Puppy Linux: Your new best friend

Jack Wallen
Feb 1, 2010
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

On occasion I have a need for a tiny, lightning fast Linux distribution to boot into in order to check various issues on a machine. Either that or I just don't want to monkey around with someone else' data. Either way, I will often grab for either a CD or flash drive containing my favorite "micro" distribution, Puppy Linux.

Puppy Linux is one of those distributions that you just might come to depend on and you will want to get to know the ins and outs of this little beauty. Why? It's not a vanilla Linux distribution. Because of its size there are many tools that are used that might not be your average tool. There are so many ways Puppy Linux can help you out. But before that can happen, you will want to get to know Puppy Linux. In this introductory article, I will show you around Puppy so he can some day be your best friend.

What is Puppy Linux?

Puppy Linux is a special build of the Linux operating system (not based on any other distribution) that prides itself on being very small and very fast. Puppy can boot onto older computers, making them seem like power houses. The entire live CD comes in at 85 MB and contains more applications than you would imaging. If you boot up Puppy and take a glance at the start menu, you will be shocked at how much has been packed in. With this tiny distro you can:

  • Browse the web.
  • Create spreadsheets.
  • Analyse your hardware.
  • Mount drives on the machine.
  • Run a web site.
  • Rip CDs.
  • Pl.ay music.
  • Create images.

In other words, just about everything you can do on your normal PC, you can do with Puppy. But there is one thing I like to use Puppy for more than anything else. Hardware discovery.

Fetch boy, fetch!

I don't know how many times I have installed another operating system (Windows XP is a big offender) only to have a piece of hardware not recognized. This is all fine and good when you have the disc handy in order to install drivers. But what if you don't have the disk AND you can't remember what hardware is installed on your machine? That is where Puppy really shines. When you boot into Puppy Linux click Menu > System > Pupscan to start up the Hardware Information tool. Once this tool opens you will see a complete listing of the hardware information for the system (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

In Figure 1 you can see the listing for PCI interfaces of my laptop's display. From these results I could then google "Intel Graphics Controller Device 2a03" and see it is:

product: Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics Controller [8086:2A03]
vendor: Intel Corporation [8086]
bus info: pci@0000:00:02.1
version: 03
width: 64 bits
clock: 33MHz
Power Management,
bus mastering,
PCI capabilities listing
latency: 0

That's more information than I actually need...but it will work. You can do this with all of the hardware on your machine.

Final thoughts

I highly recommend having Puppy Linux around on a CD or thumb drive. It will come in handy in numerous occasions. Whether you are trying to rescue a machine (you could even install an anti-virus on Puppy and scan the infected machine) or just use an OS other than the installed OS, Puppy is there for you.


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  1. leanon said on October 23, 2017 at 2:24 am

    Anyone have any preference on which pups work best, for them?

  2. jasonpsage said on February 22, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Puppy, Lucid Puppy and (MY fave) Lighthouse Puppy Mariner – Are just amazing – and I’m not a newbie.

    FAST… FAST..FASTER – for a desktop OS? My opinion is they are the best OS’s on the planet ;)

    AWESOME! I can’t bear anything else for my desktops now – finally your PC can run at the speeds it was designed for!

    Take a three year old machine… put in puppy. Take a brandnew machine – and install… ANYTHING… Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7… Even any linux or whatever.. and … well.. I’ve never seen so much packed into so little – I mean – if your a harddisk data junkie – YA HOO…

    Take the PUPP-SEE-CHALLENGE!!!! (Yeah – I coined that) B^)

  3. fireball_xl5 said on April 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm


    I’ve been trying out various live CDs on my Dell Latitude D610 running Windows XP, with the following results –

    OpenSuse Gnome V11.2 – failed to load/run
    Linux Mint ‘Helena’ – failed to load/run
    Ubuntu 9.10 – failed to load/run
    Puppy Linux 4.3.1 – worked brilliantly.

    I have now turned the Dell into a dual boot pc, to get to grips with Linux and Puppy. At times it is b****y frustrating, but I’m getting there.

  4. dzent1 said on February 24, 2010 at 1:22 am

    If you haven’t been using a flavor of puppy linux, particularly dpup, you’re missing out.

    Blazing fast, rock solid, customizable, uncomplicated, and killer community support..

    Also wonderful are browserlinux and macpup foxy (based on e17 and puppy 4.31).

    God bless you Barry Kauler, wherever you are! You did a great thing.

  5. tuna said on February 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Funny, of all the Linux Live-CDs I’ve tried, Puppy is the only one that has successfully handled Ralink AND Atheros chipsets running WPA combined w/ Static IP addressing.

  6. WB7ODYFred said on February 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Butch here is some info from http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=46339

    Now that Puppy is moving from kernel version 2.6.25 to 2.6.30 with the upcoming Puppy 4.3, there appears to be some (extra) confusion about drivers for Atheros wifi devices.

