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. – Tamara Wijsman Oct 12 '12 at 16:29

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. – n0pe Apr 1 '11 at 21:54

Red Hat or Debian are probably what your looking for. You could also install Ubuntu as command line only.


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

  • Tiny Core Linux is awesome. – William Sep 3 '15 at 16:20

ttylinux is extremely lightweight and CLI only -- busybox utilities built off of uclib.

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    NOTE: "ttylinux, as of September 2015, has been discontinued until a new maintainer comes forward. The home page no longer exists." (linux.wikia.com/wiki/Ttylinux) An old release can temporarily be downloaded here, although this site has not been maintained in over 2 yrs: freecode.com/projects/ttylinux – fixer1234 Oct 25 '16 at 4:49

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.


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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