Best Linux distro: Have you heard your geek friends talking about Linux , have you been curious and are you now curious to install it on your computer? Good choice! Linux, as you will surely understand, is a free and completely open source operating system: this means that everyone, in complete freedom, can modify its source code and distribute it in turn.
It is precisely for this reason that you can find many “versions” of Linux in circulation: these versions are called “distributions” or “distro” and are built to meet the needs of the people to whom they are addressed. For example, Ubuntu is a Linux distro very suitable for those who have never used this operating system; CentOS is a Linux distro built especially for servers; Arch Linux is a Linux distro created for those who need to customize the operating system and adapt it to their needs, and the list could go on and on. In a nutshell, looking a little on the Internet you can find distro for all tastes!
At this point, I’m sure you’ve wondered what the best Linux distros are . Well, I already anticipate that this is not a question I can simply answer with a couple of names because, as I explained before, every Linux distro has its strengths, flaws and features. However, this does not stop me from helping you answer your question: sit quietly and read on, I will show you what today are the best Linux distros out there and I will explain, for each of them, the features you need to know. After reading my guide, things will certainly be clearer to you and, above all, you will know how to choose the best Linux distro for you.
Best Linux distro
Want to find out which Linux distro is right for you? Well, then take a few minutes of free time and take a look at the list below. I am convinced that among the Linux distributions listed there are at least two or three that are right for you.
Among the best distros of the moment there is certainly Linux Mint , which in my humble opinion is the ideal operating system to take the first steps in the world of Linux. It is very simple to install, it sets up on its own and contains everything you need to use your computer. Inside you will already find the drivers that will make the various “pieces” of your PC work, you will find many programs (including Firefox , LibreOffice , GIMP and many others) and you can choose from three different desktops, all customizable in a few clicks.
You can download Linux Mint by its official website by clicking on the link on the distro version you are interested more (versions are available with desktop environment Cinnamon , MATE , Xfce and KDE in 32 and 64 bit ; I personally will recommend the first) . If you have problems, you can turn to the huge community that follows this operating system and welcomes all new users with open arms.
Doesn’t the Linux Mint interface drive you crazy? Then you can try Ubuntu, the famous distro from which Linux Mint derives (and therefore maintains the same simplicity of use). Even Ubuntu will square surely among the best Linux distro , because it was the first operating system created with the purpose of simplifying Linux and expand its popularity to the general public.
Ubuntu is in turn the son of Debian (I’ll tell you about it in a few paragraphs), you can configure it in just a few clicks and it has everything it needs to make the most of your computer. Each version of Ubuntu is accompanied by a number that allows you to understand when the distro was released: for example, the latest version is called Ubuntu 17.10 because it was released in October (10) of the year 2017 (17).
You can find two different Ubuntu “branches”: the first is the simple branch, which provides a new version of the operating system every 6 months; the simple branch is ideal for those who want to follow the progress of Ubuntu development, because each version lasts only 9 months and must then be replaced with a later version. The second branch is the one with extended support, that is, made by versions of Ubuntu that you can use up to 5 years after their release and that will always receive updates; you can recognize them because they are released every April of even years and are accompanied by the initials LTS . For example, the most recent LTS distribution released is Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and will last until 2021, while the next one will arrive in April 2018.
You can download Ubuntu from its official website , selecting the version of the distro you prefer from the appropriate drop-down menus. If you need more information on how to download, install and configure Ubuntu, follow my step-by-step guide to install Linux .
Did your group of “technological” friends explain to you what open philosophy is and were you so fascinated by it that you decided to embrace it at 360 degrees? Then Fedora is the Linux distro for you. It ranks without a doubt among the best distros of the moment, not only because it is really well made and complete, but because it has a very important feature: it contains only open source programs and drivers, therefore it guarantees the certainty of using an operating system in where everything that is installed is open source.
Obviously, once installed, you can use Fedora as you see fit and install anything you want inside it, even proprietary software whose sources are not open to the public.
Fedora has somewhat more complicated installation and management procedures than the operating systems I mentioned before; I therefore recommend you to try it when you are a little more familiar with the penguin system (the penguin is the Linux mascot, if you don’t know).
