What is the most minimalist Linux server distro?

I am asking for any distro that only has the bare-bones to be able to get a shell in the server and then just install the packages as we need for the application we want to run. Think of it like the RancherOS or CoreOS that only have the strictly necessary to run containers, but for bare metal or VPS servers wanting to run non dockerized workloads.

Current distros for server have too many packages you may need or not, and a lot of them you don’t need, thus they pose a security risk, because they are one more attack vector that can be exploited and put the system at risk.

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Many datacentres offer a ‘minimal’ distro:

The minimal images generally contain no software other than SSH, allowing an unlimited scope for creativity.

Operating System Versions
Arch Linux latest Minimal (64-Bit)
CentOS 6.10 Minimal (64-Bit)
CentOS 7.7 Minimal (64-Bit)
CentOS 8.1 Minimal (64-Bit)
Debian 8.11 (Jessie) Minimal (64-Bit)
Debian 9.12 (Stretch) Minimal (64-Bit)
Debian 10.3 (Buster) Minimal and LAMP (64-Bit)
Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS (Xenial Xerus) Minimal (64-Bit)
Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS (Bionic Beaver) Minimal and Nextcloud (64-Bit)
Ubuntu 19.04 (Disco Dingo) Minimal (64-Bit)
Ubuntu 19.10 (Eoan Ermine) Minimal (64-Bit)
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) Minimal (64-Bit)

EG: https://docs.hetzner.com/robot/dedicated-server/operating-systems/standard-images/


Thanks for the list but can you provide the source of it?

Added :+1:

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I should add that if you want performance, stability and security you could do a lot worse than CentOS - it’s so good that Red Hat are basically killing it off because many think they feel it poses a huge threat to the RHEL they sell.

Rocky Linux seems like it’s getting more support so I’d keep an eye on that too :smiley:

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I forgot what it’s called but if you really wanna torture yourself you could build your own linux :joy:

Jokes aside, arch should be pretty minimal


Not surprised to see Arch in the list. Last time I had Manjaro (derivative of Arch) on a laptop with XFCE installed, and after I installed a good amount of software on it, at startup that OS was taking 450MB of RAM with 30+ daemons running, and a fully functioning desktop environment. :heart:

@Exadra37 Maybe you should copy all the links from the ElixirForum thread here?


It’s called Linux From Scratch:


Welcome to Linux From Scratch!

Linux From Scratch (LFS) is a project that provides you with step-by-step instructions for building your own custom Linux system, entirely from source code.

Currently, the Linux From Scratch organization consists of the following subprojects:

  • LFS :: Linux From Scratch is the main book, the base from which all other projects are derived.
  • BLFS :: Beyond Linux From Scratch helps you extend your finished LFS installation into a more customized and usable system.
  • ALFS :: Automated Linux From Scratch provides tools for automating and managing LFS and BLFS builds.
  • CLFS :: Cross Linux From Scratch provides the means to cross-compile an LFS system on many types of systems.
  • Hints :: The Hints project is a collection of documents that explain how to enhance your LFS system in ways that are not included in the LFS or BLFS books.
  • Patches :: The Patches project serves as a central repository for all patches useful to an LFS user.

But I don’t have the skills for it or I don’t want to torture my self :wink:


Yess, that’s the one

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Let’s wait and see what people have to say here :slight_smile:

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And you also have Lenix backed by 1 million dollars a year:

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Are you thinking at Linux from Scratch ? It is a full guide to compile from scratch your own Linux distro.


There are a few projects starting up hoping to replace CentOS but I think Rocky Linux seems to have the most support at the moment as it is created by one of the original CentOS creators :smiley:

Also… I think people are preferring something more independent than backed by a big company… at least that’s the vibe I’m getting :upside_down_face:

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LFS is an excellent way to learn how Linux is made and what tools You need to make it work :slight_smile:

It was also the way Gentoo worked. You had to work a little to get the most optimized Linux for your usage.


Elementary OS is minimal and good looking.

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Thanks for the suggestion, but that’s a desktop OS, but I am looking for a server distro.

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Alpine Linux is a security-oriented, lightweight Linux distribution based on musl libc and busybox.
Alpine standard 3.13.1 (Released Jan 28, 2021) is only ~133 MB.


It’s a strong contender, but this muscl libc is what concerns me the most, because its known to cause issues with some applications.


Any insider info about CentOS Lucian? :see_no_evil:

CentOS 7 could still be a good choice for up to May 2029 which is when it reaches EOL, @Exadra37… (edit: think it might actually be 2024!)