Top 10 Best Lightweight Linux Distros of 2020

Published on August 3, 2022
Top 10 Best Lightweight Linux Distros of 2020

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Today, we’re talking about the best lightweight Linux distros of 2020 today. If you want to bring an old computer back to life or you are a minimalist who likes their computer systems lean, this article is for you.

People choose Linux for three main reasons:

  1. More control/freedom
  2. Snappy performance
  3. Less resource usage

And the low-resource usage part is what we’re focusing on today.

In a previous article, we talked about some of the best Linux distros overall. So if resource usage is not a concern for you, feel free to look through that article!

Today, I’ve chosen for you the 10 best Linux distributions that offer superb stability, easy to use interfaces, and some even offering an out-of-the-box beautiful look. All of this while being extremely lightweight!

Why lightweight Linux distros matter in 2020?

Linux users love the simplicity that Linux brings along with it. That’s one of the major reasons why most Linux-“fans” don’t go for other operating systems that restrict control.

So even if you are on a powerful computer system, using a lightweight Linux distribution gives you the empty space to fill in with what matters.

Compared to a lot of other operating systems that take up 40-60% of the system resources, you are left with a lot more resources of your system to work on tasks that are important to you.

What makes a Linux distribution Lightweight?

As beginner Linux users turn into power users with continued usage, they tend to understand that most of the utilities offered by the beginner-friendly distributions are unnecessary for daily use.

That’s when distributions focused at power users allow them with the flexibility to pick and install what they need.

The ability to have only what you need in the system with no unnecessary resource usage, is what makes a system lightweight.

In a typical lightweight Linux system, you can expect the memory, the disk space, and the CPU time is used only for what’s truly necessary to you. Not what’s pre-added.

Apart from that, the distros that do come pre-built, are built with lightweight desktop environments like XFCE, LXDE, Openbox, and the likes.

10 Best Lightweight Linux Distros of 2020

Now let’s get right into the list of the best lightweight Linux distros here.

  1. Crunchbang++ - A minimal Debian-based distro with Openbox window manager
  2. Manjaro XFCE - A lightweight Arch-based Linux distribution with XFCE desktop manager
  3. Sparky Linux - A Debian-based
  4. Linux Mint - Another Debian-based Linux distro built to be easy to use for beginners
  5. Zorin OS Lite - Lightweight distro featuring the most beautiful XFCE-desktop environment out of the box.
  6. Bodhi Linux - Bodhi is a superfast, and lightweight distro that offers a very easy yet low-resource hungry desktop environment.
  7. MX Linux - An overall balance between being very lightweight paired with the stability of Debian.
  8. Linux Lite - A lightweight distribution built to be a great first-timer distro
  9. Peppermint OS - A lightweight OS that strikes a perfect balance between local and cloud applications with ICE-apps
  10. Xubuntu - The same features as Ubuntu, with a pre-built XFCE desktop environment.

1. Crunchbang++ - Minimal Debian-based Linux Distro

Crunchbang Plus Plus
Crunchbang Plus Plus

Crunchbang++ is a minimal Debian-based distro with the Openbox window manager. Its configuration can be set by the user during installation.

After installing the system, a basic system can be set up in a few minutes. Most of the essential packages for Openbox desktop environment are also included. Other required packages can be installed on your system with the apt command.

Crunchbang Plus Plus is perfect for anyone who wants a close-to-barebones experience with GUI Debian Linux, without manually setting things up.

2. Manjaro XFCE - Best lightweight Arch-based Linux distro


Manjaro offers cutting-edge software packages based on the Arch User Repository (AUR). Apart from using the Arch repositories, the Manjaro community also maintains its own repository for the latest software packages.

So you not only get great support for the top-of-the-line software, you also get enhanced stability because of the added layer of repository checks done by the community.

Though this distribution is available on multiple different desktop environments, the XFCE variant is their main one.

Manjaro Linux is perfect for those looking for an extremely flexible, fast, dependable, and cutting-edge Linux distribution. With its base support from Arch Linux, Manjaro brings new life to your low-end hardware without the added complexities of setting up a minimal Linux desktop

3. Sparky Linux - Best need focused lightweight distro


Sparky Linux is a Debian-based very lightweight Linux distribution. It offers a variety of pre-built desktop environments for ease of use. The default desktop environments are LXQt, MATE, and XFCE but users can install other desktops via ‘Sparky APTus’.

Sparky is based on the stable and testing branches of Debian. It also offers a collection of scripts to handle the day-to-day system administration.

There are multiple versions that Sparky Linux offers to serve different purposes. These are:

  • GameOver Edition - targeted to gamers. It features a large set of free and open-source games and some needed tools;
  • Rescue Edition - provides a live system and a large number of applications for recovering broken operating systems;
  • Multimedia - for audio, video, and html pages creating;
  • MinimalCLI and MinimalGUI - for people who enjoy

Sparky is perfect for anyone who wants a fast, lightweight and fully customizable OS for a specific purpose. The Sparky variations are built to serve the needs of different categories of users.

4. Linux Mint - Best overall distribution, irrespective of resources

Linux Mint
Linux Mint

Linux Mint came into popularity when the Ubuntu people ditched GNOME for Unity. Mint community offered MATE which was a smoother, lightweight continuation of the GNOME Desktop environment and that caught on really quickly within the community.

Mint is built to be extremely userfriendly, so much so, a user switching from Windows can start using Linux Mint without a learning curve.

The distro ships without bloatware and an easy to use package manager.

Linux Mint is perfect for those who are migrating from a Windows or Mac OS and want something really simple and stable to use. It’s also great for anyone who just doesn’t want to touch the terminal and prefers the GUI!

