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Do you have an old laptop that is running slow? Are you searching for a lightweight operating system for your netbook? Here is a free list of lightweight OS system that can operate without using much of PC hardware resources. You can bring an old laptop back to life with these lightweight OS. Once you replace Windows or Mac from an old slow laptop with a lightweight Linux distro, you can revive these laptops to a new life, and those can fly. You can enjoy a bunch of open-source Linux games on these revived PCs as a bonus. Since these Linux OSs are community-based open source, sometimes these OS Dev teams will drop support and leave users in the dark.
We updated the list of Best Lightweight OS in 2018 for Netbooks, Laptops, and Desktops based on the new Linux distro in the community.
Editor’s Note: We recommend you to download and set up a bootable USB (check here for OS to run from USB) with the operating system you choose to test with your hardware. That will help you to make sure that all the hardware drivers are available for the operating system before you try this OS on your local hard disk. If you don’t want to spend money and looking for a free OS, please see Top 7 Free Operating Systems for your Laptop/Netbook that can try on your PC. Alternatively, you can try the best Linux Desktop Environment for Amazing UI experience with Linux Distros.
Those who want a super lightweight OS here is the first one on the list Lubuntu. Lubuntu is a fast, lightweight Operating System, based on Linux and Ubuntu. Those who have low RAM and old generation CPU, this OS for you. Lubuntu core is based on the most popular user-friendly Linux distribution Ubuntu. For best performance, Lubuntu uses minimal desktop LXDE, and the apps are lightweight in nature.
Lubuntu is coming in three different installation package, where desktop package for regular users have more than 700MB RAM and 64-bit or 32-bit choices. The Minimal installation can use for very low resource system, and you require only 64 MB of RAM to run, however, 128 MB of RAM is considered the minimum requirement.
Key Features: RAM: 512MB (128MB min) | CPU: Pentium 4 or Pentium M or AMD K8 | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: LXDE, Openbox | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Lubuntu
Another lightweight distro from the Linux family, Linux Lite. Those who are looking for a lightweight OS that takes low resources to run and the rest of the resource can dedicate to gaming; this Linux Lite is the ideal source for your needs. Linux Lite can run fast with less resource and CPU power which can free up for your heavy load games. Linux Lite also based on Ubuntu LTS releases, which offer longtime support, five years for each release.
The Linux Lite Distro is coming as plug and play and ready to run from the box. The Linux Lite Distro is coming as plug and play and ready to work out from the box. Linux Lite pack is coming with LibreOffice for your Office document needs, firebox to browse internet and Thunderbird email client as built-in install with the package. Linux Lite bundle, one of the best media players, VLC Media Player, has broad support for most of the video codecs.
Key Features: RAM: 1024MB (512MB min) | CPU: 1.5GHz (700MHz Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: XFCE | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Linux Lite
As the name suggests this is an ultra-portable Linux distribution that you can carry with a 2GB USD drive or DVD. This ultra-lightweight OS can boot from CD or USB and live on your computer RAM. There is no system hard disk required to run this light OS. This Linux is the first aid for your data and laptop.
When your system gets corrupted or hard drive lost, you can directly boot the PC from Puppy Linux USB. You can access the PC hard disk and retrieve the data from the hard drive, once you were done, shut off and take back the USB to carry with you.
This portable Linux distro is coming with a size under 100 MB (core OS size) and boots less than a minute on an older system. Puppy Linux is a newbie-friendly UI based OS, that includes a broad range of applications like Office apps web browser, games, etc. that can detect most of the hardware without any additional drivers.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB (64MB min) | CPU: 333MHz Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: JWM-2.3.2 | Download Puppy Linux
Related: How to Run Windows Programs on Linux
Manjaro XFCE Edition
Manjaro is a very popular Linux distribution and it comes in many versions depending on your use case and your choice of desktop. From full-featured KDE Plasma and GNOME to lightweight MATEand XFCE desktop, Manjaro is available in 15 different versions. The one we’re concerned with is the XFCE Edition which uses the lightweight XFCE desktop.
It isn’t the most lightweight OS you’ll find but it is certainly lightweight enough for any older systems. It comes with the usual XFCE apps pre-installed so you’re good to start using it right after installation.
Key Features: RAM: 512MB | CPU: Pentium | Disk space: 30 GB | Download Manjaro XFCE Edition
Damn Small Linux
Damn Small Linux is a very versatile 50MB mini desktop oriented Lightweight Linux distribution. DSL has a nearly complete desktop and a small core of command-line tools. All applications have been chosen for the best balance of functionality, size, and speed.
