A list of non-systemd distributions (revisited)

last revised on October 25th 2019

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)
      • CROWZ Fluxbox, Openbox, JWM
      • Dynebolic an FSF-approved distribution geared toward users engaged in multimedia production
      • EterTICs EterTICs GNU/Linux-Libre is a 100% libre distribution designed for Latin American community radio environments.  Possibly the first libre distribution to do so.  amd64, i386
      • Exe GNU/Linux features Trinity Desktop Environment; amd64, i686
      • fluXuan using fluxbox, based on MiyoLinux/Devuan/Refracta amd64
      • Good Life Linux
      • GNUinos (2) a Libre distribution; openbox wm; amd64, i686
      • Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre OpenRC (2) “LTS Arch snapshot versions + security/stability patches ported from Devuan”; amd64, i686
      • Maemo Leste (2) (3) openrc init ; Hildon desktop; architectures: armel, armhf and amd64
      • MiyoLinux Openbox or i3 window manager
      • Nelum-Dev1 Openbox, XFCE, or MATE desktop
      • Refracta (2) (3)  also: (Refracta Devuan 2) Openbox, eudev, OpenRC ; amd64, i386;
      • Star Linux ships XFCE, Fluxbox, Openbox, Jwm, i3
      • VenenuX ships LXDE (i386)
      • Vuu-Do Linux Openbox or MATE desktop
  • 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
    Since 8.6 Knoppix ships without systemd, it has elogind on, and a conflict package called no-systemd – welcome to systemd-liberation club Knoppix-community.
  • 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 Now in beta version of 7 moving from upstart to systemd GOOD-BYE!
  • Window Maker Live(2)(3) sysV init; both windowmaker + XFCE are preinstalled; amd64, i386
  • XBian (based on debian) media center distribution for the Raspberry Pi, CuBox-i, and other arm devices (init: Upstart)

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) with optional pre-configured GNOME and Plasma desktop editions.
    • 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
    • Mazon OS. Mazon OS is a KISS-style operating system built from the Linux From Scratch project. Mazon OS features a custom package manager, called bananapkg, which is implemented as a shell script.
    • 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”
    • Olean Linux. Olean Linux is a Linux distribution from scratch, based on LFS and BLFS concepts. It uses a rolling release update system.
    • Venom Linux. Venom Linux is source based Linux distribution based on Linux From Scratch (LFS) with a BSD-style init system.

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
  • Alpine Linux (2)(3) (musl libc, BusyBox + OpenRC) supported architectures: i386, x86_64, armhf
  • Ataraxia Linux (ex-JanusLinux) BusyBox init, musl libc; supported architectures: x86_64
  • Avouch Linux. Avouch Linux is a desktop distribution available in GNOME, KDE Plasma, LXQt, and Xfce flavours.
  • 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
  • Easy Linux (2)
  • 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
  • Kiss-Linux  A  Linux distribution with a focus on simplicity and privacy.  Entirely built from source (Gentoo style) kiss pkg manager, musl, busybox.
  • 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
  • Minimal Linux Live (2) Linux kernel, GNU C library, and BusyBox init; i386, x86_64
  • MisiProject sysV init, using pisi package manager; armv7h, x86_64
  • Moebius Linux armhf changelog minimal (no X) distro currently focused on RaspberryPi v3
  • NanoLinux (2)(3) BusyBox init; SLWM window manager. Requires only 14 MB disk space
  • OviOS Linux (2) previously used systemd; was rebuilt around sysV init because systemd proved unsuitable for a stable storage system
  • OS108. OS108 is a desktop-oriented operating system that is based on NetBSD and features the MATE desktop.
  • 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
  • Sabotage Linux (musl libc + BusyBox init) i386, x86_64, MIPS, PowerPC32, ARM(v4t+)
  • Sanity Linux (2) (formerly, “Pür Linux”) source-based, ports
  • Sculpt OS. Sculpt OS is small distribution of the Genode Operating System Framework. Sculpt uses Genode as a base userland with the NOVA microhypervisor as its kernel. Sculpt supports running legacy OSes as virtual machines using VirtualBox and hardware assisted virtualization. Sculpt features a package manager with packages for virtual machines, a port of the Arora web browser, and games.
  • 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
  • sta.li (musl libc) x86_64, armhf
  • 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)

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).

