This question is often repeated by new comers to the Linux world, there are thousands of distributions out there and choosing one of them that fits your needs may be harder than finding a girl to merry, which one is better?
Well, first of all you have to know that there’s no such thing as the “Best Linux distribution” that everyone likes and love, you will find that Ubuntu users will tell you that Ubuntu is good and offers a lot of applications to install, you will see Linux Mint users talk about the ease and elegance of Linux Mint, you will see Arch users and how happy they are with the rolling updates system.
Everybody will tell you what’s the best based on their experience, not your needs.
Actually you can customize any Linux distribution you fit your needs, after installation, you can install and configure all the software/packages you want from any other Linux distribution and use it on the one you want, as long as the code is open-source (which is true in 99.999% of the cases) you can do whatever you want with your operating system.
But Why there are Many Distributions at the First Place?
Because the code is open-source, everybody can grab the Linux kernel and the other tools around it and create his own Linux distribution, there are also some services like SUSE Studio to build your own distribution based on SUSE & openSUSE in a few clicks online. There are also some programs like Ubuntu Builder, Relinux and UCK to build your own distro from Ubuntu, and so on for all other distributions.
Different people have different tastes and needs, what you like may not be the thing for others and vice versa. That’s why there are hundreds of distributions around the world, each one has its own goal and targeted user base.
What are the Major Distributions?
Therefore the solution is to go out there and try major distributions until you find what really fit you needs, there is no “best” for everyone, but there are many distributions that are designed for some specific needs, therefore trying those distributions according to your needs may be a good shot:
As a normal user
You may try Linux Mint or Ubuntu. The installation of those Linux distribution is graphical and they offer a lot of software to install, beside a big community for all of them that will help you in case of troubles. Ubuntu is the most famous Linux distribution and Linux MInt is based on it, Mint comes with many extra applications and other desktop interfaces.
There are many other Linux distributions that are suited for new users like Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE.. Etc and they would all work with you.
As a person who’s looking for astonishing look and design
You may try ElementaryOS, ZorinOS or deepin. Those distributions has their own graphical user interfaces and special customization that doesn’t exist in other distributions.
You may also check Mageia or Kubuntu, they come with KDE interface which is considered to be a beautiful piece of code.
As a person who wants to work in the field of Linux
If you’ll be using Linux to get a career in the industry then you have to know that almost 90% of the hiring managers around the world require one of Redhat‘s certifications, therefore using Redhat Enterprise Desktop (Or Redhat Enterprise Server) can be a good thing.
However Redhat distribution is not free, you will have to pay around 100$ for a subscription, you can use CentOS which is 100% exactly the same as Redhat but is free with a different name.
You can study for Redhat certifications and follow up all Redhat courses using CentOS, you don’t need to get a copy of the main Redhat system. There is SUSE as well for the enterprise but it’s just 10% of the market, but it offers a lot of solutions actually.
As an advanced user
You may want to give openSUSE, Fedora or Manjaro a try. Each of these distributions has its own features and community so you may check their websites to find anything interesting for you.
You can also consider Arch Linux and Debian.
As a Gamer
You may try Fedora gaming Spin, SteamOS and SparkyLinux Gameover. Gaming on Linux is not very much depending on the distribution actually, you can install the main gaming programs like Steam, Wine Emulator and PlayOnLinux or even CrossOver to run the games you want.
As a security-caring user
You may try Tails, a Linux distribution which is shipped with Tor, the famous anonymity software. You can also try QubesOS, it’s an isolated operating system that runs by using containers to provide security.
Security on Linux is very strong, way better than Windows actually due to many reasons like the structure of the kernel and the permissions system, so any Linux distribution will be safer than Windows, but between them, they differ in security a lot, distributions like Redhat and Fedora are a good example for this.
