No joke: A full Gnome desktop on 105Mb

Careful, this might make you spit out your breakfast cereal.

That’s a fully updated installation of Linux Mint Debian, after a cold boot and with nothing else running. No special tricks or shortcuts. Clean and default.

Amazing. This puts it within striking range of Pentium III machines, in terms of memory. Or at least machines with 128 or maybe 192Mb, like this one did. I almost wish I still had that computer, just so I could try it out.

True, you can get smaller desktops with very sparse installations, in other distros as well. But this comes with all the bells and whistles, from the word go.

If you haven’t played with Mint’s version of Debian yet, you really owe it to yourself to give it at least one short attempt. And if you’ve got a Pentium III lying around with about 128Mb in it, tell me how it works. How, not if. 😉


34 thoughts on “No joke: A full Gnome desktop on 105Mb

  1. Gazza

    This may come as a surprise too but I installed a copy of Mint LXDE recently on my Dell C400 laptop and it started out after boot at 80MB!

    Once I finish some testing with Arch on the said laptop I will try Mint LMDE to see if it is leaner than its LXDE cousin.

  2. Ninad

    Surely now want to try LMDE and Mint LXDE on my Dell C600 PIII 256mb RAM and 20gb HDD

    Now running Arch and Puppy (lupu) (w/o drivers for usb wireless adapter

  3. Armando


    Just install Mint and the install XFCE and use it instead of Gnome. I did it in a Acer One. Works great!

    All the bells and whistles. And best of all… fast!

    Oh, and I try to avoid Firefox for those “lighter” computers. Better Opera or Chromium.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I know it’s geek heresy, but my years of print journalism require that I streamline appearances (particularly in headlines) as much as possible. Hence, Mb for megabyte and Mhz for megahertz and so forth, even though I know they are not quite exact.

      I’ll apologize if it offends your sensibilities. I have tried to be more exact in the past, but it becomes an impediment to the writing process. I spend more time calculating and translating between number formats, when the commonplace notation is quicker and usually acceptable. 😐

    1. Greg Folkert

      @Ygolana Ohhh Double Pedantic on the Pedantic. Good shot.

      I’m with the author (K.Mandla) of the article… this jingoism toward “proper usage” stuff gets in the way of discussion and glazes over people and causes them to “go away, never to come back”… when in fact these type of things *do not* really matter.

      @Leandro stop being Pedantic, you’ll get along in life much better.

  4. Kyle

    Probably my ineptitude at aptitude showing, but could you share you fully updated it? When I tried it destroyed all the Mint theming. (Naked Gnome looks a lot like JWM oddly enough.)

  5. llewton

    It’s Debian that’ll do that. So maybe Gnome is not all bloat, after all perhaps it’s not to blame. Other than for being fugly 🙂 inside and out.

    I cold start my system at 37 M….B? 😀
    So what. It has X and a WM too.
    Big deal 🙂

  6. pogeymanz

    I dislike gnome less and less over time.

    It’s not much heavier than XFCE and has a lot more polish and fewer bugs. The only thing it’s missing for me is a right-click root applications menu.

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  9. ScannerDarkly

    Wait, what’s the outcome here? Is it Debian that’s fast? Is it gnome that is actually not as bloated as I thought? Is this all down to Ubuntu being as slow as a slug, or because Ubuntu has tonnes more features in its implementation of Gnome? Yet again K leaves me no option but to download the distro and see… 🙂

  10. dweb98

    That’s Great!:) Gnome is my favorite Desktop and I have Debian Mint already burned to a DVD. I’ve tried it out on my P4 with 1Gig of Memory and it runs great. Except it does lag a bit when watching Online Video. But I think that is because of the slower read speed of the older HP DVD Drive. I also have a 1.8Ghz Core 2 with 1GB of Ram. And all CD – DVD Live OS’s run faster on it. I can watch Videos Online for 6 to 8 hours without any noticeable slow down of which ever Live Linux OS I’m running or the Videos I’m Watching. None other than what I usually get when running from the HD Installs, that is. It has a newer faster reading DVD Drive. It is not really noticeably faster though, running Debian or Fedora 12 and 13 from my HD installs. I have a 13mbps Web Connection and it does well with 4 or 5 Computers Online at the Same Time. I mostly use Firefox for my Surfing, but I do use Google Chrome sometimes. Chrome does seem to load Videos faster, but I see little difference in the actual Playing of the Videos between Chrome and Firefox. Firefox had become very slow at loading Web Sites with Flash in the last year though. I run AdBlock Plus Addon in Firefox and I love how it Blocks all of the Crap. But sometimes I wonder if it is actually slowing down my page loads, making Firefox wait to check their server for Adds before the Page finished loading. I hate all that Flashing Stuff on my Screen, so I keep using AdBlock though.


  11. Pingback: No joke: A full Gnome desktop on 105Mb « Motho ke motho ka botho | Don Bishop's Blog dweb98

  12. Tom

    Hi K.Mandla.

    This question is more to do with the Arch post you’ve linked to here. I was wondering if you ever enable any daemons or modules from your rc.conf such as power saving, laptop tools etc to get such a clean and quick startup? And if not (which I suspect is true), whether you experience any negative effects from not doing so?

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Tom: Nope, I enable nothing. In fact, I even turn off syslog and crond and everything except the networking daemon, just because it’s easier to configure that and let it run than to arrange things manually … sometimes.

      I’ve seen no ill effects, but my computing needs don’t hinge on battery efficiency either. Power management and shutdown processes are normal, and I suffer no negative effects that I can think of. Except maybe the odd commenter on this site, calling me a heretic. 🙂

      P.S.: I also build custom kernels with absolutely no power management support whatsoever. And life is just fine without them. 😉

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    1. mulenmar

      If so, I sure hope those batteries are removed — constantly charging charged batteries isn’t exactly good for them. 😐

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  15. Stanislaus Brown

    I’m questioning your figures. You say that 105MB of RAM is used. I set up a VM on VirtualBox and ran Mint Debian on it. Granted, I did not install but just ran off the iso image. I saw 136MB used in the system monitor applet. But when I ran top from the CLI, the memory used was way above that, 507624KB. It seems that the system monitor applet is being very optimistic. Top seems to give a truer picture of memory usage.

    1. CountDuckula

      So lets compare apples with pears because thats what you seem to have done. If you run any distro as a live CD your memory usage will be more than if you use it as installed distro.

      Also remember that even when you install a Linux distro in the same way as K.Mandla has done in his posts, you may end up with a better or worse result depending on the machine you put it on. Older machines may have less processes going and therefore maybe lighter on RAM use.

      As for Linux Mint, my experiences with it on VirtualBox have been mixed – occasionally some installs run at 100% CPU utilization whilst idle, perhaps a bug with Mint or VirtualBox?

      The best way to install is always on a real PC 🙂

      I posted (at the top of this page as Gazza) that my Linux Mint 9 install booted at 80MB which isn’t that bad. After some tweaking this now boots at 65MB – let’s not forget that this is ready for serious use, and easy for a Windoze user to use. I could trim more off the resource usage by removing Network Manager and other “ease of use tools”, replacing them with command line equivalents.

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