A list of non-systemd distributions (revisited)

last revised on November 19th 2018

Inspired by, but not fully agreeing with without-systemd and their list of distributions,  we began editing our own.  Hopefully we can keep up the pace and discover new additions but we honor suggestions and contributions from others.  We also have a smaller list of 78 based on Distrowatch data and search engine with a description of each distribution and ranked by popularity.

If you have direct recent experience with any of the following on the list of distributions please add your comments, correct the list, add more, it would be nice to be able to track all of them, but we can’t.  Whether positive or negative reviews and criticism we would gladly host it, as long as it appears honest and not vindictive in nature.  So please write a review of the distribution you are using and we will gladly post it.

Free and Open-Source (FOSS) linux operating systems without systemd in the default installation

GNU/Linux distributions

Arch Linux derivatives

Crux (and derivatives)

  • Crux (2)(3) mailinglist BSD-style initscripts, tar.gz-based package system  + ports; supported architectures: arm, x86_64
    • CruxEX (2) x86_64 available only as a zip file, no iso; LXDE desktop
    • Kwort Linux (2) (3) Uses BSD-style initscripts; x86_64

Debian derivatives

  • antiX Linux (2) sysV init; flexible remastering and persistence tools. Multiple WMs: JWM+iceWM+fluxbox; amd64, i486  (note: Openbox works fine in antiX)
  • Devuan (2)(3) sysV init; XFCE desktop; supported architectures: amd64, i686, arm (see: /embedded, and notes)
  • Elive Linux (2)(3)(aka Enlightenment live CD) sysV init; Enlightenment WM; i486
  • Free of Boxes a live-ony image distribution XFCE desktop; (currently in beta)
  • KNOPPIX(2)(3) (video: “Defying systemd”) employs systemd-shim; sysV init
  • MX Linux(2)(3) (Mepis+antiX) XFCE desktop; includes antiX remastering n persistence tools; supported architectures: amd64, i386
  • PostX OpenRC; openbox wm
  • TRIOS Mia OpenRC/ZFS rolling release; XFCE4 wm, rEFInd EFI manager, OpenRC init
  • Vine Linux (2)(3) Kanji support across most applications; Japanese input support via FreeWnn or Canna input server; i686, powerpc, x86_64
  • Window Maker Live(2)(3) sysV init; both windowmaker + XFCE are preinstalled; amd64, i386

Gentoo (and derivatives)

  • Gentoo Linux (2)(3)default init is OpenRC. If Portage is pulling in systemd, please read this. Further suggested reading
    • Calculate Linux (2) OpenRC init; Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, LXQt, MATE, or Xfce (wiki spamfilter block to project site: calculate-linux.org)
    • Chromium OS (2) upstart init (boot-design doc)
    • CloverOS OpenRC; FVWM or, at boot, install and load any DE/WM via ~/.bash_profile
    • Funtoo Linux (2) FAQ (source-based; uses git-housed, distributed Portage tree and Funtoo overlay) OpenRC init; i486, i686, x86_64, sparc64
    • Bentōō a user-friendly version of Funtoo linux to new users; x86 platforms (64-bit and 32-bit)
    • GaryOS (2) Based on Funtoo/Gentoo; x86 platforms (64-bit and 32-bit)
    • Pentoo (2) security-focused live CD; i686, x86_64
    • Porteus Kiosk (2) BusyBox init; lightweight kiosk
    • PrRescue rescue cd supporting nilfs2 and btrfs; architectures: i686, amd64
    • Redcore Linux (2) OpenRC or SysV init; serves pre-built binary packages from repository; openbox window manager
    • Slontoo (based on Funtoo) OpenRC; XFCE 4.12, MATE 1.12
    • SystemRescueCd (2)(3) (Gentoo/OpenRC based system rescue disk) JWM, Xfce; i586
    • NOTE: additional Gentoo/*BSD subprojects exist, providing ports to various BSD-derived operating systems. See: Gentoo/Alt

Linux From Scratch (LFS) and derivatives

  • Linux from Scratch (2)(3) i386, x86_64; (also CLFS, aka Cross LFS supports additional architectures: mips, powerpc, ppc64, alpha, sparc, hppa, arm)
    • Cromnix GNU/Linux (2)(3) OpenRC; LFS boot scripts with sysVinit, s6, and runit; “pacman” package manager  (note: this does not really exist anymore, it was abandoned and the effort of the Cromnix creator was transferred into Artix Linux)
    • IPFire (2)(3) (forked from IPCop, based on LFS) firewall distribution for x86 and ARM-based systems; armv5tel, i586, x86_64
    • Milis Linux Milis Isletim Sistemi
    • NuTyX (2) its “cards” pkg mgr can install individual or grouped binary packages, and can compile source pkgs from “ports”

