Did you hear your geek friends talking about Linux, you’re intrigued and now you’re curious to install it on your computer?
Good choice! Linux, as you surely understood, is a free and completely open source operating system: this means that everyone has complete freedom to 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 specifically 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 for a long time.
In short, looking outa bit ‘on the Internet you can find distro really for all tastes. At this point, we’re sure you’re thinking what are the best Linux distros.
Well, we already anticipate that this is not a question that we can simply answer with a couple of names because, as we explained before, every Linux distro has its merits, its flaws and its characteristics.
But this does not stop us from helping you to get the answer of your question.In this guide, we’ll show you what are the best Linux distros today around and we’ll explain, for each of them, the features you need to know.
After reading our guide, things will surely be clearer and, above all, you will be able 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.
We are convinced that among the Linux distributions in the list there are at least two or three which 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 its first steps in the world of Linux.
It is very simple to install, configures itself and contains everything you need to use your computer.
Inside you will find already installed drivers that will work in various “parts” of your PC, 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 from 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; we personally recommend the first). If you have problems, you can turn to its huge community that follows this operating system and welcomes all new users with open arms.
Does not the Linux Mint interface drive you crazy? Then you can try Ubuntu, a very famous distro from which Linux Mint derives (and therefore keeps the same simplicity of use).
Not only because of Ubuntu is certainly among the best Linux distros, also because it was the first operating system created with the aim of simplifying Linux and expanding its popularity to the general public.
Ubuntu is in turn the son of Debian (we’ll talk about it in a few paragraphs), you can configure it in a few clicks and has everything you need to take advantage of your computer to the fullest.
Each version of Ubuntu is accompanied by a number that allows you to understand when the distro has been released: for example, the latest version is called Ubuntu 17.10 because it was released in October 10 of the year 2017.
You can find two different “branches” of Ubuntu: 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 the development of Ubuntu, because each version of it lasts only 9 months and must then be replaced with a later version.
The second branch is the prolonged support, that is, made by Ubuntu versions 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 month of April of even years and are accompanied by the acronym LTS.
For example, the most recent released LTS distribution 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 that you prefer from the appropriate drop-down menus. If you need more information on how to download, install and configure Ubuntu, follow our step-by-step guide to install Linux.
Your group of “technological” friends has explained to you what the open philosophy is and have you been so fascinated by deciding to embrace it at 360 degrees? So Fedora is the Linux distro for you.
It undoubtedly stands out among the best distro of the moment, not only because it is really awesome and it is complete, but because it has a very important feature: it only contains open source programs and drivers, so it guarantees the certainty of using an operating system in where everything that is installed is open source.
Of course, once installed, you can use Fedora as you see fit and install anything you want inside, even proprietary software whose sources are not open to the public.
Fedora has a few more complicated installation and management procedures than the operating systems we mentioned before; I suggest you try it when you are little ‘more familiar with the penguin system (the penguin is the mascot of Linux if you did not know).
Furthermore, it should be emphasized that Fedora behaves very well on the servers. You can download Fedora for desktop computer (Workstation version) or server from its official page by clicking on the Download now button related to the version of the distro you are interested in.
Lubuntu is one of Ubuntu’s distro “daughters”: just like its mother, this distribution is easy to install and use. But it has a very important feature: it is designed to work on very old computers thanks to the lightweight LXDE desktop and pre-installed programs, all of which are designed to take up little memory and use little computing power.
Lubuntu is certainly among the best Linux distro and we suggest you install it if you want to give new life to an old computer on which Windows is no longer good. If you do not need that computer, you can always give it to your child or someone who needs a PC for basic use.
You can download Lubuntu from its official website, selecting the version of your distro 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 completely customizable distro? Then Arch Linux is what’s right for you.
Arch was founded in 2002 and, immediately, is presented 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? Not bad, I’ll explain it in a very simple way: Arch Linux is an operating system that continuously updates itself and its programs 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.
But this also has a negative side: very often the updates are so fast to contain bugs and, in some cases, you can 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 can not always be solved easily and you may need even medium to high knowledge to come to terms with the latter.
The installation of Arch Linux is not easy, although many official guides have been released that can guide the user step by step in the procedure.
Moreover, since it is a very customizable operating system, you have to configure many aspects by hand so that everything works properly.
In short: I would advise Arch Linux, despite being an excellent distros, only if you are already familiar with the penguin system and you are able to handle even complicated problems. You can download Arch Linux from its official page by selecting one of the available servers and clicking on the name of the ISO image to be downloaded.
Have you become a “pro” of Linux and want to build a server on your own? Do you have to rent a server and do not know what to choose between the proposed operating systems? We can not help you but recommend the CentOS distro.
Even this distro enters right into the list of the best Linux distributions and it does so for a very specific reason: it is perhaps the most suitable to create and manage a server without having to spend a lot of money.
