5 Linux Distros to Give Your Old Computer a New Life

Posted by Joe Burrill | On | August 23, 2011 | Filed under Freebies

Unmatched compatibility and immense modularity are two features which stand out Linux from the rabble of Operating Systems. These features are good to relive your old computer easily. Any new Linux Distribution can be run on old computer without any upgradation or changing hardware part. We can refer a new breath of fresh air for your old PCs, unless your computer are in your old garage having lots of dust on it, Linux will refuse to run on that kind of PC (just kidding). While it is easy to run any Linux or Windows OS on any compatible computer whether they are old or new, but it is highly recommend to run only distributions which are idol for an old computer for hassle free computing, because they are not only light but are very smooth to run and high speed. We are going to list 5 best Linux Distributions for your Old Computers, take a look –


1. CrunchBang

CrunchBang or #! is a Debian-based Linux OS that emphasizes simplicity and speed. It uses a very minimalistic Window manager called Openbox – there is an Xfee version available as well – that is even lighter than Xfee. The interface is bare, having only the essentials, a desktop switcher cum taskbar, and no application menu. This makes a great choice for notebooks as well. Despite a lighter interface it has an impressive number of applications. Thanks to the included VLC player one can play nearly any media format, including DVDs. Flash and MP3 support are also included by default so you can use it for playing media in proprietary formats out of the box. It also has very low system requirements, technically it is possible to install on a system with as little as 64MB of RAM, but would such system be very usable?

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2. Zenix

Zenix is modern distro that is lightweight yet quite beautiful in its simplicity. The distro is based on, and is fully compatible with Debian 6. In fact it uses the same repositories, thus making it possible to install any of the thousands of applications available for Debian. Zenix itself takes as little as 60MB RAM, making it fast even when running with as little as 128MB RAM to begin with. It uses the lightest window managers, Openbox and Awesome. Openbox has been used by other distros in this list, but Awesome is very special, it is a very light tiling window manager. Instead of manipulating windows using a titlebar, with maximize and minimize buttons, etc. Awesome relies on keyboard and mouse shortcuts for the same.

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3. antiX

antiX is a distro designed to run on the meekest of hardware, and is capable of running even on a Pentium II 266 MHz computer with a mere 64MB RAM. This Linux Distro is based on Simply MEPIS and Debian testing, and is a rolling distro, so there are no major releases, just a constant trickle of improvements. It comes in three flavors and uses recent kernel, a full CD distro, a base distro of 320MB and a core distro without a GUI. Like the other Linux distros, antiX replaces the heavier desktop environments with IceWM and Fluxbox, both of which are presented as options while booting from the live install disk. The software section on antiX is also modern and diverse. Instead of Firefox / Iceweasel (Debian version of Firefox), antiX includes IceApe which is a suite containing a browser, an email client, a chat application and a web page creator. For severely limited systems, the Dillo Browsers is also available, which does not run JavaScript.

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4. Zenwalk

It tries to cater to a wide range of users, and hence offers multiple versions, all of which are lightweight. The five versions are Standard, Core, Live, Gnome and Openbox. The standard one used the XFCE desktop environment; Core comes with only a command line interface, the Live version is similar to the standard version but designed to run off a CD. The Gnome and Openbox editions use the Gnome desktop environment and Openbox window manager respectively. Zenwalk can run on a system as old as Pentium II with 128MB RAM, which is quite a feat considering that it includes mostly modern software and a recent stable kernel.

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5. Xubuntu and Lubuntu

Xubuntu is an official Ubuntu version that uses the XFCE desktop environment instead of the Gnome. Xubuntu is significantly lighter, requiring a quarter of the resources of its counterpart Ubuntu. While Ubuntu requires at least 1GB RAM, XFCE can make do with just 256 MB RAM. Since the OS is Ubuntu based, it will run any Ubuntu application. Although it is important to note that the applications you run might demand greater resources. Xubuntu includes Firefox but you are advised to include lighter browser like Midori which has lower memory requirements. Lubuntu, like Xubuntu is a derivative of Ubuntu which uses the LXDE desktop environment, It has ever lower system requirements, yielding a usable system at just 128 MB RAM.

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Since, Linux is about to enter into a new era, as Linus Torvalds – creator of Linux has announced about the new kernel of Linux ver. 3.0. After 15 years, Linux is about to end a long cycle of ver. 2.0. With the new kernel, there will be next generation distros of Linux, but you have to wait for those, until then try some of these.

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Written by Joe Burrill

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  1. By Priya Londhe - August 23, 2011

    Nice Post…!!!

  2. By Bhupendra Chahar - August 23, 2011

    Nice post . Keep it up

  3. By Constantin - August 23, 2011

    You should put ArchLinux into the list .. its also very lightweight …

  4. By Amit - August 23, 2011

    Yes there are lots of other lightweight linux too but i chose only 5 Linux distors of my choice.

  5. By mfw - August 24, 2011

    Another vote for Arch Linux !

  6. By Grant McWilliams - August 25, 2011

    Xubuntu is NOT lightweight! At one time Linux + XFCE saved considerable memory over Gnome or KDE but the way that Xubuntu is configured it’s not really any different then Ubuntu or Kubuntu. On my 1 GB netbook a stock Xubuntu bootup leaves 350MB of ram free without running any applications. That’s not much. Linux Mint DE (XFCE based on Debian and not Ubuntu) leaves 600 MB of ram free. That’s quite a difference. It’s time to start dispelling the myth that just because something has XFCE doesn’t mean it’s light.