    Under the kernel in Puppy v4.1 / v4.2 / v4.3-retro:
    – the ath_pci module from the MADWiFi project is provided as standard. It supports most, but not all, G-mode PCI and cardbus wifi devices.
    – for the AR5007EG wifi chipset variant, a special version of the ath_pci driver is required, available here –
    – the ath5k module is also available, but at this early stage of development it’s generally unreliable.
    – Atheros N-mode wifi devices are not supported.
    – Atheros USB wifi devices are not supported.

    Under the 2.6.30.x kernel in Puppy 4.3:
    – the ath5k wifi module is now working and reliable. It supports all PCI and cardbus G-mode wifi devices.
    – the new ath9k module supports Atheros PCI/cardbus N-mode wifi devices.
    – Atheros USB wifi devices remain unsupported.

    Butch, Maybe you have a USB Atheros device. Could you tell us which version of Atheros Chipset
    chip set you have in your computer. You might check out the 4.3.1 version of Puppy or
    the http://www.dpup.org/test try the new dpup 484 beta 4 January 25 2010 version.
    Alas yes with Puppy not working with your Atheros Wifi, I do hope you find a versoin of Linux that works for you. Check out http://www.distrowatch.com

    WB7ODYFred at yahoo dot com

  7. Seth said on February 3, 2010 at 3:37 am

    I have used Puppy from several USB drives without problem. Are you sure the PC you tried had the BIOS set to boot from USB? Did you try a USB bootable device know to work?

    Puppy does not claim to contain drivers for every type of hardware, however, if there is a Linux drive for your Atheros chipset you should be able to install / copy to Puppy. You may also be able to use a Windows driver via ndiswrapper which is part of Puppy and included in the GUI connection tool.

  8. Butch said on February 3, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I’ve wasted my time too many times on different versions of Puppy. Until
    they support the Atheros chipset for networking, I don’t have much use for
    the distro.

  9. n00b said on February 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I used to run Puppy from a flash drive. I have recently started booting from a SD card (new laptop had SD reader). I have been using it for a couple of years now for.

    It can be encrypted and password protected (password is preboot not unlike truecrypt).

  10. woohoo said on February 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Puppy is indeed a very nice distro, but it did not work for me. Installed it on two USB sticks, and it was not able to boot any of three computers I tried.

    On the other hand, the latest Slax distro – worked like a charm.
    Sorry about that, but the people working on Puppy still have a little work to do to make it stable.

    1. Norm M. said on February 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      Something went wrong when you dumped Puppy to your USB stick. I’ve booted Puppy from CD, DVD, and USB sticks (various brands) a hundred times with no problem. It’s nothing to do with Puppy, take my word for it. For those wanting to trying a few versions of Puppy, why not download the Windows app “YUMI” at: http://www.snapfiles.com/get/yumi.html

      All you need are the .ISO files from any Linux distro site and dump a few versions onto one stick. It’s all menu selectable from there. The bigger the USB drive, the more distros and Linux utilities you can have at your disposal.

  11. Alastair Montgomery said on February 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    There is a cool Puppy Linux derivate called “Puppy Arcade 6” http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm

    Which has emulators for Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Arcade Machines, Colecovision, Commodore (64/128/VIC20/PET), GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis, MasterSystem, MS DOS, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix 16, PSX, Scumm, SNES and ZX Spectrum pre-installed so you can have a retro gaming fix.

  12. Roman ShaRP said on February 2, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I want to add that Puppy distribution have two indispensable qualities
    1) It fits itself in RAM – so your CD/DVD drive is free and can be used for something else
    2) It have CD/DVD burning program on board, – so, if you don’t have appropriate CD, but have access to its image, you can access and burn it with Puppy.

    And that can be done without any changes to your actual PC system if you don’t want them or can’t do them when your Windows functionality is blocked by some virus or trojan.

    The second distribution allowing this is Parted Magic LiveCD (not to mentions its partition and formatting capabilities :) ) So, I would recommend to have them both burned to CD-RWs, for example.

    Even if you prefer another distribution or OS, they can help you with emergency or rescue tasks.

  13. djohnston said on February 2, 2010 at 4:08 am

    There are antivirus checkers which run natively in Linux. FPROT, AVG, ClamAV, etc. Of course, the antivirus checkers are for checking the files on a Windows machine. You boot the suspect PC from the liveCD. This procedure allows a filescan without the possibility of a virus or trojan masking its identity in the Windows environment.

    1. a-non-e-mouse said on February 3, 2010 at 8:35 am

      Re: anti-virus

      That’s interesting, I thought native Linux AV programs only check for Linux viruses and Trojans, hence the reason they’re so much smaller than their Windows counterparts 8-S. I would LOVE to get my hands on a Windows anti-virus program that runs under Linux.

  14. retghy said on February 2, 2010 at 1:45 am

    When you say install an anti virus to which one are you referring to? Using wine you mean?

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