Is there a best distro?

Yesterday, I had a good friend ask me What is the best Linux distribution to familiarize myself with Linux? This was not someone who is unfamiliar with technology, or UNIX for that matter, but someone who is one of us, which made the question difficult to answer.

What is the best Linux distribution? Not what is the best distribution for a server or what is the best distribution for a netbook, but what is the best general distribution. This made me step back and think for a couple of seconds. All of the distributions start from the same point. The kernel is essentially the same in every distribution, so that is not a differentiator. All of the distributions contain a selection of rich applications, and many distribution contain the same selection of applications, so that is not a clear discriminator.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that there are really only two discriminators between the distributions. Package management and initialization methodology, and neither makes one distribution better than the other.

In many ways, this discussion is like the battle of the editors. What is better, vi or Emacs? While you will get a lot of discussion, they are essentially the same. They each have their mission and their niche to fill. And similarly, when looking at a distribution to learn Linux with, there is no best for a general purpose distribution.

So here is your chance. What do you perceive as the best distribution? Based on past surveys we know that Ubuntu is one of the leading distributions, I want to know what makes one distribution better than the other. Be specific. Be polite.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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Best Distro

sjerome1's picture

I happen to think that Ubuntu, more specifically in my case Kubuntu is the best for a new user. In these days of releasing the most recent Windows 7, with all of it pleasing eye candy, I think for a user to migrate easily to a Linux Distribution, Kubuntu wins. You get all that pleasing eye candy, you get a solid desktop experience, an excellent support group, all of the latest software, simply installed. And if there is something you want that doesn't pop up after installation, it is a simple matter to get it installed. I vote Kubuntu, I am using 8.10 as the base OS/Desktop for my LinuxMCE deployment at home. I use Karmic (910) Kubuntu on my laptop, Karmic Kubuntu Netbook on my Asus EeePC 900, and I use Kubuntu 910 on my gaming PC.

1. Easy to install/try
2. Easy to get support if you really need it
3. Pleasing on the eyes, as well as in the performance arena
4. Free (As in Beer)

Enough said. :)

When the source is open, the possibilities are endless. Try LinuxMCE ... Automate your home today.

don't forget bsd!

cinaski33's picture

i know, we are talking about linux distros and no unix distros...... but pcbsd is just great! anyway, ubuntu looks to me quiet boring, as it's too much pointed actually. i'm working on Sabayon, fast, cute, almost complete and similar in some points to unix view of the packages (gentoo rules).
I did cut with windows many years ago, i'm doing the same with mac osx....... i love just to find a way for doinf what i need with different tolls, and now it's sabayon time.

Slackware is the best! *

SkippySteve's picture

*for me, at any rate ;^)

Slackware ,and Debian

Anonymous's picture

I have used many distros in the time that I have been using Linux. The best two that I have used would have to be Debian, and Slackware. I prefer Slackware, but if I were to switch I would use Debian. I feel like I have the most control over my computer with Debian, and Slackware. In my opinion there is no "best distro", but I guess I just feel comfortable using those two.


chuck's picture

I've been using Linux for about 10 years. I started with Mandrake 7, moved to Red Hat 8, opensuse 9, Debian, Ubuntu 5.
I keep trying Fedora and Suse now and then but I keep coming back to Ubuntu. I like easy. If I have a problem I like to find the easy solution. Ubuntu has done that pretty regularly.


Hunkah's picture

Fedora is my favorite. It was the distro that "just did it for me" at the beginning. At first, I tried as many distros as I could, and never felt "at home" until I installed fedora.

I have set up web severs, file servers, firewall servers and even an asterisk box with it. (There were always way more walk-throughs and tutorials on setting up Red Hat/fedora/CentOS servers) In doing that I have gotten used to the command line in the *Red Hat* versions. Little things like "ll" to list things. But then it is always the little things, that make up the big things in life. Right?

I have tried Ubuntu, but don't feel like it fits me for some reason. I don't know what it is, but it feels like it is missing something that *fedora* has. I did give it a fair go, and still think ubuntu is a second place, if you could care less about creating servers or having the 6 month lead on the cool stuff that fedora always has first.

I will probably always have a loyalty to fedora, since it has been my first Linux experience, but I also cheer innovation and free thought just as much.