Spend a lot of money with Linux distros? Yes, it can happen. Many server-oriented Linux distros, although based on open source code, require the purchase of a license or the obligation to subscribe to paid support services for using them.
Among the distros of this type Red Hat is the one that we consider par excellence the most suitable distribution to servers, but we will have the opportunity to talk about it more specifically on other occasions.
CentOS is the daughter of Red Hat: its code is very similar and its functioning also, only to download and use CentOS there is no need to pay anything.
As you have already understood, this is a distribution to be customized from head to toe to best fit your server.
Surely it is not easy to use but, once installed and configured properly, offers an enviable level of stability and security.
You can download CentOS directly from its official page by selecting one of the available versions: ISO DVD for the standard version of the operating system, Everything ISO for the most complete version or Minimal ISO for the minimal version.
Someone tried to install CentOS to use it on their PC “every day”, but I have to warn you: even if you’re an expert it is a distro built specifically for servers, readjust it for a more home use will certainly take a long time.
Just to tell you one, you’ll have to hack a little bit even just to install some programs with a graphical interface.
So think twice before throwing yourself into this adventure and, if you really need something completely open and based on Red Hat, give Fedora a chance (we told you a bit above).
Other Linux distros
As we explained to you at the beginning, Linux is such a customizable operating system that there are dozens and dozens of different distros.
Even you can also create your own personalized distribution: no one will forbid you from doing so, nor share it with others or publish it directly on the Internet.
Those of which we have just spoken are without a shadow of doubt among the best Linux distros of the moment but, as we often say, the best distro is always the one that best suits your needs.
So, now that we have helped you to enter this world, you just have to explore it: if you have not yet tried any of the distros that we have listed you then we invite you to do so.
If you have already taken the initiative but have not yet found what is right for you, start to consult forums and social spaces on the subject: you can discover the existence of distro that you did not know and, perhaps, quickly find the one that most befitting. To help you, we propose a selection of other excellent distros:
- Mageia – it is a Linux distribution based on the code of another very simple distro called Mandriva Linux, but today no longer exists. Mageia is easy to install and configure and allows you to have everything you need without too much fussing. You can download Mageia from its official website.
- PCLinuxOS – this is also a fairly easy to use distribution and, like the one we showed you a while ago, comes from the now abandoned Mandriva. PCLinuxOS allows, however, to also make very specific configurations for your system. You can use it safely even if you’re an expert and you need something more than Mageia. You can download PCLinuxOS from its official website.
- OpenSuSE – this distro is born as a German translation of the complicated Slackware, but over time it has been changed and forged with simplicity in use. 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. Even OpenSuSE completely embraces the open philosophy, so it does not include anything that is a closed source. You can download OpenSuSE from its official website.
- Debian – is a “mother” distro, from which Ubuntu and Linux Mint are derived of which we spoke to you before. It is customizable but complex enough to manage and configure, even if very stable. This is why I recommend it only if you are already an expert in the Linux world. Debian has three different branches of development (stable, testing and non-stable) 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 supported Linux distribution. This is a distribution that can be used mainly if you are an expert user. Despite its installation has been simplified with clear instructions on the screen, in fact, the configuration of the system is really complicated. Just to give an example, you have to configure the graphics server “by hand”, otherwise you can not use any of the desktop environments present. In addition, Slackware provides a system of installation of packages that is limited to the compilation of files: management and installation of dependencies and libraries necessary to do so is up to 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 its official website.
- Gentoo Linux – before describing it, we’ll tell you right away that you need to be an expert to use Gentoo Linux. If you feel brave enough to do so, know that you will need 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 system operation, without using windows and mouse: you will have to do everything from the Linux terminal. Are you wondering why anyone should want to do all this and why is Gentoo still alive? Let us answer you right away: it is such a stable distribution 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 is the most suitable distro for you, let us quickly explain how to install Linux on your PC. If you feel comfortable enough to have a proper installation of Linux on your computer, proceed as follows.
First, download the Linux distro you are interested in from the official website of the latter. When the operation is complete, burn the ISO image with the operating system files on a DVD or USB stick.
After copying the distro files to a DVD or USB stick, you need to set the computer BIOS (or UEFI ) to boot from the media that contains Linux. Also, if you use a recent PC, you need to make sure that the Secure Boot feature does not disable the start of the distro.
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 installing it on your computer and follow the procedure that is proposed.
If you are inexperienced, you are not advised to install Linux directly on your computer’s hard drive and I invite you to do it using a virtual machine. In this way you will not touch the disk or any other setting: if you combine some mess, you just delete the old virtual machine and start over. Your computer will not be damaged!
Not sure how to virtualize Linux? Not bad: read my guide on how to virtualize an operating system and learn how to do it in no time.