What is the lightest Ubuntu distro

Linux Operating System has almost one thousand distros available; that have the same functionality as Linux but with specific characteristics or the targeted audience. The majority of the Linux distributions are available for normal machines such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, but few distros have dedicated support for embedded systems. Some of the Linux distros have been expanded further, such as Debian has more than 130 distributions and a Debian-based Ubuntu contains 50+ distros. Many users may want to get any Ubuntu distro on their old PCs or the machines having low specs; so, they will try to choose a distro that will run on their low spec’s machines. This topic is focusing on providing a list of the lightest Ubuntu distros that can be used to run on older PCs or PCs having low specifications.

So, let’s start with the topic:

The lightweight characteristics in Linux distros depend on the desktop environment being used, and one must have the knowledge of these environments to select a light Linux Distro. So, firstly we will list down the lightweight desktop environments:

Lightweight desktop environments

This section will explain the most lightweight Linux desktop environments being used by Ubuntu distros.

LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environments)

LXDE was initially released in 2006 and is said to be the most lightweight GUI Desktop Environment. The LXDE is written in C language with GTK+ library; GTK is a free and open-source toolkit to create Graphical User Interfaces. The recent advancements in LXDE environments aim to rewrite all the components of LXDE in the Qt library, where Qt is a large platform to create innovative devices and modern User Interfaces. Moreover, later, a new lightweight desktop, “Razor-qt” was developed in the QT library to support low specs PCs. The LXDE-Qt and Razor-qt are merged to lay the foundation for LXQt, which is the next lightweight distro of Ubuntu. You can install this LXDE desktop environment on several Ubuntu distros using the command given below:

$ sudo apt install lxde


The LXQt developers have named this desktop environment “The next generation of Lightweight desktops”. It is more customizable than LXDE because it is written in the Qt library. LXQt comes as a default desktop environment for many Linux distributions, such as the Manjaro LXQt edition. However, you can install it on Ubuntu; the following command will help you to install the LXQt environment on various Ubuntu-based distributions:

$ sudo apt install lxqt


Xfce is also an open-source and free desktop environment, but it is not as lightweight as LXDE. It may not be useful for the machines that have old-time specifications, but it is competing. You can install the Xfce environment from the official repository of Linux distributions; the command given below will install the Xfce environment:

$ sudo apt install xfce

What are the lightweight Ubuntu Distributions

The above three desktop environments (LXDE, Xfce, and LSQt) are the top lightweight desktop environments. This section will enlist a few distributions of Ubuntu that use LXDE or LSQt desktops environments.


The LXLE is Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that is based on the LXDE desktop environment; it is a well-known lightweight Ubuntu distro that works on old machines and new machines as well. The recent most version of LXLE was released in September 2019; here is some important information that you need to know before choosing LXLE:

Minimum RAM: 512MB
CPU: Pentium III
Based on Ubuntu LTS
Desktop Package: LXDE
Package Manager: APT
Maintained by: LXLE team
Initial release: 2012


It is also a lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution of Linux OS); it uses LSQt desktop environment instead of GNOME desktop (default desktop of Ubuntu), however, for so long (until 2018), Lubuntu used LXDE desktop environments:

Minimum RAM: 1GB
CPU: 386 or Pentium
Based on: Ubuntu
Desktop Package: LXQt
Package Manager: APT

Trisquel Mini

This distro of Ubuntu also uses the LXDE desktop environment, and it was released as an alternative to standard Trisquel distribution. The purpose of designing this mini release was to facilitate the notebook or low hardware resource users. The basic requirements to run Trisquel Mini are shown below:

Minimum RAM: 26MB
CPU: Pentium II
Based on: Ubuntu LTS
Desktop Manager: LXDE
Package Manager: APT
Initial Release: 2005


It is noticed that old machines lag when Ubuntu is installed on them, the performance of the machine somehow depends on the desktop environment being used by that distro. So, those old systems or systems with low specs really need to consider the desktop environment of the distribution. In this detailed guide, firstly, we have described some of the lightweight trending desktop environments and marked the names of those environments. Then we have figured out the distros of Ubuntu that use those desktops (LXDE, LXQt Xfce). After that, we have listed down the top lightweight distributions of Ubuntu based on the desktop being used.

About the author

Adnan Shabbir