I am getting an old laptop running. On my newer or desktop systems I use ubuntu or kubuntu. But for this machine (750MHz PIII, 512 M ram, 1280x1024 display with ATI rage graphics) the ubuntu derivatives fell big, heavy and slow.

Would you please point me to some in depth review of distros running on this class of hardware?

Edit: Here is an undated list of lightweight Linux distributions. Does anybody have recent in depth reviews of any of these?

asked 07 May '10, 16:50

rschuler's gravatar image

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edited 07 May '10, 18:49


http://www.reviewlinux.com/ to column called "Linux Reviews" read #1, #11, #14, #15, #20 --stinkythink

(09 May '10, 03:38) hilyard

12next »

Here is a comparison of various light distros. http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/8-of-the-best-tiny-linux-distros-683552 Also you have the option of Wolvix which is based on slackware. http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/wolvix-2.html Hope this helps.


Tapan Chugh


answered 11 May '10, 05:08

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Tapan Chugh
accept rate: 50%

The first answer with an in depth comparative review. +1 and the check mark.

(11 May '10, 21:28) rschuler

You may wish to try Dam Small Linux;



Have a look here at this review for PClinuxOS;



Yes there is also Puppy linux...


answered 08 May '10, 21:45

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Try a minimal install of Debian with xfce. http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/slimline-debian-install-its-easier-you-might-think I'm having a lot of fun with this set up on Debian Testing. http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/weekly-builds/


answered 09 May '10, 22:14

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Matthew T
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Not really a review, put a HowTo with enough details and pros/cons to earn a +1. Actually, this may be the route I finally go. Thanks.

(11 May '10, 21:29) rschuler

That's more than likely because of the choice of desktop. If you're using KDE or Gnome, that's a heavy weight of processing to put on top of an older machine. Instead of the heavy desktops, you could choose to use one of the lightweight desktops (XFCE) or eschew a desktop completely and go for a very lightweight window manager (fluxbox, blackbox, windowmaker or even fvwm2). You can still use the applications that belong to the big desktops, but you don't have the overheads associated with them.

Most distros let you choose your desktop. When you boot up, at the point where you login with your password, somewhere on that screen there is usually a button or menu option to choose your desktop. Try XFCE and see if that is snappier with your hardware. I would recommend XFCE. But if that is still too slow, try the window managers like fluxbox or windowmaker, but then you have more configuration to do yourself.

If you want to dig deeper, go to http://distrowatch.com and look down the right column at the ranked list of distros, and click on each distro and see which desktops they come with.


answered 07 May '10, 18:02

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edited 07 May '10, 18:11

I have found a 2009 aug 26 review of Ubuntu Lite. And a 2009 nov 8 comparative review.

Are there any more in depth reviews of lightweight distros?


answered 07 May '10, 18:26

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edited 07 May '10, 18:49

That machine will run Debian with the LXDE Desktop without problems, I'va Installed that configuration on a Toshiba Laptop with only 192MB RAM, so 512MB RAM is more than enough


answered 07 May '10, 18:44

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You could try WattOS. It is based on Ubuntu, but with LXDE desktop.
Also, try Lubuntu (LXDE desktop again).


answered 07 May '10, 19:15

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You could settle for the core packages of Arch Linux. If you need a graphical interface, skip the desktop environment and install a window manager like openbox or fluxbox. Even your old hardware shouldn't have any problems with this configuration.

What are your specific needs? Are you working on a solution for five machines or hundreds? In my experience, an Arch installation has to be customized to a specific machine to a certain degree. Thus, if deployability is important to you, Arch might not be the best choice.

A lot of reviews regarding Arch can be found here: Arch Linux Press Coverage
For a good overview, take a look at this review: Overview


answered 07 May '10, 20:28

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Jazz ♦
accept rate: 33%

I have experimented with several distros. One of my favourites, for Old Machines is Vector Linux 5.9 (or 6) (light).

Another, which works, although simpler, but fails (reboots) once in a while, is Puppy Linux.

Another nice version is Zeven OS (a lighter XFce derivative of Ubuntu).

Be conservative setting up the video, as I have seen some of the old video cards burned out...

Best regards, gvkoeller www.centralcostarica.net


answered 07 May '10, 23:22

Georg's gravatar image

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I'm running Absolute 13.1 on a Dell 4100, PIII 997MHz, 512MB RAM, nVidia Ti-4400. It is more than acceptable, but not as quick as Zenwalk was. Puppy is quick, but its interface takes some getting used to and I found repos very limited (a criticism of Zenwalk, also). Unity is very good, if you don't mind downloading and/or compiling most all the desired software.

Recently, I repaired a friend's Gateway Profile 3. After upgrading RAM to 512MB, the Hard Drive proved to be irreparable. The BIOS in that machine would not accept anything over about 30GB, so I left it out for lack of any replacement. It is running fine now, minus the HD, from a bootable USB flash drive with Ultilex.

I discovered Ultilex searching through Google and Distrowatch. All one does is download the ISO, then copy the directories to a dedicated partition on a usb storage device, CTRL-ALT-F2 to a shell and execute the install file (./*inst.sh -- can't remember the name) from /boot to make the whole shebang bootable. I gave him the CD to keep in the drive just to be safe, too. It serves his purposes (checking email for his business)... try it out!

It comes with Slax, Puppy, SystemRescueCD, tinycore, and more -- a real "Swiss Army Knife." I was impressed.


answered 08 May '10, 05:59

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Asked: 07 May '10, 16:50

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