Damn Small can act as an SSH/FTP/HTTPS server right off of a live CD. DSL can boot from a business card CD as a live Linux distribution or a USB pen drive. It can run the entire OS in RAM with as little as 128MB and light enough to power a 486DX with 16MB of Ram.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB (64MB min) | CPU: i486/AMD Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: Fluxbox, JWM | Download Damn Small Linux (WiKi)
Those who want a plug and play operating system for your old laptop that can run with a minimum resource, then try Xubuntu. Xubuntu is built with Xfce desktop environment and on Ubuntu hardware drivers and support that lets you run most of your gadgets as plug and play with this lightweight OS.
For a basic user with a low-end computer, Xubuntu coming with a pre-built package to run everything that you required. You have a web browser to go online, email client, office application and the media app to handle your videos and photos. For advanced users who want to enjoy more flavor of open-source Linux apps, they can visit get the package repositories from Ubuntu Software Center.
Key Features: RAM: 1024MB (512MB min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: Xfce | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Xubuntu
Adobe Photoshop, Google Chrome, MS Paint, these are applications that are larger in size compared to Tiny Core. If I were to mention each and every app that is larger in size though it could take quite a while. Tiny Core is an OS but it is merely 16 MB in size, as of the time of this writing. A low-quality YouTube video is larger than that. Obviously, corners had to be cut to make the OS so small.
It comes with a minimal interface and very few pre-installed apps. It can run on any ancient computer you may have from the previous decades. The boot speed is faster than any other OS on this list, naturally. A lot of things are missing here though, such as hardware graphics. All of those things can be manually installed but it is certainly not going to be a smooth ride.
There are three variants to this: Core, Tiny Core, and CorePlus. You can consider Core to be the base variant and it has no graphical interface at all. Just the command line which is okay if you know your way around the command line. As of the time of this writing, it is only 11 MB in size. CorePlus provides you with options and installation tools.
Key Features: RAM: 46MB – 64MB | CPU: Pentium II | Disk space: 11 MB – 106 MB | Download Tiny Core
There are many lightweight operating systems but hardly any of them are built solely for the purpose of reviving an old system. Well, LXLE was built for that. It is simply a respin of Lubuntu LTS version but tweaked specifically for the purpose stated above. It tries to provide an intuitive interface and some eye candy despite being built for aging hardware so that it feels good to use.
That’s how you revive an old computer, after all, not just make it so that it is bootable but also make it useable with some sprinkles of modernism. LXLE is tweaked to improve performance and it comes with a set of pre-installed lightweight apps just like Lubuntu.
Key Features: RAM: 512 MB (recommended 1GB) | CPU: Pentium III (recommended Pentium IV) | Disk space: 8 GB | Download LXLE
Debian + PIXEL
The new lightweight OS from Raspberry Pi Foundation to give new life to your old PC. This lightweight OS can run on x86-based MAC and Windows machines. PIXEL is a clean, modern user interface, packed with a bunch of programming tools and productivity software.
This lightweight OS is pre-installed Chromium web-browser with useful plugins, including Adobe Flash and instant access to thousands of free applications. The new software enables you to install a Raspberry Pi like OS on your computer. It boots from a DVD, USB Thumb drive or inside a virtual environment.
Key Features: RAM: 512MB min | CPU: i386 Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Download Debian + PIXEL
antiX Linux is a lightweight Debian based Linux distribution that boasts of being a systemd-free Linux distro. Systemd is a suite of software that provides the fundamental building blocks for a Linux-based operating system. It decides which programs run when Linux computer boots up. It’s the first process that starts on boot and it is the last one running when the system is shut down.
In other words, if you didn’t already know about it, you probably don’t have to. antiX uses the icewm window manager which makes it possible to keep things running even on really low-end hardware. There aren’t many built-in apps which help to reduce the overall size of the OS. It also makes sense given that it is trying to be a lightweight OS. You can install the programs you need, instead of having a ton of programs that you won’t use.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB | CPU: PIII Systems | Disk space: 2.7 GB | Download antiX Linux
SparkyLinux is lightweight but it also has different versions for different kinds of computers. The lightest of those, the base version, does not come with many pre-installed apps. So you’ll have to install apps to play media, browse the web, etc. The full version comes with enough apps which aren’t quite lightweight themselves but you can start using your new OS right after installation.
