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For a given hardware configuration, how do I find out if Ubuntu will run on it? What considerations should I take into account when choosing an Ubuntu version and flavour such as:

  • Xubuntu with a lighter desktop than the usual Gnome and Unity
  • Lubuntu with the even lighter LXDE desktop

Obviously Ubuntu does not run on some processor architectures. So how do I go about choosing the right version and derivate. How can I find out the minmal system requirements?

95

Preliminary notes


First of all it makes no sense to install versions of Ubuntu that are no longer supported with updates. The reasoning is discussed at the bottom of this answer.

This answer will concentrate on currently supported versions of Ubuntu and its official derivatives.

If your hardware never connects to the internet and if you will never use software newer than is included on the respective install media, only then might it be prudent to use outdated versions. But who can be sure of that for all eternity?

You don't have to install Ubuntu to see if it works on your hardware. It is always a good idea to boot from live DVD/USB and see if the system runs okay (although slowly) on the given hardware.

Even if it seems not to work, you might be just one boot option away from a working system. See My computer boots to a black screen, what options do I have to fix it? For example the nomodeset option might help.


Currently supported versions and their minimal requirements

The community wiki usually offers an up-to-date list of currently supported versions. Minimal system requirements for Ubuntu can be found there in the tech specs. The Lists of Ubuntu certified hardware might also be of use to you.

Information on the derivatives is scarce but their requirements are less than what is listed here. Generally 32-bit versions take up less memory and tend to be faster on older systems, than their 64-bit counterparts. However, allot of software nowadays assumes 64-bit architecture. If you are unsure, install the 64-bit versions.

Supported versions of Ubuntu

  • 16.04 Desktop recommended system requirements

    In order to run Unity the system needs a more capable graphics adapter.

    • 2GHz dual core processor or better

    • 2GB RAM

    • 25GB of disk space

    • Graphics processor and display capable of at least 1024x768

    • Either a DVD drive or a USB port for the installation media

    • Internet access is helpful

  • 16.04 Desktop minimal

    In order to run Unity the system needs a more capable graphics adapter.

    • Intel Pentium 4 processor or better

    • 1GB RAM

    • Graphics processor and display capable of at least 1024x768

    • 10 GB of disk space

  • 17.10 and later Desktop recommended system requirements

    • 64-bit 2GHz dual core processor or better

    • 4GB RAM

    • 25GB of disk space

    • Graphics processor and display capable of at least 1024x768

    • Either a DVD drive or a USB port for the installation media

    • Internet access is helpful

  • 17.10, 18.04, 18.10, 19.04 and 19.10 Desktop minimal

    • 64-bit processor for iso, Intel Pentium 4 processor or better for installation using the Ubuntu minimal CD. The Ubuntu minimal CD supports installation of Ubuntu on computers that have a 32-bit processor.

    • 1GB RAM

    • Graphics processor and display capable of at least 1024x768

    • 10 GB of disk space

    Updates will be provided for Ubuntu 18.04 for 5 years until April, 2023. Updates will be provided for Ubuntu 19.10 for 3 months until July, 2020.

  • 16.04 and 18.04 Server installation standard

    • Ubuntu Server supports 3 major architectures: Intel x86, AMD64 and ARM.
    • 1 GHz processor
    • 512 MB of system memory (RAM)
    • 1 GB of disk space (base system)
    • 1.75 GB of disk space (all tasks installed)
    • Graphics card and monitor capable of 640x480
  • 16.04 and 18.04 Server installation minimal

    • Ubuntu Server supports 3 major architectures: Intel x86, AMD64 and ARM.
    • 300 MHz processor
    • 256 MB of system memory (RAM) 64-bit, 192 MB RAM 32-bit
    • 700 MB of disk space (base system)
    • 1.4 GB of disk space (all tasks installed)
    • Graphics card and monitor capable of 640x480

    Security and maintenance updates will be provided for Ubuntu Server 16.04 until April, 2021 and for Ubuntu Server 18.04 until April, 2023.

Supported versions of Xubuntu

See Xubuntu help page.

  • 16.04-18.10

    Minimum systems requirements
    To install or try Xubuntu within the Desktop/Live CD, you need 512MB of memory, 700 MHz processor and 7.5GB of free space on your hard disk.

    Recommended systems requirements
    To get a smooth experience when running multiple applications in parallel on the desktop, it is recommended to have at least 1GB of memory. It is recommended to have at least 20GB of free disk space. This allows new application installations as well as saving your personal data on the hard disk in addition to the core system.