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

  1. You may want to file your distribution with Distrowatch.com
    After initial listing it takes a year of active development for them to show on their active list.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Devuan FTW! | Piotr J. Walczak – Techno Blog

  3. Hello,

    I’d like to inform you about my new Linux distribution called KISS.

    https://getkiss.org
    https://github.com/kisslinux

    Info:

    Independent (not based on anything else).
    Source based (like gentoo or crux).
    Busybox coreutils.
    Busybox init (busybox includes runit style services, sysvinit style services or plain shell scripts)
    Musl libc.
    No dbus.
    No pam.
    No polkit.
    No systemd.
    No gettext/intltool.
    Packages compile without Telemetry/tracking.

    Thanks! 🙂

    Like

  4. Welcome to the family/community of conscious systemd resistance 🙂
    Also welcome to the ever growing small musl community. Have you seen Adelie? Have you considered S6 as init service/management? I am betting personally on musl and s6 horses to win.

    I took a quick look through kiss, I liked what I have seen this far, so I need to dedicate some time on trying the real thing.

    Again, welcome. Feel free to write up a more detailed description of the distribution and I will publish it here as a separate article. This blog may not seem much but it has about 90k visits in its 2 year life, it is currently averaging 150 unique hits a day. I have failed miserably in making it a real community project, with minor exceptional people who have contributed occasionally.

    Like

  5. Pingback: A list of non-systemd distributions (revisited) | systemd-free linux community – Science, Technology and Life

  6. Last I checked MX was using the whole systemd just not have it active. It would boot with sysvinit but systemd and systemd-libs were installed. I may be wrong. I can’t tolerate much fluff and complex desktops, they appear as a wast of resources to me.

    AntiX is much cleaner and brutal to systemd appearance. I wouldn’t trade antix for MX, even though they seem like 1st cousins.

    But where and how do you draw the line between who is in the list and who is not. There are compromises and workarounds everywhere as upstream developers keep developing for systemd based systems, careless about their own software being dysfunctional on non-systemd systems.

    Lately there seems this “coincidence” of people in various forums and boards offering instructions on how to use systemd functionality instead of chrony. It is not just users, narrow minded devs see those things and say “hey, I can substitute this in my code instead of using chrony”, even though the whole community can use it instead of a subgroup. They run campaigns like this and then more and more software becomes dysfunctional for everyone else.
    Eventually we would be talking of systemd as the core system, with linux, and varieties of software depending on this infrastructure. All those systemd based distros will converge and converge to become one thing. To be fully compatible with systemd all those distros will be very much alike.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the 90’s, I discovered Unix at work and I loved it. I was delighted to discover Linux in 1995 because I could feel a taste of Unix even at home. 🙂 I’m grateful to Linux for all the things I have learnt using it, but when it began its windowsification, I felt deeply betrayed.

    At first, I have tried hard to find a decent non-systemd distribution. I’ve used Devuan for a while, then Void, but as fungalnet noted, building a systemd-free distribution will become impossible in the medium term. There is nowadays too much money to make with Linux and multinationals (at least IBM and Oracle) will make this happen, even if its not their primary goal.

    Aware of this, I have looked for alternatives outside of the Linux world and I’ve been pleased to discover some. Now, I’ve set my choice on FreeBSD and I’m grateful to Linux and systemd to have created the opportunity for me to discover it. The departure has been brutal, the path quite unpleasant, but I’m now back to the roots of my passion for Unix and that’s great. 🙂

    Like

  8. Vine Linux is planning to move to systemd in 7.0. No fixed release date but they’ve already put some work towards it.
    http://trac.vinelinux.org/wiki/Vine7/Software
    “init: upstart維持、eudevへ移行(将来のsystemd移行までの措置)”
    roughly translates to
    “init: upstart in maintenance mode, going with eudev(until transition to systemd in near future)”
    I assume this means working on upstart+eudev, followed by systemd+eudev? I’ve never actually ran it, let alone looked at it’s inner workings.

    I think this may also answer why MX ships systemd without using it – to have less work when they decide to give in. On one hand, I can clearly see that the list of things standing in the way of an systemdless distro is growing exponentially, but at the same time defeatism is the quickest way to a self-fulfilling prohpecy.

    Also, distrowatch claims newest Window Maker Live uses systemd. I don’t have much time to investigate, so someone else please do.

