You’ve heard your geek friends talk about Linux many times , you are intrigued and now you are willing to try this “free” operating system that apparently has so much to offer. Good choice! Linux, as you have surely understood, is a family of open source operating systems: this means that everyone, in complete freedom, can modify the source code and distribute it in turn.
It is precisely for this reason that you can find many “versions” of Linux in circulation, even free. The latter are referred to by the term “distributions” (often abbreviated to “distros”) and each of them is aimed at a specific audience. It is therefore necessary to learn to “juggle” among the many proposals available and choose the one that best suits your use.
In this context, if you want, I can give you a hand and show you which are the best Linux distros of the moment. On the other hand, there are many solutions of this type out there and therefore a novice user could find himself “disoriented”. Having said that, there is no “best” distribution in an absolute sense compared to others: you have to evaluate on the basis of your needs and computer knowledge. In any case, do not worry, through the indications below you will surely find “bread for your teeth”. Enjoy your reading and have fun!
- Best Linux distros
- Linux Mint
- Other valid Linux distros
- Best lightweight Linux distros
- Windows subsystem for Linux
Best Linux distros
Want to find out which are the best Linux distributions 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 solutions listed there are some that are right for you.
There can’t be a guide to the best Linux distros without at least a mention to Ubuntu . On the other hand, it is no coincidence that there are other distros that derive from Canonical’s proposal.
In any case, each version of Ubuntu is accompanied by a number that allows you to understand when the distro was released: for example, the Ubuntu 21.10 version provides indicative information within its name. In fact, it was released in October (10) of the year 2021 (21). In short, now you know how to interpret the downloadable editions from the official Ubuntu website . Be warned though: there are various branches of Ubuntu .
In fact, there are non-LTS versions , supported for 9 months and always updated with all the latest news, as well as LTS versions , i.e. designed for long-term support . In the latter case, we generally refer to updates for 5 years . Put simply, the latter solution is the one you should look for if you need some stability .
Net of this, I remind you that Linux distributions can be installed, try Live (for example, directly from a flash drive or DVD) or virtualized . In this context, you may want to delve into my tutorials on how to install Ubuntu , how to install Ubuntu from USB, and how to virtualize Ubuntu . Additionally, you might also be interested in taking a look at my tutorial on how to install Google Chrome on Ubuntu , so that you have a concrete example of application installations that goes beyond the Ubuntu Software Center.
For the rest, for completeness of information, you need to know that Ubuntu is in turn “son” of Debian (there will be a way to learn more about this distro later in the guide).
Another certainly interesting distro is Linux Mint , which is certainly very convenient to start delving into the Linux world (not surprisingly, it is based on the aforementioned Ubuntu ).
Linux Mint has strengths that can be very intriguing for those who have only used operating systems such as Windows so far. To be clear, it is a “clean” distribution , which is also very simple to install and configure . The interface is as simple as you can think of and closely resembles what we saw, for example, on Windows 10 (menu at the bottom left, tools at the bottom right).
In short, the reasons why Linux Mint is appreciated by a good number of users of the open source community are there. On the other hand, there is everything you need to use your computer, from drivers that can make your PC work properly to programs that cover multiple needs, from the browser to photo editing software. There is also an always active forum to turn to in case of problems. In addition, this distro is also very popular for the level of customization guaranteed.
To proceed with the download, you can connect to the official Linux Mint website , by pressing the Download button for the version of the distro that interests you most (versions with Cinnamon , MATE and Xfce desktop environment are available ). There is also the Linux Mint Debian Edition , which makes use of Debian ‘s repositories, or software-related Web archives, instead of Ubuntu’s.
For the rest, in case of any doubt, you can consult my guide on how to install Linux Mint , in which I have also indicated how you can possibly go through virtualization through the well-known VirtualBox program .
Debian can be considered the “mother” distro. On the other hand, the already in-depth Ubuntu and Linux Mint Debian Edition also derive from the latter .
It is generally particularly popular with more experienced users . In fact, it allows you to perform many advanced operations and winks at those looking for stability and safety . If you ask any Linux expert about a “serious” Linux distribution, there’s a good chance the Debian name will emerge.
On the other hand, reference is made to one that saw its original release in 1993 (to be clear, Ubuntu arrived in 2004, while Linux Mint in 2006) and which has a particularly active community of enthusiasts . It has repositories that contain a lot of free software and the project’s relationship with the open source world is particularly close.
In this context, Debian has managed to achieve a particularly good reputation . However, it must be said that for some this distribution may not exactly be the most to manage and configure , even if in reality it is not anything transcendental if you are already a little familiar with the environment . In any case, I would only recommend Debian if you know a little about the open source world.
In any case, you can proceed to download the distribution via the official Debian portal . You may also want to learn more about my tutorial on how to install Linux to dispel any doubts.
Other valid Linux distros
As already mentioned, Linux is a family of operating systems that includes a large number of distros. On the other hand, essentially anyone can potentially create a custom Linux distribution.
This means, as you can imagine, that there are several other good Linux distros out there besides the ones I mentioned earlier.
