Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros (Pros and Cons)

Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros (Pros and Cons). Linux users are always looking for ways to create the most efficient computing experiences. Whether it’s ensuring that tasks are done quickly or figuring out how to reduce disk storage requirements, finding the right distro is essential. Choosing the lightweight and fast Linux distributions requires you to understand all of their unique features and benefits, as well as usability.

Lightweight Linux distros come in handy, if you want extremely high performance with minimal resource usage. They are ideal for devices with low disk space, processing power, and RAM. These light distros do not pre install chunky and unnecessary software. This frees up more system resources for the main software you want to run.

This article discusses some of the lightest and fastest versions of Linux, alongside top features, benefits, and downsides of using them.  Please continue with Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros.

1. Absolute Linux

Absolute Linux is a light and fast desktop distro that comes out of the box with LibreOffice suite and the Firefox browser. It has a 64-bit architecture and is based on the Slackware project. However, unlike its parent OS, Absoute focuses on making configuration and maintenance as easy as possible.

Although, it has no Live mode and the installer is text based, absolute Linux is still extremely easy to use. The OS’s structure allows you to add and remove packages from the install media so you build a distro that fits your preferences. However, you require some experience with Linux, if you want to properly utilize this feature.

Regarding download and installation size, Absolute Linux is not the smallest Linux distro, but it is extremely agile once it installs. This is made possible by the lightweight IceWM Window Manager and popular applications like LibreOffice. This distro contains a lot of useful custom scripts and utilities that simplify the configuration and maintenance of the installation. There is also a lot of documentation available from inside the desktop itself to help new users.

Pros of Absolute Linux

  • Offers its users a great selection of software.
  • Add and remove software from any installable Absolute Linux USB flash drive.
  • Several script utilities that make configuration and maintenance of the OS easier.
  • Allows manual text file based configuration.

Cons of Absolute Linux

  • Lacks a live environment.
  • Has very little documentation and support for Absolute Linux.
  • Requires some experience to be able to use some features.

2. antiX Linux

Second on the list of Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros is AntiX Linux. Light Linux distro great for computers with low RAM and CPU resources. Has four different versions: Full, Core, Base, and Net. The full version of antiX uses IceWM together with the Rox file manager. One of the lightest distros available, yet it ships with many mainstream and lightweight applications.

antiX Linux utilizes its repos as well as those of Debian. It does not ship with a systemd init system, making it popular among some Linux users. Although it bundles the synaptic package manager, it has a meta package installer, that makes the distro more accessible to beginners.

antiX Linux boots into an aesthetically pleasing IceWM window manager with desktop icons. Another key feature of this distro is its native antiX control panel that you use to change aspects of your installation (appearance, like menus, themes, and wallpapers). The custom modules within the control panel allow you to tweak the automount behaviour as well as configure the “image a partition” and antiX ad blocker. In addition, antiX Linux distro supports 32-bit and 64-bit hardware, making it suitable for older and newer desktops.

Pros of antiX Linux

  • Access to Debian Stretch repositories to help you install a wide variety of repositories.
  • Incredibly fast installation process.
  • Works great with older machines without lagging.
  • Displays system stats on the desktop.
  • Has a Menu Manager to help you organize items from the program menus.
  • The Help menu provides resources you need to debug issues.

Cons of antiX Linux

  • Lacks an intuitive user interface.

3. Linux Lite

Linux Lite is a derivative of Ubuntu that is based on LTS releases. Developed specifically to help Windows users with old computers migrate into Linux. Features all the popular and practical apps such as VLC media player, LibreOffice suite, and Firefox browser (supports Netflix).

The distro also has the zRAM memory compression tool, which enables it to run faster on older devices. Install Linux Lite to your hard drive or boot it from a live medium such as a CD or a USB stick. The distro also supports default UEFI boot mode and multi booting, meaning you use multiple operating systems on one computer. Linux Lite has discontinued support for 32-bit and is only available for 64-bit hardware.

Pros of Linux Lite

  • Simple, minimalistic interface ideal for new Linux users.
  • Multiple preinstalled applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, GIMP.
  • Built in, easy to configure firewall.
  • Suitable for gaming.
  • Based on XFCE design, which makes it compatible with old hardware.

Cons of Linux Lite

  • Lacks a dedicated built in code editor.
  • Its basic functionalities makes it unsuitable for heavy usage.

4. Lubuntu

Lubuntu is a light and fast version of Ubuntu. Features a minimal LXQt desktop, which consumes less resources than Ubuntu’s Gnome 3 desktop whilst providing a modern and light desktop. The OS contains a wide range of office, multimedia, graphics, and internet applications.

As a light distro, Lubuntu focuses on speed and energy efficiency and features less resource intensive alternatives. Besides, it uses LibreOffice suite instead of Abiword word processor.