5. Zorin OS Lite - Most beautiful lightweight XFCE distro

Zorin Os Lite
Zorin Os Lite

Zorin OS Lite is a perfect example of how beautiful, the XFCE desktop environment can look!

Zorin OS was already designed to look extremely beautiful and the Lite version makes it possible to have the same snappy, yet beautiful experience possible on ancient hardware.

Unlike many other Linux distributions, Zorin isn’t built for servers. Instead, it is built with the desktop users in mind every aspect of its user interface reflects the same.

Zorin OS Lite is the best lightweight Linux distribution if you want a fast and stable system without compromising on the looks.

6. Bodhi Linux - The lowest resource usage on the list by default

Bodhi Linux
Bodhi Linux

Bodhi Linux is the most lightweight Ubuntu-based Linux distribution on the list if you want an out-of-the-box one. Its desktop environment is called “Moksha”. The Moksha desktop environment offers an extremely lightweight and fast UI with idle RAM usage of just over 150-200megs.

Since it’s based on Ubuntu, you will rarely have a shortage of pre-built binaries to install on your system.

The philosophy behind creating Bodhi was to offer users with a barebones Linux distribution that users can populate with their favorite software packages as required.

7. MX Linux - A perfect Linux distro for power users

Mx Linux
Mx Linux

MX Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution. Out of all the distros that we have on the Linux MX has the least good-looking set up by default. This distribution is aimed at power users as it offers so much more control over what you can do with your OS.

MX is a pure performance-driven system which comes with the Debian stability. There is a set of applications here that fall under the MX tools category.

These tools streamlined some advanced actions that are otherwise not easy to do. You get simple graphical interfaces here to sort out things like fixing GPG, key issues, and some other things.

If you don’t like playing with the terminal, MX provides very fine control over package management. You get to choose different versions of the same package from Debian, stable or testing repositories.

Talking about the performance of the OS on old hardware, MX Linux is a distribution that does not offer animations or transitions in the UI. This lowers the resource usage. So even if you want to revive an old laptop or desktop with as low as 512megs of RAM, this distribution can work really well.

The overall balance of being lightweight with Debian’s stability, superior control over your system, and delivering a performance-oriented experience is perfect for power-users.

8. Linux Lite - Great option for users migrating from Windows

Linux Lite
Linux Lite

Linux Lite is based on Ubuntu LTS, but built to be lightweight yet easy to use for Windows users. It is a ‘gateway operating system’.

This means, if you are a first-time user, you are highly likely to enjoy and be able to easily transition from Windows to Linux with this distro. It also does not collect the user data that Ubuntu does in the background.

Linux Lite is perfect for people who are new to Linux and want a lightweight environment that is also fully functional.

9. Peppermint OS - A balance of features and functionality with low-resource usage

Peppermint Os
Peppermint Os

Peppermint is Lubuntu-based distro built on long term support (LTS) codebase. As well as being customizable to your heart’s content, the distribution will be ready to go right from the installation.

Peppermint OS comes pre-installed with few native applications and a traditional desktop interface. What originally made Peppermint unique is its approach to creating a hybrid desktop that integrates both cloud and local applications.

This is made possible with their use of ICE applications. It’s quite similar to the chrome apps or “add site to desktop” option on Android. The added benefit is that each application is an isolated browser, completely independent of other apps or browsers.

Peppermint OS is perfect for anyone who has tried a lot of lightweight distros before, but finds something lacking.

10. Xubuntu - The all-time-favorite Ubuntu, with XFCE


Xubuntu was developed by the Ubuntu lovers who preferred the core and the repository support but did not want the heavy UI that accompanied the distro by default.

So, Xubuntu carries all the features of Ubuntu while shedding the heavy UI elements fo the same.

Xubuntu is an elegant and easy to use distribution. It comes with Xfce, which is a stable, light, and configurable desktop environment.

Xubuntu is perfect for those who want the most out of their desktops, laptops, and netbooks with a modern look and enough features for efficient, daily usage. It works really well on older hardware too.

How to choose the best lightweight distro for your needs?

Alright, now this list may seem overwhelming if you’ve never used Linux before. And that’s perfectly fine.

When users are starting out, we suggest them to go with the most beautiful looking distribution that they find. In case of more powerful hardware, you have the freedom to use some user-friendly distributions like Ubuntu.

But since you’re planning to get a low powered device revived, the choices will be limited.

In this case, as a first-timer, go with:

  • Linux Mint
  • Zorin OS Lite

If both of these do not fancy you, feel free to look through the other 8 in the list. I’m sure you’ll find something that you like. And if nothing else, I really enjoy using Peppermint. You might as well end up liking the distro too?

What’s your favorite pick?

We hope you enjoyed this quick list of all the most lightweight Linux distros out there…

These were the top 10 that we loved and enjoyed using on our older hardware devices. Which one is your favorite? Is it something from this list or something else altogether?

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DigitalOcean Employee
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June 10, 2021

Linux Mint is lightweight and ships without bloatware? Then why does my “run after reinstalls” script have 58 lines of uninstall commands? (And that leaves about a hundred packages that I think I would be quite happy without, but am not confident enough to take the plunge.) Versus only 28 lines of adding stuff not included? I’m seriously considering switching to some other distribution - and then adding the necessary data to pick up the Mint repository, and installing cinnamon and mintinstall.

- Don Edwards

    DigitalOcean Employee
    DigitalOcean Employee badge
    December 27, 2020

    What is wrong with wayland.Wayland is ready. E24, Sway, Wayfire and Maynard are light enough.XFCE is not lightweight and Mate or Lxqt are not so lightweight.

    - Bo

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