• We had to restore from a backup today after a failed software update. Backup was from 0000 EDT and restored it at 0800 EDT so we lost about 8hrs. Today is 07/20/2024. More info here.

Which Distro is Right for Me?



Updated (Again)

List of all "Which Distro" articles
Similar article discussing the different types of distros - http://www.linux.org/threads/about-the-distros.4680/

Aloha! On numerous forum sites, including this one, I see many people ask “I have X computer systems. Which distro should I use?”. These many questions inspired me to write an article that will hopefully answer at least 99% of future questions of that nature. I also hope the great moderators of Linux.org ( @ryanvade and @arochester ) will direct such people to this article (and related articles) in the future.

Debian: Debian Linux will be well-suited for those who need stability. Debian Linux uses older software that is known to be stable. Generally, hospitals that use Linux will use Debian on important systems. Debian is usually a wise choice for a server system because the software is usually stable. The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 512MB memory, 5GB hard-drive. http://www.debian.org/distrib/

Ubuntu: For those that like Debian, but want the latest software and an interface with better graphics, Ubuntu is a common choice. Ubuntu is stable, but many Linux users recommend Debian for critical systems. The average mainstream desktop/laptop user will probably want Ubuntu. The recommended system requirements are 800MB memory, 1GHz processor, and 5GB hard-drive. http://www.ubuntu.com/download

Kubuntu: Same as Ubuntu, but uses KDE. Users that dislike Unity may prefer Kubuntu. The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 10GB hard-drive, and more than 1GB memory. http://www.kubuntu.org/getkubuntu

Xubuntu: Xubuntu is a lightweight Ubuntu system for older hardware or hardware with less resources. Xubuntu uses the XFCE interface instead of Unity. The recommended system requirements are 512MB memory and 5GB hard-drive (tyr Lubuntu for something more lightweight). http://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/

Linux Mint:
For people that want a Debian-based system, but dislike Unity may be interested in Linux Mint. Linux Mint may come with the MATE, Cinnamon, XFCE, or KDE interface (user's choice). The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 1GB memory, and 10GB hard-drive. http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php

BackTrack (Kali): BackTrack is a Ubuntu-based high-security system while Kali is newer and based on Debian. BackTrack (now called Kali) is often used for hacking into other systems. Although, that is illegal unless you are hacking into a computer of your because you forgot the password. BackTrack/Kali is also used to evaluate security. Some companies may use BackTrack/Kali to find security flaws in their own system. http://www.kali.org/downloads/

Slackware: Slackware is a simple lightweight system. Usually, Slackware is preferred among advanced users due to Slackware being less of a user-friendly system compared to other distros. The recommended system requirements are i486 processor, 256MB memory, and 5GB hard-drive. Advanced users wanting a lightweight system may prefer Slackware. http://www.slackware.com/

Arch: Arch Linux is a minimalistic system that is supposedly very simple. It is also a lightweight system that is used among advanced Linux users. Advanced users that dislike Slackware may like Arch. https://www.archlinux.org/download/

Fedora: Some Linux users may say Fedora is the RedHat counterpart of Ubuntu (Debian system). Fedora is perfect for many mainstream desktop/laptop users. Fedora handles graphics well and uses appealing interfaces. The recommended system requirements are 1GB memory and 10GB hard-drive. http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora

Red Hat Enterprise Linux: RedHat is usually used as a server system. Fedora is the client/desktop system while RedHat is the server “version”. So, if you would like to use Fedora as a server or need a system that is more stable than Fedora, then use RedHat.

Puppy Linux: This is a very lightweight system that is usually used on older systems due to the light requirements. Puppy Linux may not have the best-looking interface, but it is still easy to use. The recommended system requirements are 333MHz processor, 64MB memory, 512MB swap, and 1GB hard-drive. http://puppylinux.org/main/Download Latest Release.htm

AnitaOS: This is a form of Puppy Linux developed by @Darren Hale intended for old hardware. AnitaOS uses old kernels while the mainstream Puppy Linux uses the newer kernels. http://sourceforge.net/projects/anitaos/ | http://www.linux.org/threads/anitaos-a-diy-distro-you-build-it-yourself.4401/

