5 Open Source Lightweight Linux Desktop Environments for Your Old Computers
Many of us own old computers, and old computers need a low resources-constrained GUI’s to be used on it. In this article we are going to talk about 5 lightweight desktop environments to install on your old computer to revive it again.
One of the most famous lightweight GUIs over there, LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) was first released in 2006, it was programmed to work on Unix-like platforms like Linux & FreeBSD, LXDE is the default GUI for many Linux distributions like Lubuntu, LXLE, Knoppix any many others.
Written in the C language with the GTK+ library, LXDE is very good GUI to run on old computers, it is a component of many tools like PCManFM (File Manager), LXDM (X Display Manager) and many other components.
There was a Qt port under development from the LXDE desktop which aims to rewrite all LXDE components in the Qt library, it was called “LXDE-Qt“, later, another lightweight desktop “Razor-Qt” was launched in order to provide a new GUI for low-resources computers written in the Qt library, these 2 projects have been merged together since they have the same goal under the “LXQT” project.
LXDE is available to download from the official repositories for most Linux distributions, however, you may download it from:
As we said above, LXQT is the the official Qt port right now from the LXDE project, LXQT developers define it as “The next generation of the Lightweight Desktop Environment“, it is very customizable as it was written in the Qt library, but it still under heavy development.
LXQT isn’t in the official repositories yet for most Linux distributions, but you can download LXQT from:
Xfce is a free & open source desktop environment for Unix-like platforms, unlike LXDE, Xfce is not a “very very lightweight” GUI, but it focuses on being as much lightweight as possible plus keeping the nice visual appearance, that’s why it may work on 5-6 years old hardware, but not older than that (will, it depends on the computer resources anyway).
Xfce was first released in 1996, it is written in the C language with the GTK+ 2 library, Xfce has its own file manger “Thunar” which is very fast and lightweight, plus many other components like Xfwm, Xfdesktop, etc.
Xfce is also available to download from the official repositories for most Linus distributions, just search about it in your package manager and you should find it, elsewhere, you can download the source code from the Xfce downloads page:
MATE is the long waited fork from Gnome 2.x, as its original mother, MATE will work lightly on most old computers since it was forked from Gnome 2.x, MATE developers changed many things in the source code for Gnome 2.x and right now they are working on porting it from GTK+ 2 to GTK+ 3, MATE is also one of the default GUIs for Linux Mint, which makes it one of the most popular GUIs for Unix-like platforms.
You can download MATE from the official repositories for your Linux distribution, or you can download it from here:
Create Your Own Desktop
Installing Lightweight desktop environments is not the only way to have a light desktop, you can use any window manger you want with any other add-ons or tools to get a nice desktop, as an example.
- OpenBox a good window manager for those who like simplicity.
- i3 is a light tiling window manager for Linux & BSD systems, very customizable and well-documented, it was built essentially for experienced users and programmers.
- FluxBox is a stacking window manger which was originally forked from BlackBox in 2001, very simple and lightweight and it works on many platforms.
- dwm is a dynamic window manager for the X display server, very simple and written in C.
- JWM, PekWM, Sawfish, IceWM, FLWM.. etc.
There are many other window managers.. however, you can install any window manager you want beside some useful desktop tools like Tint2 (a nice panel which shows the current opened windows and time), Screenlets ( the famous desktop gadgets program ), Conky ( a nice system monitor gadget for your desktop ) beside any other tools that you may like.
Do you own an old computer? What software did you install on it? And what do you think about creating your own customizable desktop with 3rd party programs?