Battle of the Minis: DSL vs. Puppy Linux

Battle of the Minis: DSL vs. Puppy Linux - Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux are two of the most popular ultra-lightweight Linux distributions today, that is why a lot of people are curious to find out which is better between these proud mini distros. So I’m here to put these two distributions on war path.

As some of you may know, I have recently tried and tested each one of them, and have found out some of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

Though Puppy and DSL performed fairly well on my previous tests, I used different computers for each of the test I made at that time. That's why I tried them once again, and this time I’m using the same test machines.

Distrowar Arena
(Test Machine Specs):
Board: Intel Corporation D102GGC2
Processor: 3.40 GHz Intel Pentium D
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB ATA
Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM
Display: ATI RADEON X1050

Tale of the Tape:
Distro Name:Damn Small Linux (DSL)/ Weight:49.5MB/ Country Origin:USA/ Distro Origin:Knoppix/ Package Mgt.:DEB/ Default Desktop:FWM/ Distrowatch Rank:#10

Distro Name:Puppy Linux/ Weight:98.7MB/ Country Origin:Australia/ Distro Origin:Slackware/ Package Mgt.:PET/ Default Desktop:JWM / Distrowatch Rank:#15

Now, here are the results of the Battle of the Minis:

Speed Test
Download Time- Winner, DSL!
Boot/Startup Time - Winner, DSL!
Responsiveness- Draw!

It takes a shorter time to download DSL than Puppy because of its smaller-sized ISO. It is also faster to boot and approximately took 30 seconds to reach its Fluxbox desktop from start, while Puppy booted slower taking about 50 seconds to reach its JWM’s desktop. I call it a tie for “Responsiveness” due to the fact that both distros are light and quick, and I can't see a substantial difference between the two in terms of their receptiveness.

Default Theme- Winner, Puppy!
Extras- Winner, Puppy!
Artwork- Winner, Puppy!

Decoding: Puppy Linux is my winner in every Aesthetics sub-category because first of all, I love its JWM desktop which is a little bit sleek-looking compared to DSL’s Fluxbox. Puppy also has simple but good looking default wallpaper, and quite a few polished extras to choose from, in case you wanted to change its look.

Pre-installed Applications- Winner, Puppy!
Available Packages from Repo- Draw!
Ease of Use- Winner, Puppy!

Decoding: The pre-installed applications of Puppy Linux are plenty compared to the smaller-sized DSL. Both have plenty of available and updated packages from their respective repository that is why I’m calling it a draw.

Hardware Detection- Draw!
Software Maintenance- Draw!
Error Handling- Draw!

Decoding: I can only give a draw verdict in all of the "Stability" sub-categories because both have shown stability in the short period of my tests. But I know that stability can be better judged with extensive usage. So, I just hope that the readers who have used them both long enough can fill in the gap.

Final Score:
Puppy = 5
DSL = 2
*Winner Puppy!

Puppy Linux has won the battle but only in my own opinion and based only from the tests I made. I still love DSL for its smaller foot print and fast start-up time which is key in rescuing a broken system. Meanwhile, Puppy’s abundance of useful out-of-the-box applications despite of its minute size is its strongest point.


  1. Nice post.Puppy definitely has the advantage over DSL and I'm wondering why DSL is ranked higher than Puppy in distrowatch.

  2. I used Puppy 3.01 and finally found a distro that will allow my Broadcom wireless card in my desktop to connect without having to compile something or pay for Ndiswrapper etc.
    Very light, stable, and just allows me to get on and work.
    Much better than a lot of larger versions out there.

  3. Puppy and DSL seemed to have different goals. Puppy tends to be more cutting edge with later stuff, a later 2.6 kernel and comes with DVD playback built in. As a result, it tends to be larger and have more stuff build in. On the downside, Puppy is a single user system. When you boot, it automatically log you in as root. Everything run as root. You cannot set up separate accounts.

    DSL is designed to remain small, so they stay with the smaller 2.4 kernel. Its advantage is that it will work better with older hardware and in smaller size. It is also a multi-user system so you can set up multiple accounts.

  4. Good review but I think your test bed computer is too fast to draw an accurate picture. With a system like this, you could compare any number of other lightweight distros, including Xubuntu.

    In fact, there's no reason you couldn't run any of the feature-rich distros out there or middle-range linux offerings.

    For older desktops/laptops, the responsiveness of the systems would have been more obvious and made the issue of system speed an important criteria - as it was, one of the most important features of these two OSes were completely ignored.

    DSL's ability to run purely in memory, boot off a hard drive, run on CD, make packages available as DSL (dsl-extensions) files (so you don't even need an internet connection), etc - makes it a truly portable, flexible and light weight solution. Some of these extra features were left out in the comparisons.

    There are also a new line of netbook computers that don't pack the punch of full-blown laptops/desktops. For users on this type of hardware, available resources after the OS take what it needs becomes an important factor. So system responsiveness continues to be one of the key features of these mini-OSes and shouldn't be overlooked.

  5. Yeah, run Puppy 4 on the Presario 4505 (48 MB RAM) that I run DSL on and see which distro rocks.

    Join the Linux Recycling Brigade today!!!