5 Fast and Lightweight Linux Distros that Chrome OS Should Beat

Dedicated Linux servers are known to be fast and efficient, but Linux on the desktop is also becoming more and more popular these days because of its much improved speed. After Google Chrome OS was announced and with the promises or goal of making it fast and lightweight, I know it will someday be compared with some of the fastest and lightest Linux distributions that are currently available. So I’m thinking I may never be impressed with Chrome OS if it can't beat or at least be at par with any of these distros:

I once dubbed antiX as "The Fat-free Mepis" because it is indeed the lighter and faster version of SimplyMEPIS. It runs really quick even on my ancient laptop since it is designed to work on computers with as little as 64 MB RAM and Pentium II or equivalent AMD processors; it even runs great on a netbook! antiX uses IceWM and Fluxbox as its window managers and it is loaded with handy software packages.

SliTaz is considered by many as the world’s smallest 'complete' desktop distro. Despite its miniscule size, it comes with several useful applications out-of-the-box like text editor, audio player, pdf viewer, web browser, image editor, DVD/CD ISO Burner, and a lot more. The latest version now uses Openbox instead of JWM as its window manager. I've used SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0 before and I must say that its speed is awesome.

Puppy Linux
Puppy Linux is one of the top Linux distros in terms of popularity. Although it has quite a small footprint, it is loaded with great features. You can boot it as a Live-CD needing only a few MB of RAM, install it on a USB Flash drive, and even set it up on a hard drive. You can read some of my reviews of Puppy HERE and HERE.

SLAX is another distro to beat in terms of speed. Though it utilizes KDE desktop environment, it's still faster than most distributions with lightweight DE. And don't be fooled by its size because it has good amount of pre-installed software applications making it ideal for day to day desktop use. If you want to know more about SLAX, you can read my review HERE.

Damn Small Linux
Damn Small Linux (DSL) is damn small indeed. Still 50MB in size, it remains one of the most well-known Linux distro. They said that DSL is light enough to power a 486DX with 16MB of RAM so imagine it running on your quad core computer with 2GB of RAM. I've tried and tested DSL before, and view it as a good thing that comes in small package because I'm very happy with its overall features despite its tiny size.

If Chrome OS can't top or equal any of the distributions mentioned above in terms of speed and simplicity, then I have a reason to be disappointed since I don’t see the point of Google creating a whole new Linux distro when they can just improve on what's already available.

What do you think?

On a related note, some of the distributions that I've mentioned above may also be used as Linux servers.


  1. AnonymousJuly 11, 2009

    Hi, as far as I know, Puppy Linux is not slackware-based, but it maintains compatibility with slackware. I could be wrong, though, since I have not followed Puppy Linux for quite some time. But if I heard correctly lately it maintains or will maintain compatibility with Ubuntu. Again, I may heard incorrectly. But as far as I remember, earlier Puppy Linux (version 1 and 2 series) are not slackware-based nor debian-based.

  2. @Anonymous

    Thanks for correcting me. From Wikipedia: Only Puppy Linux 3 features Slackware 12 compatibility but it does not mean that Puppy is a Slackware-based distribution.

  3. Interesting. I would prefer just running the Chrome web browser in any of the lightweight distros and I don't see the need of using a so-called Google OS.

  4. AnonymousJuly 11, 2009

    Chrome isn't aimed at old computers that hobble along on crutches. Even modern netbooks blow p2's and such out of the water in capabilities. Why would you limit yourself to something that old? Chrome OS will be little more than a cloud OS for web apps. I'm sure they will let you install local linux applications though, if you like. The selling point is that google will provide the services and you provide the data. Personally I don't like google having all my data. I happen to like my tower computers and laptops. It will fill a niche but most people I know do not want to give their data and privacy to google.

  5. @anonymous

    Just because it's a linux distro designed to run on slow hardware doesn't mean you have to only use it on slow hardware.

    You can go ahead and install antix, puppy, etc on modern day hardware and it works great.

    The only thing limiting here is your thinking.

  6. I some time use puppy to demonstrate that some older laps based on p2 or p3 are perfectly useful. Some of my friends were amazed at the speed with wich a pdf was opened on puppy.
    Let us wait and watch how the chrome os will turn out. I am not yet convinced about it

  7. When Google says they focus on speed for Chrome OS, I hope it is not at the expense of features and usability/simplicity.

    Chrome OS does not have to be THE fastest. Reasonably fast and with a great user experience is what they should aim.

    Let's hope they will ship a improved KDE 4 with integrated web services.

