If you have an older PC, or a small single board computer-based system, you probably want to run a version of Linux that's light on resources and easy to download. In this gallery, we look at very small footprint Linux distros. With the exception of Damn Small Linux, all have been updated relatively recently. Each distro can run on machines with less than 1GB of RAM and most can run in a much smaller footprint.
Originally intended for virtual servers and appliances, Alpine Linux will run directly from RAM. It's security-focused, with fewer end-user oriented features, but will still support desktop capabilities if you choose to enable them. The last public release was just last month in October 2019.
The antiX distribution is a lean module that claims to be totally free of systemd, the code suite that provides the fundamental building blocks of Linux. Instead, antiX offers the "antiX Magic," (and no, I'm not entirely sure what that is). I will tell you the installer is complex, with a ton of options. This is a build based on Debian. It was last updated in October.
ArchBang is a CrunchBang-inspired distro, this time also based on Arch Linux with the Openbox window manager. The most recent release was in November 2019.
Bodhi is an Ubuntu-based light distribution, this one sporting Moksha (an Enlightenment-based desktop). It's very modular and customizable, allowing users to build very simple or reasonably capable systems. It has not been updated this year.
Where once there was CrunchBang and CrunchBang++, there is now BunsenLabs Helium and ArchBang. Both build off the CrunchBang++ distro. Helium is based on Debian and is an Openbox implementation. DistroWatch says the latest release was in July 2019.
Update:the maintainer of CrunchBang++ tells me it's definitely maintained and the last update was in July, corresponding with the Debian 10 release. See more here.
Damn Small Linux hasn't had a formal release since 2008, although there was a release candidate put out sometime in 2012. If you have old hardware, this shouldn't matter much, but don't use this actively on the Internet because newer exploits haven't been patched. It will run in its lightest form in 16MB of RAM or fully loaded in 128MB of RAM.
Elive is an Enlightenment live distribution that also includes the Elpanel control panel. In true Linux fashion, it's a bit off-putting, with its tagline being, "But Elive is not for everyone, are you the exception?" So, there's that. On the other hand, it'll run in as little as 256MB RAM. Elive was last updated in October 2019.
Linux Lite isn't as small as some tiny distros, but it won't make you scream, either. It comes with all the components you'll need to run a pleasant desktop Linux environment, based on Ubuntu. It will run in 768MB of RAM, but it prefers 1GB. It was last updated in September 2019. Be careful: the main site for this distro is festooned with ads, some misleadingly seeming like links for the site itself.
Lubuntu essentially means "light Ubuntu," and that should tell you what this distro is all about. It's built using the LXQt desktop environment, and you're able to choose what typical Ubuntu packages you want to install. It was last updated last month, October 2019.
LXLE is based on Ubuntu and has a very specific tagline: "Revive that old PC." It's designed to have a broad selection of features and apps that will allow you to turn an older PC into a working desktop machine, with everything needed for basic PC use. The last public release was in September 2019.
Linux never makes things easy and Puppy Linux is no exception. Puppy Linux isn't based on one distro. Instead, there 11 different versions of Puppy Linux. Because of course there are. It's not as small as it once was, liking 1GB of RAM. Still, it's one of the first. It was last updated in March 2019.
Raspbian is a Debian distribution for use on the Raspberry Pi. Of all the distributions listed in this gallery, Raspbian is the one I use on a day-to-day basis. I have it running on three live Pi servers and it's loaded on a few others that aren't active at the moment. I don't use a Linux GUI. Instead, I connect into an OctoPi web interface that lets me control my 3D printers. Latest public release was September 2019.
SliTaz is a full in-memory Linux designed to launch from CD-ROM or USB key. It's small, only about 50MB, but has the ability to provide strong security capabilities and can be installed in a base system or a stripped-down X environment. DistroWatch says the latest rolling release was in 2018.
Sparky is another Debian-based distro, this time designed to let home users have a relatively simple out-of-the-box experience with Enlightenment, although it does support about 20 windowing managers and desktop environments. It was updated this month (November 2019).
Comes in three versions, the smallest being an 11MB download. Without a GUI, Tiny Core Linux will run in 64 MB. It was last updated in January 2019.