Do you have an old PC lying around collecting dust? Do you want to use the old small capacity USB flash drive that is in your draw? You can reuse your old computer and a USB flash drive by installing a super small Linux distribution on it.
Here are eight of the smallest Linux distributions that take up almost no space!
Before you begin: How to create bootable USB flash drives
The first thing you'll need is a tool to create bootable USB sticks. There are numerous tools you can use to create a bootable USB flash drive. However, the best recommendation for Windows users is Rufus, while Linux and macOS users should try Etcher.
Rufus is one of the fastest, smallest and easiest USB burning tools for Windows users. It has decent customization options and can auto detect your USB flash drive. In addition, Rufus can detect the type of ISO you want to burn and apply a common setup for every small Linux distribution.
Download: Rufus for Windows
Linux and macOS users should use Etcher, an open source USB burning tool. Like Rufus, Etcher is tiny, very fast, and has a great user interface that makes the tool incredibly easy to use. Etcher doesn't have a lot of settings, but it works fine most of the time. Windows users who find Rufus confusing can also use Etcher as the tool is also available for Windows.
Now for the tiny Linux distributions, all of which are free (unless otherwise stated)!
ArchBang is based on Arch Linux and was inspired by CrunchBang, another small Linux distribution. ArchBang is essentially Arch Linux getting simpler and smaller. It includes the power and flexibility of Arch Linux without the complex setup and installation.
ArchBang works on i686 or x86_64 compatible computers, uses 700MB of hard drive space and only requires 256MB of memory.
You can use ArchBang as a fully functional desktop operating system or as a portable live operating system. It's fast, stable, and always up to date, which makes it a handy minimal Linux distro for anyone with an old computer.
Tiny Core is a Linux distribution developed by Robert Shingledecker, lead developer of the former Damn Small Linux distribution. Although the Damn Small Linux site is now dead, you can still find active ISOs online.
The little core Linux "TinyCore"It takes a minute 21MB to install, including the base distribution and a decent user interface. The basic installation requires at least 46MB of RAM, but you'll need a little more if you want to run additional applications and other software. Note that you will. " You'll need to use an ethernet cable to get online with TinyCore as there is no out-of-the-box wireless support.
The best option for most people is the "CorePlus106MB installation. CorePlus provides wireless support, keyboard support outside of the US, installation tools for alternate window managers and other convenient setup utilities.
Absolute Linux is a 64-bit Linux distribution based on the Slackware project. It comes with Libre Office and Firefox preinstalled, but doesn't play around with the heavyweight desktop options like KDE or GNOME. Instead, Absolute Linux uses the nimble IceWM window manager.
It's not the smallest Linux distribution in terms of actual download or installation size, rounding up to around 2GB, but it works on most hardware due to its lightweight overall package and minimal hardware requirements.
Porteus is a lightweight but complete Linux distribution optimized to run on a USB flash drive. Don't you have one yet? Do not worry! Porteus also works on SD cards, CDs, DVDs, hard drives or other bootable storage media. It's small and insanely fast, so you can boot up and get online while other operating systems are still thinking about booting.
Porteus runs on any Intel, AMD or VIA x86 / 64 processor and requires only 512 MB of hard disk space and 256 MB of memory. No hard drive is required as it can be run from removable media. If you are using Porteus on removable media, you can use the "Persistent" mode and save data directly on the storage device.
It's available in both 32-bit (perfect for older PCs) and 64-bit. A kiosk edition is also available. This is a minimal system that is blocked from public use on web terminals. You can download the Cinnamon, KDE, MATE or Xfce version from Porteus.
Puppy Linux is a very lightweight Linux distribution that you should only install and run directly from a USB flash drive, SD card, CD, DVD, or other bootable storage device. You can install Puppy Linux on your hardware if you want. However, it is not essential if you have your bootable USB flash drive with you.
It's also worth noting that Puppy Linux is not a single distribution, nor is it a multiple "flavor" Linux distribution (for example, Ubuntu flavors include Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, etc.). Rather, Puppy Linux is a collection of Linux distributions built on the same common principle, with the same tools, and using a specific set of "Puppy" applications.
At the time of writing, there are six official Puppy Linux distributions. All of them require 300MB or less of hard drive space, but have different CPU and RAM requirements.
To learn more and choose the right version for you, visit the official download page for the Puppy Linux distribution.
SliTaz, or Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone, is a lightweight, fully functional Linux graphical distribution. Simply put, SliTaz is small, fast, stable and easy to use.
SliTaz's minimum requirements include an Intel compatible i486 or x86 processor, at least 80MB of storage space, and 192MB of RAM (but this can be up to 16MB of RAM depending on the version of SliTaz used).
One cool feature of SliTaz is that it mostly runs in your system memory. Once you've launched SliTaz, you can remove your bootable USB flash drive for other tasks. SliTaz also has a "persistent" feature that allows you to save your data and personal settings on removable media that can be used the next time you start it up. Note that you must keep your media in the computer for this feature to work.
The tiny Debian-based AntiX Linux distribution is not only small, it also receives frequent updates with tweaks, new features, updates, and a lot more. AntiX Linux is known as one of the friendliest Linux distributions for old hardware. Many people turn to this Linux distribution to get an old laptop working again.
The minimum recommended RAM for AntiX is 256MB, but less RAM can be used. You will also need a 4 GB hard drive for the installation.
Even though AntiX Linux is tiny, it still looks great. The basic installation package contains the IceWM window manager, which offers many customization options. Then there is the built-in AntiX control panel that allows you to customize a variety of AntiX functions.
Your last tiny Linux distro to check out is Bodhi Linux. Bodhi Linux is a full-featured Ubuntu LTS-based Linux distribution that uses the Moksha desktop. In addition, Bodhi Linux is available in three variants: the Standard Edition, the AppPack Edition and the Legacy Edition.
The Standard Edition offers a limited selection of options and applications, while the AppPack Edition offers more features, applications and options immediately. Of the three, the Legacy Edition is the smallest, designed for use with older, less powerful hardware.
The Bodhi Linux minimum specifications require a 500 MHz processor, a minimum of 128 MB RAM, and 4 GB hard drive space.
Revive your old hardware with a tiny Linux distribution
Any of these super tiny Linux distributions can bring your old PC or other hardware back to life. These lightweight Linux distributions are a great way to provide a single computer for a relative who doesn't need the bloat of a more complex operating system.
Tiny core Linux
In addition, these Linux distributions allow them to surf the Internet, view and listen to media, check e-mails, and create simple documents. Because these distributions are easy to use, Windows users won't have much trouble migrating to Linux in these distributions.
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About the author
(827 articles published)
Gavin is the Junior Editor for Windows and Technology Explained, contributing regularly to the Really Useful Podcast, and was the Editor for MakeUseOf's crypto-focused sister site Blocks Decoded. He has a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Writing Using Digital Art Practices Looted from the Devon Hills, as well as over a decade of writing experience. He enjoys plenty of tea, board games, and soccer.
By Gavin Phillips
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