Lubuntu has a low minimum RAM requirement of 500MB. However, the OS runs best on computers with at least 1GB of RAM. Starting from Lubuntu 18.10, the project no longer supports 32-bit incarnations. Lubuntu’s compatibility with Ubuntu repositories provide thousands of packages you install through the Lubuntu Software Center.

Pros of Lubuntu

  • Relies on LXQt to give users a friendly interface that’s appealing to boot.
  • Highly compact to save you energy.
  • Regularly updated to eliminate bugs.
  • Compatible with all Ubuntu repositories.

Cons of Lubuntu

  • Not suitable for high performance computers.
  • The project no longer supports 32-bit hardware.

5. Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is among the oldest and lightest Linux distros available. Offers different editions depending on the underlying environment. Puppy Linux isn’t a single distro nor a Linux distro with many variations. Instead, it is a set of Linux distributions built with the same tools, shared principles, and a specific collection of “puppy” applications.

Your choice of binaries determines the availability of additional packages, so if you prefer apt-get, you should choose the Ubuntu version. With a size of around 300MB, Puppy Linux is one of the smallest Linux distros.  To minimize size, Puppy does not come with any pre installed mainstream applications. It supports 32-bit and 64-bit architecture, and you install them on BIOS and UEFI-enabled computers. Iinstall and run the distro directly from a USB flash drive, CD, DVD, SD card, or other bootable storage media.

Pros of Puppy Linux

  • Very low minimum system requirements and only needs 128MB of RAM and 333Mhz of CPU.
  • Runs off of RAM instead of HDD, so its read/write speed is not a problem.
  • Offers three different releases i.e Tahrpup, Wary, and Slacko.
  • Provides long term support release.

Cons of Puppy linux

  • Has a limited software library.
  • Does not come with popular apps.

6. SliTaz

Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone (SliTaz) is a light distro that ships with a fully featured graphical desktop. The distro uses the Openbox window manager and also features some desktop effects. Its menus contain all the conventional applications, such as media players, web browsers, and development tools.

SliTaz also has several custom tools, like SliTazpanel, which you use to administer every aspect of the system. Windows users  host SliTaz in a directory without partitioning their disks.

Supports both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. Apart from the official variations, there are several other downloadable images.  For example, there is a version with Firefox browser instead of Midori, a version with no additional apps, and even a low RAM version for computers with 24MB RAM.

Pros of SliTaz

  • One of the smallest Linux distributions with a desktop GUI.
  • Has a “Desktop Effects” feature you use to fade effects to windows or add
  • Extremely fast and very customizable.
  • Requires less than 500Mb of RAM to run.
  • Offers over 5000 software packages suitable for general computing. purposes

Cons of SliTaz

  • Difficult to understand installation instructions.
  • Does not have a lot of applications in its repositories.


LXLE is a light Linux distro based on the Ubuntu long term support (LTS) release. Like Lubuntu, LXLE uses the minimalistic LXDE Desktop Environment but emphasizes long term hardware support and stability. The distro works great on legacy machines and serves as a ready to use desktop, which is especially appealing to existing Windows users.

Besides its speed and performance, LXLE provides a gorgeous environment with numerous wallpapers and clones of windows functions such as Expose and Aero Snap. The distribution has full feature applications across categories such as multimedia, word processing, games, graphics, and more. LXLE is accessible as a Live image for 32-bit and 64-bit platforms and requires 512MB of RAM.

Pros of LXLE

  • Provides a complete drop in and go replacement Vista and XP.
  • Has a minimalistic, intuitive desktop for anyone to use easily.
  • Keeps all software and desktop updated regularly.
  • Provides Ubuntu LTS releases to ensure hardware and software support.

Cons of LXLE

  • Difficult installation as it does not support Wine Stable.
  • Has a smooth learning curve.

8. Porteus

Porteus is a light, portable, and complete variation of the Slackware distro. The distro installs on a hard drive and runs from removable media like an SD card, USB stick, or CD. Also runs on any AMD, Intel, or x86/64 processor, needing only 256MB of memory and 512MB of disk space.

Apart from the reinstalled applications, all other additional software for the OS comes in modules making the distro very light and compact. If you are running Porteus from a removable storage media device, you use its “persistent” mode to save data directly onto the storage device. It is available for 32-bit and 64-bit devices. The distro allows you to download KDE, Openbox, MATE, Cinnamon, LXQt, LXDE, and Xfce versions of Porteus as ISO images.

Pros of Porteus

  • Provides fast startup and shutdown compared to other Linux based operating systems.
  • Provides multiple desktops.
  • Contains multiple built in modules.
  • Plenty of support and guides for new users.
  • Offers printing support.