Half the battle is the user interface. Gnome or KDE seems to be the bigger battle, when choosing the distro. Because for the end user, it is all about the clickable interface. If it isn't that, it is the Package Manager. Which tends to be RPM or DEB with their respective installers. If ubuntu had been a Red Hat based distro, I don't think DEB would have had much of a fighting chance. (Based on Red Hat's server popularity and Ubuntu's n00b popularity).

What ever distro you choose, if the open sourced technology is there, it will usually find its way into the other distros eventually. So give it a year, and your distro will be basically the same as mine.

Again, it is all about freedom of choice. Choose your steed wisely.

My steed's name is fedora

What your friend is saying

epidenimus's picture

What your friend is saying is something like: Let's cut to the chase. Save me time and direct me to something that is easy and just works. Save me the hassle of having to tinker with a bunch of science projects that have a bunch of hang-ups or only do one or two things right.

They are right to have these expectations. I also understand that when it comes to Linux and its versatility, this is like someone who just bought a guitar asking what the best kind of music to play is. Everyone will have and recommend their preference, and that is mostly what I see above. No one knows how much of a musician that friend really wants to be, so maybe there is a reason they should start by playing "Hot Cross Buns" or "Jingle Bells."

You are absolutely right that package management (Sorry, Sabayon.) and software availability (Bye bye, Vector.) are huge factors in a distribution's experience. Source compilation should be an elected option, not a standard means of installing software (Sorry, Gentoo et al.). Since there is no application that does everything, a couple of options for given tasks or files should be available. Remember that your new user will be judging the power and viability of Linux as a whole based on their first experience, so if there is either one application per task and it can't handle the job or isn't friendly, it's no bueno. Further, the kitchen sink approach (i.e. OpenSUSE) is both demanding of resources and confusing to most prospective converts. The ideal gateway distro will have a couple of applications that are featured and show different strengths, but won't overwhelm the new user. And if they do manage to figure out how to install an application that has a GUI, the darned thing better show up in the menu (Love my CrunchBang, but it's right out till it does that.).

Another crucial thing that makes a huge difference is the intuition and integration of the environment. No, I don't mean how snappy it is at doing GLX tricks, I mean how intuitive it is with user with configuring itself and with user input. Do the multimedia keys on the keyboard do anything ('cause they worked under Windows...)? What happens if I put an audio disc in the player (Is it really gonna make me awkwardly search the root filesystem just to play "Sister Christian?")? How hard is it to configure my printer, internet connection, digital camera? How hard is it to change the background image? Does the default e-mail client allow me to send e-mail as well as receive it with IMAP (Forget ClawsMail and friends)? Can I watch YouTube and Hulu vids and play my digital music without having to screw around in a terminal or search the webs for hacks because of some purist philosophy (Sorry, Fedora.)?

Finally, the weight of the environment should be taken into consideration. Many folks put Linux on an old machine to play first. Others jump in and dual boot it on their multi-core system. KDE4 on anything with less than 1GB of RAM is just wrong; making someone run LXDE on a resource-endowed machine is really shorting their experience. So even here, there is no one right response, but the functionality and weight of Gnome put it very much middle-of-the-road and therefore, more versatile. Forget how appealing the fonts and icons or Mono implementation is or isn't to you--this isn't what most users are hinging on and they can always change it out later as they may well distro-hop themselves.

For these reasons, and given my distro-hopping experience, my recommendations are:

1. LinuxMint
2. PCLinuxOS
3. Ubuntu

I would also suggest that the above considerations account for their swift popularity and that of any given new distro to the top of the DistroWatch list.


Anonymous's picture

Linux Mint is a winner!

i`d say suse for the new

monkyyy's picture

i`d say suse for the new peoples

but besides that i`d say anything similar to what u`ve used before will work best
i mainly use debian cause i know how to use apt-get well and i can get ratpoisen working withen a few minutes

tho my bigest complaint with debain was that the last time i installed it had a open source flash thing that didnt work so well and would get in the way of the real working one and it wouldnt let me uninstall it the normal way w/o getting rid of gnome as well

i want to try gentoo and pardus

A little off-topic, but when

Anonymous's picture

A little off-topic, but when you tried to uninstall gnash (the open-source flash you refer to), it most likely really didn't try to uninstall Gnome, just the Gnome-Desktop meta-package. It contains no software, but just a list of dependancies so that if you want to install the complete gnome environment with one package, you can. Uninstalling this meta-package won't remove any actual software that you don't want it to remove. Gnash is just a part of the meta-package, so its dependancies are no longer completely installed. Don't let that scare you.