Damn Small Linux (DSL): This is a lightweight Linux system that requires 8MB of memory and at least an i486 processor. People needing a lightweight system may want DSL if they dislike Puppy Linux. http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/download.html

CentOS: CentOS is often comparable to Linux Mint, but CentOS is Red-Hat-based instead of Debian-based. In fact, CentOS is RHEL without the branding. Basically, if you want RHEL, but do not want to pay for it and support, then get CentOS. People who like Linux Mint, but want a Red-Hat system may be interested in CentOS. The recommended system requirements are 256MB memory and 256MB hard-drive. http://www.centos.org/modules/tinycontent/index.php?id=30

OpenSUSE: OpenSUSE is a RedHat-based distro that has YaST and ZYpp. OpenSUSE is available as a rolling release or a stable version-by-version basis. The minimum requirements include 2GB memory, 5GB hard-space, AMD64 or Intel 2.4GHz. http://www.opensuse.org

If a distro containing no closed-source software anywhere in the system is needed, then check out GNU.org's list of 100% open-source GNU/Linux operating systems - https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.en.html

NOTE: Many readers have contacted me through Google Plus or email about the system requirements. These are the hardware requirements set forth by the developers of the distros. I personally disagree with some of the numbers, but that is what the developers recommend for their distro.

Various Tips
For all of the mentioned systems, at least one forum site exists for any given system. However, most Linux systems have many forum sites, so help is abundant. I mention this because some people want to select a system based on the available help. Well, that should not be a factor because there are many sites where you can get help.

As for software support (not for the system itself), applications of every kind exist for each distro. So, on any given distro, you should be able to find an office suite or what ever application you desire.

All of the mentioned distros in this article are being actively developed, so that should also not be a factor in your decision.

Generally, for old hardware, use Puppy Linux, DSL, or Slackware. If your hardware is new and you want the “best” distro for your general needs, choose Ubuntu, CentOS, Linux Mint, or Fedora depending on which one you like the best.

If you are choosing a system based on your knowledge level of Linux, then use Ubuntu, CentOS, or Linux Mint if you are a beginner/newbie. If you are experienced in Linux and want to further your knowledge, then choose Slackware or Arch. If you are a Linux wizard, then I have no clue why you are reading this.

If your concern is reliability and stability, then choose Debian or RedHat Linux. If you like the latest software, then get Rawhide Fedora which is a rolling-release version. If you prefer Debian Linux, then get Ubuntu and enable backports and proposed updates. Arch Linux is on a rolling-release developmental cycle.

NOTE: Stability is a relative term that cannot be measured or accurately defined. I refer to Debian as being more stable because the majority of the Linux community agrees with that. However, many people debate about the most “stable distro”.

If you are wanting the Linux distro that best supports Windows software, then you should use Windows. Linux does not natively support Windows. To run Windows programs on Linux, try installing WINE (http://www.linux.org/threads/installing-and-configuring-windows-emulator-wine.4368/). Be aware though that WINE will not run all Windows programs correctly or without errors. Some programs run very well while some have minor issues and others may have severe issues.

If Windows software needs to be run, but Windows and Linux (with WINE) are undesirable, then try the open-source system ReactOS (which is not Linux or Windows).

I did not include any of my personal opinions in this article (or at least I tried not to). I included some of the most common and well known distros and the most commonly recommended distros on randomly selected forum posts on many forum sites. There was no bias in the selection process. Okay, maybe a little in not choosing OpenSuse.;)

NOTE TO FANS: Feel free to email me Linux topics you would like me to write about. If I know the topic well, then I will write an article. If there is some Linux topic you or other people have problems understanding, then email me and I will try to write an article on that topic so others can easily understand.

Further Reading - http://www.linux.org/threads/reading-guides-indexes.6034/
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Another distro for old machines with a nice community is Vector Linux based on the mighty slackware
very interesting! I think that slackware will be perfect for my 8 years old pc!
This article discuss which Distro is Right in great detail, i used Centos do some practice.
Another criterion that might be important to some people is dedication to free software. If the desire is to have a system that supports the ideals of free software, distros like Debian will be at the top of the list, while Mint will be at the bottom. I do not have enough knowledge of Slackware, Arch and CentOS to base an opinion, but from what little I know, they do not appear bad in this context. Anyone more knowledgeable of those systems may feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

One important thing that has not been mentioned about Fedora is that it is Red Hat's testing system. As such, it occasionally has bugs. Although not insurmountable, it is something those considering the system should be aware of and prepared for.

