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Small Operating Systems / Linux Distributions

Published: 09-07-2012 | Author: Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article

❗ This post is over eleven years old. It may no longer be up to date. Opinions may have changed.

This is an overview of small operating systems and Linux distributions, most of them work well on older hardware (pre-dual core era). It provides screenshots, package information, size and specs and project information on the distro. I've used all of them myself, except Sky OS. Not all of them are Linux, I also cover some more exotic operating systems, I like those. But, they have to have a GUI interface and software to accomplish task with. (Sorry MikeOS). The list constist of: Feather Linux, MenuetOS, Sky OS, Damn Small Linux, Tiny Core, SliTaz GNU/Linux, ReactOS, Haiku, Syllable, AntiX, Puppy and EcomStation2.

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Feather Linux

Feather Linux

  • Based on: Debian, Knoppix
  • Status: not active
  • Author: Robert Pickel
  • Last release: 0.7.5, Juli 4, 2005
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: less than 128MB
  • Desktop: fluxbox
  • Interesting software: kernel 2.4, abiword, dillo, gaim, xmms, vim, scite, rox-filer, firefox, freeNX, ethereal, mc
  • Website:
  • Distrowatch:
  • How did I use(d) it: It ran on one of my pentium 3 boxes, 128MB ram, 5GB disk, 10MBit LAN, and it has done for almost 2 years.



  • What is it: MenuetOS is an Operating System in development for the PC written entirely in 32/64 bit assembly language. Menuet isn't based on other operating system nor has it roots within UNIX or the POSIX standards. The design goal, since the first release in year 2000, has been to remove the extra layers between different parts of an OS, which normally complicate programming and create bugs.
  • Status: active
  • Author: Ville Turjanmaa, Jarek Pelczar, Mike Hibbett, Madis Kalme, Tom Tollet
  • Last release: M64 0.98.76, August 15, 2012
  • Architecture: i386 and x64
  • Size ISO: 804 KB
  • Dekstop: Custom written.
  • Interesting Features: Free-form, transparent and skinnable application windows, drag'n drop, SMP multiprocessor support with currently up to 8 cpus, IDE: Editor/Assembler for applications, USB 2.0 Hi-speed storage, webcam, printer class and TV/Radio support, USB 1.1 Keyboard and mouse support, TCP/IP stack with Loopback & Ethernet drivers, Email/ftp/http/chess clients and ftp/mp3/http servers, Hard real-time data fetch
  • Website:
  • See also: KolibriOS, a MenuetOS Fork
  • How did I use it: In High School, where the most pc's only had a floppy drive.

Sky OS


  • What is it: SkyOS is an operating system written from scratch for x86 PC's. As required for a modern operating system, it supports features like multiprocessor support (SMP), virtual memory, memory protection, multitasking, and threading.
  • Status: not active
  • Author: Robert Szeleney
  • Last release: Build 6947, August 3, 2008
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 309 MB
  • Dekstop: Custom written, SkyGI
  • Interesting Features: SkyFS, Firefox, Thunderbird, Blender, Pixel, NVU, SDL, Full DMA, ATAPI, and ATA/SATA support
  • Website:
  • See Also: Wikipedia
  • How did I use it: Did not, a friend of mine ran it. She even bought a license for it.

Damn Small Linux


  • Based on: Debian, Knoppix
  • Status: since 2008 not active, since this month active again
  • Author: Robert Shingledecker, John Andrews
  • Latest Release: 4.11 Release Candidate 1, August 4, 2012
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 50 MB
  • Desktop: Fluxbox, JWM
  • Interesting Software: XMMS, Siag, Ted, Firefox, Dillo, RDP+VNC, naim, Sylpheed, vim, emelfm
  • Website:
  • See Also: Article on resurrecting DSL
  • How did I use it: Same as with Feather Linux, this has run on most of my computers.

Tiny Core Linux

Tiny Core

  • Based On: Busybox and FLTK
  • Status: Active
  • Author: Robert SHingledecker
  • Latest release: 4.5.6, July 6, 2012
  • Architecture: i386, x64
  • Size ISO: 12 MB
  • Dekstop: FLTK/FLWM + Tint2 panel
  • Interesting Software: appbrowser package manager with almost every piece of software you want on a Linux distro, versatile installation options, very complete OS, very small size
  • Website:
  • See also: Teleking, PC that uses Tiny Core based software
  • How did I use it: *Runs on all my machines in a spare partition as rescue option. *

SliTaz GNU/Linux

Slitaz GNU/Linux

  • Based on: No mother distro
  • Status: Active
  • Author: Christophe Lincoln
  • Latest release: 4.0, April 10, 2012
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 30 MB
  • Dekstop: LXDE, JWM
  • Interesting Software: Tazpanel config tools, Midori, Retawq, Transmission, Chess, PCmanFM, Leafpad
  • Website:
  • How did I use it: Replaced DSL on most of my boxes.



