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.

1. LXDE

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.

LXDE Desktop

LXDE Desktop

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:

http://lxde.org/download

2. LXQT

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 Desktop

LXQT Desktop

LXQT isn’t in the official repositories yet for most Linux distributions, but you can download LXQT from:

http://lxqt.org/

3. Xfce

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 Desktop

Xfce Desktop

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:

http://www.xfce.org/download

4. MATE

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.

MATE Desktop

MATE Desktop

You can download MATE from the official repositories for your Linux distribution, or you can download it from here:

http://wiki.mate-desktop.org/download

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.

Create Linux OS

Create Own Linux OS

  1. OpenBox a good window manager for those who like simplicity.
  2. 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.
  3. FluxBox is a stacking window manger which was originally forked from BlackBox in 2001, very simple and lightweight and it works on many platforms.
  4. dwm is a dynamic window manager for the X display server, very simple and written in C.
  5. 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?

Read Also: 6 Cool Linux Distributions for Your Old Computers

If You Appreciate What We Do Here On TecMint, You Should Consider:

TecMint is the fastest growing and most trusted community site for any kind of Linux Articles, Guides and Books on the web. Millions of people visit TecMint! to search or browse the thousands of published articles available FREELY to all.

If you like what you are reading, please consider buying us a coffee ( or 2 ) as a token of appreciation.

Support Us

We are thankful for your never ending support.

Hanny Helal

A Linux & Foss user since 2010, working on many projects in the field of Free Software.

Your name can also be listed here. Got a tip? Submit it here to become an TecMint author.

RedHat RHCE and RHCSA Certification Book
Linux Foundation LFCS and LFCE Certification Preparation Guide

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. G13Man says:

    thanks for article and discussion .
    Got here thru a dead XP system hard drive
    running Mint 18 Mate [32 bit to see haw it runs for possible us on 32 bit Athlons

  2. I would like to point out that XFCE uses on average about 70MB of RAM and Cinnamon only uses about 79MB of RAM on average so if XFCE can be considered like then so can Cinnamon.

    MATE uses 40% less resources than XFCE and accomplishes everything that XFCE can with customization and being full-featured.

    XFCE has not been updated in almost 3 Years, 33 Months to be more accurate, and they have missed every single roadmap goal they set out to do. They also claimed that 4.12 would have partial GTK3 support and in October of 2013 admitted that they couldn’t do it and will not be releasing any support for GTK3 in 4.12.

    1. XFCE has not made a release in 3 years
    2. XFCE has only made 5 releases in the past 11 years.
    3. XFCE has missed every single roadmap goal for 4.12 by about a year.
    4. XFCE claimed they would have partial, only partial, GTK3 support in 4.12 and now will not have any at all.
    5. XFCE will likely not have any support at all for GTK3 for about 2-3 years after the release of 4.12 so that means they will not be ready for Wayland/Mir in any way.

    My point is, XFCE is on life-support and people should stop suggesting anyone use the DE because they are at a stage that using the project is now a detriment to the Linux Community as a whole. XFCE devs should simply pull the plug and join the MATE project.

    • evelyn bonbon says:

      That’s your opinion. my opinion is XFCE still good to be installed in our machines, if not Xubuntu now is not recommended too man :) many users like to use XFCE as long it support to new distros. Linux mint, manjaro, xubuntu XFCE still exist too.

      I like XFCE and especially users who like simple DE.

  3. LXDE is the one and only super-fast ever i have used…

  4. Carlos says:

    Great article,

    I really think those environments are lightweight, but only which I’ll save is Mate. All linux interfaces has the same errors, instead them fix this errors, they just release another version.

    It’s a fact. :/

Got something to say? Join the discussion.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.