What are the minimum system requirements to be able to run Gentoo Linux effectively?

  • Intel E6600 (oc at 3GHz) seems fast enough even today. 4GB of RAM is a must. The faster your drives, the better. A person I talked to in the past ran Gentoo on a Pentium 3 with 700MHz, and it took them about a day to compile KDE 3. I would not call that effective. Nov 30, 2012 at 4:47

6 Answers 6


Gentoo compiles all the packages upon installing. That means fast processor and at least 512 megs of memory, to get reasonable compile times. Otherwise your installs will be very long and bring your system to a crawl.

It should however be noted that you can configure your installation to compile the packages on another computer that you set up for it, allowing you to use extremely old hardware if you have a server in your network. A similar approach is used to run Gentoo on Raspberry Pi...

  • 1
    "Fast" is very relative. Could you be a little more specific? Jul 30, 2009 at 7:21
  • 3
    They say that you need at least 486 gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/handbook-x86.xml?part=1&chap=2 Jul 30, 2009 at 20:23
  • distcc could quite effectively mitigate that compile time. The sheer range of configurations makes it hard to pin down true system requirements. X + Blackbox would probably run effectively on an original Pentium. Dec 30, 2009 at 12:28
  • 1
    Have used it as server with PIII 500 Mhz, a month worth of updates usually compiles in some 3 hours. And that is with very little software installed. I would recommend at least dual core 2+ Ghz for desktop usage. Updating KDE takes about 10-15 hours on my single core 1.8 GHz CPU.
    – extropy
    Jun 8, 2010 at 6:48
  • Added a paragraph which could be interesting for people that if you have multiple machines. Aug 18, 2012 at 21:43

I've run Gentoo (fairly recently) on a Pentium 233MHz with only 64MB of RAM. Nothing was fast, and it was vital that there was some swap space since nearly every compile would use up all of the system's memory, but it did work. I can't recommend it, but I would say Gentoo will run on just about any machine.

A much better way to do this would likely be to use a faster machine and distcc to help the compiling process.

  • distcc is wonderful for low-powered machines.
    – kwutchak
    Aug 7, 2009 at 2:46

Pretty much just having a computer will let you run Gentoo. Lol.

But seriously, it depends on what you want to do. You should ask yourself what WM/DE you are going to use, what programs you want to use, if you want to watch HD videos, etc. If you install Gentoo using the automated kernel configurer (can't remember what it's called), then install KDE, Firefox3 with 300 plugins, etc., it's gonna be slow unless you have a fast computer. However, if you install Gentoo, customize the kernel, use a WM like openbox or fluxbox, use very lightweight programs in general, then it will be fast.

Hope that helps. You may want to be a bit more specific on what exactly you want to use the computer for to get better specs.

  • 4
    the automated kernel configurer is called "genkernel" (gentoo.org/doc/en/genkernel.xml)
    – cd1
    Jan 25, 2010 at 16:31
  • genkernel actually allows you to customize the kernel.
    – qdot
    Mar 1, 2012 at 21:31

The fewer and smaller software packages you have on the system, the less powerful does the hardware have to be in order to compile updated packages from time to time. An old pc 300MHz Pentium-II with 256MB RAM and 6GB disk is fine if you install and run just the bare OS + a non-graphic firewall software package + just the extra packages you need in order to administer the machine (like Gnu screen etc) but with NO X-windows or desktep environment. Of course, it is worth mentioning that it takes about a day to compile gcc on such hardware, but I don't know if that really is a problem.

If you were considering running Gnome + Firefox + OpenOffice, then you would need a better machine, probably with 512 to 1024 MB RAM (and of course a far better CPU).

Hope this helps.


Kind of a 'tongue in the cheek' answer is 486 and 160MB RAM.

Why 160MB RAM? Because I couldn't squeeze emerge into less one day playing with xen and zram.

Why 486? Because I got it to run on one (with 128MB RAM, and in 2008), Gentoo is probably the best distribution for really optimized but still easy to manage systems.

What that 486 did? Not much more but a DAQ and printer controller.

  • Also, I doubt modern glibc would launch on 386.
    – qdot
    Mar 1, 2012 at 21:34

There is no cheap solution, though I remember old times with pentiumII laptops ;) and compiling first gcc for 12 or more hours and after it a basic system (we called it the bootstrap) for a week.

At least I would use i7 with 8 ht cores. You can compile with all cores and latest portage (emerge -u portage) after adding to /etc/portage/make.conf :

MAKEOPTS="-j8 -l16"
EMERGE_DEFAULT_OPTS="--jobs 8 --load-average 16 --autounmask-write --keep-going --backtrack=0"

Even simple make can be more quicker:

make -j8 -l16

or scons :

scons --sharedclient install -Q -j 8 

or genkernel:

MAKEOPTS="-j8 -l16" genkernel --lvm --luks --no-clean all

I would also buy 16GB RAM to have ramdisk for compiling even libreoffice (for i7-4970 about 2.5 hours). Clear buffers and make the ramdisk with commands:

echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches; sync
mount tmpfs /var/tmp/portage/ -t tmpfs -o noatime,nodiratime,size=10G;

You should add this ramdisk to /etc/portage/make.conf:


Genlop can be utilised to know the time after emerge finishes to work:

genlop -t package-name

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