Open Source

Really small in the age of big: 50 MB Linux OS gets a refresh

A super lightweight Linux distribution that checks in at just 50 MB might give old hardware new life. Check out the new update of Damn Small Linux.

After a four-year hiatus, Damn Small Linux is back with some bug fixes, updates, and a few application changes. DSL 4.11 is ready for download:

DSL has a nearly complete desktop, and a tiny core of command line tools. All applications have been chosen for the best balance of functionality, size and speed. Damn Small also has the ability to act as an SSH/FTP/HTTPD server right off of a live CD. In our quest to save space and have a fully functional desktop we've made many GUI administration tools which are fast yet still easy to use.

Applications include the Firefox, Dillo, and Netrik browsers, FluxBox window manager, and Sylpheed for email. You can see the full list of what they have included in DSL on this page.

And why would you want a 50 MB OS? If you have some old hardware lying around that you can't quite bear to part with, this distribution will run on it -- minimum requirements are i486 with 16MB of RAM. What it may not run on is new machines -- it uses the 2.4 kernel, according to the developers, because it is considerably more lightweight than 2.6. You can also run it inside of Windows.

DSL desktop (click to enlarge)


Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...


Having downloaded or otherwise obtained many previous Linux distros, this Windows veteran would like to try the latest DSL on a lame, but venerable old desktop. I know how to burn an ISO to CD and have done so with versions of Ubuntu, et al., but couldn't figure out how to open/download the various folders at HTTP site or fire up the FTP sites, or even determine which (first one, last one, all the list???) folder[s] to try to download from the HTTP/FTP sites. I wish there were a less formidable way to install it. My 2ยข. JDWH1


Don't forget DSL's successor, Tiny Core Linux. TCL is even smaller than DSL (it allows you to download/install only what you want/need from a cloud repository). It's based on the latest (3.x) kernels. Another "small" Linux worth looking at is SliTaz. SliTaz is a full-featured distro more like DSL, that doesn't require you to build it up from repo packages in the way TCL does. (But has a large repository for apps nevertheless.)


I've used DSL a lot of times over the years. It was great back in the day when something left a partition on a drive and whatever I wanted to install wouldn't delete the partition and wouldn't live with it. (At least some of them were NT partitions that XP install wouldn't remove.) The FDISK on DSL would always take it right off and it was more convenient than getting something bigger and more powerful out of the toolbox.

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