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I'm looking for a linux distro with the following:

  • Boots quickly, as fast as possible.
  • Has expected tools such as file browser, a web browser, etc.
  • Doesn't need to have extraneous recovery stuff such as partition editors, and what not.

These are the tools I have and use already:

  • ophcrack
  • Ultimate Boot CD for Windows (UBCD4Win)
  • chntpw (Offline NT Password and Registry Editor)
  • Hiren's BootCD
  • gparted or Parted Magic
  • Ubuntu
  • nubuntu

Any and all suggestions are welcome :-) The primary objective is to get a quick booting linux distro that I can grab / delete / move / copy files with.

Currently, I prefer using ophcrack, it boots in (relatively) fast and I can manipulate files well. The one that takes the longest is ubuntu of course.

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6 Answers

Probably Damn Small Linux, since this is one of the smallest linux distros known. There are others, but for all the features you want, this looks like your best bet.

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Damn Small Linux looks great, but it hasn't had any development in 2 years. What do you think of Puppy Linux? I think I may end up going with SliTaz, which is what ophcrack is built on. –  Avindra Goolcharan Dec 14 '10 at 0:31
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You could use Puppy Linux if you'd like to. Additionally, if you didn't need a GUI (I belive you want a GUI, but for future reference), you could use Finnix. I'm giving you these options because they are so small in size with a commendable amount of features. It sounds like you are wanting something small that is going to do a subset of certain tasks. Let me know if you need any additional help. –  drewrockshard Dec 14 '10 at 16:32
    
Smallness isn't a big requirement. The maximum size should be 700mb, cd size. What I'm looking for is booting speed. I want a lightning fast distro. It can be big if it wants, as long as it's fast. I'll burn Puppy Linux, SliTaz and Damn Small Linux and compare them. I'm looking for something GUI based, yeah. –  Avindra Goolcharan Dec 19 '10 at 18:32
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With an appropriate kickstart, you can create your own live media based on any Fedora-derived distro.

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Yes this a very good answer. Some people have booted a Linux (Fedora and Moblin) in FIVE seconds. You can read here how they did it. (They used an Asus EEEPC with an SSD) lwn.net/Articles/299483 –  math Apr 9 '12 at 17:00
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Optimal solution:

As Ignacio wrote in an answer below, the best and fastest way to boot linux is to build one distro by yourself. Some people have booted Linux in FIVE seconds on an ASUS EeePC with an SSD with the help of a modified Fedora.

Solution:

As reading your requirements I recommend you, as same as drewrockshard pointed out in a comment below: Puppy Linux. It has a graphical user interface and also a browser, a recent iso is about 132 MB and best: when shut down it will ask whether and if yes where to save your current session. As file copying can also be done without graphical user interface, Damn-Small-Linux may be also worth a look. Alternatives may be given in this list of five fastest booting linux distros.

Background info:

Boot time depends on speed of CPU, speed of the boot media (hard disk, cd, usb, network,..), type and number of services, how many kernel modules are loaded, etc. (So its a quite complex mechanism). Recently the boot init script System V, has been reworked and programs like Upstart as well as Systemd are able to start services in parallel as long as they don't depend on each other. E.g. mounting a network file system needs a started network in advance. So, newest Ubuntu version, e.g. 11.10, are quite fast in booting! Also it is important how you specify that booting has succeeded, meaning the definition on how to stop time. For more infos you may start reading here: Ten ways to make Linux boot faster

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If you're really trying to squeeze every drop of performance out of your live distro, you should consider making it a live USB. The same OS will start up and load apps faster from a fast thumb drive (e.g. Super Talent SuperCrypt or Kingston HyperX) than a CD. –  Lèse majesté Apr 10 '12 at 7:55
    
Yes I already mentioned that, as its dependent on the access time of the boot media. But USB drives can be much slower than network (PXE), and USB drives are certainly slower than high performance SSD's. Also the BIOS has influence on it. (Oops my grammar was a liitle broken for that part, I've edited now) –  math Apr 10 '12 at 8:06
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Have you tried making a bootable USB flash drive. Unetbootin will make the bootable flash - Slitaz boots pretty quickly this way.

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Tiny Core Linux is minimal live (installable) system coming in 3 variants: Core (8 MB), TinyCore (12 MB) and CorePlus (64 MB). If bundled set doesn't suit you, TCL provides a remaster tool ezremaster that comes with CorePlus by default. You can add extensions (applications) and make another Tiny Core Live CD based upon your preferences. The project is being actively developed.

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I had good experience with "slitaz", maybe not the best distribution but definitely worthy to take a look. As far as I remember it should be around 32MB.

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