Ubuntu isn't the best choice

Anonymous's picture

Ubuntu isn't the best choice but sometimes worse is better.
It saved me same time so I'll stick with it for a while.

A greate community too!

One vote for Fedora

L.'s picture

I have been using Unix/Linux since 1988-89, when I switched from VMS to DEC's Ultrix (after college). Since then, I have used Sun, Solaris, Slackware, Debian, Redhat, and Fedora. Besides some ill-tries to protect the users from themselves (like disabling the root account by default), I'm very comfortable with Fedora. Unless they remove the Terminal program, I'll stick with Fedora/Redhat.

My vote is for Fedora.


As far as I can see, the

Shemuel's picture

As far as I can see, the ubuntu family (+xubuntu etc.) is what I'd choose. This is mainly because it is the most used distro.

What I want is an OS I know that when I have a problem, someone else will have encountered it and a solution has probably been found. There is no local linux community where I live, so I rely on trawling through google.

Secondly, I want a distro with regular releases and patches, and a large library of programs also with regular releases and patches to suit my extravagant whims. This basically removes all but major distros.

there are far more technical reasons people use for their choice of OS, but in many respects these are just academic. No two mainstream Linux distros built for similar usage (either small with very few programs or larger with the usual number) should be hugely slower, more dangerous or complex (OK, maybe complex was a bit too far!). If you have an amazing OS without any library of needed components or any way of getting technical help, then it's not actually a good OS.

Thank you for this question

Maarten's picture

Now this very question is the reason why I googled "What is the best linux distribution" and found this forum.
To me the problem becomes clear in all the different answers.
I am not a techie, I did work with different distributions in the past and understand the strength of bundling different packages into different distris.
In my humble oppinion, the treshold for anyone to move to Linux is the community's technical jibberish.
Whereas I believe you have the most powerful OS, my feeling is you fail to market it properly because for every nut and bolt in the OS you give them unpronouncable names and give each distri a name that doesn't mean anything.
Why not package distributions and give them clear names of what their speciality is, like:
- Linux for Students
- Linux for techies
- Linux for the enterprise
- Linux for dummies
Same goes for names of packages in the distributions, I don't care about yim yam or yum, I would be very grateful if these things would be unified across distris.
So to me, when you name each distri with a focus on what they do for which target group, I think the question for a best distribution will disappear. There will be a best distri for a set of people.

What about Pardus?

mark t's picture

I usually offer Pardus to my newbie friends and it works quite well for them. It is a relatively new distro but it is very promising.

Pardus is from Turkey and their online community is not very English-speaking-users friendly... But none of my friends had a problem that needed to be solved by reading forum posts and/or digging mailing list archives.

It is only one CD, it contains pretty much *everything* a newcomer may need. Setting up network profiles and connections is dead easy. Also it has Macromedia Flash, Java and all kind of media codecs and drivers installed with that one CD.

I've been using it for years now (and I'm not a newbie, I'm using it for development as well), I would strongly recommend everyone to take a look at Pardus. (they also have a liveCD release, I didn't try it though)

Best distro

DefenestrateXP's picture

What I really need is for Ubuntu, CentOS, and Fedora to merge. FedbuntOS or something. Here's what a like/dislike about them:

In terms of ease of initial setup, Ubuntu is the most out-of-the-box-ready of the group. The extra repos are simple to configure and package management is a breeze with a simple 'apt get install package' Standard desktop user applications are stable and quick to configure. Where it lacks is it's use as a server. It has this tendency to put configuration files in what I consider to be "non-standard" locations. Now, in fairness, I started with rpm-based distros so I am used to there being subdirectories in /etc. I do not like the Debian-style dump-them-all-in-the-root-of-/etc method.