Puppy Linux (and derivatives)

Slackware Linux (and derivatives)

Independent

  • 4MLinux (2)(3) (BusyBox init) JWM window manager; supported architecture: i386, i686
  • Adélie Linux evolved away from Gentoo, utilized the abilities of Alpine’s APK package manager, and based on musl-libc, strives for full Posix conformity, while porting to x86 (32/64), PowerPC (32/64), MIPS (32/64), ARM (32-bit)
  • aldOS (2) upstart init, eudev, ConsoleKit2; MATE desktop
  • Bedrock Linux (2) (BusyBox / any) Bedrock Linux can utilize any of a large number of init systems as provided by other distributions
  • Cucumber Linux (2)(3) sysV init; Linux Kernel version 4.9 LTS, GNU Userspace utilities, XFCE desktop; i686, x86_64
  • Dragora GNU/Linux Libre (2)(3) Runit init; desktops: IceWM, spectrwm, XFCE desktop; i585, x86_64
  • Fatdog64 Linux (2) (3) x86_64; also FatDogArm for Raspberry Pi2 and Odroid-XU3/XU4
  • GoboLinux (2)(3) sysv init + BootScripts a source-based distribution which employs a unique file structure (not FHS); supported architecture: x86_64
  • Guix System Distribution (2(3)(GuixSD) provides advanced package mgmt features such as transactional upgrades and roll-backs; i686, x86_64; FSF-approved
  • KaNaPi(2)(3)(4) educational+game apps; desktops: XFCE and Sugar; supported architectures: i686, x86_64, armhf
  • LinuxConsole 2018 (2) offers 32 and 64bit editions; MATE or LXDE desktop, tailored to gaming / educational use
  • Lombix (still alpha) sysV init; source compiled; eack pkg in its own directory (not FHS); no initramfs, no PAM; fluxbox wm
  • MisiProject sysV init, using pisi package manager; armv7h, x86_64
  • Moebius Linux armhf changelog minimal (no X) distro currently focused on RaspberryPi v3
  • OviOS Linux (2) previously used systemd; was rebuilt around sysV init because systemd proved unsuitable for a stable storage system
  • Parted Magic liveboot distribution providing disk partitioning and data recovery tools. Openbox WM; i486, i686, x86_64 FOSS? (licensed GPL)
  • PCLinuxOS (2) (3) (4) APT+RPM package mgmt; provides 2 desktop versions: MATE and KDE; supported architecture: amd64
    • Uplos32 (2) (based on PCLinuxOS) targets i386 machines; uses APT+RPM package mgmt
  • PicarOS “suitable for kids from 3 to 12 and teachers” ?; XFWM + LXDE desktop; i486, i686
  • Pisi Linux (2) (sysvinit + python init scripts) x86_64
  • Plop Linux (2)(PXE/liveboot) designed to rescue data from a damaged system, or to backup and repair operating systems; supports: armv6l, i486, x86_64
  • Quirky (2)(3) supports armhf, i386, x86_64
  • RancherOS (2) a minimalist Linux distribution designed to host Docker containers. Supported architecture: x86_64
  • Sanity Linux (2) (formerly, “Pür Linux”) source-based, ports
  • SliTaz GNU/Linux (2) (Lightweight live CD/USB using BusyBox + SysVinit) supported architectures: armel, i386, x86_64
  • Source Mage GNU/Linux (2) (a source-based distribution) i386, i486, i586, i686, x86_64
  • TAZ(2) (SliTaz fork) (also: a gentoo-based version ) runs entirely from RAM; openbox desktop
  • Tiny Core Linux(2)(3) FLTK/FLWM desktop; i486, x86_64 (also: “CorePlus”) (also “piCore” edition, for Raspberry Pi)
    • TinyPaw-Linux (based on CorePlus) a self-described “passive & aggressive WiFi attack distro”
  • TLD Linux for server environments (no desktop support except for running VNC/RDP sessions foradel virtual machine management GUI) ; i686, x86_64
  • Void Linux (2)(3) (runit, xbps) supported architectures: armv6, armv7, i686, x86_64. supported libcs: glibc, musl (last on the list of independents deserves a first place otherwise)