For old hardware users
Linux is very amazing when it comes to old hardware, you have a lot of special distributions and programs even for +10-15 years old, actually you can use some interfaces like LXDE, LxQt and Openbox on any distribution you want, but tuning that is a bit hard, especially if you are a newbie.
Therefore we recommend using some common distributions if you have an old computer, for this, you have Lubuntu, Tiny Core, Slax and LXLE and Puppy.
Discovering The Best Linux Distribution for You
There are hundreds of Linux distributions around the world actually, each one of them can be a potential good operating system for you instead of Windows and Mac OS, but we don’t recommend using unknown distributions or those with small communities, they may die at any moment for lack of support, therefore, staying with the major distributions is a wise choice.
You can use “Distrowatch” to find and search for Linux distributions, it’s a huge website that is creating a database for most of them around the world, you may check the search page to run a query. You can also check “Linux Screenshots” website to take a tour to whatever distribution you want before downloading it.
Hanny is a computer science & engineering graduate with a master degree, and an open source software developer. He has created a lot of open source programs over the years, and maintains separate online platforms for promoting open source in his local communities.
Hanny is the founder of FOSS Post.
I just discovered your website and I can say that I like what I have seen so far. This is an excellent article.
I would like to add that with Linux you can have more than one distribution that is good for you. Using a single computer and OS for everything you do is from an age gone by. Today we can have many computers for many purposes.
For server I typically choose CentOS minimal and expand upon that. It has been my go-to for servers for years. For example, I setup my all my hypervisors using CentOS.
For desktop I had for years used Ubuntu quite a bit, but I have been staying with Linux Mint over the past few years for general desktop and productivity. Linux Mint installs in a few short minutes and provides just about everything I need right out of the box. I even run Linux Mint on my Macbook Air!
For music and video production I have spent time with Ubuntu Studio. It comes pre-configured with real time kernel and a vast assortment of quality applications for multi-media production. I typically dedicate a higher end desktop system for this purpose.
The best distribution is the one that fits the intended purpose on the intended system. If you try to get one system, or one single distribution, to do it all you will end up making far too many compromises and creating more confusion and problems. Choose the best tool set for the task at hand.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us. On my older laptop I had 3 different Linux distributions installed. Each one of them was intended for different usage; Ubuntu for gaming, openSUSE for building packages and testing, Fedora for normal usage. However, some people may not feel comfortable when needing to reboot each time a different task is required, which forces them to install everything on a one Linux distribution.
Sounds like you may not be choosing the best tools for the tasks. Fedora is meant for early experience, not for normal use. That said you get the cutting edge, but wI’ll get less stability.
Consider taking your Ubuntu and adding a hypervisor. If you need other distros, then run them in a virtual machine using KVM/Qemu/Libvirt. This way you never need to reboot because all is available at the same time.
This was precisely my point that you should use multiple machines as you need to get work done. That can be separate host systems or virtualized hosts. Whatever you need when you need it.
I agree that there really is no ‘best distribution’. There are many fantastic distributions out there and it boils down to what is best for the individual. A user may find one distro that is the perfect fit. They may find more than one they like. That is the part of the beauty of Linux and FOSS – freedom and choice.
I find Deepin 15.7, Linux Mint Debian Edition and KDE Neon or OpenSUSE Tumbleweed to be the best fit for me. I own several laptops and use them all. I was trying to settle on one distro and narrowed my list to these four but liked them all equally, although for different reasons. I chose to keep them all. Deepin 15.7 is my main daily driver and became my replacement for Windows. It serves this purpose perfectly.
LMDE 3 resides on the same system in a dual-boot setup. The others are tailored for more specific uses and they do it well. Together, they have helped me learn the Linux desktop. I also do my share of ‘distro-hopping’ and love trying new software. Linux has made computing fun and offers what Windows or MacOS never could.
The best Linux distribution is the one that you use. After all, that is how the user will see it.
As other’s have said- there is no best linux. One need’s to find one that feels easy to drive. That is why new user need/have to distro-hop a bit.