Where Ubuntu fails is where CentOS and Fedora pickup. As far as administration, I find them easier to maintain and the implementation of Selinux gives me a bit more peace of mind in terms of security. My personal file and webservers run these distros. CentOS is the king here, but trying to expand this distro to user-specific tasks is where it loses. Dag-wieers appears to be the de-facto standard extra repo, but forget about making it a media box. For example mt-daapd worked until I configured apache and I had to install 20 packages from source to get amarok to work. (For the haters, I do have a Slackware box running my mysql database, so I am proficient in compiling code and doing things don't give me any "you're lazy" crap.)

Fedora does everything EXCEPT graphics. The cutting-edge thing means that if you're a fool and update your kernel, you WILL break any proprietary graphics/Xorg configuration. My ThinkPad z61m was working swimmingly with Fedora 9, then I updated and found that repos and configuration files were broken. So, I did a clean install, and, sure as the sun is a ball of gas, I couldn't get the Radeon working. No openarena. No full screen for mplayer or fceu. Even NFS appears screwy. But, other than things dealing with 3D, if you want an app, you are golden. SOMEBODY has put together a src rpm at minimum.

All distros, even the appliance/task-specific and toolbox ones, have their purposes and can be useful. The best distro is a matter of opinion. The best /network/ will probably be comprised of more than one. My hope is for a distro that 1)Installs easily 2)sees and properly configures my graphics card 2)puts my config files where the hell they belong and 4)installs new apps within 20 keystrokes. Unless I roll my own, this may turn out to be a |dream.

Linux Mint

Asheguy's picture

I have tried many different versions or Linux such as Fedora, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Sabayon, CrunchBang, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, and Caos Linux. Out of all of these I like Fedora the best but due to graphics card problems i.e. it will not be supported until Fedora 13 so I installed Linux Mint and I am very happy with it.

You get Ubuntu's large repository along with a Linux Mint repo as well so it has just about everything you would ever need and is very easy to use. My only complaint about Linux Mint is its use of a lot of Google stuff, yes you can call me paranoid but I don't like my search info sold to the highest bidder or the US Government, but hey that is just me. If you are new to Linux this is a great distro to start with and learn on.


iGaucho's picture

I think Slackware tends to be one of the best put together. It's very stable and just seems to be overall better thought out than some of the more popular distros.

I've used a few, settled on Fedora

Ard Righ's picture

I am not sure I have found a 'best' version of GNU/Linux, but I must say they do all have their benefits. As the article notes, the differences in packaging system abilities is probably the biggest reason one people like one over another.

My first experience with a UNIX system was with some version of SCO (from memory) back in the mid-90s while I was doing studies. They replaced that server with Slackware, back around the time of Slackware 3/4. I purchased Slackware 4 CD pack (4 CDs), and installed Slackware on my home PC. I enjoyed it for the most part, except getting frustrated at installing other software packages I wanted. So while Slackware was good, it didn't last more than a few months.

I then moved to learning Debian. A friend installed Debian (around '99) for me as a firewall for my first home broadband connection. I got more understanding of GNU/Linux through looking at that than I had previously, and gave me more appreciation for how cool it was.

Then I had Gentoo on my PC looking through the whole 'how do I compile sh*t' phase, and gained an appreciation for all the packagers that make our life so simple! I had Gentoo on my PC for quite some time, before getting more into Red Hat both in a professional sense, and running Fedora on various PCs.

I had Fedora 9/10 on work PC at my last job, looking after a number of CentOS 5 servers, and I have had Fedora on my home PC since Fedora 10. And I think I'll be with Fedora for quite a while longer :)


Noel's picture

Recently used Mint, Kubuntu and Mepis and in the past Suse, Red Hat and Ubuntu. Wont comment on that last 3 as I haven't used them in a while.

Kubuntu was a little lack lustre, Mint was great, Mepis was the best. All install fairly easily, but out of the box Mepis and Mint were most complete.

I've got a PIII 1.2G and while performance was ok with all of them, Mepis was by far the snappiest and most responsive.

On my PIII, none of the distributions running Gnome performed satisfactorily. Just didn't perform as well, with delays drawing menus, screens, etc, although on newer machines, this would not be a problem.