  7. By Amit - August 25, 2011

    Yes you are right at your point, But you are forgetting one major thing that benchmark testing of a software will always be different than real world use. I just collected the Linux versions based on their testing measures not how they performs at the user end.

  8. By Boulate - August 25, 2011

    He don’t have to put Archlinux!
    I’m an Arch user too (it’s my main distro) but you have to understand that Arch is not an “out of the box” distribution.

    Amit only present out of the box GNU/Linux distributions who have a default desktop installed (and for most, it’s liveCD distributions).

    Arch is like Debian, or Gentoo, or Slackware, or all other GNU/Linux distribution who haven’t a default windows manager installed.

    PS: Sorry for my bad English :)

  9. By Saurabh - October 11, 2011

    Xubuntu is not light wight at all. I installed it on one of the computers I have with has 192MB RAM along with an AMD Sempron 1.5GHz processor and it can’t even boot up.

  10. By markp - October 17, 2011

    With only 192MB of ram, you should give Puppy Linux a try. I attempted to run it on a pen III 450mhz with only 128MB ram and it ran quite well.

  11. By lOUIS LACROIX - December 20, 2011

    My favorite lightweight distros are Puppy Linux and Slitaz. I am still debating which one I like best.

  12. By Abhishek Prakash - February 13, 2012

    My faourite is Puppy Linux. Small, cute and fast.

  13. By Tj.Wallas_ - March 23, 2012

    Great post. I’ll sure give some of these distros a try!
    Another vote for Puppy Linux 😉

  14. By rd.nomercy - April 3, 2012

    nice post… in my opinion, you should try Puppy Linux and Slitaz, because:
    1) Puppy and Slitaz build from scratch
    2) was built specifically for very low requirement hardware
    3) compared to other distros, Puppy and Slitaz (especially Slitaz) can run a variety of applications in a multitasking only with a minimum memory
    4) Puppy and Slitaz have a beautiful desktop and customizable without reducing the speed and power…

    *sorry my english 😀

  15. By Carl, sweden - April 4, 2012

    One of the best articles regarding low-weight Linux distributions I’ve come across. I’ve done my homework and also been tryin’ out those cut-out ‘Buntu forks i.e. Lubuntu and Xubuntu, but for a really old system those aren’t really much of a choice. Right now I’m trying out Puppy Linux, which seems to be an affordable choice. Cheers!

  16. By Nameismaelvc - April 17, 2012

    where can I get that conky theme?

  17. By Amit - April 17, 2012

    Try here – http://bit.ly/JdXk9w

  18. By Jose godofredo tuliao - August 7, 2012

    Puppy Linux is the best choice for me! I’ve been using it for around two years and I never encountered any problems except the video display…

  19. By thecodergeek - December 21, 2012

    I agree with AntiX as I have did my own test on some really old computers. I feel Puppy Linux should be on that list as well.

    I disagree with having Xubuntu and Lubuntu. In my test, testing on old computers with 64mb of RAM, 128mb of RAM, 256mb of RAM, they didn’t perform that well when compared to other light weight distro’s I tested. I’m talking OLD here, though. Specs between 64mb or RAM and 256mb of RAM. Like others have mentioned, Xubuntu isn’t really that light weight. So for old computers, I don’t think it’s a really good choice. I posted my own list about what I feel is the best linux choices for old computers here: http://jponline.hubpages.com/hub/Best-Linux-For-Old-Computer We all have our own opinions, but after extensive testing, the one’s in my top five did the best, so I always recommend them to help others who have some pretty old hardware they would like to breath some new life in.

    I’ve tested out various Linux’s distro’s on the specs that I mentioned above and by far the best for me were, Puppy Linux, AntiX, BrowserLinux, Slitaz. I based this all on performance, speed, and ease of use. Slax was awesome as well, but required 256mb of RAM to run ok enough. Slax did pretty well when tested on 512mb equipped machine and it’s pretty slick looking and easy to use for beginners, as it has a somewhat Windows-like interface.

    If I had to pick my favorite, I would say Puppy Linux just because I’ve gotten it to run on everything. AntiX did well, just wasn’t really my style. Slax would be my second pick. Though, the newest version runs the best on at least 512mb of RAM.

  20. By ix - December 25, 2012

    n1-puppy n2-slitaz n3-tiny core n4-damn small linux ,crunchbang ,lubuntu…

  21. By Mark Wiering - February 3, 2013

    I have just a few things to say.

    1. Xubuntu is absolutely NOT lightweight. That’s a heavy operating system.
    2. None of these Linux-distributions are really lightweight. Lightweight Linux-distributions should run on computers with 32 MB RAM. If you are looking for a lightweight operating system with a graphical user interface: Damn Small Linux and Windows 95/98.

    Computers with 512 MB RAM or more are new computers, because they are able to run Windows XP and Windows Vista, two modern operating systems.

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  24. By sekolah laundry - December 24, 2013

    like puppy for live CD and repearing some problem, but for installation i like ubuntu based distro..

  25. By Sohil Memon - December 30, 2013

    Linux is tremendously awesome. The distros you have mentioned are too good, and for the daily usage I definitely go with Ubuntu!

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