Cons of Porteus

  • At times the Slackware repository are limited.
  • It no longer allows users to build their custom ISO.

9. TinyCore

TinyCore Linux is a light Linux distro that allows you to build your environments. The distro ships in three variants, with the lightest edition being Core which has a size of 11MB. TinyCore comes without a graphical desktop, although you add one after installation. It weighs 16MB and provides users with a choice of FLWM or FLTK graphical desktop environments.

The third variation of the TinyCore project is CorePlus which measures 106MB. This edition provides the option of lightweight window managers like FluxBox and IceWM. CorePlus also offers support for WiFi and non US keyboards.

To save on size, TinyCore requires a wired connection during initial setup. The distro is available for 32-bit and 64-bit platforms and PiCore for ARM machines such as Raspberry Pi. You use the Control panel to access the various configurable parts of the distribution, such as the network, display, and mouse. The graphical package manager allows you to install additional software.

Pros of TinyCore

  • Highly customizable compared to similar Linux distros.
  • TinyCore is very small, with some versions only weighing 9MB.
  • Supports the use of the packages stored on external media.
  • Provides fast performance.
  • Does not require HDD to run.

Cons of TinyCore

  • Lacks a stable WiFi manager.
  • Has limited GUI menus.

10. Bodhi Linux

Bodhi Linux is a Linux distribution designed to run on computers with limited hardware capabilities. It is a respin of Ubuntu LTS that features the Moksha desktop. By default, the Moksha Desktop does not have an internal window compositor, but you can always add Compiz effects after installation.

Bodhi Linux is compatible with Ubuntu repositories to offers users access to lots of free software. The latest Bodhi Linux 5.1 release is available in four variants. Legacy, Standard, AppPack, and HWE.

Each variation has a specific use case. If you want new hardware support for a 64-bit OS with a kernel update, you should choose the HWE version. However, if you are not too focused on the kernel, then the standard edition is best for you. The AppPack edition is a live system OS that enables you to plug directly into your device and run all the default apps. On the other hand, Bodhi Linux Legacy is a 32-bit version you can use with old computers.

Pros of Bodhi Linux

  • Very resource friendly and easy to use for new users.
  • Minimal base system that lets you populate it with the software you want.
  • There are different profiles you use when first booting the OS.
  • Bodhi contains a built in compositor.

Cons of Bodhi Linux

  • Some customizing options require some prior knowledge of Linux systems.
  • Can get unresponsive due to bugs.

11. MX Linux

Following on the list of Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros is MX Linux. A result of collaboration between Antix and the former MEPIS communities. Light and powerful fork of the Debian Stable branch, emphasizing simplicity and ease of use while still being resource friendly. MX Linux comes in three different editions: KDE, XFCE, and Fluxbox. XFCE is the standard version.

It is resource friendly and offers users a wide collection of wallpapers, icon sets, and themes. The MX KDE provides powerful features similar to those found in the KDE Plasma environment, such as KDE Connect and the Dolphin file manager. The Fluxbox version is a lightweight edition with low graphical requirements and is suitable for both new and legacy machines with minimal computation power.

Pros of MX Linux

  • Its snapshot allows you to make your distro.
  • Extremely easy to use.
  • Provides support for non free drivers.
  • The Live Session boots are the second fastest after Puppy’s.
  • Use it as an emergency tool as it has several tools to repair non-booting systems.

Cons of MX Linux

  • Its XFCE version is slow.
  • Most of the applications in this distro are older.

12. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a fully functional Linux distribution based on Debian and Ubuntu projects. The distro comes as an ISO file, which you install through a bootable medium without formatting the computer. Linux Mint features system updates, memory management, data capture, and more. It enables its users to install additional software by adding a source code in the etc. directory. Linux Mint ships with applications such as Thunderbird, Firefox, HexChat, LibreOffice, VLC media player, Pidgin, Transmission, and more.

Pros of Linux Mint

  • Compatible with Ubuntu and Debian software builds and repositories.
  • The OS has a very familiar user interface.
  • Already functional out of the box.
  • Comes in two editions which are all complete and stable.
  • The project provides long term support versions.
  • Very large community, and support is readily available.
  • Fully supports proprietary software such as chrome, Skype, and Teamviewer.

Cons of Linux Mint

  • Its software centres are outdated.

Thank you for reading this article blog about Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros.We shall now conlude the article now. 

Top 12 Best Lightest / Fastest Linux Distros (Pros and Cons) Conclusion

The above Linux distros are among the lightest and fastest available today. They provide high performance with minimal hardware resource utilization. If you are looking for a light and fast distro, the above options will come in handy. Each of these distros has unique features as well as pros and cons. Therefore, you should consider individual business needs before making a choice.

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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