Personal is Best

Anonymous's picture

Tell the guy to just try one any one. An easy one (Ubuntu and the like) if necessary. Everybody will switch distros once they get comfortable. The key to happiness is figuring out what problems you don't mind living with. What annoys you the least day to day. (This is windows life and its no different, well except that you're not paying for the software or possibly committing a crime and for the most part you get a choice in the headaches you get)

Haven't found a personal fave yet, right now I've got Linux Mint 7, Kubuntu 9.04, Ubuntu 8.10, and a debian box as well.


quixote's picture

I started out using Redhat. (Actually, even before that, the first computer I used ran Unix, way back in 1979 or something.) I don't even remember which version. It was hard enough that I could never quit using Windows as my "reliable" machine. A difficult package manager and dependency hell were just two of the problems.

I've always used computers to get work done, not because I'm a computer expert, so things that probably are simple to many here were showstoppers for me. I'll never forget one laptop - Redhat combination where Redhat just would NOT get the screen size and was always drawing the window about 200px too large. So all the "OK" and "Save" and OMG"Cancel"!!! buttons were invisible.

And then, along came Ubuntu. That was mid-2005 for me. Within weeks, I never had to get into Windows again, except to do my taxes.

Choose the one that is best supported by the community

apexwm's picture

Which, the two leaders are currently Red Hat (Fedora) and Ubuntu. I've used Red Hat for 12 years, and love it. Red Hat has the entire history behind it, it's been around for a very long time and as such you can tell the difference. I now use Fedora and it's still excellent even though technically it's beta Red Hat. My vote would therefore be Red Hat / Fedora.

The best distro ...

kpb's picture

in my opinion is Fedora.

the best distribution is the

ioni's picture

the best distribution is the one you know better. you can do whatever you want with it.


sparks-eu's picture

I vote for openSUSE, it's admin tool yast is great. It's ideal if you don't want to edit manually all kind of config files.
It's support via the forum is also good. It allows you to play mp3 (I know some think all software/data should be of a free format but do you know of windows users that did convert their mp3 files to ogg?).
Upgrading to the next version is normally painless.

However I do have to admit that I only have a bit experience with fedora so I can only hope for all other unix fans that they are satisfied with their linux version as I do.

Kubuntu works for me and I'm no expert

Anonymous's picture

Kubuntu works for me and I'm no expert.

Linux Mint

Rob's picture

I think the best distro is any "based" on Ubuntu but improved upon. For me its Mint 7.


croatia linux user's picture

there is only one desktop linux, and that is pclinuxos

ubuntu can hide when it's usability in question
speed is close to slackware and arch, i think only gentoo is faster.
repository is big enough, and you can ask for package to be included
and there are virtually no annoying bugs, that are so present in all other major distributions.
and it's rolling release so there's no need to reinstall or to make risky upgrade every half years, like in ubuntu and mandriva and others.
and it uses kde of course, you can even stay with 3.5., and you can try other desktops also, although i don't see why would you.
once you get used to pclinuxos you simply have no need to try anything else


moondowner's picture

How can you prefer a distribution:
- which main maintainer is leaving for a _whole_ year, and returning after.
- which forks every new release of Mandriva and they claim that they only forked the first time.
- which is still based on KDE 3

etc etc...

If you still use PCLinuxOS, and haven't tried seriously Mandriva. You definitely should.


Csaba's picture

I would recommend Mandriva (2010.0 will be out soon). It is cutting edge, you can choose KDE or Gnome at install time, it is usually working out of the box and it is relatively easy to learn (I know lot of ex. Windows users who after trying Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora ended up with Mandriva).

I don't say Mandriva is the best. There is no such thing in our times as the best GNU/Linux. All major distributions are about at the same level of sophistication and capabilities, small distributions are oriented at specific users and/or tasks.

antiX, just antiX

atcl's picture

1) antiX is a very lightweight; the live and install image is ~450MB.
2) antiX is a Mepis spin-off, so it uses the Mepis tools, which are very well designed (ie: Mepis SYSTEM, MEPIS X Window Assistant)
3) It runs on almost every PC from 1998 till today.
4) You can choose between fluxbox and icewm
5) The standard install has already all types of programs (office,video,audio,torrent,paint,browser,email,filemanager,...)
6) Some special antiX tools, ie: Phonebook, Screenshot
7) A control center unifying all the usual system apps and config files
8) mepis and debian repositories
9) compatible to liquorix kernel
10) Runs very smoothly on netbooks


