There are situations when all you need is a browser on your computer. In such cases it makes sense to have an operating system that is optimized for browsing to efficiently use the available hardware resources. In this article let’s have a look at 3 Linux distros that you can use to fulfill your needs!
The Short Version of the Answer
These 3 Distros belong to the category of “Browsing only Distros”.
Best: Neverware CloudReady OS
2nd Place: JustBrowsing
3rd Place: BrowserLinux
That is just the short version of the answer, let’s go ahead and look at the longer and more informative version and learn about the need for a browser-only Linux distro and then proceed to look at the 3 distros above and see the pros and cons of each of them so that you can make a more informed decision of choosing your next Distro!
Before having a look at “Browsing only Distros”, let’s first have a look at the need for an Operating Systems optimized for just browsing.
Need for a Browser Only Linux Distro
A user may need a Browser only Linux distro in one of the following 3 situations.
#1 Old Laptop, New Life
You might be having an old laptop which is in perfect working condition, but the hardware is simply too old to run the latest software and an Operating System optimized for just browsing can take a whole lot of stress off the old hardware while making the machine comparable in terms of performance to modern laptops due to factors like less overall RAM consumption, the absence of unnecessary background services, etc.
#2 You Only Use Browser On Your Home Laptop
You might use your home computer just for browsing purposes and you wish to allocate as all of your resources to the browser as possible to get the maximum out of it.
#3 All You Need To Do For Your Work Can Be Done Via A Browser
Everything you may need to do on a computer like making documents, editing photos and videos, playing games, storing data, etc can be accomplished using cloud processing and you need an OS that will help allocate maximum resources for the kind of workflow you use. There is a whole class of devices being made these days called Google Chromebooks. Through these devices Google is trying to push the idea of cloud computing to the next level!
It is predicted by experts that in the near future we will all switch to cloud computing with minimal processing being done on our devices and our data will be sent over to the servers through the internet where the actual heavy lifting will take place.
The Available Options
Now that we have understood the need for Operating Systems optimized for Browsing only, let’s have a look at 3 Linux Distros that help fulfill these needs!
Option#1: Neverware CloudReady OS
There is ChromeOS but sadly we cannot use that as it can only be installed on Chromebooks. Neverware Cloudread comes as a replacement for Chrome OS that can be used on all laptops like a regular distro! The official website of Neverware has a compatible hardware list, but this is more of a “Tested to work okay on this hardware” kinda list than a “Will only work on these hardware” list, so try it out on your computer and it just might be the one you are looking for!
Neverware is built on top of Chromium OS, same as ChromeOS by google and hence it is the best bet for us to turn our computer into a “Browsing only” machine!
- The only distro for a “Browsing Only Machine” which is currently under active development
- The latest ChromeOS updates will eventually reach CloudReady OS
- There is still a chance that it might not run on your machine, so try it out with a USB stick before you can install it on your harddisk!
- Chromium is the only option for browser, so Firefox fans need to try one of the below options
This distro, as its name sounds, can be installed when all we intend to do with that computer is browsing. It is built on top of Arch Linux and comes with both Chrome and Firefox as browser options. This distro can also be used on guest-only machines like the ones you can see in local libraries and cafes as it does not store any user data back to the hard drive and hence maintaining the privacy of guests!
- Can be used on guest-only machines
- not updated recently (the last update was in 2014!)
- no persistent storage so all the information regarding your session will be erased once you log off hence making updating the software not possible!
This is another distro built to be run on old machines just like the Justbrowsing distro above. This one too is designed with only browsing in mind. Unlike JustBrowsing, this one is not meant for guest machines as it can also store persistent data.
- Minimal distro at just 96Mb iso
- persistent data storage
- very outdated
- the website makers does not recommend using it for anything other than testing!
- hard to install drivers on and find work-arounds for the problems you might face!
As you can see, we have very few options in the Linux distro world for “Browsing only Distros”. Other than Cloudready everything is very outdated to be used! I honestly cannot recommend options 2 and 3 as they are too outdated and not secure enough to use even for a home computer as we will occasionally need to shop online or do internet banking!
This lack of option is due to the fact that you can make use of some good alternate options that will suit our use-cases!
Other Options For Beginners: Lightweight Distros
Lightweight distros are a great way to go if you want to eliminate possible resource hoggers and only have essential services running. Compared to the other distros these will only need a very little amount of extra resources so as long as your computer was bought after 2010 they should be able to run really smoothly with these distros on and browsing should not be an issue!
I have written another article on Lightweight distros given in the link below. That article explains what they are, how they differ from other popular distros and which ones are the best ones out there.
In this other article I have also explained how to choose a Linux distro for your particular computer’s hardware.
Other Options for Advanced Users
Advanced option#1 Minimal install of Debian or Arch
You can download the minimal install versions of Debian or Arch and just install Xorg server, a windows manager and your favorite browser and voila you have met the specifications you are looking for! This should not be too hard to do, and even intermediate Linux users should be able to do this in under a day’s time!
Advanced option#2 Chromium OS
Chromium OS comes as just source code and you need to compile and build it yourself if you are planning to use it to solve your needs. If you are advanced enough and have plenty of time to spare, this can be a fun project!
Advance option#3 (Ultra-advanced actually!): Build one yourself!
This is the last option if you find that none of the above options seems to meet your needs!
And with that, I will conclude this article!
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.
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Here are some of my other articles that might interest you!