Best lightweight Linux server Distros without GUI

Most of the Linux server Distro can become an ultimate lightweight Linux server operating system if we use them in their minimal form. Although a wide range of open-source Linux distros can be used to perform server tasks by installing applications and tools needed by a server such as Apache, PHP, MySQL and more, the thing we have to make sure is the stability, Long term support and security. If you are going to opt any Linux Distro on your Server, you will never want it to be bloated or crashed oftentimes.

Lightweight Linux server Distros

If you see mainly Linux web server distros on commercial hosting providers servers or enterprises are without Graphical user interface, it is because the GUI makes Distros heavy and tend them to consume more RAM. Thus, we should avoid GUI on servers, moreover, even with GUI on Linux most of the time we work with command terminal only.

Thus, here are some popular distros with links to download their minimal ISO for lightweight without compromising the performance for home or commercial usage…

CentOS- minimal Small Distro

A lightweight server for both home and commercial users including Raspberry Pi.

If we look at the hosting service providers most of them are using CentOS as their Linux web server distro. The first reason is, it is a fork of most popular RedHat enterprise Linux, uses open-source code of the same; along with similar stability, Long Term support and security updates. One can install its minimal ISO image on their server hardware as a lightweight server OS for home as well as enterprise utilization.

Easily can be converted into Apache web server, Database server, Conatainred Docker and more…

The online world is full of tutorials on CentOS that means if you stuck somewhere, hundreds of howtos and forums will help you to cut the problem off.

If you are using Raspberry pi where one cannot install a heavy server operating systems, the small CentOS is available for that in the size of but around 220MB.

The Minimal ISO image of CentOS server is of around 900MB while full distro with GUI comes in the size of 4 GB.

Download CentOS Minimal ISO image

Ubuntu Server- Lightweight Minimal ISO

Another one of the most popular Linux distros amid both Desktop and Server users is Ubuntu, minimal ISO without GUI for lightweight installation.

It is available to install on a home machine with Graphical user interface and other tools to make the life easier of laypersons. Along with that Sever version in minimal form and as full-blown distros can be downloaded from the official website.

The best part of using Ubuntu is its extensive documentation support officially and from vast majority blogs and community; those have covered almost every issue of Ubuntu. Just like CentOS, one can use it as webserver distro, for Database, firewall, media server, email server or game server and more. The possibilities of usage are numerous. It is one of the most user-friendly Linux systems.

Compatible with most of the public clouds. Thus whether it is Google Cloud, DigitalOCean, Amazon Web server etc, you will find Ubuntu lightweight server distro next to CentOS.

Available for 64-bit PC (amd64, x86_64), 32-bit PC (i386, x86),  64-bit PowerPC (ppc64),  and 32-bit PowerPC (ppc) systems.

Download Ubuntu minimal ISO. Also know: how to install Ubuntu minimal ISO.

Fedora Server

Fedora is another great server operating system built on Linux and Patreon by RedHat itself.

It is community-based and is rapidly adopting technical innovations. Tested and proven functions are then taken over in RedHat, which is offered to companies.

It is available as “Fedora Workstation” for Desktop and “Fedora Server” for Server hardware. To install it as a lightweight server a user either can go for NetInstall ISO image or while installing it as regular OS, server option for software or environment can be selected to reduce its size and resource consumptions.


The software and functions are mostly up-to-date, so they can run smoothly without any quirks.

Get the Fedora Server ISO.

Debian Stable Server

Install minimal installation with command-line UI using lightweight Debian Linux server distro’s netinst CD image which is of 300 MB only.

Although we already have covered the Ubuntu server which is based on Debian, it is worth to mention the upstream source of the same i.e Debian. Debian has been used by lots of different Linux distros as a base OS, thus it is cynosure whenever we have a talk on lightweight server distros. Just like Centos and Ubuntu, you can find it on almost every Cloud service provider as server Linux distro.

It is very stable and can be customized greatly as per server needs. One of the biggest advantages is the versatile package system Dpkg (apt-get, gnome-apt), through which you can install countless programs and functions.

Debian can be installed and set up as both a desktop and server operating system. Install the command line and minimal installation using netinst CD image which is of 300 MB only and require an internet connection to download rest of the important packages.

Download Debian netinst CD image

OpenSUSE Server

OpenSUSE, an open-source arm of SUSE enterprise Linux distribution. We can install its light and small Linux version by simply selecting the minimal server installation option.

Like most of the Linux operating systems, the OpenSUSE also comes with lots of possibilities, it can be used as a home server operating system for Workstation, Desktops and Laptops or rather install its Server version with the text-based interface and minimum supported packages for commercial usage; the choice is all yours.


It is available in two forms OpenSUSE TumbleWeed and OpenSUSE Leap. One has Long Term support and others for those need frequent updates and most recent software versions.

OpenSUSE download Link

So, these were some best Linux Distros those can be used as LightWeight OS for Server hardware. Apart from them, as I said you can use any Linux Distro for server tools installation, thus if you want an OS for home usage then you can see:

Best Small & Lightweight Linux Distor for home as server or Desktop

Apart from other servers, one more OS here, extremely small. Once can try it for home or office server usage to test thing on very old hardware server machines:

4MLinux Server: A small size Linux OS to create Miniserver as DNS, FTP, HTTP, MySQL, NFS, Proxy, SMTP, SSH, and Telnet. A proxy server (Polipo with optional Tor support) is also included. Only needs 128 MB of RAM. Website.

9 Best Linux Distros for Small Business Servers- 2019

1 thought on “Best lightweight Linux server Distros without GUI”

  1. One thing not included in the “Best lightweight Linux Server Distros” article is whether or not they use systemd, OR if they can use the standard LFS layout with run-time select of parts they need.

    Some problems w/Systemd in relation to using it with a lightweight-Server Distro:

    *-Systemd doesn’t allow runtime configuration to select which parts can be used. Reconfiguration usually requires access to rebuild Systemd (compiler, linker, et al)
    *-requires many directories to be on 1 disk *or* be
    *-Usually requires booting from a boot-RAM disk with it’s own duplicate copy of needed programs
    *-requires system directories to reside on 1 disk (no split of OS-system and user+gui dirs) requiring merging of root “/bin,/sbin,/lib[64]” with their /usr counterparts
    *-disallows making hot-patch changes to be made in the emergency console & continuation of boot to continue on to full-boot. Instead needs rebooting getting rid of hot-patch changes required for full boot.

    Because of those reasons (among others), its hard to consider systemd’s use in a _lightweight_ server distro. The above list of LW-Srv-Dists needs to mention which distros require systemd and which do not. I’d almost go so far as to say that use of systemd would dissallow their inclusion on a “lightweight” list.


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