Linux distributions available without standard GNU tools

  • Alpine Linux (2)(3) (musl libc, BusyBox + OpenRC) supported architectures: i386, x86_64, armhf
  • Easy Linux (2)
  • JanusLinux BusyBox init, musl libc; supported architectures: x86_64
  • Minimal Linux Live (2) Linux kernel, GNU C library, and BusyBox init; i386, x86_64
  • NanoLinux (2)(3) BusyBox init; SLWM window manager. Requires only 14 MB disk space
  • Sabotage Linux (musl libc + BusyBox init) i386, x86_64, MIPS, PowerPC32, ARM(v4t+)
  • sta.li (musl libc) x86_64, armhf
  • Void Linux (2) (runit, xbps) supported architectures: armv6, armv7, i686, x86_64. supported libcs: glibc, musl
  • XBian (based on debian) media center distribution for the Raspberry Pi, CuBox-i, and other arm devices (init: Upstart)

Android derivatives

the Android operating system uses a Linux kernel. wikipedia.org :: Android

  • Android-x86 (2) Android O/S, ported to x86 platform (bootable on x86 hardware). Supported architectures: i386, x86_64
    • AndEX Oreo 8.1 runs apps from Aptoide App Manager and Google Play Store on touchscreen x86 laptop
  • AOSP
  • LineageOS (2) successor of CyanogenMod
  • Replicant (2) is the free (libre) version of Android. FSF-approved

Linux distributions tailored for embedded devices

 

Please also check a smaller list of 78 distributions based on Distrowatch data and its search engine, with a description of each distribution and popularity ranking (based on Distrowatch visitation of pages).

 

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18 thoughts on “A list of non-systemd distributions (revisited)

  1. you know i thought about adding fig os to the w/osd wiki, perhaps you could add it here: fig os / formerly refractahrpup https://archive.org/details/Puppy_Linux_Refractapup

    the internet archive was and is the only place i know where you can download an .iso for it. the isos are done by allytonx, an archivist from the puppy linux community. fig os was a hybrid of refracta and puppy tahr, it still includes some files from librepup (tahr based.) it is mostly a modified refracta.

    the most unique feature of fig os (inspired by puppys self-described “reckless” everything-as-root philosophy, with some added sanity) is that it is a proper user-level-account-based debian (devuan) with a “root desktop.” icewm is running as user, like it should. programs run from icewm run as user– like they should. the instance of pcmanfm (which provides the desktop icons) allows you to click on desktop icons that run as root.

    if that sounds horrible, kill the script that spawns the root desktop (/root/desktops) and then kill pcmanfm– no more root desktop. delete, rename or move /root/desktops and it wont come back, even on reboot. im spoiled by it, ive got the convenience of puppy and its just as easy to run user-privileged apps from the menu, or super-t opens a user-privileged xterm.

    what else has fig os got? an educational programming language and 44 (or 88) page tutorial, a minimalist remaster script written it in that language, so if you dont want to modify and/or redistribute a cd-sized iso you can modify and/or redistribute a 60k script instead. im looking for a future where distros are superseded by free software apps– mkfigos takes about 20 minutes (not including download time) to modify refracta and produce a new bootable .iso, unsupervised. most of that time goes to the squashfs– with lower compression, you can produce the .iso in closer to 5 minutes (a good setting for modification/debugging.)

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  2. It seems as most of the list was compiled from Distrowatch research and anything not on distrowatch is up for grubs from whatever comes up first on glueglue. I corrected the record, check and see if it is OK.

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  3. I made a note on the wiki of nosystemd.org as well with the edit, I hope they notice soon.

    Do you have anything against distrowatch, why not make a listing submission there as well? I think they take a year to submit unless they can tell it has been an ongoing project for longer than a year.

    On the indication of architecture, since I am not familiar with slackware other than briefly trying vector, is i486 correct for 32bit, I see i686 and other notations about it. Is this about the PAE difference?

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  4. Well, liveslak is not a distro in itself. It’s just a series of scripts to make a Live Edition out of Slackware proper.
    I think that too many entries in the Distrowatch database are unfit to call themselves a “distro”. Anything which won’t survive on its own without the “mother distro” is just a side project as far as I am concerned.
    I did get recognition from Distrowatch in the form of a donation, for which I was grateful.

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  5. This list is helpful because it is exhaustive.