  • What is it: ReactOS is a free, modern operating system based on the design of Windows XP/2003. Written completely from scratch, it aims to follow the Windows-NT architecture designed by Microsoft from the hardware level right through to the application level. This is not a Linux based system, and shares none of the unix architecture. The main goal of the ReactOS project is to provide an operating system which is binary compatible with Windows.
  • Status: Active
  • Author: ReactOS Foundation
  • Latest Release: 0.3.14, February 7, 2012
  • Architecture: i386, x64, ARM, xBox
  • Size ISO: 42 MB
  • Dekstop: ReactOS Explorer
  • Interesting software: Firefox, Thunderbird, Windows compatibility, Softmaker office, Winamp, Notepad++, ScummVM, Lazarus IDE, VLC, MS Works, TortouiseSVN. Jazz Jack Rabbit
  • Website:
  • How did I use it: Used it on and off on VM's, and one machine on which it would boot.



  • What is it: Haiku is a new open-source operating system that specifically targets personal computing. Inspired by the BeOS, Haiku is fast, simple to use, easy to learn and yet very powerful.
  • Status: Active
  • Author: Haiku Project
  • Last release: R1 Alpha 3, June 20, 2011
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 231 MB
  • Desktop: Haiku/BeOS Dekstop
  • Interesting Features: Specific focus on personal computing, Custom kernel designed for responsiveness, Fully threaded design for great efficiency with multi-processor/core CPUs, Rich OO API for faster development, Database-like file system (BFS) with support for indexed metadata, Unified, cohesive interface
  • Website:
  • How did I use it: Same as ReactOS, but this also ran on my netbook for a while.

Syllable OS


  • What is it: Syllable is becoming an easy-to-use free software operating system for the home and small office user. It is powerful, lightweight and extraordinarily fast and responsive.
  • Status: Active
  • Author: Kristian Van Der Vliet, Kaj de Vos, Rick Caudill, Arno Klenke, Henrik Isaksson
  • Last release: 0.6.7, April 12, 2012
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 93 MB
  • Dekstop: Syllable Desktop
  • Interesting Features: Native 64-bit journaled file system, C++ oriented API, Mostly POSIX compliant, Vim, Perl, Python, Apache, GCC, Glibc, Binutils, Make, Preemptive multitasking with multithreading, Symmetric multiprocessing (multiple processor) support, FAT (read/write), NTFS (read) and ext2 (read), REBOL
  • Website:
  • How did I use it: ran on my netbook



  • Based on: MEPIS, Debian
  • Status: Active
  • Author: anticapitalista Thessaloniki ?
  • Last release: antiX-12 'Edelweipiraten', August 7, 2012
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: 690 MB
  • Dekstop: FluxBox, IceWM, JWM, dwm, wmii
  • Interesting Software: LibreOffice, IceWeasel, Claws Mail, Rox-filer, XMMS, YAD
  • Website:
  • How did I use it: Still runs on one of my PC's

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux

  • Based on: Slackware, Ubuntu, different bases
  • Status: Active
  • Author: Barry Kauler, Larry Short, Mick Amadio and Puppy community
  • Latest Release: 5.3.3, May 5, 2012
  • Architecture: i386, x64
  • Size ISO: 115 MB
  • Desktop: JWM, IceWM, Enlightenment, Fluxbox
  • Interesting Software: Multiple package managers, supports deb, slackpkg, rpm, runs from RAM, Midori
  • How did I use it: on and off on multiple machines.



  • What is it: eComStation is a highly efficient operating system that truly flies on todays powerful computers, and works great on legacy hardware.
  • Status: not active
  • Author: Serenity Systems, IBM, Microsoft
  • Latest release: 2.1, May 20, 2011
  • Architecture: i386
  • Size ISO: ? MB
  • Dekstop: XWorkplace
  • Interesting features: eCS2 allows IBM OS/2 users to keep running existing programs on today's hardware, Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, SAMBA, VLC.
  • How did I use it: also ran on my netbook, but without WIFI...


  • Latest release is at the moment of writing this article, which is 15-08-2012.
  • Author information is from either the project pages or Wikipedia.
  • Software info is from distrowatch, or project pages.
Tags: antix , articles , ecomstation , feather-linux , haiku , kolibrios , linux , menuetos , mikeos , os-2 , reactos , skyos , slitaz , syllable