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How small can a installation with apt-get and Xfce/LXDE be?

I tried several tutorials using Debian and Ubuntu, using mini CDs. No matter what I do, I end up with no less then 0.9Gb.

Strikes me the fact that Damn Small Linux and Tiny Core can provide a functional desktop experience with <100Mb. Is there any way to have apt-get and Xfce/LCDE or even Gnome with less then, say, 200Mb?

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Have you looked at Puppy Linux ?
Precise Puppy is ~150Mb in size and you can use apt-get to install packages.
(it is based on the Ubuntu Precise repositories)

Otherwise there's tons of choice nowadays. Look for the ones that are Debian / Ubuntu / Knoppix based, you should be able to use apt-get with them.

As for the size, keep in mind distros like Damn Small Linux and Puppy can get so small only by stripping away as much functionality as they can, focusing on the bare minimum to run the system instead. These are the distros you'll find using using busybox and uClibc to save every byte they can. Feature rich environments like Gnome, KDE and even XFCE in this context push in the exact opposite direction, so you typically won't find them on a mini distribution.

  • Yep, I know about them. Sounds like I won't be able to have a install which is, say, <200Mb if I want a dektop env, right? – Igor Gatis Oct 19 '14 at 0:38
  • Yeah, tough i would say but not impossible. iirc lucid puppy came with LXDE and did a very good job with it. – lemonsqueeze Oct 19 '14 at 10:54
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My laptop's running a ~ 1 GB Debian wheezy installation with an XFCE desktop with various plugins, and I haven't even tried to reduce it beyond cherry-picking packages in the packaging system from a minimal install onwards. Some of the obvious places to look are:

  • Do you use languages other than English? If not, use localepurge and similar to hack away at /usr/share/locale which is > 150 MB
  • If you're on 64-bit and you know you won't be needing 32-bit versions of libraries, remove all of those, thereby reducing the size of /lib and /usr/lib
  • Will you be reading package and man documentation locally? If not, e.g. if you can rely on having a web browser at all times, then you might be tempted to remove /usr/share/doc and /usr/share/man
  • Do you know that you won't be changing your hardware? If not, use the inverse of your lsmod output to hack away at /lib/modules/ which could easily be hundreds of MB. Also, obviously, don't keep obsolete kernel versions around after upgrades

Note that I wouldn't really be recommending some or all of these suggestions. They just go to show how easily you can cut down disk usage if you're interested in that sort of thing.

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