The Raspberry Pi line of computers are small, inexpensive single-board PCs that are most commonly used to run GNU/Linux distributions. But while Raspberry Pi devices have been shipping since 2012, it took more than eight years for one of the most popular Linux distributions to add support – and even then, the developers of Ubuntu only officially supported Raspberry Pi 4 computers with at least 4GB of RAM.

Now the developers of Ubuntu say the next release of their desktop operating system should be able to run on Raspberry Pi hardware with as little as 2GB of RAM.

In a blog post, developers say that one of the goals for the upcoming Ubuntu 22.04 LTS release, due out in April, is “targeting a viable Desktop experience on Raspberry Pi 4 2GB models,” which typically sell for $45, which makes them about $10 cheaper than models with 4GB of RAM.

They’ll do that by using a Linux kernel feature called zswap, which compresses data stored in RAM before moving it to an SD card or other storage space designated for use as swap memory… and which can quickly check to see if you still actually need to actually move those files to swap memory after they’ve been compressed or if they’ll take up less space and run more quickly if they remain in RAM.

The end result is that you should be able to get a full Ubuntu desktop experience even on Raspberry Pi 4 devices with as little as 2GB of RAM. And while this feature will be enabled by default in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, it’s already possible to enable it in older versions of Ubuntu if you want to try them out on a Raspberry Pi by following instructions outlined in a recent Ubuntu blog post.

Note that enabling zswap should also improve performance for Raspberry Pi 4 devices with 4GB or 8GB of RAM. And in addition to the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, zswap will be enabled by default when you install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS on a Raspberry Pi 400 computer-in-a-keyboard, which has similar hardware (and 4GB of RAM).

Or you could just use the Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS (developed by the makers of the Raspberry Pi), or any of the many of other Linux distributions that are compatible with Raspberry Pi computers.

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8 replies on “Ubuntu 22.04 LTS will run on a Raspberry Pi 4 with just 2GB of RAM”

  1. Can’t find Pi’s in stock at anywhere near these prices.
    The overseas suppliers are charging at least 3x this price with tax and shopping

  2. A 2018 mfd netbook can run Manjaro offshoot on 256 mb ram, how do i know, i did just this. Indeed, usable. But without anything loaded…hit firefox and you zoom up to 800mb, applications are hogs why does it matter if OS sips?

    1. “applications are hogs why does it matter if OS sips?”

      Because the article is largely about enabling zswap by default. Not really about reducing the base OS’s RAM usage.

    2. I can’t speak to Manjaro (either yesterday or today) but I question today’s full Ubuntu running squat on only 2GB of RAM. Years ago I had Ubuntu 14.04 running on a Pentium 4 HT CPU and 2GB of RAM. Using Firefox with only a few tabs running caused it to go into swap (even after I set swappiness to 1) by the start of 2016. My solution was to install Xubuntu on it and use that (I later maxed out the RAM on the computer at 3.2GB as it was only 32 bit). If a full Ubuntu 22.04 install can really handle basic web surfing on 2GB of RAM again this could be a game changer for Linux. I tend to doubt that it can. With 20.04 even Lubuntu can’t handle basic web surfing on only 2GB of RAM (although it comes close). I even upgraded my old eMachines E525 with the Celeron 900 laptop CPU to 4GB of RAM, Xubuntu works OK on it but it isn’t really speedy.

  3. I ran a KDE 3 desktop machine with 512MB RAM in the mid-2000s. In reality 2GB is a ridiculously large amount of RAM.

    1. Nice trick but are you still running mid-2000s hardware? Kernel has got to load drivers.

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