Best Lightweight Linux Distros of 2016

Here are the five best lightweight Linux distros of 2016

Linux was developed by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland. It was inspired by Minix, a small Unix System and was introduced in October 1991.

The first official version was Linux 0.02. In 2001, 2.4 version was released. It is developed under GNU license, which allows the source code of Linux to be distributed freely. Linux is used for networking, software development and web hosting.

Ever since it was introduced, Linux has been gaining rapid popularity among users. But what happens when certain people dont want a RAM and resource heavy Linux Distro but prefer a lightweight Linux distro which lets them use the resources for their own work. If you wonder why you could want a lightweight Linux Distro. There are many reasons for which many users would want a very lightweight Linux distro, below are the primary 3.

  1. They can revive old hardware, bringing new life into it
  2. They can power modern, but low-power systems such as Raspberry Pi
  3. They can run on the most powerful modern hardware, reserving resources for users instead of consuming them themselves.

Here are some handpicked Linux distros, suitable for any of the three use cases mentioned above. Other “lightweight”’ distros have been omitted as the focus here is on easy-to-install distros that which can be used as full-blown systems.

1: Arch Linux

Those looking for lightweight distros should go for Arch Linux with a lightweight DE installed on it. There are many lightweight DEs available for Arch Linux. Some of the lightweight DEs suitable for Arch include i3, MATE, LXDE (LxQt), OpenBox, etc.

distro-arch-1 copy

You can easily install multiple DEs on Arch to see which one works the best on your hardware. However, to keep your system optimized, remove what you don’t use and keep only what’s going to run on your system.

2: Puppy Linux

After Arch, Puppy Linux  is the lightest distros out there. The added advantage with Puppy is that it can boot directly from the RAM and takes very little space, if you choose to install it. Additionally, if you want to run Puppy Linux from DVD, it can use the DVD as the storage device and, as you install programs or update the system, it will persistently write to the drive. So, once you have installed a program, it will remain on the DVD.


Puppy also comes with a decent set of lightweight applications such as AbiWord, MyPlayer, etc., so users can get started as soon as it’s booted.

Over time, Puppy has changed base from one distro to another. The latest version, Puppy 6, is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and as a result offers a longer shelf life.


3: Trisquel Mini

Trisquel Mini is another lightweight distribution that is based on Ubuntu Linux. It’s a sub-project of the Trisquel distribution and is aimed at low-powered PCs. The distro uses LXDE as the default desktop environment to keep it light. It comes with a decent set of applications including AbiWord, MPlayer, and Midori web browser.


4: Ubuntu MATE + Linux Mint MATE

Ubuntu MATE is the latest contender in the list of lightweight distros after Martin Wimpress founded the project along with Canonical employee and Ubuntu developer Alan Pope. MATE was already well known to the world of lightweight DEs, thanks to Linux Mint. Although MATE (Linux Mint and Ubuntu) is certainly not as lightweight as Puppy, it falls in the category of those distros that reserve most system resources for applications instead of being a resource hog themselves.

Of all the lightweight distros, these two are the most polished. Linux Mint Mate is especially good looking, thanks to the Mint Menu and extra attention it receives from the Linux Mint team.

distro-Lubuntu-5 copy

5: Lubuntu

Lubuntu is another lightweight distribution that is also an official flavor of Ubuntu Linux. It’s based on LXDE, which has merged with Razor-qt and is being developed as LXQt. As an official flavor of Ubuntu (like Ubuntu MATE), Lubuntu has access to all Canonical resources such as drivers, codecs, and PPAs.


If you have found any lightweight Linux distro you wish to share with other readers, kindly mention the same in the comments below so we could include in our next list.


  1. I like Ubuntu MATE better that Lubuntu because the latter is at a technological dead-end, as mentioned in your article.

    I also like Ubuntu MATE better than Mint because it is more secure. Mint doesn’t provide kernel updates by default, in order to avoid breaking proprietary video drivers. Ubuntu MATE and the other Ubuntu flavors don’t have this problem.

    Get very comprehensive information about Ubuntu MATE at

  2. wattOS lxde r6 runs my older hardware Dell Dimension 3000 P4 Desktop , hp Deskjet 2132 aio printer
    Dell latitude d630 core duo 1.6ghz 16gb ssd laptop

  3. Although I use Arch myself, I wouldn’t recommend installing it from scratch to a new user. It’s liable to be overwhelming. Instead start with an Arch respin like Archbang, with an openbox desktop. Or Manjaro, which has all the advantages of Arch without any real disadvantages, has a number of ready to install images with a variety of lightweight desktops, from Openbox and i3 (my favorites), to Pekwm, Fluxbox, Xfce, and others.

  4. These are not lightweight distros, especially Ubuntu- powerful, but will bring an old pc with little ram to it’s knees. TinyCore is probably the lightest, and you need to use a lightweight UI ( desktop ) too, like Xfce, LXDE, etc.

  5. SalentOS is an excellent lightweight distro. It has the best implementation of Openbox I have ever seen, it looks and operates like a full featured desktop environment. SalentOS is based on Ubuntu and runs like a dream.

  6. The Void distro is like Arch or Debian netinstall for folks who don’t want fscking systemd infiltrating their machines. Void uses runit which is about 1 MB in size and boots to console in under 5 seconds. ~25 MB RAM usage this way. Run Openbox, i3, bspwm, etc. and it is suitably lightweight. It also uses the xbps package manager which is blazing fast and easy to use.

  7. Thank you for this awesome article! But are you sure that Arch is lighter then Puppy?
    Puppy targets older hardware, has a lighter windows manager, has lower requirements are runs entirenly in ram… Why Arch should be faster?


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