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A Linux in 10 megabytes? This is Tiny Core Linux

Many times we have talked about light Linux distros, ideal to be able to install on old computers and give them a second chance. These systems sacrifice aesthetic aspects and programs to reduce the use of RAM and CPU so that these computers, which may have 10 or 20 years behind them, can handle them. However, there are always those who seek to take this to the extreme, reducing the system to the maximum to make it as minimalist as possible. And it seems that the limit puts it Tiny Core Linuxa fully functional distro that occupies just 10 megabytes.

What is Tiny Core Linux? Main features

Tiny Core Linux is a minimalist operating system based on a stripped-down and modified Linux Kernel along with BusyBox and FLTK to be able to offer users the essential tools to make the computer fully functional. Without a doubt, its main feature is its size, and its developers have managed to reduce it to 16 MB or 21 MB, depending on the edition we choose.

Of course, to be able to fit in this size, the number of basic included programs and extensions is very small. But its developers offer users a complete repository with more than 3,200 applications, libraries, tools and more types of content so that any user can install what they really need.

The developers of this system have developed it with the idea of ​​creating an operating system, with a graphical desktop, as light as possible, capable of booting from a CD or USB as well as from a hard disk.

different editions

When it comes to TCL downloads, we can choose between several editions. The first three are editions created by their main developers, while the other three have been created as “variants” by the community. Let’s see them.

  • Tiny Core. It is the recommended option for users who are taking their first steps with this system. It includes the “Core” of the operating system, as well as a dynamic FLTK/FLWM graphical user interface. This edition is designed for users who are connected to the Internet by cable, since to make Wi-Fi work you will have to download separate packages. It occupies 21 MB.
  • Core. Also known as Micro Core Linux, it is the most reduced and trimmed edition that we can find. It comes without a graphical environment, but users can install the packages or extensions they want to provide it with this feature. It is somewhat more complicated to install and start up, since we must have the basic Linux terminal commands under control. It is a perfect edition for both desktop and server computers. This edition occupies 16 MB.
  • CorePlus. A much more complete edition than the previous ones, although without losing the essence of what TCL is. This edition uses Tiny Core as a base, and on top of it adds a series of additional functionalities, such as support for wireless networks and for non-American keyboards. In addition, it allows us to choose between 7 different graphic desktops during the installation. It occupies 163 MB.
  • dCore. An edition created by the community. This edition is built around a kernel made with Debian-compatible files. Also, it uses the SCE packaging system, the new generation of self-contained packages for Tiny Core distributions. It occupies 12MB. We also have the dCore x86_64designed for 64-bit computers, which occupies 36 MB, and also dCore Arm V7hffor other ARM devices.
  • CorePure64. This edition is a port of Core, with the difference that its developers have updated the packages to make them work on 64-bit architectures. While the original Core occupies 11 MB, this CorePure64 occupies 18 MB.
  • piCore. Another port of the Core edition, but this time focused directly on being able to work on the Raspberry Pi. The size of this distro shoots up to 55 MB.

How can I download extensions and apps?

As we can see, in this distro the minimalist prevails. Its developers have worked very hard to make the system as small as possible. And to do so, they have had to sacrifice many functions and features (such as languages, keyboard layouts, drivers, etc). Fortunately, these are in the repositories so that users who need any of them can easily install them.

There are several ways to do this. but the simplest is to use a tool called “App Browser” which is included as a desktop app in Tiny Core Linux. This application is nothing more than an explorer that allows us to see a list with all the extensions that are available in the main repository so that we can search and download what we need.

Tiny Core Linux - Appbrowser

When we want to update the extensions, if we don’t want to have problems, the best we can do is start TCL in «Safe Mode» choosing the «base norestore» boot, and once inside we will execute the «tce-update» command from a terminal so that the system check for new versions of the extensions, download them and leave them ready. By rebooting, and going back into normal mode, our Tiny Core will be up to date. We can also do it with the “AppsAudit” tool that is in the system, although its developers recommend the previous method.

Tiny Core Linux Download and Requirements

Although version 1.0 of this system, launched in 2009, did occupy the promised 10 MB, times are changing, and its developers have had no choice but to increase the size of their editions. Version 13, released in 2022, takes up 16 MB. If you want to try the original versions of TCL, which occupied these coveted 10 megabytes, we can download them from the Tiny Core Linux versions archive.

If what we want is the latest version of this distro, we can find its different editions directly in the download section of its website.

The requirements to start the Tiny Core edition, the one recommended for users, we need to have at least 48 MB of RAM. Below this capacity, the system will not start directly, even if we have configured several terabytes of SWAP. On the other hand, the Microcore is capable of booting with less RAM, specifically with 28MB. In addition, we will need a CPU equal to or greater than the i486DX (a 486 processor with a math operator).

But, leaving aside the minimum requirements, its developers recommend us a Pentium 2 CPU with 128 MB of RAM and some SWAP for this system to work perfectly.

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