    But the real list of usable distro that can be a real replacement for a flagship distro like Ubuntu is as below, especially with KDE Plasma & disk encryption:

    Arch Linux derivatives
    Artix Linux (hard to install)

    Debian derivatives
    Devuan
    MX Linux

    Gentoo (and derivatives)
    Gentoo Linux
    Calculate Linux (partial encryption, no LUKS)
    Redcore Linux

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  6. The real arch without systemd is Obarun, not Artix. Artix is Arch based but has a growing repository of its own for many more things than just the init system. Both are among the easiest installations I have ever encountered. What was the obstacle in installing Artix? Can I help?

    For a Debian alternative I can only recommend Antix and this on its stable form.

    Ubuntu in all its variations is at best an easy fancy distro for a newcomer to linux, nothing more. Even Debian people make fun of ubuntu. I find it curious though how someone can label ubuntu kde plasma a flagship and talk of Gentoo as well. I find the two as extremes where there is no common ground.

    And this talk of the three branches (arch, debian, gentoo) left Void out that seems a very robust and supportive distro that is independent and does not chase behind another distro.

    Sorry for being suspicious on the motives of this comment, but some of the things mentioned seem very contradictory. Like saying Artix is hard to install and mention Gentoo and its derivatives. Very strange.

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  7. I have no affective link to any of the mentioned distros. This just my experience in trying to use a non systemd OS. I am currently using Artix, and as a daily user I know that it is not accessible to a basic user.

    if you have any doubt about it just google “artix ranting day” you will see me ranting about the installer.

    I was looking for a real & comfy LUKS FDE + KDE plasma system. Antix is not good looking, or said differently it looks dated. even if I personally think it is brilliant. MX Linux on the other hand looks modern out of the box, & their wizard & installer are awesome.

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  8. btw, this is real install on real laptop experience, rather than virtualbox tests.

    Obarun? the installer is a nightmare, they have to improve. Just compare with the Antergos installer.

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  9. Pingback: A list of non-systemd distributions (revisited) – My personal knowledge!! ;)

  10. FYI, I’ve just tested MX Linux (Oct, 18 2018) and it uses systemd. :((

    I’m using Devuan at the moment, but I’m not satisfied with it, so I’m still looking for a distribution I could both use for myself and recommend my friends with the assurance they’ll remain my friends.

    I’ve tested many of the general purpose distributions in your list and haven’t found a decent one yet – ‘decent’ meaning for me ‘designed for the 21st century non-geek, non-nerd user with a 21st century computer’.

    I really can’t understand why, in 2018, the distributions that boot with a GUI and are really systemd-free (e.g. Artix, Parabola) require a lot of post-installation work to become ‘decent’ as defined above.

    I’ve even tested several OS of the BSD an Illumos families (e.g. GhostBSD, OpenIndiana) but most unfortunately, there’s no hope to expect from them.

    I must admit that, having spread the love of Linux around me since 1995, I’m feeling very much like an orphan since systemd massively ‘windowsified’ my beloved OS, leaving me with nothing to enjoy using – and above all, nothing to enjoy sharing.

    Should you have any reasonable suggestion, feel free to share it here, it will be much appreciated! 🙂

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  11. Hi Vincent
    Almost always you will have to do some post installation work, no matter what. Nobody can pick and choose software and configurations for you and your exact hw-setup and use. But, yes, there is an extent to where someone using the pc for other reasons than development and distro-architecture, will not want to spend days in feedling with it. So then it boils down to which desktop you like.
    If you like and can tolerate LXQT, Artix is like such a turnkey distro. You install and you are ready to do work on it. On the other hand I have yet to hear that any desktop available through Arch will not work on Artix. Obarun comes with jwm, a very minimal desktop manager. Then you are on your own in terms of desktop choice. If you want plasma it is possible and not that hard.

    Now, MX, which I have avoided because I don’t like the path taken of having systemd and libsystemd present. They are not playing the role of the init system though. They are there, and can be removed, but play the role of fulfilling dependency demands, that come and go with some software on Debian. Remember the aim is to avoid “having” to use systemd as an init system. Different distros have taken a variable degree of avoidance of anything related to systemd. Artix and devuan use libsystemd0/dummy which provides (optionally) the systemd library when it is needed by some desktop stuff. Some use elogind, which is a piece within systemd, where it is needed. Some use consolekit, which was a systemd creation in the past and abandoned. Who doesn’t use dbus? 2 people who have fought to live without it and have a long thread of their project here under a titled article about living without dbus. What about pulseaudio? It is made by the same people that make systemd, and the majority uses it because it almost always produces sound in their browser after installation. Some browsers that are precompiled by the big distros require pulseaudio. It is a never ending battle and one that hasn’t had a definite outcome.

