your household. With distros, you have to be intentional and specific about your expectations. As a result, you don’t just choose the first option that comes to your mind. Instead, you would have to first outline what your goals and intentions are, understand the needs of the computer system and then choose the distro that best satisfies those needs and expectations.

The different Linux distros outlined above have in their own ways the necessary specifications needed to run optimally with most types of PCs, some are more streamlined to suit certain tasks and requirements more than some others. To make the best choice of a lightweight Linux distribution, it’s important for you to first map out what exactly you wish to achieve and then choose the distro that works best with your computer system to drive home the necessary results.

On the face of it, you may think that all the Linux distributions are one and the same thing with just their varied names as the sole differentiating factor. Many new users feel the same way until they start to notice certain distinctions between one distro and the other on daily use.

Below is a list of criteria one should consider when choosing one of the Linux lite:

  • Functionality

What do you want to achieve with your Linux Lite? This question cannot be left unanswered. You must be specific. Functionality here refers to the range of operations you wish to run on your computer system. Do you want to game, watch movies, carry out simple office functions, or surf the net? Whatever it is you want to do will be the determinant of what kind of Lightweight Linux Distro you are going to opt for. Even though they are lite, some are still liter than others and as such may not be able to carry out the function you desire. It is necessary that you have this criterion in mind when choosing the best lightweight distro for your system.

  • Features

What features or special attributes are you expecting the OS to have; speed, power, flexibility, or a mix of all? Some of these Linux lite OS are more nimble than others. Some have extreme speed, while others are flexible. Some are thoroughly minimalistic while some can still execute some good UI features and 3D animation. It’s all up to you, and what you want. The ball is entirely in your court and you must ensure that the OS you finally select meets up with your desired features.

  • Experience

One other thing that must not be overlooked is experience. Have you used the Linux OS before? Are you familiar with how it works? If you do not know a dime about the Linux OS, using some of the Linux lite OS presented above may not be good advice. Starting with something like the puppy Linux may be more advisable. It’s more user friendly than some other Lightweights. If you are still in doubt, it’s okay to consult with an experienced system operator to guide your decision decision-making.

  • Hardware

How much hardware is required to run the OS? They might all be small, but some are smaller than others. The puppy Linux, for example, can run on a flash drive while liaising with your system Memory. Some others require up to 512 MB RAM, while others require below that. Some need a hard disk to run, while others (like the puppy Linux mentioned above) don’t. It’s up to you to determine the way it goes.

  • Security

Some Lightweight Linux distributions have more security details than some others. Depending on the nature of the work you do and how important data protection means to you, it’s important to consider the security set up of your chosen distribution and find out if it suits your requirements.

  • Installation routine

If easy installation is a priority for you, you should look out for distributions like Puppy Linux that is relatively easy to install and user-friendly too.

  • Speed: For most people, speed is the major determinant for measuring performance. Regardless of your reasons for getting a lightweight Linux distro, ever user would always appreciate a distro that runs fast, accomplishes tasks faster than usual and helps save time. When choosing your distribution, make sure you don’t forget to consider if it’s fast enough for the purpose you wish to achieve.

In conclusion

You don’t have to throw away the old lady. You could keep her. All you need is a little bit of change (which is not too much to ask considering the benefits). With little or no serious requirements, you can bring that dead system back to life and have it running optimally as though you just got the latest one. Get a Linux lite today. If you are new to all of this and just want to try it out, the puppy Linux won’t be a bad place to start considering the minimal requirements and user-friendly interface. It’s also the best choice for a Linux distribution if speed and high performance are a priority for you.

Generally, though, no matter your needs and requirements, there’s always a Linux distribution that suits your specifications. So go, reanimate the old lady and you would be excited you did.