My computer has 1GB ram and a very end low graphics card, but I don't know how much power it has.

Unity is very slow on my computer, and I saw that there are many desktop environments which are much lighter and faster, even for a slow computer.

So, what's the lightest desktop environment?


8 Answers 8


Definitely Lxde or Xfce.

First remove Unity with this command (make a backup before proceeding for safety!):

sudo apt-get autoremove --purge unity unity-common unity-services unity-lens-\* unity-scope-\* unity-webapps-\* gnome-control-center-unity hud libunity-core-6\* libunity-misc4 libunity-webapps\* appmenu-gtk appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-qt\* overlay-scrollbar\* activity-log-manager-control-center firefox-globalmenu thunderbird-globalmenu libufe-xidgetter0 xul-ext-unity xul-ext-webaccounts webaccounts-extension-common xul-ext-websites-integration gnome-control-center gnome-session


sudo rm /usr/lib/thunderbird-addons/extensions/[email protected]

Now, to install Lxde run this command:

sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop

or for Xfce this one:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

Lastly, reboot and enjoy!

Hope this helped you.

  • 3
    I would advise to use sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop instead, to have all the leightweight programs Xfce designed (like Mousepad, etc.)
    – MrVaykadji
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 15:30
  • 6
    lubuntu-desktop also exists. They are metapackages that will install all the "suite" Canonical partners (xfce-ubuntu team and lxde-ubuntu team) recommend.
    – MrVaykadji
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 15:32
  • 8
    Lxde is lighter than Xfce, tested and approved!
    – user224156
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 18:16
  • 1
    I hate how xfce looks, but it's like its name is just designed for left-hand typing and it sounds so smooth in my brain that I keep writing it everywhere, my debug variables, empty self-email messages etc.
    – Shahbaz
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 22:41
  • 1
    Lubuntu . . . but if you could put another gig of memory, you'd be happier.
    – Marc
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 3:23

The real answer is: NO Desktop Environment.

Depending on what you want to do, running shell only might be a decent choice.

You can use something like fbterm to split your screen into multiple sections

enter image description here

And there are shell programs that allow you to surf the web, view PDFs and play music as well.

Disclaimer: That isn't my desktop screenshot, My shell only laptop is a work in progress, however I know someone who has successfully set this up, so I know what I'm talking about.

Disclaimer 2: I don't think the shell web browsers play well with Stack Exchange.

  • 6
    Regarding disclaimer 2: on stackapps.com there is a shell-only stackexchange client.
    – 11684
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 8:23
  • 38
    To have no graphical environment at all is insufficient for the vast majority of desktop users. Looking at pictures of cats and other typical pastimes are greatly restricted.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 16:48
  • @11684 that is good to know!
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 18:00
  • 1
    @gerrit you're right, I stand corrected.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 18:01
  • 2
    @gerrit I'm sure, there is an ASCII-art front-end, built entirely on for the hardcore unix fans who enjoy the occasional kitty pic!
    – Domi
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 15:07

As other users have answered, LXDE is the lightest option. My input, however, would be that it definitely makes sense to do a clean install of lubuntu as a whole OS, replacing your ubuntu system.

The lubuntu OS comes packaged with many lightweight programs that maximize efficiency (though you can still install all of your heavier favorites because lubuntu uses the same software sources as regular ubuntu), has very little bloatware, and the entire system is built from the ground up specifically to be lightweight. Also, many of the applications it comes with integrate very well with LXDE specifically. I think that this is the best way to get the most out of low-spec machines.

You can download it here and use unetbootin to make a live CD or flash drive.

  • 2
    Why does it make better sense to do a clean install?
    – Pramod
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 17:48

There are two major Desktop Enviroments that you could describe as lightweight.

First of all there is Xfce is used by Xubuntu and there is LXDE which is used by Lubuntu.

LXDE seems to be a little faster than Xfce but this little boost costs a lot of functionality. Xfce is also really fast but with more functionality.

There are probably more and better Desktop Enviroments for your purpose but these are the major ones.


If you want the lightest options, I personally love Openbox or Fluxbox!

Check out Crunchbang Linux which uses Openbox as it's default. I have it running on my netbook like a champ!

  • No doubt that these are lightweight window managers. But the OP asked for complete Desktop Environments. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 20:30
  • Fluxbuntu was very promising; shame it was discontinued.
    – Gossar
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 8:17

Short answer: Lxde. For optimal performance install the Lubuntu from the minimal media. You can download it from here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Lubuntu/Documentation/MinimalInstall


LXDE is the lightest, though Xbuntu is close and is better looking imo.


This question has been answered widely in the forum; Why not try Lightweight-XDE Ubuntu (Lubuntu) ?

Also have a look at these posts:

Lightweight desktop environments
lightweight window manager/desktop environment similar to Unity

In each of them you can see lots of suggested/related posts in the right corner of the page.

  • 2
    I think Lubuntu is for Lxde Ubuntu, not Light^^
    – MrVaykadji
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 15:33

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