Salvadesswaran Srinivasan's picture

I just love Fedora on both my desktop and laptop. And it seems to be everywhere in my college, in almost all labs, and in all incarnations from version 8 to 12. It just works on my hardware, and so do a lot of distros. I hate KDE 4 for the buggy wi-fi that took me hours to set up, but beyond that, no qualms. I use (or have used) Debian, openSUSE, Slackware, RHEL, ArchLinux, CentOS, Ubuntu in its many incarnations and derivations, Mandriva, Gentoo, Sabayon, TinyCoreOS, DSL and a lot more. I don't have a favourite, but for the past two years, Fedora has been the mainstay of my computers.

Linux Mint, with Puppy for alternate

satcowboy's picture

When my mom's XP box crashed and wouldn't boot XP, I disconnected the hard drive and got them set up with Puppy on a CD at first, and later on a jump drive. It all loads into RAM and apps and boot are a lot faster. Storage is on external USB hard drives.

Later, I wanted to give them multiuser, so I installed Linux Mint to a new hard drive. They can boot Mint from a CD also, if something fails. They live half the USA away and I don't want to mess with debugging anything over the phone. I have Mint on multiboot with XP and Puppy on both my home computers. I like the clean themes with Mint and that it has labels on the apps in the menus, saying what the apps do. My mom likes it, too. I use Puppy for admin sometimes.

I built a computer with my 12-year-old. Showed him how to install the CPU, RAM, etc., and how to boot Puppy and Mint from CD. It sat there for a few months because we didn't schedule time to do the partitioning and Mint installation (no Windows!). I told him not to do it without me. Then I installed a medieval 3d game, Glest, on my box, and showed it to him but didn't let him play it. The next day he had installed Mint to the hard drive on his machine, and then told me! So I guess the default install is not that hard.

Depends on the hardware

Anonymous's picture

If he's installing GNU/Linux on x86 hardware, 'best' is likely going to be very subjective. If he's installing on a PA-Risc, a Power3, IBM mainframe or some other less ordinary hardware, the choices are much fewer; there are times he may find only one distrib that will install on his hardware.

I have an old Moto CPCI system with PowerPC 750 CPUs (MCP750 boards). I have not yet found a distribution that will install on it, because none of the distributions (that I've tried) have support for those boards compiled in. So for me, in this case, no distribution is 'best'.

Arch Linux

bsdhacker's picture

+1 for Arch Linux

I have used many distributions for extended periods of time, and have explored many more out of curiousity.

Here's why I like Arch:

1) pacman - this package manager is far superior to both the deb and rpm approaches. Try it out and you will see what I mean. Extremely powerful, very easy to use, and quick quick quick.

2) All packages are compiled with i686 optimizations. Really, who still uses a cpu prior to i686 as their main desktop anymore? These optimizations provide an edge that doesn't go unnoticed.

3) Rolling Release. Upgrades are released continuously. You don't get a new release every 6 months that you have to upgrade to (and cross your fingers that it works). When you run Arch, you are always up-to-date. When a certain project releases a new version of their software, it's usually not too long before it hits the Arch repositories. Arch doesn't put things in its repositories unless it works well. For example, Arch completely skipped the 2.6.30 kernel because it had some major regressions.

4) Excellent organization. Similar to FreeBSD, the /etc/rc.conf file contains most of the configuration information that needs to be set. Need to set your network configuration? Edit rc.conf. Need to decide which programs should start on boot up? Edit rc.conf. Need to load a kernel module on boot up? Edit rc.conf.

5) Quick boot up. In rc.conf, you can specify all startup application to start asynchronously. This means you don't have to wait for them to start running before you move on to the next one. In short, quick boot up.

6) Solid. Been running Arch for a year and a half and haven't had a hiccup yet.

7) Flexible. Arch doesn't pidgin-hole you into any one desktop or philosophy, but makes everything available to you to choose from. KDE will run just as well as Gnome, or xfce, openbox, fluxbox, awesome, xmonad, icewm, wii, enlightenment, fvwm etc... You say you don't want to run the hideous alsa pulseaudio duo? Fine, install the new and improved version of OSS.

