15 Best Lightweight OS for Old Laptop and Netbook in 2019

Last Updated: August 16, 2019
Lightweight OS for Laptop

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.

1. Lubuntu

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.

lightweight os for laptop

Lubuntu is coming in three different installation package, where desktop package for regular users those 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

Related: 7 Best Lightweight Linux Browsers for Ubuntu Users.

2. Linux Lite

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 player, VLC Media Player, has broad support for most of the video codecs.

Related: Top 7 Free Operating Systems For Your Laptop/Netbook

Key Features: RAM: 1024MB (512MB min) | CPU: 1.5GHz (700MHz Min) | 32-bit & 64-bit | Window Manager: XFCE | Fork: Ubuntu | Download Linux Lite

3. Puppy Linux

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.

Related: How to Run Windows Programs on Linux?

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

4. 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.

dsl

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 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)

Related: 10 Popular Windows Apps for Linux Users

5. Xubuntu

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 let 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

6. Debian + PIXEL

The new lightweight OS from Raspberry Pi Foundation that 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

7. Bhodi Linux

Bhodi is an 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 can install on 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.

Bhodi Linux Moksha Desktop

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 a 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

Related: 10 Best Linux Server Distributions for your Business & Home

8. Peppermint 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) code base. The peppermint desktop environment is Lightweight X Desktop Environment (LXDE). Peppermints have built-in web application management tool called Ice that let 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

9. Arch 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.

ArchLinuxThis 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

10. Slax

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 of RAM it can see 3GB of RAM.

slax

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

11. NimbleX

NimbleX is a small but versatile lightweight OS which 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.

NimbleX

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

12. ZorinOS

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 OSZorin 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

13. GeeXboX

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

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 take 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

Related: 10 Best Android Emulators for PC and Mac

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 is two main Android-based OS builds the desktop in the open source community, Remix OS, and Phoenix OS.

14. Remix 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

15. Phoenix 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 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

16. EasyPeasy

Update: EasyPeasy was discontinued. The Ubuntu Netbook Edition is great, but a lot of things doesn’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

17. Jolicloud

Update: Jolicloud has been discontinued from April 1, 2016. Jolicloud is a Linux-based lightweight operating system 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.

Download: Jolicloud

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, that can give life back to your old, low resource laptops.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Well, as this articles comments kind of reveals on its own, my recommendation as an OEM hack, is to select Distros that have a fairly long track record, since they do come and go. With comments here as old as May 2016, you can see how the original data had to be updated with a lot of “discontinued”, so do your research on a Distro, even Wiki it to see when it was launched and any other hints that might expose an end in sight. More familiar names are Lubuntu (since May 2011); Peppermint (May 2010); Xubuntu (June 2006), and so on. If they’ve been around awhile, such success means they should continue to be.

    Peppermint is unique among these, in that it’s really Mint wrapped in a cloud based paradigm: It’s awesome if you’re using a laptop (new or old) as a secondary and portable device. If you have a newer PC (or laptop), then L-Mint is the way to go, at least until you somewhat master Linux Distros in general. Once you do; e.g. once the terminal no longer scares you, and the stock programs grow on you, then you’ll never want to go back to MS/iOS proprietary machines.

    I use an Intel NUC-PC at home (L-Mint 19.1 Cinnamon); it has an Intel I-3 core processor & 16G RAM: plugged into two 55″ HDTV’s (to split-screen if I want), it does all the heavy lifting; ripping, video editing, and so on. Then I have a small laptop (and an android phone) for more portable light weight stuff. By doing it this way, you need not spend a lot on your portable devices. Plus my home PC is also my media core; you can stream far-far more via a full-on PC w/a Chrome/FF browser, than with any portable device. I got Mash Tips linked at my blog! Good resource.

  2. Good day!
    I just ran Lubuntu from Usb Boot in an old AMD 64 dual core, pretending to install it as the main OS. Thing is from the desktop once it started, when I tried to install, it woudn’t let me cause apparently it needs at least 1Gb of Ram (being that this computer has 9xx Mbs or so – besides it also asked for internet connection which I cannot have before installing Linksys Wireless drivers for the external device)
    So, just wanted to point out that not small detail, I’ll see if I can install another OS that works with that amount of memory and doesn’t need internet through the install. By the way I downloaded the last version of Lubunto which is 18.10 I think, so maybe before it was compatible and not now? Thanks anyway for this great article. Does anyone know the best way to get wifi whilke installing a new OS? Can I at some point load the driver from an usb stick? ALthough of course the driver I had is for Windows so I think I’ll have to see if there’s one for Linux.
    That’s all, take care!

  3. I have a old windows pc with 4 GB ram and it gets slow when i open few extra tabs on it. I am confused between Remix and Lubuntu ? which one should I go for

  4. Wow, really great list, it’s just awesome the variety of Operating Systems that are out these days, but honestly I have 1 PC that NEEDS to run a fairly new Windows OS just get a newer version of Directx for newer games for my kids, But my personal PC runs XP Black edition, just crazy fast on an older dual core overclocked to 4.5ghz with SSD which also doubles as HTPC duties, as it’s got 4 terabytes of movies TV shows, it’s an older Nvidia Nforce motherboard, when I installed it 2 years ago, I installed Ubuntu and was disgusted with how terrible slow it was even compared to Windows 7, and million times slower compared to XP Black, I may have to give one of these on your list a try……….I get an old dual core with Nvidia built in graphics, but my kids have an 8core with 32gb of ram with a monster video card , where’s the justice in that????? Lol

  5. i’ve just tried easypeasy on my intel atom netbook with 2GB RAM… i works great..but unfortunatelly… the firefox is too old to open some websites (some newspaper sties) – and firefox cant open some pages …

    I suggest some distro that suitable for the netbooks . I’ve tetsted those distros

    LXLE –
    LXpup
    Macpup
    Linux mint with LXDE

  6. Great article. For my netbook 1,5GHz and 2Gg of RAM Xfce distros are quite heavy. I would recommend LXDE or lighter DEs for those machines. Thanks

  7. I can’t believe there are still people making article about long obsolete netbook. And on that note, I thank you very much. I’m still trying to find a use for my undead netbook. That thing won’t die.

  8. There a couple of distros that are dead and a couple more that really aren’t lightweight. NimbleX, DSL have been long gone, for example. How about antiX as a replacement? Tested it a few days ago, very impressive. Note: I’m referring to the non-MX version. Turns out that antiX-MX is more middle-weight.

  9. Can’t this be narrowed down better for those of us who don’t know much about this? Even a best choice? I have a 9 yr old Toshiba Satellite that has Vista on it that I’m looking for doing this for, hoping to make it much faster, secure, and function well for someone who has not used Linux before.

    • I appreciate your feedback. However, the best OS depends on the user requirement and the PC configuration. For example, Debian+Pixel is coming with a pack of free tools, good for those who want basic tools with the OS. Arch Linux is coming with very minimal with no pre-installed tools, ideal for Devs. So the best system, it depends on your requirement. However, we tried our best to help you by projecting the unique features of each OS. Hope this helps!.

  10. I think Tiny Core Linux should be added to this list. At its smallest, w/ desktop, it is 16mb. I use it on an old HP Pavillion ze4900, which is about 13 or so years old. It boots in about 5 seconds.

    • Yeah, this is really old. I personally have an EeePC with 2GB of RAM and a SINGLE CORE 1.6Ghz CPU. It is SLOWWWW with Ubuntu MATE, which is supposed to be fast on old hardware. I found that Neverware Cloudready, (basically ChromeOS, which is used on Chromebooks) runs quite nicely, and something like Mate works well with Midori web browser.

  11. EasyPeasy (and the Ubuntu Netbook Remix it was built on) has been discontinued for years now, in fact the last full release was in 2010, though they did have an alpha out in 2012 it never got to final release.

      • I use Android x86 is the most lightweight OS I saw in my life and I thing sister operating systems like Prime OS and Phoenix OS would be fast too should they be on this list bye the way in the past I was have Linux Mint is super slow with freezing lagging and much RAM usage even when just Browser so please add Android operating systems

  12. While downloading Zorin, I noticed that on their homepage the system requirements suggest 1.5 gigs of RAM – The article above states ” 215 MB of system memory “.. It looked great and I thought it would do, but yeah. Very informative article nonetheless 🙂

  13. really helpful, I want to replace my netbook os since my windows 8 was crash and can’t booting. I’d like to know if I boot from flashdisk is erase data in hard disk or not? thank you

    • No,if you boot from flash-disk the data on your hard-drive stays untouched. Most Linux distros that are booted from flash or CD don’t even mount the local hard-drive unless you specifically change the setting for it to do so.

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