    Like

  9. I don’t understand much Japanese and I don’t see any information on other languages. I don’t see where Distrowatch gets its data, the project seems pretty dead since 10/2017. It might be the being based on Jessie back then and offering support for 2 years they just upgraded everything as Jessie (old-old-stable) and pretend they are supporting it still. Linux4.14 is old even for Debian.

    Window Maker Live doesn’t show much action either since two year old last edition. Probably dead and abandoned as well. The question I guess is whether should abandoned/dead projects be listed? I’d say if they are not using systemd as init and haven’t officially changed to it they deserve a chance to be on the list and resurrect themselves.

    Like

  10. I had a similar experience, it was work and school around 1990 that I experienced the power of unix, although I remember X windows on some SGI workstations (was it Irix, I can’t remember). Unfortunately those machines cost 2 fortunes or more than a truck load of my favorite motorcycles 🙂 I didn’t get to see linux for PC till later, on some antiquated AT&T workstations that were about equal on power with IBM-AT. Very crude and limited. Then around 99 I got a hold of this thing called RedHat linux for PCs, their CDs seemed to be as common as Domino’s Pizza coupons. What a mess that was, at least in the edition I received. I tried in a whole variety of PCs but there was always some problem that at least “I didn’t know how to solve”. Then later I heard of Debian, managed to burn an image and have a successful installation. I thought Debian was king then. And after Wheezy things begun to crumble down.

    So here we are 🙂

    I have given several open-minded and courageous tries on both OpenBSD and FreeBSD, and clones. I suspect I could live with it if I had to, but I think Linux still deserves a little benefit of a doubt. Especially linux in combination of musl and S6. I think DragonFly was my favorite of those I tried.

    Like

  11. There should be a separate “Outdated” category. I agree that deleting would be bad, someone might want them for offline use or they might come back,
    I’d say the criteria should be:
    a) past End Of Life or
    b) past EOL of parent distro if it’s the provider of security updates or
    c) 1.5 years without updates if a) and b) fail

    So I looked some stuff up:

    https://wiki.debian.org/DebianReleases
    Debian has an EOL(year after the next one comes out) and an Long Term Support EOL(for x86, x86_64, armel & armhl, usually at end of the month before the next version’s EOL)
    For Wheezy EOL was April 25th, 2016 and LTS EOL was May 31st, 2018. So everything based on it that doesn’t recieve it’s own security updates should go.
    For Jessie EOL was June 17th, 2018 and LTS EOL will be June 30th, 2020. So that’s already time for uncommon architecture distros, and less than 9 months away for common ones.

    Like

  12. I share your concerns, it is hard to decide for others without involving them and that would be an enormous amount of work, to keep in touch with 80-120 of them, even if there was a single contact point.
    I am thinking of void, if someone doesn’t follow the hectic pace of void development (7-9 architectures x 2 glibc/musl) and just looks at things like distrowatch, they may think it is abandoned. There were a couple of community edition isos that came out last spring, not official, and the last official release was 11/2018. This doesn’t mean that you can’t install void from such an image and you can get linux 5.3.7 as your kernel. So with rolling releases it is hard to tell of activity till you look at their source repository work. Artegos which appears SO popular, hadn’t edited a single thing for more than a year when they officially called it QUITS. But arch underneath an artegos (or whatever it WAS calles) installation rolled fine, and still does. Themes, icons, and backgrounds don’t loose stability with age 🙂

    I sure can’t keep up with all of them, I can’t even try. I lost half a day trying dragora, and I wish there was material to write a review, but the damn thing was so slow it pissed me off so bad I deleted the huge .iso I had downloaded. There have been quite a few dogs with fleas lately that I have wasted time, and I refrain of writing negative publicity, they don’t even deserve that much. They should iron out bugs then run to make it public that they have created something. Obviously it is not as easy as people think.

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  13. Somehow your comment was branded spam by wordpress/akismet and luckily I discovered it in more than 60 pieces of spam. I sometimes scan so fast through pages of spam/comments I could have missed it.

    I crossed vine out on the list and totally remove it once 7 is announced. Not much is published about it in other than Japanese language. I managed to pick up that their grub version is based on a Fedora patch. They say if you sleep with GMO dogs you get GMO fleas 🙂 I like dogs, RH/fedora/systemd crap I don’t like.

    Like

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