Furthermore, it should be noted that Fedora performs very well on servers. You can download Fedora for desktop computers (Workstation version) or server from its official page by clicking on the Download now button relating to the version of the distro you are interested in.
Lubuntu is one of Ubuntu’s “daughters” distro: just like his mom , this distribution is also easy to install and use. However, it has a very important feature: it is designed to work even on very old computers thanks to the very light LXDE desktop and pre-installed programs, which are all designed to take up little memory and use little computing power.
Lubuntu is certainly among the best Linux “read” distro and I recommend you install it if you want to give new life to an old computer on which Windows is no longer good. If you don’t need that computer, you can always give it to your child or to someone who needs a PC for basic use.
You can download Lubuntu from its official website , selecting the version of the distro of your interest from the appropriate drop-down menus and clicking on the download button .
Have you finally become familiar with the Linux world and are you looking for an always updated and fully customizable distro? Then Arch Linux is for you. Arch was born in 2002 and immediately presents itself as a distro suitable for advanced Linux users. Although today the situation is slightly different, Arch Linux remains one of the most fascinating distributions for fans because it embraces the so-called rolling release approach .
Have you never heard of it? Never mind, I’ll explain it in a very simple way: Arch Linux is an operating system that continuously updates itself and its programs as soon as new versions are available. In other words, once installed, just launch the operating system updates to always have the latest version available, without reinstalling all over again.
However, this also has a negative side: very often the updates are so fast as to contain bugs and, in some cases, it is possible to find yourself with an operating system that no longer starts. When such problems arise, it is almost always possible to find the solution on the Internet after a few hours. On the other hand, problems cannot always be easily solved and you may need medium-high knowledge to deal with them.
The installation of Arch Linux is not easy, despite the fact that numerous official guides have been released that can guide the user step-by-step in the procedure. Furthermore, since it is a very customizable operating system, it is up to you to configure many aspects by hand so that everything works correctly.
In short: I would recommend Arch Linux, despite being an excellent distro, only if you are already familiar with the penguin system and are able to manage complicated problems alone. You can download Arch Linux from its official page , selecting one of the available servers and clicking on the name of the ISO image to be taken.
Have you become a Linux pro and want to build a server on your own? Do you have to rent a server and don’t know what to choose among the proposed operating systems? All I can do is recommend the CentOS distro . This distro also enters the list of the best Linux distributions by right and it does so for a specific reason: it is perhaps the most suitable to create and manage a server without having to spend a lot of money.
Spending a lot of money with Linux distros? Yes, it can happen. Many server-oriented Linux distros, while based on open source code, require the purchase of a license or the obligation to subscribe to paid support services in order to be used. Among the distros of this type is Red Hat , the one that I consider par excellence the most suitable distribution for servers, but we will be able to talk about it more specifically on other occasions.
CentOS is the daughter of Red Hat: its code is very similar and its operation also, only that to download and use CentOS there is no need to pay anything. As you may have already understood, this is a distribution to be customized from head to toe to better adapt it to your server. It is certainly not easy to use but, once installed and configured properly, it offers an enviable level of stability and security.
You can download CentOS directly from its official page by selecting one of the available versions: DVD ISO for the standard version of the operating system, Everything ISO for the more complete one or Minimal ISO for the minimal one.
Someone tried to install CentOS to use it on their PC “every day”, but I must warn you: it is a distro built especially for servers, readjusting it for a more home use will certainly take you a long time, even if you are an expert. Just to dirtene one, you’ll need to fiddle around a bit just to install some GUI programs. So think twice before jumping into this adventure and, if you really need something completely open and based on Red Hat , give Fedora a chance (which I told you a little bit about above).
Other Linux distros
As I explained to you at the beginning, Linux is an operating system so customizable that there are dozens of different distros. You too can wake up tomorrow morning and create your own personalized distribution: nobody will forbid you to do it, nor to share it with others or publish it directly on the Internet. The ones I just told you about are without a doubt among the best Linux distros of the moment but, as I often say, the best distro is always the one that best suits your needs.