SparkyLinux is also based on Debian but on the testing branch. This means it always has the latest features of a Debian distribution. It comes with many options when it comes to the desktop environment including LXDE, OpenBox/JWM, e17, MATE, LXQt, Cli. Of these, Cli (command line) is obviously the fastest, followed by LXQt which is a lightweight desktop environment.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB – 384MB | CPU: i486/amd64 | Disk space: 5 GB | Download SparkyLinux
Bhodi is another Linux release built on Ubuntu, that updated well and maintained. At the time we update this article, April 10, 2017, Bhodi Linux released 4.1 version on Jan 2017. This Linux distro has three different ISO images to make sure that it can install on the latest desktop configuration and also your old desktop and laptops that a decade older. Bhodi is coming with a dedicated desktop called Moksha. The concept of this Linux Distro, you have the freedom to choose the apps you need.
No pre-installed apps are coming with this Linux flavor. However, this package is coming with ePad text editor, File Manager, Image Viewer terminal emulator, web browser and system updater. The Legacy-Non-PAE Kernel utilizes the older 3.2 Linux kernel.
This 3.2 Linux kernel is optimized for up to 15+ years old hardware, to make sure this distribution can run with very low resources, that can revive your computer even if it is a decade old. Those who have an issue with the latest Linux distribution to work on their old laptop or desktop that does not support the PAE kernel extension, then this Bhodi Legacy ISO is the best bet for your laptop.
Key Features: RAM: 512MB (128MB min) | CPU: 1GHz (500MHz Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: Moksha | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Bhodi Linux
Peppermint, like Bhodi Linux, is a lightweight OS coming as a core Linux OS without much junk or pre-packed apps. This lightweight Linux Distro version 7 built on Ubuntu 16.04 and Long-Term Support (LTS) codebase. The peppermint desktop environment is Lightweight X Desktop Environment (LXDE).
Peppermints have a built-in web application management tool called Ice that lets you make sure to get the same experience while you deal with the web application. Literally, you feel the web application and menus are just like your local app menus.
Key Features: RAM: 1024MB (512MB min) | CPU: Intel x86 | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: LXDE | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Peppermint Linux
Arch Linux is an independently developed, i686/x86-64 general-purpose GNU/Linux distribution versatile enough to suit any role. Development focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and code elegance.
This lightweight Linux OS is installed as a minimal base system, configured by the user upon which their ideal environment is assembled by installing only what is required or desired for their unique purposes.
GUI configuration utilities are not officially provided, and most system configurations are performed from the shell and a text editor. Based on a rolling-release model, Arch strives to stay bleeding edge, and typically offers the latest stable versions of most software.
Key Features: RAM: 128MB min (256 MB RAM) | CPU: i686-based or x86-64 | 32-bit & 64-bit | Fork: Linux | Download Arch Linux
Slax is a Live operating system based on Linux runs from an external media without any need for permanent installation. The entire Slax operating system resides in a single directory
/Slax/ on your device, making it easier to organize with your other data. Slax is available for 32bit and 64bit processor architectures.
The 32bit version is designed to run on old computers (as old as Intel 486; that dates back to 1989). This lightweight operating system will run properly on brand new computers too. However, this OS is limited to RAM it can see 3GB of RAM.
The 64bit Slax version has no such limits, but will not run on computers older than a few years. If you plan to use Slax on a very old computer, or you seek for a system with maximum possible compatibility, then choose 32bit. If you intend to use Slax on a brand new machine, you’ll better go for 64bit.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB (48MB Min) | CPU: i486/AMD | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: KDE | Fork: Slackware | Download Slax
NimbleX is a small but versatile lightweight OS that can boot from CD, flash memory (USB pens or Mp3 players) and even from the network. Because it runs entirely from a CD, USB or network, this portable OS doesn’t require installation.
With NimbleX you can browse the web with Firefox, chat with your friends using the Kopete multi-protocol IM application, download torrents with Transmission, use DC++, connect remotely to other computers and much more.
Key Features: RAM: 256MB (128MB Min) | CPU: Pentium II | 32-bit & 64-bit | Download NimbleX
Zorin OS is a multi-functional operating system designed specifically for newcomers to Linux. It’s based on Ubuntu Linux so that you can rely on it for rock-solid performance, dependability, and support. Zorin OS features our unique look changer program that we have created exclusively for Zorin OS.
Zorin allows users to change the user interface at the touch of a button. Other unique programs include Background Plus, Web Browser Manager and more. It allows you to use Zorin OS along with your current operating system and run Microsoft Windows programs in Zorin OS with the help of WINE and PlayOnLinux.
Key Features: RAM: 1.5GB (512MB Min) | CPU: 1.5GHz (700MHz Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Fork: Ubuntu | Download ZorinOS
GeeXboX is a free lightweight, and Open Source Media-Center purposed Linux distribution for embedded devices and desktop computers. As you know, GeeXboX is not an application; it’s a full-featured OS.
