Emmabuntüs : A Debian Based Distro For Older And Refurbished PCs

Emmabuntüs is a lightweight Debian based distro which is ideal for older PCs. It is designed for reusing older PCs and thereby reducing e-waste. (A list of minimum system requirements can be found here). It is also widely used by various humanitarian organizations worldwide mainly the Emmaus communities – a French charity movement from which the distro name is derived.

Download the ISO directly from here. A complete list of downloadable ISOs can be found here.

This example uses the Xfce desktop environment and the ISO used is Emmabuntüs Debian Edition 2 (Stretch). If you have already used Debian or Ubuntu, then using Emmabuntüs will be very simple as it is intended for beginners.


Once downloaded, create a bootable USB drive for it link and boot from it. When making a bootable USB drive from Windows, you can use Etcher among other tools, and from Linux command line, you can directly use the dd command.

Emmabuntüs also has a live mode that allows exploring the desktop environment before installing it by choosing Try Emmabuntus without installing from the setup screen.

Emmabuntüs live mode

Also, the installation process is the same as that for Debian.

To kickstart installation, choose Install Emmabuntus in Graphic mode (easier).

Emmabuntüs ISO boot up screen

Select the language, keyboard layout, and locale.

choosing system language during Emmabuntüs installation

choosing keyboard layout during Emmabuntüs installation

Next, enter the hostname, network details and setup users.

configuring a hostname during Emmabuntüs installation

configuring users and root password during Emmabuntüs installation

adding a user during Emmabuntüs installation

setting a user password during Emmabuntüs installation

Finally, partition as needed and let the installation begin. If installing it as the only OS, then use the Guided option (entire disk). The partitioning scheme used during this article was of single disk with 3 partitions – root, home and swap. Choose the Manual option if you would like to manually partition or when dual booting with another OS.

choosing a partitioning scheme during Emmabuntüs installation

Once the partition scheme is finalized, wait for the installation to complete.

Emmabuntüs installation completed

After it is installed, restart to log into Emmabuntüs.

Emmabuntüs login screen

Post-installation tasks:

During the first run, Emmabuntüs makes it easy to customize and choose how your desktop environment will appear.

post installation tasks in Emmabuntüs

Choose the type of Xfce menu, image version (either Ubuntu, Emmabuntüs or none) and the wallpaper. This example uses Emmabuntüs.

configuring desktop settings in Emmabuntüs

Automatic login can also be enabled from here.

Besides that, you can also enable dock for applications. Emmabuntüs comes with Cairo-Dock. Click on Activate the dock. Xfce options include activating workspace and taskbar.

choosing dock and Xfce options in Emmabuntüs

The type of dock that can be used depends on your usage. It can be All, Simple or Basic. Depending on the preferences, the selected dock type will display the applications.

choosing a dock version in Emmabuntüs

The default choice of Simple is sufficient for most. Choosing the All option will enable the option of installing LXDE as a desktop environment.

After the dock settings are enabled, Emmabuntüs will prompt for installing proprietary codecs. This is useful as you don’t have to manually change repository settings like in Debian to get it working.

installing proprietary codecs in Emmabuntüs

Select from the list of codecs and install them.

Emmabuntüs also supports various languages like English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. You can choose which will languages to keep and set as the default system language.

removing unnecessary languages after Emmabuntüs installation

Removing unnecessary languages is recommended to reduce the size of system updates. Turn off the language selection prompt after subsequent logins once the languages are removed.

Completing these tasks will finish the post-installation setup.

Using Emmabuntüs:

Emmabuntüs has a welcome screen with the most common tasks available. It can be disabled after login or be kept as it is.

welcome screeen in startup in Emmabuntüs

If you’d like to know more about Debian in general, choose Debian Beginner or Debian Reference. You can also read about Emmabuntüs tutorials by clicking on Tutorials from here.

Emmabuntüs also comes with a fair share of apps for everything. Thunar is the file manager and is simple to navigate.

Emmabuntüs desktop environment

Thunar file manager in Emmabuntüs

When the default choice of Simple dock is enabled, there will be a variety of apps available in different categories like Maintenance, Audio, Video and so on. These can be directly launched from the dock.

Maintenance: For system tune-up and remote access as well as other tasks, Bleachbit and Teamviewer are installed.

Maintenance related apps in Emmabuntüs

Also, you can configure firewall settings, check for updates and make backups from this section.

Communication: Besides Firefox ESR as the installed browser, there is Chromium too.

Communication and messaging related apps in Emmabuntüs

Also, mail and chat/collaboration tools like Thunderbird and Pidgin are available.

Video: VLC player, Kaffeine, WinFF, and Cheese are installed.

Video playback and editing apps in Emmabuntüs
Audio: Audacious, Clementine, Asunder CD Ripper, Sound Converter and Easy Tag can be used for various audio related tasks.

Audio editing and playback apps in Emmabuntüs
Office: Emmabuntüs comes with Calibre, Libreoffice, PDF shuffler and few other tools for this.

Office apps in Emmabuntüs

Also, these apps and other settings can be accessed from the Xfce menu or the Software Center.

Xfce menu in Emmabuntüs

Right-clicking anywhere on the desktop can also bring them up besides directly accessing Terminal or Thunar File Manager.

right click options in Emmabuntüs

Besides that, you can also use apt to install packages from the Terminal and work with the Linux command line.

using apt to update system software in Emmabuntüs from Linux command line

Emmabuntüs version details using uname command

installing packages using apt in Emmabuntüs

Overall this is a lightweight and easy to use Linux distro especially for older PCs.

Do try it out.

  1. Andy Melton says:

    You say older computers, but how old?