Which lightweight linux distro would you recommend ?

Which lightweight Linux distro would you recommend for a beginner - intermediate user ? I have an old laptop (4 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, Intel i7-4500U (4) 3 GHz CPU).

If you want something that is beginner-friendly, then it doesn’t matter what you pick. They are all based on gnome or kde, and have pretty much the same system requirements. 4 GB memory isn’t great, but it’s enough.

You probably want to go with Ubuntu or an Ubuntu derivative, they have a lot of documentation that doesn’t require a lot of Linux experience.

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My bang up laptop is running Lububtu with similar specs it works well. https://lubuntu.me

I totally agree that it doesn’t matter what distro you pick. I’m so sick of the Linux community always talking about distros. For most people, the only things that matter are the desktop environment and package manager. The latter of which shouldn’t even matter for beginners.

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Any well-maintained distro should work. Fedora and mint are my two go-to recommendations. For the most part you’ll be affected by the desktop environment. KDE and Gnome from my experience tend to run a bit heavier, XFCE and MATE are pretty lightweight.

For a lot of people, the desktop environment is the distro which is where so much confusion comes from. Plus different desktop environments aren’t usually featured in GUI software download stores and usually you need to use CLI to install them which a lot of people aren’t comfortable with. Not to mention all the elitiists and morons going off about AUR or other shit that doesn’t matter.

not sure you’d want to go with a lightweight distro if you’re new to Linux unless you don’t mind fooling around to get it working the way you want

i also don’t know your tech capabilities, but assuming they are “average”, whatever that means, then i might recommend Linux Mint - that was my 1st nix os and, unlike some other distros, including Ubuntu, i found that everything (hardware) pretty much just worked with Mint

if you’re feeling a slightly more adventurous, you might try Manjaro which is an Arch-based roller, meaning that (in theory) you never have to reinstall the OS because it’s sort of a ‘live’ system that receives (lots of) updates constantly - also the software repositories are huge and there’s no dealing with PPAs as there is with the Debian branch

in both cases you’ll get a decent graphical package manager for installing software

as for desktops, i personally prefer KDE for it’s huge feature set (lots of tweaks) but there’s many others - XFCE is also very popular and not as fat as KDE - either will run on your laptop

what you might want to do is grab yourself a copy of Ventoy, dump a bunch of Linux ISOs on it and play with them and see what you like

ps: if you’re interested in rock-solid stability and you’re not going to use it for gaming and you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, you might abandon the Linux path and have a look at one of the BSD flavors, such as FreeBSD

These comments are on target. I was using Arch and when I mentioned that here, people were impressed, somehow. I’m looking at using Nix on a steam deck, ubuntu server with a window manager on a single board computer, loading up some hardware specific apps on a vanilla Linux OS where the user just wants a short cut to make the hardware work.

The whole switching to linux doesn’t mean much to me and I predate windows 3.1.

Absolutely set you up a good ventoy tool.

Ubuntu and Fedora are my go to recommendations for beginners to Linux and open source, primarily because of their ease of install and stability.

However Fedora is the better choice since it has a lot of packages better security and flatpak integration making it a better option for most users, more so than Ubuntu.

Manjaro currently has a lot of problems with security and package delivery, so it’s recommended not to install that. Also you will have to turn off Secure boot in BIOS with may scare you a little and also potentially leave your workstation insecure.

Linux mint uses Cinnamon de which relies on X11 display protocol which one can have usability issues as well as security issues. Again the BIOS problems exists.

Limitations and security problems inherent in Linux regardless of distro:

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I agree about Manjaro. They have a terrible track record for stability and reliability. I’m also not a fan of them waiting to push package updates while claiming to be just as fresh as Arch.

My first daily driver Linux distro was Arch with i3. Part of me misses the minimalism and DIY nature that come with it. Six months of use taught me a lot about problem solving and troubleshooting. I ultimately switched to Fedora (GNOME) as my laptop suffers from some weird kernel/driver bug that would either randomly shut off my computer or lock my mouse up. If you want to learn a lot about Linux quickly, I’d suggest Arch. However, it can be very time-consuming, and its community is toxic as hell.

wow - i was somewhat aware of the disjointed approach to Linux and the security issues (Main Linux problems on the desktop, 2023 edition), but the article you linked, and the ones linked to in the article, take this to a whole new level for me

the reddit thread where Daniel Micay of GrapheneOS shares extensive information was a hell of a read

this is a very sad state of affairs and it leaves me quite disappointed

that said, i think there may be one up-shot that these articles overlook - regardless of the plethora of security issues, i strongly suspect Linux users are far less likely have their system compromised and i think there’s 2 primary reasons for this; 1) it’s not remotely as attractive of a target as winblows and 2) the source of the software

i would hazard a guess that much/most of the crap that compromises a winblows system comes in the form of user installed malware, whereas the average Linux user is tied to a repository where the packages are much better vetted, at least as far as not containing malicious backdoors

the big question is, what now? because it sure doesn’t seem like the Linux kernel devs will ever dig themselves out of this hole, especially since there are apparently those that hide their mistakes, or have no interest in making things better, or ignore serious and long-standing issues for years (here’s lookin’ at you Linus)

I would recommend a distro that uses a lighter desktop environment like Xfce. I’ve heard good things about Linux Mint’s Xfce spin. Fedora also has one to consider, but in my experience it takes a little comfort with the terminal - just enough to connect to the RPMFusion repos and Flathub for the rest you might need. TechHut has a good guide to finish a Fedora setup.

Xfce uses X11 as the window manager, hence Xfce shouldn’t be recommended at all. Any Desktop environment/Window manager using it is stuck to the past and clearly doesn’t care about the privacy and security of its users.

Any DE running X11 is not ideal from a security perspective, but based on the specs of the computer OP is talking about and what the potential use case is, it’s not a bad option to consider. It would be better to run something with Wayland, but if that doesn’t work because Gnome or KDE are too intensive and X11 is ok for their threat model, I think it’s alright to mention.

GNOME/KDE uses ~800MB ram at Idle, which isn’t a lot. If you look up Fedora GNOME/KDE editions recommended specs, it matches OP’s specs. I think using XFCE will lower RAM usage by 200MB(or so I have heard, it’s probably at best), but at the cost of your privacy and security which is not a worth it trade off. With the given tech specs OP has provided GNOME/KDE w/ Wayland would work fine.

While the recommended specs for Fedora do line up with OPs specs, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a smooth experience. I don’t know what the average is, but my Fedora Gnome install idles at 2.4 GB of RAM, and a Kinoite (KDE) install I have isn’t that much better another another computer. With 16 GB and 8 GB respectively, I can get by comfortably, but at 4 GB of RAM you’re going to wish you had that RAM back.

Maybe Workstation works, and that would be ideal. If it doesn’t, Xfce is a lighter weight distro to try. Does it have security problems to be aware of? Yes, but if it fits within OPs threat model then it’s not a problem. While most people would agree that you want a minimum amount of security in your digital life, that floor is a lot lower than using X11. If all someone is going to do is use a browser and mainstream apps from the Fedora repo, they’re most likely going to be fine.

That doesn’t sound right, my Ubuntu with Gnome idles around 700 MB memory used and around 1 GB cached.

For it to use 2.4 GB, you have to be running a browser with multiple tabs + thunderbird or something similar, just loading the OS shouldn’t use anywhere close to 2.4 GB.

It could be something with my config then. After a cold boot I show 2GB of RAM used with 2.5GB cached. I haven’t messed around with any settings from that since I installed it so I don’t know if this is a Gnome feature or something else that could be adjusting this.