8) Support. The Arch wiki is very useful and contains TONS of useful information, including an installation guide, and walkthroughs for just about everything you can imagine.

9) Unencumbered. One of the things I like best about Arch is how it feels. What I mean by that is I am very aware of what is "under the hood" if you will, and Arch is a well-oiled machine that only contains what it needs. Many other distibutions seem to endlessly cram bloat and garbage into places where they should not be.

I'm sure there are many more good things I could say about Arch. I've been very pleased with it. However, it is not for everybody. Arch requires a little more know-how than Ubuntu/Suse etc... If you understand the basic workings of a Linux system, and don't mind editing /etc/rc.conf to do your initial system configuration, and don't mind using the command line to install/update software, then Arch is second to none. However, if you are the type that just wants everything to work without having to lift a thumb, then you will want to go a different route.

My 2 cents

+1 for Arch!

Quimax's picture

Reading (ok skimming) the other responces I was getting tired of Suse/Fedora/Ubuntu/whatever and hearing no mention of Arch!

I use Arch for everything, largely for the above reasons. What I tell my peeps (also technical people) is to take their time, use the Arch wiki and have fun learing how linux *should* be done.

Yea...I dumped 3 years of Suse, distro hopped to the major distros of the time and I've been with Arch for 3 ish years now.

Musing with GNU/LInux

Bhaskar Chowdhury's picture

I have been living with GNU/Linux for quite some time now and tried my hand on different distros for different reasons.My personal choice would be Gentoo,because it gives you the ultimate flexibility to cut your cloth according to your size kind of thing.Another distro I am using is OpenSUSE . It is nice to have such an os at your disposal iff you know little bit of configuration.

But in my servers I have had used Gentoo and CentOS heavily. Both of them are as good as you can imagine.Those who cannot afford the REDHAT pricing ,should opt for CentOS.

Beside that I think for newbies Ubuntu is good as well as some other Debian derivative.But having said that I have full respect for the Debian developers ,because they are doing marvelous job to keep people aware of lot of thing without pain.


Best linux Distro for Non Linux User to start with.

Sandswift's picture

As this person is most likely to be a Windows user (and fed up!) I can confirm that linux Mint is the best by far. The 'Proof of the Pudding....etc' has proved to me in several 'replace Windows' installs that this distro is the easiest for Windows users to come to grips with. In addition, in each case, everything just works...first up.
Whilst I use and prefer several other distros, including Slackware, nothing escapes the fact that Mint (thanks to Ubuntu) does the conversion best. Cheers, W

Best distro...???

Bradley's picture

I'm a long time Slacker til my dying day... I also use FreeBSD, Debian, and Arch. I have to agree with those who say... " Choose the distro according to your needs. " You can't go wrong there and popularity just doesn't cut it for everyone. With Debian I can plug in almost anything and it works - especially my IPOD and Camcorder, but I like all four of them for their stability which matter most to me... Slack is my baby.

Common Ground

Does he want to familiarize

Anonymous's picture

Does he want to familiarize himself with Linux GUI apps and desktop environment or with the dark underbelly? :) In other words: LFS or Ubuntu or something in-between? Does he want to do any programming?

So, really, the way in which your friend wants to "familiarize" himself with "Linux" needs to be defined more clearly.

Best distro for a UNIX guy (or girl ;p)

GlassDeviant's picture

I've used a lot of different distros for any number of reasons. I will not set up a company client with anything but CentOS (or RHEL if they want the support contract). I will not set up a neophyte desktop system with anything but Ubuntu. Personal choices both, and they work for me, but aside from personal preference if you really want to get to know Linux you have to get hardcore, and to do that you have to Roll Your Own Linux.

If you don't want to go that far, Gentoo offers the best balance of hands on vs. automated and seems to appeal to a lot of people with UNIX experience who like to get into the works and monkey around.

Best distro?

ld's picture

The best distro for getting acquainted is that which works, out of the box.

I started my intro to Linux with the earlier versions of Redhat - and it was nearly on impossible! I moved to Mandrake and really liked it until I got regularly hung up in dependency hell!

