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I'm looking to install an extremely light-weight flavour of linux on a USB stick. It also needs to be basically only CLI. Has anyone ever looked for something like this? Ever found something good?

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If you don't want to go from scratch, Gentoo is also a good start. –  Tom Wijsman Oct 12 '12 at 16:29
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closed as not constructive by Canadian Luke, Indrek, Randolph West, Renan, 8088 Oct 12 '12 at 20:36

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7 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

To be particularly minimal, you could roll your own. Fair warning: this is an endeavor of many hours, but you'll better appreciate what goes into getting your OS pieced together.

Linux From Scratch is a very actively maintained step-by-step guide on just that: http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/

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wow this is awesome! I'm definitely going to be going through this. Great learning experience. –  MaxMackie Apr 1 '11 at 21:54
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Red Hat or Debian are probably what your looking for. You could also install Ubuntu as command line only.

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Visited this page: help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD and trying that. Thanks –  MaxMackie Apr 1 '11 at 17:31
    
This suggestion is wrong. Red Hat and Debian are built to support a wide range of software configurations. They are anything but minimal. –  Ярослав Рахматуллин May 1 '13 at 0:20
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It's not the distro that makes so much the difference as what you install. A minimal install of Ubuntu is quite full-featured without a GUI, but you can do a minimal install whichever an have it be quite small and fit on a USB flash drive. I'd suggest sticking with what you're familiar with. I prefer Ubuntu, but in this configuration I've used Debian, Arch, SuSE, Fedora and CentOS successfully.

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Im a little confused by your second sentence. Are you saying that Ubuntu can't be installed without a GUI? –  MaxMackie Apr 1 '11 at 17:31
    
That was a typo, fixed now. –  emgee Apr 1 '11 at 17:39
    
None of the binary distros in your list are designed to be minimal in any way. All those, except Arch, are built and shipped as full-size distros. This suggestion is miss-informed because you get a fair amount of bloat, even if you install the minimal set of packages. –  Ярослав Рахматуллин May 1 '13 at 0:25
    
@ЯрославРахматуллин not true, centos has a very minimal distro, mirror.rackspace.com/CentOS/6.5/isos/i386. –  BigHomie Dec 16 '13 at 23:18
    
@MDMoore313 A minimal boot disc for a redhat derivative is not a minimal-distro. Get real :) –  Ярослав Рахматуллин Jan 15 at 19:50
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ttylinux is extremely lightweight and CLI only-- busybox utilities built off of uclib.

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Back in the day there was Linux On A Floppy (LOAF) and Tom's Root Boot. However I suspect they are too super light weight for USB drives :-)

Nowadays I suppose the equivalent is Damn Small Linux which will install onto a bootable USB flash stick.

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MicroCore is a command-line only variant of Tiny Core Linux.

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Ubuntu Server might be what you are looking for. Because servers are usually headless, the basic setup does not contain any GUI parts.

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