6 Popular but Best Lightweight Linux desktop Environments

Do you think Windows is heavy for your old laptop and want to replace it with Linux? But Linux with modern desktop environments could again not be your cup of tea. So, choose the minimal Linux and install the right lightweight desktop environment on it manually for a smoother experience.

So to make this easy for you, here I have listed some of the most popular and best lightweight Linux desktop environments available on the market today. From budget-conscious students having old laptops to sysadmins needing to manage a server with a slim interface, there’s an option for everyone in this list of the top six lightest desktop interfaces for your Linux distros.

Best Lightweight Desktop Environment to install


Xfce is a lightweight and modularized desktop environment Interface of Linux systems that utilize modern technologies such as GTK+ 3. It is not a fork of Gnome instead developed from scratch and used Xfwm window manager.

It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions and supports multiple languages including English, German, and Spanish. Its simple design allows it to run fairly quickly even on older machines.

It includes a highly configurable taskbar with a rich collection of plug-ins, as well as a terminal emulator which supports tabs, customizable key bindings, colors, and window sizes.

Additionally, it also includes Thunar as its default file manager, replacing Xffm which resembles GNOME’s Nautilus in design and was built with speed and low memory footprint in mind. All these features make XFCE an ideal desktop environment for Linux users that prefer customization and a light system.

Popular examples of Linux distros using XFCE as the default desktop environment are MX Linux, Manjaro Linux, Linux Lite, and more… You can learn the steps to Install Xfce Desktop on Rocky Linux 8

Is Xfce good for laptops?

Yes, XFCE is a good Linux desktop environment for Laptops as they are limited in resources, hence XFCE will enhance the overall performance of your slow desktop or laptop.

XFCE Desktop environment

2. LXQt

LXQT is another one of the best lightweight Linux desktop environments, that has been used widely by various Linux distro developers. LXQt is a lightweight, Qt-Based Desktop Environment for Linux users. It is the product of the merge between LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) and Razor-qt, meaning it offers a modern look and feels while still being resource friendly.

It was designed with older or resource-constrained systems in mind, like netbooks and single-board computers. Therefore, it not only provides fast performance but also an energy-efficient user experience.

The term ‘LXQT’ stands for lightweight Qt Desktop Environment
and it is a perfect lightweight alternative for those who are looking to replace heavy DEs such as GNOME or KDE from their systems.

Not only the old systems but the modern system can have the benefit of LXQT and its features such as support for HiDPI displays and the Openbox window manager. However, the users can use other third-party window managers such as xfwm4 or Kwin.

It is written in the C programming language and developed using the QT frameworks and tools. Whether you have an old computer or are just looking for a streamlined solution for your desktop, LXQT could be a perfect choice. With its low-score source requirements and effortless user interface, it provides a great way to enjoy the convenience of Linux without compromising speed or battery life. Learn: How to Install LXQt Desktop Environment on Ubuntu 22.04 | 20.04 Linux

A popular out-of-the-box installed LXQT Linux distro is Lubuntu. The memory requirement of this desktop environment is 256MiB but recommend 1GB of RAM.

What file manager does LXQt use?

You will find PCManFM-Qt as the default file manager in the LXQt desktop environment when you install it on your own Linux.

LXQT Lightweight desktop


MATE is can be considered the best desktop environment when it comes to finding the lightweight one. It is based on GNOME 2 but keeps updated by its developer to offer the latest components while maintaining its classic look and feel. Even supports GTK 3 application framework, making it ideal for those looking for something familiar yet modern at the same time.

Ubuntu Mate is a popular example of a Linux distro running with this desktop environment.

Mate Desktop Interface for Old computers

4. Enlightenment

Enlightenment is one of the longest-standing desktop environments available for Linux users with over 25 years of development behind it. To this day it continues receiving updates although at a much slower rate than most new desktops are accustomed to seeing since it generally gets forgotten with all the new options coming out every year or two nowadays.

Despite being older than other desktops available today though, Enlightenment still makes light work of system resources while providing a unique aesthetic.

Further to full fill the basic need of users, it offers common applications such as s a terminal emulator (Terminology), a video player (Rage), a photo viewer (Ephoto), and even an IDE (EDI).

Enlightenment Desktop UI for slow laptops

5. Trinity Desktop Environment

The Trinity Desktop Environment (or TDE) is another best desktop environment for slow computers running Linux or FreeBSD operating systems. The project started providing a stable release in 2010 and since then it keeps doing the same. Although it was started as a fork to KDE 3, the third iteration of KDE’s award-winning graphical user interface, especially for users who were not willing to switch to KDE 4. Something similar MATE did with GNOME 2.

However, since its inception, the TDE team keeps holding the idea of their project which is to provide a simple and traditional desktop experience environment but with the support of advanced features. For example, it allows users to use multiple monitors, can be highly customized supports SmartCard, a searchable system menu, and full integration with many popular Linux applications. The TDE team keeps the desktop consistent while continuing the development of new applications and features that make it more powerful and reliable.

In brief, it is designed to be light, customizable, extensible, and fast – so that users can create their own tailored desktop experience on their PC or Laptops.

What are the system requirements for the Trinity desktop?

For Trinity Desktop (TDE) there are some system requirements you should consider before installing it. At least a Pentium III CPU combined with 512 MB of memory is required. If we talk about space then 500 MB of free disk space is needed for a basic installation, while a full installation requires about 3 GB.

Trinity Desktop Environment

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not exactly a lightweight but one with high performance and beautiful looks. It provides users with an interface reminiscent of modern operating systems like Windows 10 or macOS Mojave but made specifically using nothing more than open-source technologies (of course). Linux mint is a popular example that uses Cinnamon as its default desktop environment & Interface.

It feels intuitive enough that transitioning between OSes should feel painless while being robust enough. Thanks to having been derived completely from upstream GTK+ components – allowing you bigger freedoms without sacrificing performance because now you can alter everything right down the root element level without having to worry about breaking any existing core functions.

However, to use Cinnamon you don’t need to have Linux Mint, your existing Linux can install it easily.

Cinnamon is not exactly a lightweight desktop environment

Closing Thoughts:

When it comes to choosing the best lightweight Linux desktop environment, it is not necessary that one solution will be for all. While some users may prefer XFCE Desktop over others for its features or customization options, few would like to go for LXQT. The choice is all yours and as per your system’s power; well all of the popular lightweight Linux desktop environments given here provide an efficient and secure environment that is suitable for everyday computing tasks.

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