Best DE (or window manager) for an old, underpowered, all-in-one

I kind of know what I’d suggest for such a thing (an old Dell all-in-one with a Pentium processor and 4 gigs RAM, came with Windows 8). Maybe something like Fedora LXQT or Bunsen Labs. But what do y’all say? I know @jill_linuxgirl would have some awesome suggestions.

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Ubuntu Mate, or if you really need something old Puppy Linux, but 4gb RAM should be enough for Mate.


I’m going to be an outlier here and say Enlightenment


The one you like the most and if it’s bogging things down the one you like 2nd most.

If you turn off animations, window shadows, ect I think they’re all pretty lightweight now. Where they differ is how many apps and features they require you install to use it but that doesn’t mean they’re running all the time.



Oh sorry the distro is dead, carried over kind of to BunsenLabs, CrunchBang++ and ArchLabs, but should be made an independent desktop manager like Budgie is doing.

AntiX and MX should do a CrunchBang spin, now that would be lightweight.


Everyone here has great suggestions! :joy: Distros such as antiX, BunsenLabs, Q4OS, Slax, Zorin OS Lite, Peppermint, TinyCore, Puppy Linux, eLive, Ubuntu Mate, and of course Xubuntu and Lubuntu all work well with only 4GB of RAM! :joy::hugs::penguin::penguin::penguin:


Or you could use any mainline distro running my favorite X window managers: Window Maker, Enlightenment, Fluxbox, Openbox, Afterstep… I :heart: them all! :joy::hugs::penguin::penguin::penguin:


Thank you for the recommendations. I figure anyone who owns hundreds of working computers knows the best way to get the most use from the old as well as the new.

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My order of preference:

Xfce, LXDE, LXQt, Plasma, Mate, spectrwm, dwm, evilwm for a machine with 4GB of RAM.

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If the CPU is 32 bit then the future longevity of the install may be an issue. I have a couple of 32 bit machines still running - they have Xubuntu on them but only as 18.04. The expiry for those was long and was later extended for security patches, but will surely become problematic soon. I’ll be needing to review this myself.

FWIW one has 2G or RAM and the other 1G and Xubuntu seems fine, but then each gets used for just one purpose. On the one with 2G, I find the thing that makes it crawl is not lack of memory, but CPU power when faced with the appalling dross that is the JavaScript on most modern web pages.

AntiX linux still support 32 bits, as their main focus is supporting older hardware.

At the moment there are still options for 32 bit, AntiX, Debian (-based), Mageia, Slackware.

Void Linux is actually not too shabby for 32-bit support. Also special mentions to OpenBSD, NetBSD, and FreeBSD.

Edit 2: You can also make a cute little desktop with Alpine Linux— uwu

Edit 3: OMG. I forgot about openSUSE! They still spin a first class 32-bit spin. Both Leap and Tumbleweed are there. I’ve never used this for old systems though.

Edit: XFCE is my DE of choice on the old boxes. I’ve also used i3 WM too but usually I just XFCE.

Agreed that the major bottleneck on these old systems is the modern web and the modern web browsers.


That is true, forgot about that.

Actually if you avoid Youtube, Netflix, Spotify webplayer etc, even the web can work on such old machines.

You could also try Linux Lite, if you don’t mind your Linux based on Ubuntu.

It is an XFce spin, with a few cosmetic touches. So should be light enough.

Peppermint should also do the job as a lightweight option, and will now be based on Debian which should perform better on old hardware and gives Peppermint the 32 bit option again.

Also LMDE is worth a mention as it runs lighter then Ubuntu.