    Security and maintenance updates will be provided for Xubuntu 16.04 for 3 years until April, 2019 and for Xubuntu 18.04 for 3 years until April, 2021. Security and maintenance updates will be provided for Xubuntu 19.10 for 9 months until July, 2020.

  • 19.04 and later

    Minimum systems requirements
    To install or try Xubuntu within the Desktop/Live CD, you need 512MB of memory, 64-bit 700 MHz processor and 7.5GB of free space on your hard disk.

    Recommended systems requirements
    To get a smooth experience when running multiple applications in parallel on the desktop, it is recommended to have at least 1GB of memory. It is recommended to have at least 20GB of free disk space. This allows new application installations as well as saving your personal data on the hard disk in addition to the core system.

Supported versions of Lubuntu

  • 16.04-17.10

    Processor (CPU)
    The minimum specification for CPU is Pentium 4 or Pentium M or AMD K8. Older processors are too slow and AMD K7 has problems with flash video.

    Memory (RAM)
    For advanced internet services like Google+, YouTube, Google Docs and Facebook, your computer needs at least 1GB RAM.

    For local programs like LibreOffice and simple browsing habits, your computer needs at least 512MB RAM.

  • 18.04

    Processor (CPU)
    The minimum specification for CPU is Pentium 4 or Pentium M or AMD K8. Older processors are too slow and AMD K7 has problems with flash video.

    Memory (RAM)
    For advanced internet services like Google+, YouTube, Google Docs and Facebook, your computer needs at least 2GB RAM.

    For local programs like LibreOffice and simple browsing habits, your computer needs at least 1GMB RAM.

  • 19.04 and later

    Processor (CPU)
    64-bit processor

    Memory (RAM)
    For advanced internet services like Google+, YouTube, Google Docs and Facebook, your computer needs at least 2GB RAM.

    For local programs like LibreOffice and simple browsing habits, your computer needs at least 1GMB RAM.

    Lubuntu Alternate ISOs are for low-RAM PCs. Computers with less than 700 MB of RAM are considered low-RAM computers. Instructions are here.

    Updates will be provided for Lubuntu 18.04 for 3 years until April, 2023. Updates will be provided for Lubuntu 19.10 for 9 months until April, 2020.

Supported versions of Ubuntu Core

Ubuntu Core, with an image size of 260MB, is the smallest Ubuntu release to date. This makes it ideal both for IoT devices and cloud containers. A new release of Ubuntu Core is released every 2 years on even numbered years (2016, 2018, 2020, etc.).

Processor – 600MHz processor (ARMv7 or greater, or x86)
System Memory – 128MB RAM or greater
Storage – 4GB flash / storage for factory reset and system rollback

  • Ubuntu Core 16 and 18

    Ubuntu Core 16 is based on Ubuntu 16.04, and is supported for 5 years.

    Ubuntu Core 18 is based on Ubuntu 18.04, and is supported for 10 years.


enter image description here
RAM Usage of different flavors of 18.04 under baseline conditions  (Click image to enlarge)


Why you shouldn't use versions when their support has ended

  • Security risks: Eventually there will be an exploit that compromises security or system integrity of old Ubuntu versions
  • Software incompatibilities: Versions that are no longer supported will have increasing problems with this. Due to the lack of updates one will no longer be able to open the most recent LibreOffice documents or compile programs that need more recent libraries. Hardware drivers of recent devices will not be included in older kernels.
  • Decreasing availability of repositories: It might become very difficult to download software that does not already ship with the outdated version. Hosting repositories for very old versions cease to be economically viable at one point.
  • 2
    When you say a live system runs slowly, you mean just for booting and for launching programs, right? Cause that's the only slowness I've ever experienced, since the seek time is so high on the boot media. – wjandrea Sep 10 '17 at 16:26
  • 1
    Correct. Especially the delay when launching a new program can be annoying on some live media. Usually the program is loaded into RAM via the choke-point that is USB. Since most internal hard drives are connected with a faster bus, both boot times and program loading are faster once Ubuntu is properly installed. – con-f-use Mar 11 '18 at 12:57
  • 1
    Kubuntu use less RAM than Xubuntu? I'm surprised :O – damadam Aug 23 '18 at 13:02
53

