This is my first question here, so please be kind.

I have an original RPi and a 16MB SD card, and I don't want to use another USB drive to run Linux from. Which tiny distro will fit entirely on this SD card? It should run entirely in RAM and have at least an SSH server and a package manager. There are Linux distros which fit even on a floppy, so 16MB should be just enough. Any solutions?

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    On the pi you have the unique issue of needing to load the vendor blobs off of the boot partition first. Start by figuring out how big that needs to be. Then look at really compact things like router distributions designed for devices with 4 or 8 MB of NAND flash on the board, and see how they do it - note in particular that they tend to store a compressed filesystem image and unpack to ram, sort of like modern desktops do with their initrd image, but without the later replacement by a disk-based root filesystem. Jun 22, 2015 at 12:01
  • There is OpenWrt, which claims to fit on 8MB of flash, but the RPi img file is 50MB!
    – niutech
    Jun 22, 2015 at 12:08
  • "There are Linux distros which fit even on a floppy..." -> I think you have been reading material that is at least a decade old. These still exist -- their primary purpose was to serve as rescue disks, now I suppose it is about playing with antique hardware. But I doubt you'll find one compiled for the pi if you haven't found one yet -- I'd guess they stopped making 16 MB cards years before the pi was even an idea, so there would be no real purpose in it. Put another way, when you want something this peculiar, you might have to do it yourself...
    – goldilocks
    Jun 22, 2015 at 13:26
  • ...Which would not be all that hard. You should look into busybox, and/or distros based around busybox (tiny core is one example). A lot of small scale embedded stuff is done that way.
    – goldilocks
    Jun 22, 2015 at 13:28
  • I have a 32MB MMC card you can borrow :D
    – cortices
    Jun 24, 2015 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


Tiny Core Linux meets your requirement.

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    No, the unzipped IMG file is 18.3MB which is > 16MB
    – niutech
    Jun 22, 2015 at 11:41
  • Look for a solution where only the boot blobs are uncompressed, while the Linux filesystem image is stored compressed and only gets uncompressed to RAM at runtime. Also check for extra space in the boot partition. Jun 22, 2015 at 12:03
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    You could also just splurge on a 32 MB card ;) Actually that might be even harder to find.
    – goldilocks
    Jun 22, 2015 at 13:30
  • I was able to fit in 16MB by deleting the files start_x.elf and fixup_x.dat.
    – niutech
    Jun 30, 2015 at 22:59

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