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I just want a linux distro that boots fast, has a bash terminal (no gui) and busybox.

Is there any such distro or is it hard to compile a kernel and just make one myself?

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I don't see what this question has to do with the kernel. Busybox and Bash are just programs. The kernel is pretty much the same for all distros (with minor patches of course). – Brendan Long Jul 6 '11 at 17:06
Do you really need bash? Busybox already comes with sh. – Ciro Santilli 巴拿馬文件 六四事件 法轮功 May 5 '15 at 14:13
up vote 17 down vote accepted


What you are searching for is called ttylinux.

Major components

  • Kernel
  • Glibc
  • Iptables
  • Dropbear (scp, ssh, sshd)
  • GPM
  • Bash
  • Busybox
  • E2fsprogs

Not maintained

The distribution was hosted at, and is currently not maintained.


Latest ttylinux release is dated 2015.02 (updated 2015.03).

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can i install it on a usb flash stick and have file persistence? If so then it sounds perfect. – Daniel Gratz Jul 6 '11 at 15:00
ttylinux changed it's homepage. – insider Dec 18 '13 at 7:20
@AndrejsCainikovs's link is broken. Setting Up a USB or Flash Drive: – DanteTheEgregore Dec 18 '13 at 15:00
Thanks, updated the link to the ttylinux homepage. – Andrejs Cainikovs Dec 19 '13 at 7:47
@AndrejsCainikovs April 2016 is only serving ads. – Pro Backup Apr 30 at 21:57

A good linux distro that I've fallen in love with (and also has no GUI) is MicroCore Linux. It also has an older brother TinyCore Linux that does have a GUI (a pretty crappy one though).

You could always try DSL (Damn Small Linux)

I don't think any of these explicitly come with busybox (I don't know of any distro that ships with it), but it shouldn't be too hard to install it afterwards. From what I understand your main concern is a small fast system with a decent shell.

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I tried microcore linux, my ethernet adapter isn't detected so i have no internet (required to download and install the bash extension as it does not come with bash by default). – Daniel Gratz Jul 6 '11 at 13:50
MaxMackie: Fascinating, up-vote from me. – Ruairi Fullam Jul 6 '11 at 13:55
@MaxMackie, Last time I looked DSL was no longer being developed, so I generally recommend Puppy Linux instead. – CarlF Jul 6 '11 at 15:35
@CarlF: You're right, I just checked. Last update was around 2008, thanks for the heads up. – n0pe Jul 6 '11 at 15:36

The best most current distribution I can think of is Debian NetInst:

There are a number of small Linux distributions out there but this one I think will be among the best maintained. Another thing is, if you need to grow it to full size, it's a trivial operation.

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+1 for debian's netinstall, forgot about this one. – n0pe Jul 6 '11 at 13:56
so this netinstall... its basically just a cli and boots very fast? I'd need it able to be booted from usb using syslinux and to have file persistence. – Daniel Gratz Jul 6 '11 at 14:55
You can do all these things with Debian, it's very flexible. – Ruairi Fullam Jul 6 '11 at 19:00

You should try Arch Linux. It let's you choose what you do and do not want to install on your system. You could even choose to not install bash :p Alternatively you could try Gentoo, where you have to compile everything from scratch.

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Not entirely correct, considering that all SysVinit scripts on Arch are written for bash. (It's easy to replace SysVinit with systemd, though.) – grawity Jul 6 '11 at 14:28
Yeah, but during the installation you still get the possiblity to choose to not install bash. :p – RobinJ Jul 6 '11 at 14:33

Minimal Development Distro:

busybox, musl C library, gcc, binutils, make, bash, and the Linux kernel.


Minimal Non-Development Distro:

busybox, musl and the Linux Kernel

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I think the OP wanted a specific distro, not to build one himself. – Journeyman Geek Feb 26 '13 at 5:10

"Alpine Linux is a security-oriented, lightweight Linux distribution based on musl libc and busybox."

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Minimal Linux Live is a small script that:

  • downloads the source for the kernel and busybox
  • compiles them
  • generates a bootable 8Mb ISO with them

I have modified it to allow running it from the kernel source directory:

It does not have bash, but Busybox already has sh, so it might be enough for you.

The ISO then leaves you in a minimal shell with busybox.

With QEMU you can easily boot into the system.


git clone
cd minimal/src
# Wait.
# Install QEMU.
# minimal_linux_live.iso was generated

and you will be left inside a QEMU Window with you new minimal system. Awesome.

We can however get even more minimal and just run one minimal useless program: Single Application Linux

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