If the primary concern is stability, in addition to systems like Debian, Slackware, CentOS and Red Hat, there is also BSD. Although it has a "steeper learning curve." Be prepared to read even more documentation than with Arch.:)

As for the newness of software, many people have an irrational attraction to the latest shiny new crap. An important consideration to bear in mind is that the newer software is, the more likely it is to have bugs. Hence, the reason stable systems do not have the latest, but rather slightly older, tested and stable software. Generally speaking, the same is true for operating systems. Choosing a system that has the latest and greatest will require either a little knowledge or the willingness to learn quickly.

The only part of the OP I disagree with is the classification of Stable systems like Debian, Slackware, Red Hat and its clone CentOS as server systems. They are also perfect for desktop/laptop use. Software as much as a year or more old, yikes!:eek:, means everything works, and works every time the computer is turned on. Perfect for both home and office.

I agree with Devyn that the system requirements advocated by some systems are a little "suspect".:)
Strangely, I thought FreeBSD was more straightforward to install and get a desktop than Arch. I just throught the BSDs were awkward for managing Wifi connections.
Keeping in mind I am computer incompetent, I tried to install FreeBSD about a dozen times, but could not install a working system. A little reading (two years later) and I think I know where I messed up. So I intend to give it another try, eventually. I agree that installation is very straight-forward, but what makes BSD more complicated to my mind is that installation and configuration is a two-step process. Installing the system only puts the pieces on the hard drive. The pieces must then be configured to create a working system. The entire process is straight-forward, but seems complex to those of us used to installation meaning installing a system that has at least basic functionality. Hopefully, my next foray into BSD will be successful. And they have a great mascot!
I will admit my first attempts with FreeBSD resulted in compiling which was ridiculously time consuming. Using the package system or Pkg_add -rv was much simpler. Than I just had to carefully follow the Docs for X Window configuring.

Arch on the other hand seemed to require manual partitioning with Fdisk which seemed kind of ridiculous.
I will admit my first attempts with FreeBSD resulted in compiling which was ridiculously time consuming. Using the package system or Pkg_add -rv was much simpler. Than I just had to carefully follow the Docs for X Window configuring.
It is almost amazing how simple anything seems after one figures out how to do it. Occasionally resulting in a self-administered face-palm. "How did I not see that sooner?":p

Arch on the other hand seemed to require manual partitioning with Fdisk which seemed kind of ridiculous.
Manual partitioning is the first step of Slackware installation. The "test". If you can get past the first step, you are ready to use the system.:)
Or I'm ready to install with Manjaro with a menu based install. Sheesh.
Manual partitioning is not that difficult, one has simply to learn how to do it - which takes a little time and effort. It's a relatively simple task to create the needed partitions in Slackware using cfdisk.

FreeBSD is another matter - again it's a learning curve - but once you understand what you're doing it gets easier. Installation is only the beginning however... and setting up a FreeBSD system from scratch may be a step too far for a complete beginner.
Unfortunately, some of us have a steep learning curve. Mine is almost perpendicular.
With respect to Slackware, you can use a livecd with your favourite GUI partitioner, set up the the partitions how you want them and just skip the partitioning step and move straight to installing.
Agreed. That is one of the many uses of a live disc. My Parted Magic live CD is one of my most treasured items. I have even used it to save a Mac user's files on an almost fried machine. "Incidentally", that is how I plan to partition my second partition the next time I install Slack. It is cheating, but if it works ...
Agreed. That is one of the many uses of a live disc. My Parted Magic live CD is one of my most treasured items. I have even used it to save a Mac user's files on an almost fried machine. "Incidentally", that is how I plan to partition my second partition the next time I install Slack. It is cheating, but if it works ...

In my opinion, Gparted is better. It seems stable and it offers many features.
I thought Gparted is an application (Gnome partition editor), while Parted Magic is a live CD containing a Debian-based OS that includes Gparted.
It's not something I use, but apparently "Parted Magic" is a livecd distribution which includes gparted among other things.

But... once you learn how to set up your partitions using a CLI tool you will never look back.

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