  8. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    why does Chrome OS have to beat Linux that runs on a 486 = an almost 15 year old computer? It should only have to run well on a single core P3 or P4 with 512Gb of memory. A computer you can pick up for $40-50 on ebay.

  9. First, you left out Vector Light. I just put it on a Celeron 430 (what'd they do with that other 3 Mhz?) for a friend and it is noticably snappier than AntiX 8. I installed Openbox and put Firefox in the Add a few extensions to Firefox and it's a surfing machine. Throw Chrome in the and it sounds a lot like Google OS.

    Second, I think one of the benefits Google will/should get out of this new windowing system (I'm assuming that means replacing X, not the WM) is the benefit Apple has: fewer drivers. My buddy's Toshiba has a Trident Cyber 9525 video chip with 2.5 MB of RAM. Flipping through the list of drivers in xorgconfig, you see a ton of drivers for old crappy video chips that Xorg has to maintain. Were I Google, I'd drop all that and have drivers for, what? Four? Intel, nVidia, ATI and Via? Whatever's going to be on these Arm-based devices? Doesn't that cover the netbook/web appliance video-chip landscape? Why get into writing or porting drivers to support old machines so users can have a crappy experience when they can get a netbook for so little dough? Leave the Trident and SiS chips to Xorg. Same for floppy support, Ethernet PCMCIA cards, Winmodems and flaky wireless cards. Ship a stripped-down kernel and post it to the web with a list of machines it works on. So what if you have 1,000 isos up there for 1,000 machines? You're Google.

    Then the community can do with that whatever it sees fit. Port drivers, extend the WM, whatever it turns out to be. But Google avoids the crappier parts of the Linux experience, delivers a nice (if narrowly focused) user experience and gives back to the community.

  10. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    For a lightwight (but also quite fully featured) distro, I recommend checking out CrunchBang (#!) linux -- It's Ubuntu-based without a DE (and other stuff) slowing you down, but it also includes many more apps that users enjoy.

    (Certainly not as lightweight as the ones mentioned -- but still lightweight enough to give a note ;) !!)

  11. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    Ubuntu or anything based on Ubuntu can hardly be ranked amongst the fastest distros out there.
    Distrowatch puts the number of Unix and Linux based distros at 840 and counting.
    Do we really need another distro targetted just for the web when any relatively well read person using Linux can build a similar distro in his garage.

  12. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    How the heck are we comparing distros to vapourware no one knows a single thing about?

    Is there ANYTHING in the press release which state that Chrome OS (yes, another brilliant move calling your OS the same as your browser. They must have thought that Linux the kernel and Linux the OS isnt confusing enough) will be able to run on ancient hardware?

    Id have thought you would have compared it webcentric OS like gOS and such.

    If I cant run apps that we use on Gnu-Linux distros, then I have no need for it since Im very happy with the distros I use for our netbooks and on which we often crop-edit pictures and even record a podcast or two.

    As of now, Chrome is pre-alpha so Im going to concentrate more on Moblin 2 for now, teh videos of it looks very nice.

  13. I have written a little piece on my site about this and the conclusion was that people are way too much over their heads with that Chrome OS thing. It is not even in excistence yet. And it seems that rumours or news like this thrives the internet and makes it even more shallow than it already seemed.

    I use Linux for about seven years now and I do not think that something like Chrome OS will be the best and biggest thing in the distro-world. First of: it is not entirely open source as you could read on the first post from Google itself.

    The apps you can use are all owned and maintained by Google itself and has no sourcecode available what so ever. For me it is just a strange hybrid between Linux and Windows/Mac OS with an online feature. Nothing new, I'd say, looking at Lotus Notes and AS/400 which do the same things: via a network collaborating on documents, projects and the likes.

    If that is innovation, well, I'd prefer to stick with my Fedora and let this thing blow over.

  14. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    I don't think anyone posting here is the target market for Chrome OS. Seems to me that it's for grandma. She can buy a netbook for browsing the web, doing some email, etc, and see nothing but a browser-- that loads almost instantly when she turns the thing on.

  15. AnonymousJuly 12, 2009

    just wait and see

  16. AnonymousJuly 13, 2009

    Well maybe google can put a dream team together with all the un-employed former developers and technicians who no
    longer have jobs and focus their talent on producing something that has a good support base, user support and
    is functional with cloud computing to the point it works and its not a distraction and leaving users with endless
    delays in waiting on saves and downloads. It seems they are in the wrecking and re-building stage at this point.
    Linux sound and video are in a state of disarray and its going to take a big effort to make it "just work out of the box" perhaps they can buy SunMicro Systems and use virtualization of these devices to make it work.