    Small teams like artix, void, obarun, antix don’t have the manpower to produce isos frequently for all popular desktops. If you went to MX and are familiar with debian based systems I would recommend antix. It is much more hardcore anti-systemd than MX is, although the two share many resources and cooperate more than any other two distros. Void if you want to be free of systemd-ism of debian or arch. If you have some familiarity with arch I would really recommend artix, it works flawlessly once installed. If you like a more hardcore hacking version of Arch, I find obarun a treat. It has been my long time personal favorite.

    But don’t undermine MX because of their choice to do things their way. Look at distrowatch, MX has beaten debian, ubuntu, and soon mint in popularity. There must be a good reason to be so popular and not having systemd as an init system. The “almost everyone uses systemd” myth has been deconstructed.

    Then you have a variable you shouldn’t oversee. No matter what system you use, eventually you will run into a problem you can not solve. You will need support and advise from a community. Debian and arch are very harsh anti-social environments that will send you reading for months rather than tell you to try a simple command. One reason I have suggested and keep focusing on the above mentioned distros is that they have a much friendlier community to support a user. The primary reason I wouldn’t touch Devuan with a ten foot pole is that their “community dynamics” is like the same of the pathological narcissistic family. They stink in making up stories rather than admitting a fault, or two. And eventually this reveals a hidden agenda of “choices”. Basically I don’t trust Devuan for anything in the world. If it all came down to choosing between 2 distros, and devuan and debian were those two, I would 100% go with debian …. or maybe windows7. 🙂 Repeatedly if you ask the wrong question “once” in devuan you are banned and ridiculed after you are banned, rather than any of them have to answer responsibly. Have you seen the old Monty-Python sketch with the customer returning the parrot? That should be on Devuan’s first page. (search youtube for monty python and parrot, it is very funny).

    Let me know which desktop you like to use and I’ll help you install it on artix, obarun, void. If you still have MX running, try to see what happens if you remove systemd. I bet you I could run MX with my usual openbox setup and some lxde tools without the trash brought to you by RedΗat-ΝSΑ. Just the RH logo reveals their “origin”.

    Peace!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, I use Artix for 1 year now, I uninstalled LxQT & installed Plasma. It works perfect. It may require from time to time (like every 3 months) to hack around regarding packages dependancies. So I have to say it is not for the masses. But it is the perfect distro for me.

    I want to mention Redcore Linux, which is a gentoo based distro that provides Plasma & LUKS too.
    You can switch to plasma like this:

    sisyphus upgrade
    sisyphus install plasma-meta

    This will install a very minimal KDE Plasma session. If you need more KDE related stuff open up Sisyphus GUI and start looking up.

    If you’re happy with Plasma, and you want to get rid of Lxqt :

    sisyphus uninstall lxqt-meta
    sisyphus remove-orphans

    I have to mention Calculate Linux which is a good fit too, but unfortunately does not provide LUKS at install.

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  13. Thank you for both of your feedback! I have tried Artix and was trying to find something with a better finish, but this seems impossible for the moment, so I think I’ll go this way.

    My favorite desktop environments are MATE and XFCE and, you’re right, LXQT and LXDE are definitely not my cup of tea…

    There is no problem for me with post-install configuration, every time I switch to a new distribution, I create a post-install script to tailor it to my needs and taste. It’s just that it should not last longer than the install itself. 😉

    For my personal use, I could accept to replace the desktop environment after installation, but I couldn’t recommend such a distribution to someone new to Linux.

    This is the same with systemd: as long as you just browse the Internet and write letters, any distribution is fine. But when you try and use a systemd-based distribution in a corporate environment, even in a small company, the nightmare begins…

    I wish I could find a single distribution able to cover a wide range of usages – home PC, professional desktop and small business server. Ubuntu had this potential until it switched to systemd, and it looks like no other distribution emerged since then to take the vacant place on the podium.

    It is sad to see the incredible number of free-time hours spent to create hosts of ephemeral distributions that fail to properly address even a single usage among those cited.

    It seems arrogance and disregard for end users will kill free software sooner and more surely than all the money and hatred Microsoft invested for decades for this very purpose.

    What I find even sadder is that there was much more in free software than just software at no cost: with its inexorable decline, Mankind loses a beautiful part of its soul, and my guess is that there isn’t much left…

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