So, now that I have helped you to enter this world, you just have to explore it: if you have not tried any of the distros that I have listed yet then I invite you to do it. If, on the other hand, you have already taken the initiative but have not yet found what is right for you, start consulting forums and social spaces on the subject: you can discover the existence of a distro that you did not know and, perhaps, quickly find the one that most suits you befits. To help you, I propose a selection of other excellent distros :
- Mageia – it is a Linux distribution based on the code of another very simple distro, which however no longer exists: Mandriva Linux. Mageia is simple to install and configure, and allows you to have everything you need without messing around too much. You can download Mageia from its official website .
- PCLinuxOS – this is also a fairly simple distribution to use and, like the one I showed you a little while ago, it derives from the now abandoned Mandriva. PCLinuxOS allows, however, also to make very specific configurations for your system. You can use it safely even if you are an expert and you need something more than Mageia. You can download PCLinuxOS from its official website .
- OpenSuSE – this distro was born as a German translation of the very complicated Slackware, but over time it has been changed and forged with simplicity of use in mind. This means that you can use it even without being an expert, since the installation and configuration of this operating system have become extremely simple. OpenSuSE also fully embraces the open philosophy, so it does not include anything that is closed source. You can download OpenSuSE from its official website .
- Debian – is a “mother” distro, from which also Ubuntu and Linux Mint derive of which I told you before. It is customizable but complex enough to manage and configure, although very stable. For this reason, I recommend it only if you are already an expert in the Linux world. Debian has three different development branches (the stable, testing and non-stable branches) and is suitable for both everyday use and server configurations. You can download Debian Linux from its official website .
- Slackware – Slackware is currently the oldest Linux distribution still supported. It is a distribution that can be used mainly if you are an expert user. Although its installation has been simplified with clear video instructions, in fact, the system configuration is really complicated. Just to give an example, you have to configure the graphics server “by hand”, otherwise you cannot use any of the desktop environments present. In addition, Slackware provides a package installation system that is limited to the compilation of files only: the management and installation of the dependencies and libraries necessary to do so is the responsibility of the user. In short, Slackware is for real experts of the penguin system! If you feel ready for this adventure, you can download Slackware from his official website .
- Gentoo Linux – before describing it, I would like to tell you right away that to use Gentoo Linux you have to be a real expert. If you feel brave enough to do this, know that you will have to use the files on the DVD or USB stick to create an installation environment yourself. Once this is done, you can proceed to copy and compile the files necessary for the system to work, without being able to use windows and mice: you will have to do everything from the Linux terminal. Are you wondering why anyone should want to do all this and why Gentoo is still alive? I answer you immediately: it is such a stable distro that, once installed, it is difficult to remove. Gentoo is particularly suitable for servers, although there are those who use it on home PCs. You can download Gentoo Linux from its official website.
How to install a Linux distro
Now that you know which distro is right for you, let me quickly explain how to install Linux on your PC. If you feel ready enough to have a real Linux installation on your computer, do the following.
First, download the Linux distro you are interested in from its official website. When done, burn the ISO image with the operating system files to a DVD or USB stick. You don’t know how to do it? No problem, you can follow my tutorials on how to burn ISO images and how to burn ISO files to USB and get support for installing Linux.
After copying the distro files to a DVD or USB stick, you need to set the computer’s BIOS (or UEFI ) to boot from the media containing Linux. Also, if you are using a recent PC, you need to make sure that the Secure Boot feature does not disable the distro boot. Follow my step-by-step guide that will teach you how to enter the BIOS and apply all the necessary changes.
At this point the game is done: boot from the media that contains Linux, choose to start the distro in live mode (to use it without installing it) or start the installation of the latter on the computer and follow the procedure that is proposed to you .
If you are inexperienced, I do not recommend installing Linux directly on your computer’s hard drive and I invite you to do it via virtual machine . In this way you will not touch the disk or any other setting: if you combine some mess, all you have to do is delete the old virtual machine and start over. Your computer will not be damaged!
Not sure how to virtualize Linux ? Never mind : read my guide on how to virtualize an operating system and you will learn to do it in no time.