Ubuntu – Lighter in CPU/Memory Usage: Lubuntu or Xubuntu


I am looking for an Ubuntu version that consumes less Memory and CPU. I have read both Lubuntu and Xubuntu (The homepages, wikipedia, phoronix and other sites comparing both). But from experience, which one uses less memory and is less CPU intensive. I need to install them in very old hardware and want to persuade the owner of the hardware of the benefits of Ubuntu.

in this case I want to install 11.10 or 12.04 when it comes out. How are each behaving in those versions?

The 2 PCs I will be installing either Xubuntu or Lubuntu are:

Granpa PC:

CPU – Pentium 2 450Mhz
Video – 16MB
Used for – Documents and Internet. No listening to music, no looking at videos. Just using it for document writing.

The other old meat:

CPU – Pentium 3 550Mhz
Video – 16MB
Used for – Documents and Internet also but they want.. or maybe they are wishing for it to use it to see movies and listen to music. This one has internet. The other one does not.


Wanted to update this question with the test results for over 8 months worth of using Lubuntu and Xubuntu. When it comes to very old hardware, am talking about 64 MB, 128 MB or even 256 MB of RAM computers, Lubuntu is better than Xubuntu when comparing Memory usage. When it comes to CPU usage, both are the same.

This will not improve I/O Disk performance which will be the bottleneck for old computers. Also the difference in performance between Xubuntu and Lubuntu is about 10% to 20% percent in memory usage. Again, CPU usage is the same.

Now, when it comes to how responsive the Desktop is, LXDE (Lubuntu) has a much better response time than XFCE (Xubuntu). I would say about 50% or just simply noticeable to the eye. Lubuntu is similar to how Windows XP looks while Xubuntu is more like how Gnome 2 looked.

The computers (The old ones mentioned here) and 2 more are still working in excellent conditions thanks to the Ubuntu family. I also want to add I am using 13.10 for both distros.

Best Answer

Your case studies are indeed challenging.

Take your Grandpa PC

Pentium 2 and 64Mb RAM.

Lubuntu minimum requirements are 128Mb if using the alternate installer - 256Mb for the Graphical installer.

The recommended RAM is 384Mb just to run the LiveCD.

Therefore - I'm afraid, you will not be able to install a graphical environment on Grandpa PC. At best you might get a text only "server" type install via a minimal ISO - i.e. you need a minimum of 64Mb to run the minimal CD.

The "old meat":

That is more promising:

Pentium 3 with 128Mb RAM - you should be able to squeeze on Lubuntu via its alternate CD.

However the minimum requirement for Xubuntu is 256Mb with 512Mb as a recommended RAM size.

I've experimented with various "low" RAM installs. I've never tried 128Mb - but in general, I install from a minimal ISO CD and install various components manually - for example, SLIM, LXDE with apt-get install --no-install-recommends to ensure no excess packages are installed.

Typical packages you should look out for if you go this route are described in the linked question below.

Stick with a lightweight browser such as midori - abiword should be ok for wordprocessing.

Flash and general movies will struggle with your video card. However playing music should be fine (see below)


  1. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD
  2. How do I install LXDE / Lubuntu?
  3. Lightweight music player