Lubuntu or Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop environment). Xubuntu is more "user friendly" -- more graphical tools for settings, better looking and better integrated applications and maybe better support (larger community). On the other hand, Lubuntu 14.04 LTS needs less RAM (Lubuntu 14.04 needs 128 MB, Lubuntu 15.04-17.04 needs 512 MB, Lubuntu 18.04 and later needs 1 GB, and Xubuntu 14.04 and later needs 512 MB). Xubuntu and Lubuntu 19.04 and later are available for 64-bit architecture only. For advanced internet services like Google+, YouTube, Google Drive, and Facebook, your computer needs at least 1 GB of RAM. It depends on your skills and preferences, you can try both and then choose. Lubuntu Alternate ISOs are for low-RAM PCs. Computers with less than 700 MB of RAM are considered low-RAM computers. Instructions are here.

enter image description here
Lubuntu 19.10 with the LXQt desktop environment  (Click image to enlarge)

Lubuntu release cycle

  • to take into account: the default file manager pcmanfm do not support the trash-bin (or at least last time a tried lxde, some versions ago of ubuntu). – enzotib Jun 23 '11 at 14:19
  • 2
    +1 I would add that if you can handle not running a full desktop then I suggest using the fluxbox window manager. I don't have the exact numbers but it frees up even more precious RAM. – DQdlM Jun 23 '11 at 15:52
  • Lubuntu causes a lot more stress on my system than gnome-session-fallback – Hellreaver Dec 20 '14 at 10:43
  • @KennyPeanuts I have written a complete set of instructions for installing the Ubuntu minimal CD together with the Fluxbux window manager for a very lightweight desktop environment that requires less RAM than the latest version of Lubuntu requires: askubuntu.com/questions/619855/… – karel Oct 25 '15 at 18:41
21

Xubuntu

Xubuntu is designed to run on lightweight machines. I recently installed it on a machine with 768MB of RAM and other specs close to your machine and it runs without an issue.

enter image description here
Xubuntu 18.10 whisker menu  (Click image to enlarge)

Xubuntu is simply Ubuntu bundled with the Xfce Desktop Environment, a desktop environment designed to be fast and lightweight on lower end systems without compromising performance and visual style. Xubuntu 18.04 is a Long Term Support release for which security and maintenance updates will be provided for 3 years until April, 2021.

Xubuntu 16.04 needs at least 512 MB RAM, 700 MHz processor and 6.1 GB of free space on your hard disk (minimum) and 20 GB free space (recommended). Xubuntu 18.04 is a Long Term Support release for which security and maintenance updates will be provided for 3 years until April, 2021.

Xubuntu 18.04-19.10 needs at least 512 MB RAM, 700 MHz processor and 7.5 GB of free space on your hard disk (minimum) and 20 GB free space (recommended). Xubuntu 18.04 is a Long Term Support release for which security and maintenance updates will be provided for 3 years until April, 2021.

Xubuntu 19.04 and later is available for 64-bit architecture only.

Xubuntu release cycle

15

Ubuntu MATE

Ubuntu MATE is a stable, easy-to-use operating system with a lightweight configurable desktop environment. The MATE Desktop has a rich history and is the continuation of the GNOME 2 desktop, which was the default desktop environment on many Linux and Unix operating systems for over a decade. High DPI will be supported by default in Ubuntu MATE 18.04 and later. The Ubuntu MATE iso file can be written to either a DVD or a USB flash drive that has at least 2GB.

Updates will be provided for Ubuntu MATE 18.04 for 3 years until April, 2021. Updates will be provided for Ubuntu MATE 19.10 for 9 months until July, 2020. If you need Long Term Support, it is recommended you use Ubuntu MATE 18.04 instead.

Ubuntu MATE ISOs are available in the following architectures.

64-bit – ideal for computers with:

  • more than 3 GB of RAM
  • 64-bit capable Intel and AMD processors
  • UEFI PCs booting in CSM mode
  • modern Intel-based Apple Macs

32-bit – ideal for computers with:

  • less than 2 GB of RAM
  • Intel and AMD processors
  • ageing PCs with low-RAM resources
  • older Intel-based Apple Macintosh systems

GPD Pocket – for the following devices:

  • GPD Pocket
  • GPD Pocket 2

Raspberry Pi – for aarch32 (ARMv7) computers, like:

  • Raspberry Pi 2
  • Raspberry Pi 3 (also supports Raspberry Pi 2)
  • Raspberry Pi 4: Ubuntu 19.10 Raspberry Pi 32-bit and 64-bit preinstalled images (raspi3) now support the Raspberry Pi 4 platform out of the box. You can install Ubuntu Server + MATE desktop environment on a Raspberry Pi 4 by following the instructions in this answer.