  17. The difference between Chrome OS and the distros listed is that people know Google. That is all. I don't think Google is aiming to beat your favorite Linux distro. Their goal is to use their name power to break up the desktop monopoly and to push web standards along so that they can offer more advanced apps. You simply could not put any of these distros on a netbook and get it to sell the way you could with something from Google.

    Yes they could have just used one distro and put their name on it but why bother. You'd have every FOSS person in the world screaming bloody murder. So they took core Linux and rolled their own distro with supposedly their own DE.

  18. AnonymousJuly 13, 2009

    SLAX is miles ahead of any Google OS just because it is not user friendly the Google way and normally runs completely from memory.

    For this very reason Google OS does not have to beat any Linux distribution - they are for different audiences.

    If Google were smart, they would just help Ubuntu.

  19. I think are 2 different things. Google Chrome OS will never replace a real OS in our workstations. GCOS it will be perfectly for old hardware, internet caffes and embedded devices ... but really not to replace a real OS


  20. AnonymousJuly 18, 2009


    Viva the rebellion !

  21. try beat these fat-free mainstream distros:

  22. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Google Chrome will definitly will affect the future, since google already has online based apps such as office-like, sofwares. It may be trying to make thin clients for its cloud computing future.

  23. Crunch Bang is so named because it may make your computer go "crunch," right after it goes "bang."

  24. Puppy isn't slackware based, its its own distro, but its compatible with slackware.

  25. Part of the beauty of Linux is that anyone with enough time and patience can make their own distribution. They can then release it on the world, and if people want to use it... they can... or if people don't want to use it... THEY DON'T HAVE TO. Wow. I don't know why anyone would make a fuss about Google making their own distro, unless they somehow modified their sites code to only allow this new Distro, or the Chrome browser... But if they want to do that they can.

  26. try xpud :)

  27. AnonymousMay 18, 2010

    To me the benefit of Google Chrome is that you have the brains behind Google supporting it. A web based OS means they can deal with updates and security and all I have to do is not be stupid with the information I put out there. Compare that to Microsoft! Maintenance ends up being a large percentage of my computing, it'd be nice to think of at least a PC that's as idiot proof as your phone.
    It's not going to replace a local OS - it's a different device for those that can't handle the work it takes to keep an OS up to date and maintained and just want to use the darn thing.
    I don't imagine they're targeting old hardware as their base since they want the OS to perform at a certain level. I want one because in casual situations, I'd rather not be interrupted by another maintenance task that I feel compelled to do ASAP.

  28. AnonymousJune 06, 2010

    Tiny Core Linux should be mentioned. It's not exactly the most user-friendly of the Linux distros (especially for Windows users). Still, the TCL distro is a 10 MB size & runs completely from (and is stored on) RAM. That makes it much faster on all programs, although it does sometimes limit the usage of large files (depending on your RAM, of course) and also filesystem-dependent programs. (Truecrypt full-disk encryption [for Linux] is an example that comes to mind)

  29. AnonymousJuly 06, 2010

    CrunchBang +1

  30. Google Chrome will fail, like Wave, Nexus and Android.

  31. I agree with your conclusion

  32. Why do people overlook Debian so often? The only distro faster on my laptop than my custom Debian build has been Puppy.

    Net install with apps I like and OpenBox and maybe a few tweaks thrown in for good measure.

    Like lightning.


  33. Anonymous Said,
    August 9, 2010 12:04 AM
    Google Chrome will fail, like Wave, Nexus and Android.

    because Google products fail, Apple shall fail first! :D

  34. The purpose of Chrome OS isn't to be better than other distros. Its purpose is to get on as many desktops as possible and steal everyone's data for Google/NSA.

  35. AnonymousMay 01, 2011

    lol true

  36. You forgot to mention Arch Linux and Gentoo. They're both very customizable operating systems. Just install OpenBox on them, and you're set for life.

  37. Google picked the WRONG Distro to molest. Try Bodhi if you wanna see what Enlightenment did with Ubuntu

  38. Mohammad: This list was for out-of-the-box lightweight distros only, and preferably ones that didn't need to be installed; just live. Arch and Gentoo can both be somewhat lightweight, but this list wasn't focusing on those sort of distros.

  39. Porteus linux is a live linux distro. Boots in under 20 seconds, shuts down in under 5 seconds and runs lightning fast. Comes in many flavours and is slackware based. The package manager opens up many packages for options, but the under 300Mb default is pretty impressive. Check it out: