The Lightweight Champions (GNU/Linux Distros)
A personal list of what I think are the best light and easy-on-resources Linux distributions.
Introduction To Desktop Environments Used in The List
Desktop Environment (DE for short) plays a crucial role in determining the distribution's characteristic of being lightweight, however, we should keep in mind that it is not the only factor, in fact, listing every distro that features one of these DEs (which are XFCE, LXDE, LXQt) would result in a plethora of options, most of which has similar performance. The performance varies due to other reasons such as the base distro, kernel-level optimizations, and even UI customizations and other possible tweaks. Thus, I will only include the distros that have the goal of being lightweight and made some special effort to configure it as such.
It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy-to-use and customizable. Very popular within the lightweight systems category.
is a fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment. Maintained by an international community of developers, it comes with multi-language support, standard keyboard shortcuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing.
Historically, LXQt is the product of the merge between LXDE-Qt, an initial Qt flavour of LXDE, and Razor-qt. It is focused on being a classic desktop with a modern look and feel.
The Lightweight Champion Distros
Now we will dive into the best performing candidates:
What makes Peppermint so unique is the brilliant design philosophy that emphasizes on making the most out of the different Linux DEs out there, so it uses a hybrid DE that is mainly XFCE but replaces lots of its components with ones from LXDE and copies few others from Cinnamon and Gnome. Another great distinctive feature about Peppermint is their focus on making Web-based apps so easy and comprehensive; utilizing a tool they've developed, named Ice SSB that creates an executable-like shortcut for any online web application, pretty much like Chrome OS's approach of implementing their cloud based apps in a native-looking environment for simplifying things and for the convenience of users who are mostly dependent on the internet and live in the browser. Thus, you will find Peppermint mentioned many times as an alternative to Google Chrome OS. Here, however, people should not think of Peppermint as merely a direct rival to Chrome OS, as matter of fact, Peppermint provides a plenty of locally pre-installed offline Linux softwares, just like any other daily usable Linux distro. And it still offers 32-bit support.
Linux Lite primarily targets Windows users. It aims to provide a complete set of applications to assist users with their everyday computing needs, including a full office suite, media players and other essential daily software. It is based on Ubuntu LTS and features the Xfce desktop. It recently dropped 32-bit support.
From my testing, this is the least buggy, most easy-on-resources pure Debian based Linux distro out there! it comes with an excellent out-of-the-box drivers support. Also features Xfce which makes it highly customizable and lightweight. Being based directly on Debian Stable (version 17 and above) gives more stability and software support. It offers 32-bit system too.
Ubuntu's official flavor of Xfce DE.
Puppy is Live OS (can be run from CD/DVD/Flash drive), extraordinarily small, and Slackware based distro. Puppy boots into a ramdisk and, unlike live CD distributions that have to keep pulling stuff off the CD, it loads into RAM. This means that all applications start in the blink of an eye and respond to user input instantly.
Forked from Damn Small Linux with a minimal graphical interface, weighing just under 14 MB! The core runs entirely in memory and boots very quickly.
Porteus is another Slackware based Live Distro that offers wide vairety of desktop environments, all of which have ISO files that are no larger than 400 MB!
Suggestion: Turn Your PC into A Console Emulator!
Are you so done with your old PC and want to throw it out of the window? Well, hold on, these Linux-based system can breathe life into your crappy computer and turn it into a little retro gaming console (as long as your processor is x86 or ARM). These distributions don't require much of a horsepower as they are optimized to run on older hardware.
Recalbox is a light embedded system created to run on the raspberryPi ,raspberryPI 2 and on PC x86/x64.
RetroPie allows you to turn your Raspberry Pi or PC into a retro-gaming machine. It builds upon Raspbian, EmulationStation, RetroArch and many other projects to enable you to play your favourite classic games with the minimum set-up.
Batocera.linux is an operating system (like Windows 10 and Mac OS) specialized in retrogaming available for your pc and different nano computers like the Raspberry and the Odroids.
Linux is an awesome way to revive and enhance low-end machines and make the most out of them with minimal consumption of resources, giving users an opportunity to have a decently performing experience on their old devices.