- Fedora: considered one of the most complete Linux distributions, as well as fast and reliable. It has an elegant interface and its development is “promoted” by Red Hat, a US multinational well known within the open source community. It has Workstation, Server and iOT versions.
- Arch Linux: this is a distro originally released in 2002, which has always aimed at more experienced users. This does not actually mean that it is not accessible, but certainly the distribution is one of the most fascinating for the most “loyal” fans to the open source world. This is also due to the rolling release approach, which allows you to always have the latest packages made available by the developers.
- Lubuntu: a “different” version of the well-known Ubuntu , which is based on the LXDE graphic environment, aiming at those looking for a “light” operating system that winks in general at energy saving and less performing hardware.
- CentOS: this is a distribution that is generally seen well in the professional field. On the other hand, reference is made to a solution derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux. To make it very simple, the distro is contextualized as it should in the context of server customization.
- openSUSE: originally designed to make the “complex” Slackware distribution more accessible, it finds one of its main strengths in the ease of use. Much appreciated also due to the fact that it completely embraces the open source philosophy, despite having “behind” the US company Novell.
- Nitrux: design is the key word. It is a distribution that some would not exist to define “futuristic” from that point of view. Based on the popular Debian , it is mainly appreciated for its look, which in some ways can be reminiscent of macOS or Windows 11.
- Kali Linux: a Linux distro designed in a preponderant way to test network security. Key terms? Penetration test, cyber security and forensics. If you are interested, you may want to check out my tutorials on how to install Kali Linux , how to use Kali Linux, and how to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox for more information.
- Manjaro: If from your point of view a distribution should be as “essential” as possible, in the positive sense of the word, you could probably like Manjaro’s philosophy. On the other hand, the latter aims to represent “an operating system for all”, expressly declaring itself as an alternative capable of “replacing” the classic Windows and macOS.
For the rest, obviously there are many other valid Linux distributions in addition to those indicated in this guide. In this regard, I suggest you continue reading the tutorial, as you may find other interesting information.
Best lightweight Linux distros
If you are wondering, for example, which are the best Linux distros for old PCs and netbooks , you are probably looking for some “light” distribution .
In this context, the community usually particularly appreciates solutions such as Puppy Linux and Linux Lite . The first was originally created back in 2003 and managed to convince many people also due to its particularly small size: 300MB or less . Puppy Linux is also a fluid and versatile distribution , and all in all simple to use . Moreover, since it is a project that has been active for a long time, it is available in versions compatible with various architectures : to be clear, there are not a few who consider it one of the best 32-bit Linux distros .
In short, now you are aware of some solutions that can be intriguing even for those slightly dated computers that you may want to try to “revitalize”. For the rest, obviously don’t forget the information I provided in the previous chapters , as clearly you might be interested in taking a look at some other distros too (who said Lubuntu ?).
Windows subsystem for Linux
A very interesting possibility to use Linux applications via Windows is that linked to the Windows subsystem for Linux (WSL) .
Put simply, if you are used to Microsoft’s operating system, installing open source applications that would generally be exclusive to the Linux world has become easier than ever, especially after the release of Windows 11 .
To be clear, from October 2021 the Windows Subsystem for Linux Preview application was made available on the Microsoft Store , or the official digital store pre-installed on Windows (it already works very well, even if it is in a preliminary version). Using the latter, it is possible to install various Linux distributions on Windows , quickly exploiting their terminal functions and even installing and using apps with GUI (user interface).
To be clear, simply open the Microsoft Store (using the appropriate shopping bag icon, often present in the taskbar), search for “wsl” through the appropriate bar at the top and click on the Windows Subsystem for Linux box Preview . After that, hit the Get button and click the Yes button to start the download.
Once the download is complete, press the Open button and you will see a terminal appear on the screen , which will indicate that no distributions have been installed for now. You can therefore choose whether to proceed through the Microsoft Store , looking for the distro of your interest (for example, Ubuntu) and pressing the Get button or whether to proceed from Terminal (following the instructions provided on the screen).
In any case, once you have installed any distro , you will find the distribution icon in the Windows Start menu : you just have to press on it and a terminal will appear on the screen . Through the latter you can install applications using the classic Linux commands . First, though, you’ll need to set up a UNIX username , as well as a password , by pressing Enter to confirm.
Once this is done, to install, for example, the Firefox browser via Ubuntu , just use the command sudo apt-get install firefox, type the password you just set and give Enter . After that, you may be prompted to type “Y” and press Enter to confirm your choice. At this point, the download and installation of the app will start automatically . After that, you can start everything using the appropriate app icon (present, for example, from the Start menu).
In case of problems during the download or installation , you could try to use the command sudo apt-get update, in order to “fix” a little bit of everything. Obviously, I made a single example to make you understand easily how to install applications, but you can clearly use your knowledge related to the Linux world to possibly add repositories and install any application (even those that generally would not be found on Windows).
In short, using Linux applications on Windows and having the functionality of various distros available directly from Microsoft’s OS has never been easier. So I wanted to illustrate this possibility, since it could actually come in handy if you are a novice user as regards the open source world.