8 Best Lightweight Linux Distributions for VM – Virtual Machine for 2022


Lightweight Linux distribution terms”May be different from one to another. It all depends on whether he wants a Linux with GUI or CLI and how much system resources he can provide to his virtual machine running the Linux system. Here we assume that you are a user of one or the other Virtual Box, VMware Player or Hyper-V and looking for a light weight linux distribution with less consumption of resources to run on the virtual machine (memory, CPU and hard drive). Additionally, if you are a Windows 10 or 11 user, you may want to consider WSL to start learning Linux.

Main lightweight Linux distributions to run on VM-Virtual Machine

Lightweight Linux distribution Based on Minimum RAM Support for virtual machines Desktop interface
Linux puppy Ubuntu 256 MB Yes WM / IceWM + ROX Office
Linux Lite Ubuntu 768 MB Yes XFCE
MX Linux Debian 1 GB Yes XFCE
Lubuntu Ubuntu 1 GB Yes LXDE / LXQT
Turnkey Linux core Debian 256 MB Yes CLI or web console
Manjaro Linux Arch Linux 1 GB Yes XFCE
Bodhi Linux Ubuntu 512 MB Yes Moksha
Alpine Linux Busy Box 512 MB Yes CLI but also supports GUI

1. Linux puppy

Linux puppy is one of the best lightweight Linux that can easily be installed on a laptop or desktop computer using a virtual machine (VirtualBox, Vmware or Hyper-V). Even we used it with Qemu on Windows without virtualization support and it worked successfully. In another scenario we are using Puppy Linux on VirtualBox with Hyper-V enabled and we all know that alongside Hyper-v VirtualBox is barely able to run Ubuntu and other Linux operating systems of the same. manner. However, this was not the problem with Puppy Linux due to its low resource consumption and hardware requirements. It can run on a 333MHz processor paired with 256MB of RAM and a 512MB paging file, which is extremely small compared to the virtual machine’s current resource allocation capacity.

In addition, based on Ubuntu, the user will have the familiar command line package manager and compatibility with thousands of Debian packages. Puppy Linux’s GUI is also pretty cool.

So, without a doubt, the user with old hardware running a virtual machine can easily boot with this Linux operating system.

2. Linux Lite

Another Lite version in Linux distributions to run VM on Virtual Box / Vmware / Hyper-v is “Linux Lite“. With an interface similar to Windows 7, it allows MS Windows users to easily switch to this Linux operating system. It comes with a free Office suite and other popular useful software like the other lightweight Linux distributions mentioned. here, but without putting too much strain on your virtual machine as well as the host machine.

Linux Lite is also based on Ubuntu-like Puppy with of course customizations to make it consume less resources, the operating system uses a modified XFCE desktop environment. It can easily run on a virtual machine running on a 1 GHz processor, 768 MB of RAM and 8 GB of storage.

Linux Lite for VirtualBox virtual machines

It also takes care of user privacy and security by providing highly configurable firewall and one-click system update. In addition, built-in applications such as Lite Tweaks and Lite Software will help users improve and optimize system performance.

3. MX Linux

MX Linux is a relatively new distribution but old enough and moderately lightweight to provide good performance even on virtual machines with low hardware resource allocation. The best thing is that most modern 32-bit media that kills the OS, this one still offers it. Yes, the latest version of MX Linux released in 2020 offers both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Based on Debian and antiX with the fusion of the XFCE desktop interface provides stable but optimized performance. Besides Xfce4, it is also available with KDE and Fluxbox GUI.

If you’re a Debian fan but don’t want to use it because of its reluctance to embrace new things early on, give MX Linux a try.

Linux MX distribution

4. Lubuntu

LUbuntu is the official distro from the Canonical developer team to provide a lightweight Linux distro with less RAM and a bulky LXDE / LXQT desktop environment instead of regular Gnome. It required 1 GB of RAM and at least 386 or a Pentium processor. This Linux distro is less resource intensive and even promoted by its developers as a lightweight distro, however, with all of its capabilities, it can compete with any modern Linux in terms of functionality. Because user can install any software package available for Canocnal main Linux project i.e. Ubuntu.

However, Lubuntu won’t be much lighter than Linux Lite and Puppy Linux.

5. TurnKey Linux Core – Virtual Device Library

I’m not sure exactly what you want a lightweight Linux distro for, however, if you want to run a common server application like web server, database, MongoDB, File Server, OwnCloud, Game server, etc., try TurnKey Prebuilt Linux Solution Linux Images for virtual machines. Turnkey virtual machines come with a predefined application that you want with a CLI, but that doesn’t mean you can’t install anything else on it. Being a Linux, we can install anything you want, even a GUI or a web console like Cockpit to manage it. But it will certainly be the least in terms of resource consumption.

Turnkey virtual applications are available in different formats to support different virtual machines such as Open Virtualization Format (OVA) to support VirtualBox and VMware products (eg Workstation, Player, Fusion and vSphere / ESX). Also includes open-vmtools (for VMware). Apart from that, VMDK is packaged in a zip file with VMX files. Also supports KVM / QEMU, OpenStack, various container platforms, Xen and Docker.

If you don’t want an app pre-installed, try Turnkey base on Debian with a minimum set of tools to get started with whatever you want.

Turnkey Linux virtual appliance library

6. Arch Linux / Manjaro Linux

Arch Linux is another lightweight Linux distro that works on the KISS principle which is Keep it Simple and Stupid. It is supposed to offer a minimal Linux distribution, however, those who want a graphical user interface can opt for its Linux based called Manajro Linux.

But not being on Ubuntu or Debian doesn’t mean there is a lack of packages; Arch Linux and its Aura repository offer a lot more options to install thousands of packages even from source with just a few commands or a GUI compared to Ubuntu.

However, Arch Linux in its standard boot would be difficult for some newbies in terms of installations, which is why we recommend using Majnaro Linux instead with the same performance but with various desktop environment options.

Arch Linux uses Pacman, as a package manager developed specifically to install, remove and update software packages.

Manjaro Linux for virtual machine

7. Bodhi Linux

Bodhi Linux is another lightweight Linux distribution to run on a VM-Virtual machine. It is based on Ubuntu while the tablet version of Bodhi uses Debian as its kernel. However, the Tablet version is still in development. The developers created this Linux to provide a minimal base system with popular software to handle daily tasks.

It requires at least 512MB of RAM and a 500MHz processor, well 32 bit processors are still supported by this Linux. To provide a desktop interface, Bodhi uses Moksha Desktop (window manager), a fork of Enlightenment DR17.

Bodhi Linux to run on VM

8. Alpine Lightweight Linux – Better to run Docker

Are you looking for an extremely lightweight Linux to run Docker containers? So go for Alpine Linux. Previous Docker tools for Windows also used Alpine Linux to operate containers. It is based on BusyBox and musl, use APK as package manager and users can install Awesome, MATE and Xfce desktop environments to get graphical user interface.

To learn: How to install the XFCE GUI on Alpine Linux

XFCE GUI on Alpine Linux

Other articles:

• 4 best lightweight Linux distributions to install on a laptop USB stick
• 10 best Ubuntu-based Linux distributions for laptops or PCs


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