PowerPC – for hardware like:

  • Apple Macintosh G3, G4 and G5
  • Apple iBooks and PowerBooks
  • IBM OpenPower 7xx Machines

16.04-18.04

Minimum systems requirements

  • Pentium III 750MHz
  • 512MB RAM for 16.04 / 1GB RAM for 18.04
  • 9GB of available space on the hard disk
  • Bootable DVD-ROM drive
  • Video adapter and monitor capable of 1024 x 768 or higher resolution

Recommended systems requirements

  • Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz
  • 2GB RAM (32-bit) / 3GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 25GB of available space on the hard disk
  • Bootable USB flash drive
  • 3D capable video adapter and wide screen monitor capable of 1366 x 768 or higher resolution

18.10 and later

Minimum systems requirements

  • 64-bit processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 9GB of available space on the hard disk
  • Bootable DVD-ROM drive
  • Video adapter and monitor capable of 1024 x 768 or higher resolution

Recommended systems requirements

  • Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz
  • 3GB RAM
  • 25GB of available space on the hard disk
  • Bootable USB flash drive
  • 3D capable video adapter and wide screen monitor capable of 1366 x 768 or higher resolution

Ubuntu MATE 18.04 Ubuntu MATE 18.04  (Click image to enlarge)

10

Ubuntu Budgie

Ubuntu Budgie 17.04 has been released as a new official Ubuntu flavor. Budgie desktop environment uses many GNOME components and offers a minimalist user interface. Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 will be supported for three years, until April 2021. Ubuntu Budgie 19.10 will be supported for 9 months until July 2020.

Ubuntu Budgie 18.04

Minimum system requirements:

  • 1.5GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 20GB disk space

Recommended system requirements:

  • 64-bit processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 60GB disk space

Ubuntu Budgie 19.04 and later

Minimum system requirements:

  • 1.5GHz 64-bit processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 20GB disk space

Recommended system requirements:

  • 64-bit processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 60GB disk space

enter image description here
Ubuntu Budgie 18.10  (Click image to enlarge)

  • 2GB OF RAM? It seems to me that it has less eye candy than MATE! – Zinux Apr 13 '17 at 22:21
  • As of 19.10 there are 3 other official Ubuntu releases that aren't covered on this page: Kubuntu, Kylin and Ubuntu Studio. – karel 2 days ago
8

I can disagree on the system requirements for the Linux distros.

On a:

  • Intel Pentium 4 1.8Ghz
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 64MB graphics card capable of 1024x768

The only Ubuntu flavour which worked good was Lubuntu.

On a:

  • AMD Athlon dual-core 3.20Ghz(OC'ed from 2.80Ghz),
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • AMD HD 3000 IGP with Catalyst installed.

Ubuntu is really slow (I can work properly with Unity 2D), Gnome Shell is also slow (plus for me Gnome Shell is awful in multitasking). KDE worked quite nice and I'm really impressed by it.

About which flavour to choose I can say this:

  • What do you want, better Looks or better Performance?
  • XFCE(Xubuntu) looks nicer and its environment has more functionality, you can personalize it and change it in any way you want it (at the cost of high memory use but still you need a good graphic card).
  • LXDE(Lubuntu) is faster overall but it lacks the looks.

I suggest to try Xubuntu and if it feels slower go for Lubuntu.

You can try Live-CDs to see how they look but you can test performance only after you installed them.

Have to say that even tough Linux system requirements are really low the desktop environment graphic requirements are high in my opinion.

  • 3
    You can customize LXDE just as you can customize XFCE, no difference. Of course if you are strictly speaking of the stock software then yes, XFCE is more customizable. – Uri Herrera Oct 26 '12 at 8:06
  • This answer is obsolete. Please edit it and remove the out-of-date systems requirements for EOL Ubuntu releases. The rest of this answer still looks OK for current releases. – karel Oct 18 at 10:25
1

Well your PC isn't that much hopeless. I would suggest you to try installing normal Ubuntu AND Unity 2D desktop environment.

Of course, if you don't like Unity, this won't be a good solution. However, if you will try that, you will get full Ubuntu support.

I've tried Lubuntu before (installed it via Software manager). It's very basic DE and had some problems. It might be good, but I still suggest you to give Unity 2D a try.

protected by jokerdino Dec 2 '13 at 18:19

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