Geexbox can boot from a LiveCD, a USB key or from an SD/MMC card or even you can install on a regular HDD. This Media Center-based OS provides you a ready-to-be-used, plug-and-play Media Center application that can play any multimedia content.
Geexbox has been designed to be fully controllable through either keyboard, mouse or a remote controller and does not require any particular computer-related skills. This Linux laptop OS features the state of the art technologies to provide you with the best multimedia experience to make the most out of your hardware.
Key Features: RAM: 64MB Min | CPU: 400MHz Min | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: NA | Fork: NA | Download GeeXBoX
For those who want to enjoy Android OS flavor apart from Linux or Windows OS, there are Android-based builds for your laptops. This will be an ideal choice for Android owners, and they want to keep the same experience on their desktops and laptops. There are two main Android-based OS builds on the desktop in the open-source community, Remix OS, and Phoenix OS.
Update: Remix OS has been discontinued. The perfect solution for those who want to make an Android PC. Whether it is a desktop or laptop, you can run this Android-based OS from USB or direct from PC hard disk.
Remix OS is a collaborative version of Android xX86 and launched in 2012, and Android Marshmallow powers the latest version. Instead of installing Remix OS direct on PC, you can boot from USB, and there is an “exe” file available to convert USB that can load Remix OS later.
We are talking about the lightweight OS here, and I can’t say this is a super lightweight OS compared to other Linux Distro we listed here. But Remix OS is to make break the wall between your Android Smartphone and Personal Desktop.
Remix OS is not limiting you from doing the PC activities, you can still browse the web, office applications, prepare presentations, Taskbar, File manager, etc. With Remix OS, you can enjoy all the Android Apps and wonderful games on your Desktop or Laptop PC.
Key Features: RAM: 2GB | CPU: 2GHz Dual Core | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: Android-as-Desktop | Fork: Android | Download Remix OS
For Android Lovers, PhoenixOS is another Android Build OS for Desktop Computers. The x86 version can be download for PC and run just like Linux or Windows OS. Just like your Android Phone OS, the PhoenixOS provides the desktop menu where you can get the settings, system information, power settings, etc.
Once you install Phoenix OS on your desktop, your desktop mouse will work as a regular Windows mouse, you can drag and drop files, do file compression, and you have a chromium core-based browser to use the internet.
PhoenixOS will bring you the Android experience and features on the desktop, like the notification center, App messages, etc. Since Phoenix belongs to the Android ecosystem, you can enjoy thousand so f Android games and apps on your PC with this Android Built OS.
Key Features: RAM: NA | CPU: Intel x86 | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: Android-as-Desktop | Fork: Android | Download Phoenix OS
Update: EasyPeasy was discontinued. The Ubuntu Netbook Edition is great, but a lot of things don’t work out of the box. MP3s, for example, can’t be played until you install the codecs. EasyPeasy aims to be simple by offering proprietary applications and codecs out of the box.
This lightweight Linux OS is designed for the cloud, configured with WiFi and wireless drivers. These built-in Wireless drives let you easily connect your netbook to the Internet and enjoy web applications straight from the desktop. EasyPeasy OS is optimized for low power consumption and was from the early start developed with better battery performance and mobility in mind.
Key Features: Window Manager: Ubuntu | Fork: Linux | Download EasyPeasy
Update: Jolicloud has been discontinued from April 1, 2016. Jolicloud is a Linux-based lightweight operating system that became the best replacement OS for old PC sitting in homes, schools, and universities.
Designed around the Jolidrive HTML5 interface which designed for the cloud, but works great offline. Jolicloud automatically updates your software, relies heavily on Chromium-based packages for running web-based applications with a curated list of 1,500 free apps.
If you want to get the list of a free operating system that you want to try for your laptop, please try Top 7 Free Operating Systems For Your Laptop / Netbook. Once you have a list of Operating Systems, then you can add extra protection for your computer and please select the best one from the list of free Light Weight Antivirus that can Save Computer Memory and CPU Power.
There are many reasons to leave your buggy Windows and Join the lightweight OS community. As far as you know, the most Lightweight Operating Systems are Linux distros. The benefit of this Linux distro, those are open-source, community-supported, and OSs are super lightweight.
All these operating systems mentioned here are capable of running under 1GB RAM and low CPU speed. Instead of installing on a hard disk, most of these Operating System can be loaded to a USB stick and run from it as a standalone OS. These lightweight oS are the best in from the available Linux distribution, and those are light, fast and stable, which can give life back to your old, low resource laptops.