The Best Linux Distributions for Beginners
If you want to try Linux, you should choose a Linux distribution. There are hundreds of different distributions, but some are better to start with than others. These are the best Linux distributions we recommend for beginners.
“Linux” is really just a kernel, the core part of the operating system. The graphical desktop, command-line tools, and other parts of the system are separate projects. “Linux distributions” take open source software from various projects and combine it into a complete operating system that you can install and use.
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Linux distributions are now very easy to try. You just need to download them and use a tool to create a bootable USB drive or burn a bootable DVD. You can then restart your computer and boot from the removable media to use the Linux distribution in “live” mode. In live mode, the Linux distribution runs from the bootable device without tampering with your system. If you decide you want to install the Linux distro on your computer, you can do it from the live environment.
On new computers, you may need to disable Secure Boot to boot Linux. Some Linux distributions can boot normally on Secure Boot PCs, but not all.
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Ubuntu comes closest to being a concept among desktop Linux distributions. It’s a great Linux distribution to start with – and it’s even a great Linux distribution to keep using after you get more experience, if you’re happy with it.
Ubuntu is user-friendly in many ways. It offers a simple desktop and an easy installer. It provides a checkbox during the installation process that automatically installs graphics drivers as well as various codecs you need for multimedia support. There is an “Additional Drivers” tool that detects closed-source drivers that may be needed to run all your hardware and install them easily for you. This additional software is not always easily available on other Linux distributions.
Ubuntu’s popularity means it has a large community willing to help. if you come across a problem or have a question you can generally search the internet and you will find someone else who has had the same problem or question along with an answer because so many people use Ubuntu.
This huge community also means a lot of available software, both in Ubuntu’s standard software repositories and in third-party software repositories known as PPAs. Third party software vendors ensure that they support Ubuntu. Applications such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Teams officially support Ubuntu, while they may not be supported on smaller Linux distributions. Ubuntu provides an easy way to get the latest NVIDIA graphics drivers if you want, while it can be more work to get on other Linux distributions.
You even get long-term support if you choose a “Long Term Support” (LTS) release, which we recommend. LTS releases are supported with security updates for five years from the release date, and Ubuntu releases a new LTS version every two years. This means you only need to do a major upgrade every two years, and you can postpone it for five years if you want. Not all Linux distributions offer such long support times.
Ubuntu has had its share of controversy. In 2017, it upset some fans by the announcement of the discontinuation of Ubuntu phone, the vision of “convergence”, and the new Unity 8 and Mir desktop and display server. But the project’s abandonment of Unity 8 and Mir and the future shift to more mainstream Linux technologies like the GNOME desktop and the Wayland display server means Ubuntu needs to get even more rock solid as it stops reinventing the wheel and builds on. on what the rest of the open source community is doing.
Ubuntu offers a variety of different “flavors”, which come with different desktop environments and applications through the same underlying Ubuntu operating system. You can use it to experiment with other desktop environments, while keeping the same foundation with its good technical support and software availability. For example, if you have an older computer that you want to breathe new life into, you can Lubuntuc a go (pictured above). It offers the LXQT desktop environment, which is much lighter than the more complete desktop on Ubuntu.
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Linux Mint is also extremely popular, and we can’t recommend Ubuntu without noting that quite a few people prefer Linux Mint instead. Linux Mint is based in part on Ubuntu, but uses the Cinnamon, MATE, or Xfce desktops instead. These are more traditional Linux desktop environments, complete with a taskbar with a window list and a pop-up application menu. A lot of people are just looking for a polished desktop that doesn’t try to do anything new, and Linux Mint’s Cinnamon and MATE desktops deliver.
If that sounds like what you want – or if you try Ubuntu and decide you prefer a more traditional desktop environment – check out Linux Mint.
Linux Mint used to be slightly more different from Ubuntu, offering several bundled media codecs for an easier user experience. But Ubuntu now makes those much easier to install, and Linux Mint installs them separately (but in a similarly easy way). And since Mint is based on Ubuntu, you can still get a ton of applications and support for it.
“Try Ubuntu or Mint” is pretty common advice. These are great Linux distributions to start and learn from. But if you’re looking for something a little different, you might want to give Fedora a shot.
fedora has a few philosophical differences from Ubuntu, Mint, and many other distributions. Unlike the others, Fedora is passionate about only including open-source software. For example, it does not include closed-source hardware drivers. You have to find them yourself after installation if you need them.
The Fedora developers also work more directly with open source projects like GNOME, making fewer changes and providing you only the latest, cutting-edge software from these projects. This distro gives you the latest and greatest from the community.
Fedora’s desktop image is now known as “Fedora Workstation” and presents itself to developers who need to use Linux, and provides easy access to development features and software. But it can be used by anyone.
This community Linux distribution also forms the basis for: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a commercial Linux product that supports Red Hat in the long run. Fedora is the opposite: the project releases new versions about every six months, and each release is supported with security updates about every thirteen months. You will need to upgrade at least every second release of Fedora to remain supported. If you want a free version of Red Hat’s slower moving Red Hat Enterprise Linux, use CentOS instead of. It’s the same code as in RHEL, but without the branding and commercial support.
Elementary OS 6
There are many other solid Linux distributions you can try. Anything with enough popularity on DistroWatch’s page hit rankings is probably an excellent Linux distribution that has fans for good reason.
You will often find Linux distributions developed by a small team, such as: Basic Operating System, here. Elementary OS offers a polished, simple desktop thanks to its own custom Pantheon desktop environment. It looks good and is very different from many other Linux desktops, but may not be as solid and supported as tried and tested distributions. Elementary’s website asks for a donation before downloading it, but you can enter “$0” if you just want to download it for free.
Debian is a great Linux distribution and is actually the foundation for Ubuntu, which in turn is the foundation for many other Linux distributions. Debian is a good option if you want a stable environment, but Ubuntu is more up-to-date and more desktop-oriented.
Arch Linux forces you to get your hands dirty, and it’s a good Linux distribution to try if you really want to learn how everything works… because you have to configure everything yourself. We don’t recommend starting here – seriously, that’s not a good idea – but once you’re comfortable with something like Ubuntu, Arch can be a great way to learn the ins and outs of Linux. Please have the installation guide handy when you install it.
tails is a live CD environment that offers maximum privacy and security. Tails is used by Edward Snowden, as well as political dissidents and journalists who need maximum protection. It automatically routes your web activity through Tor and provides other security tools. Since it runs in a live environment, it ensures that all your traces are erased when you reboot. It’s not a general purpose Linux distribution, but if you’re looking at Linux because you need something rock solid when it comes to privacy, Tails is the one to pick. This is the kind of purpose-built operating system that can only be built on top of open-source software.
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