Lightweight Ubuntu derivatives for old computers

Many Linux newbies are looking for help in installing Linux on some old computer they still have. In many cases, their knowledge of Linux is limited in using Ubuntu. Thus it is only natural that they want to find a lightweight Ubuntu derivative to be used also with the old computer. Another group of users are looking for a distro to be used with a netbook.

There are, in fact, several Ubuntu derivatives that might be useful even with hardware that is limited by modern standards. But unfortunately, these distros are not always as easy to use as Ubuntu is and not necessarily as lightweight as some other distributions. I have not myself tested any Ubuntu derivatives but I decided to collect here some information I have encountered on my neverending web searches.

Here are the possibilities I have found:
  1. U-lite was previously known as Ubuntulite. The web site is not especially uptodate, but earlier versions have according to the information on the site been installed and used with P266 with 192 Mb RAM. At the moment, a processor of Pentium class II, 96 Mb RAM and at least 4 Gb hard drive space are required. More memory would certainly not hurt the system.
  2. Eebuntu is a remix tailored for EeePC. It comes in three flavours: base, netbook and standard.
  3. Ubuntu Mini remix is a 133 Mb remix livecd containing only the minimal set of software to make the system work.
  4. Crunchbang is another lightweight Ubuntu derivative. It is not meant especially for old computers but according to posts in Ubuntu forum many users have been quite satisfied with it even when installed on an old computers.
  5. Ubuntu Minimal CD Image is one more way to install a lightweight Ubuntu system. See Psychocats for more information about how to build a lightweight desktop around this CD. And don't forget K. Mandla's documentation Set up Ubuntu for Speed.
  6. More adventurous users might like to try K. Mandla's GTK1.2 remix.
  7. Fluxbuntu might be active at the moment, at least the web site shows screenshots from the experimental 9.04. The last stable release was based on 7.10 and I was unfortunately not able to install it on my box.
If you are ready to consider some other distribution to be used instead of Ubuntu derivatives, both Debian and antiX might be good solutions for an Ubuntu user. If you are ready to learn a bit more you could try Slackware, Crux or Arch. There are pros and cons for every alternative, but ultimately only you can decide which distro to install and use.

Fortunately, you are free to choose among many free alternatives.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. You just saved me tons of time.

Anonymous said...

I fall in the camp of desiring an Ubuntu derivative that runs on old hardware as I have mostly Ubuntu derivatives on my lan alread.

I use DSL and Knoppix but each has their specific uses and applications.

The best options recently have been: Xubuntu or Linux Mint Fluxbox, but these need a P2/3 @500Mhz to run ok on 8.04 or newer Ubuntu base. I ran Xubuntu 6.06 on a 300Mhz laptop for quite a while.

Lately I've been seeing hardware recognition issues between the span between P2 to latest Dual+ Core offerings (Crunchbang and OzOS recently didn't start graphics on a newer laptop). Best 'near-lightest' weight I've found have been Linux Mint Fluxbox, Xubuntu, and MoonOS (E17).

I keep searching for that light-weight ubuntu that has the hardware recognition to span the last ten years of hardware but it's not easy.

I usually suggest to people to use Xubuntu/Mint Fluxbox on 500Mhz+ machines, Kubuntu on 750Mhz+, or Gnome Ubuntu on 1Ghz+.

Mikko said...

I myself think that the time spent for trying to trim Xubuntu down to acceptable performance on for example a Pentium 1000 / 256 Mb is better spent on doing something else.

Thus I would recommend Debian, Slackware, Vector or antiX ...

Anonymous said...

I have found u-lite (formerly ubuntulite) to be very good on my old laptop. It's a P3 650MHz with 192MB RAM.

I've had Ubuntu and Xubuntu on there but they were too slow, also tried Fluxbuntu and Puppy. Puppy was fast, but I wanted to stick with *buntu really.

I tried a cli install of ubuntu which was quick but I had prolems getting sound and wireless to work. So far (only been using it a week) u-lite seems a good compromise of speed and usability. Everything, including my wireless card, has worked from the start.

Anonymous said...

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Checking another your newest article :)

Anonymous said...

How bout wattos - Very fast, lightweight and comes with a good selection of apps.

Anonymous said...

U4J (Ubuntu 4 Jesus)

Alex said...

Try Masonux ( It's a bare bones Ubuntu using the LXDE desktop. Runs very fast and if you add only lightweight applications, it will be great for older hardware. I'm using it on a 800 mhz Pentium III and it feels very snappy and modern.

cheap computers said...

These distros are not always as easy to use as Ubuntu is and not necessarily as lightweight as some other distributions.

Unknown said...

With Puppy Linux 4.3, it is possible to build your own "custom" puppy to include the Ubuntu packages. Check it out at

Anonymous said...

Its been a long time since the last reply here but here is my opinion on the matter. I am running U-lite with a 1ghz P3, 128 megs of ram laptop and I am pretty impressed with the results so far. This laptop originally came with windows 98 so I am extremely pleased that it is usable.
The UI is very close to your standard gnome/ubuntu feel and my old belkin 54G PC wifi card works with very little issues (I have to enter the wifi password a lot but its hardly an issue for me). I tried fluxbuntu and it has many features I like but some of the menus are set up rather messy and the wifi card was a pain to use.
If you plan on using U-lite (and you should be!) just be warned that there is no default trash bin setup because PCMan File Manager is used. Just stick to lightweight apps and your old computer will find a new place in the limelight.

Unknown said...

Nice post with awesome points! Can’t wait for the next one.

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