I then moved on to Simply Mephis - oh, what a pleasure! It worked, it didn't have the regular dependency issues that I had with Mandrake and I was happy.

Then there was some issue with the future of Simply Mephis (don't recall the details) so I looked elsewhere, and I think that is when I started using Ubuntu. I tried Kubuntu, but went back to Ubuntu. And, as others have said, Ubuntu works! I have been using Ubuntu for about 4 years now (+-) and I think that Ubuntu is the distro for people to "cut their teeth on".

I tinker with other distros on desktops at home, but my work laptop has Ubuntu. I much prefer the Deb package system. And with one exception installation has been a breeze.

Arch + Gentoo

Kitteh's picture

It has already been stated a number of times, and I agree that to really get to know the OS, you'll need a distro that makes as few decisions as possible and is as transparent as possible. I used to be a hard-core Gentoo fan, and I learned far more programming and linux skills in my first year with Gentoo than in my previous 5 years with SuSE and Mandrake. It can get frustrating too, of course, when things don't just automagically work, but I always come out learning something new.

Since a while back I've been leaning more and more towards Arch, as well, which is basically Gentoo minus the compile time, but with all the same transparency and complete control.

PCLinuxOS-GNOME-2009.2 http:/

Anonymous's picture




LinuxLover's picture

I just wanted to point out that the most popular isn't alwayst the best. Otherwise, we'd all be touting how great Windows is...

The absolute best Linux distro is...

LinuxLover's picture

The one that works for you! Seriously... People are individuals and have different needs and wants. My favorite 2 distros, right now, are PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint. They are the best distros out there, in my opinion.

As far as those that claim the best is a Debian based distro because of how big the repository is, do you people realize that the repository is so huge because of redundancy? Look at how many kernel version, kernel modules, kernel source, blah blah blah there is. That bloats the repository. Also, with PCLinuxOS, even though the repository is smaller, if there is something they don't have you want, you just have to ask. They're very responsive to requests - you just have to have a 10 post minimum in the forum to ask.

Whatever fits your needs is the best Linux distro. There's no need to stop at one distro, either... :o)

DEB based is best for beginners

Joe User's picture

The bottom line is: People want software! If you want it to be as easy as possible for a new user to find and install the software they need, the only answer to this question is "give them a Debian-based (.deb) apt-get using distro. Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Mepis, etc., etc.

Don't give a non-tech, new user Arch or Slackware or Sabayon or even Fedora. I've tried them all and when you need some obscure app it's ALWAYS easiest to find and install the DEBIAN version of the app. Period. No compiling for your arch... you really think a non-techie wants to deal with that?

So take your pick... there are dozens of .deb-based distros.

Title for your next article... "Is there a best Debian-based distro?"


Re: Don't give a non-tech, new user...

mwallette's picture

I don't entirely agree with your statement, "Don't give a non-tech, new user Arch or Slackware or Sabayon or even Fedora." I have never used Arch, Sabayon or Fedora, although I have used Gentoo, RHEL and CentOS. Assuming that Arch is reasonably similar to Gentoo and that Fedora is reasonably similar to RHEL and CentOS, I would agree that Arch is probably not a good choice for most new Linux users. However, Slack *was* my very first distribution (back at 7.1, IIRC). After setting up my first Slack box, I found myself wondering "what's the big deal?" It really wasn't that difficult to build -- easier, in fact, than the first time I tried to install NT 4.0 Server -- and only took me about an hour to get a working install. In my admittedly limited experience, Red Hat-based distributions are arguably even easier than Slack.

If you are willing to spend a little time on Google and the various forums, neither Slack nor current flavors of Red Hat are too difficult for a new user. On the other hand, if you want a distro that "just works", I'd recommend Ubuntu or maybe even a live CD like Knoppix (which, granted, are Debian-based).


Quimax's picture

I agree with the sentiment that Arch/Slack/Sabayon could be a good choice for a 1st distro. Arch for instance is very well documented in their Wiki, as I assume Slack and Sabayon are. For someone who wants to actually learn linux, these are the way to go. I started with SuSE, and learned some. However in my first 3 days with Arch I learned more than the 3 years with Suse.

And I agree with the 'just works' sentiment. If you don't want to work at getting your Linux to go then Ubuntu/Mint are the hands down choices.