Designed specifically for older systems, AntiX claims it can even run on old 64 MB Pentium II 266 systems. It comes in full, base and core distributions, with full being the best option for Linux newcomers.
Just 50MB in size, DSL can run on old 486 PCs or can run within RAM on newer PCs with at least 128 MB of memory. It comes with a surprising number of applications built in, and it can also run from a live CD or USB thumb drive.
In the race to create the smallest distribution of Linux, Nanolinux comes near the top of the list. Although it's only 14 MB in size, it includes a browser, text editor, spreadsheet, personal information manager, music player, calculator, some games and a few other programs. However, it's not as newbie-friendly as some of the other distributions on our list.
The self-proclaimed "best little Linux operating system available anywhere," lightweight VectorLinux aims to be very fast and very stable. It includes tools that will be popular with advanced users but it also has an easy-to-use graphic interface for newbies.
Formerly known as "Minislack," ZenWalk is a lightweight distribution that focuses on fast performance and support for multimedia. It includes some special features that appeal to programmers, and the desktop version can also be tweaked to function as a server. Note that the website is organized like a forum, so it can be a little tricky to navigate.
40. Salix OS
According to the Salix website, "Like a bonsai, Salix is small, light and the product of infinite care." It's based on Slackware, but it's simplicity makes it more accessible for Windows users.
Red Hat is probably the most well-known enterprise-focused Linux distribution. It comes in both desktop and server versions. However, unlike many other Linux distributions, you'll need to pay for a support subscription in order to use it.
If you like Red Hat but don't want to pay for support, check out Fedora, which is the free, community version of Red Hat. It comes in different "spins"—versions that are tailored to particular uses like science, security and design.
This "Community ENTerprise Operating System" is another free version of Red Hat. It aims to be highly stable and manageable to meet the needs of business users without requiring that they purchase support.
Used by more than 13,000 businesses around the world, SUSE counts the London Stock Exchange, Office Depot and Walgreens among its users. The website primarily emphasizes the server versions, but it does also come in a desktop version. Like Red Hat, it requires a paid support subscription.
OpenSUSE is the free, community edition of SUSE for those who don't want to purchase support. It comes in both desktop and server versions and aims to meet the needs of both beginners and advanced users.
Chromium is the open source project behind Google's Chrome OS—the operating system used on Chromebook devices. It's best for users who use Google's cloud services heavily. Less technical users may find it challenging to install Chromium on a former Windows XP machine.
Users interested in trying a desktop operating system that isn't based on Linux can also check out PC-BSD. It's based on FreeBSD, which is known for its stability, and emphasizes user-friendliness. Older versions supported the KDE desktop only, but the latest update allows users to select their choice of desktop interface.
Unlike most of the other operating systems on this list, ReactOS isn't a version of Linux or BSD; instead, it's a completely new free OS designed to be Windows-compatible. At this point, it's still an alpha release, but it shows promise.
WINE (which stands for "Wine is not an emulator") allows users to run Windows programs on Unix-based systems, including Linux distributions and OS X. It offers very fast performance and excellent stability. A supported version known as Crossover Linux is also available for sale.
This emulator can run applications made for any operating system on any other operating system. In other words, you can use it to run Windows XP software on Linux systems or to run Linux applications on Windows (in case you want to try them out before you install Linux on your hard drive). It's best for more experienced users; less technically savvy folks should probably stick with Wine.