Arch Linux is probably one of the most “for geeks” Linux distributions, with a delightful experience for every aficionado seeking to push the bleeding edge of what Linux can do. Its nature and target user make it challenging to use and install, with a steep learning curve that can put off even seasoned Linux users. Your computer becomes a project, you become the engineer in charge of it, and Arch hands you a magic wand to achieve your wildest dreams – provided you learn how to use it.
If you’d like to harness the power of Arch Linux but don’t want to have to build everything from the ground up, the good news is that there are plenty of Arch-based Linux distributions that offer varying levels of granularity to your experience. Nearly all of them offer the simplicity of GUI-based installation, and each provides its own unique take on Arch Linux.
Below, you will find five Arch-based Linux distributions you can try.
For the purist who wants to deploy Arch quickly and in luxury.
EndeavourOS offers the most true-to-form experience of Arch Linux. Even experienced Arch users will appreciate how it does everything it can not to get in your way and simply gives you the same scalpel Arch offers with the famous Calamares installer.
Unlike other distros in this list, you are allowed to choose your desktop environment during the installation. Endeavour currently ships with XFCE4, KDE Plasma, GNOME, i3wm, MATE, Cinnamon, Budgie, and LXQT.
Aside from the desktop environment’s default applications and Firefox as a browser, Endeavour will only install some of its own assistants and an AUR helper known as “yay.” From that point on it’s up to you to install whatever you want.
Endeavour sets itself apart from other lightweight distros based on Arch by deploying Arch itself in an environment of your choosing, allowing you to make it as lightweight (or as bloated) as you wish!
For those who just want to install something “Archy” and be done with it.
Manjaro has all the benefits of Arch Linux but in a full-featured, user-friendly package. There’s a graphical installer, which is simple enough to use even for people just getting their toes wet in Linux.
Manjaro uses the same packages found in the Arch repositories, but it tests them for around two weeks longer than Arch does. In theory, the packages are only made available if they have no compatibility or stability issues. Manjaro won’t be as bleeding edge as Arch Linux, but you should find it more stable.
One of Manjaro’s most-loved features is its package manager (known as “pamac”), which provides a graphical and terminal front end that wraps around Arch’s own pacman, includes support for the all-powerful Arch User Repository (AUR), and has support for containerized universal repositories like Flatpak and Snap.
If you’re new and AUR or Snap mean nothing to you, it just means you’ll be able to find a wide range of applications that you otherwise would have had to hunt for in other distros. All you have to do is simply open Manjaro’s package manager and click on what you want.
There is also the option to choose from a wide range of desktop environments. There are four official options: Xfce, KDE, Architect, and GNOME. The community has created several more, including MATE, Cinnamon, and Deepin. Manjaro also comes with a 32-bit edition – perfect for older machines.
For those who want to learn Arch in a less intimidating way.
ArcoLinux is made up of four editions, each aimed at different user types. The first variant, named ArcoLinuxL, comes with an immense library of software and the lightweight XFCE desktop. They describe this as their “flagship ISO.”
ArcoLinuxS installs the base system with the XFCE desktop and no additional software, letting you just open a terminal and pick what you want.
ArcoLinuxD strips everything back and requires you to install your choice of desktop environments from the terminal, along with any applications you need. For new users, the lack of graphical installer may be off-putting. This is what they call their “learning ISO.”
ArcoLinuxB allows you to build your own custom distribution. Your other option is to take advantage of those already built by the community that come preconfigured with desktops such as GNOME, Cinnamon, MATE, Budge, and Plasma.
Although ArcoLinuxD and ArcoLinuxB offer more of a challenge, there are many video tutorials to help you through the process. If you can’t find what you need, you can contact ArcoLinux via social media, and they will create a new video for you.
Ideally, once you’ve learned how to install and manage your ArcoLinux distribution without a GUI, it’s essentially no different than using Arch.
For the enthusiast who wants something light and involved.
ArchBang is another lightweight distribution based on Arch Linux, designed to be as minimalist as possible. The distro itself is fast, stable and uses the highly configurable Openbox window manager to give you a clean environment (if GUIs are your thing).
The initial installation comes with very few apps included, maintaining the Arch ethos of choosing what you need. There’s a text editor, a file manager, a music player, and Firefox for browsing.
You can install whatever additional apps you need from the Arch User Repository database. If you’re looking for a lightweight Arch distro to run on older or lower-resource PCs, ArchBang is a great option.
5. Garuda Linux
For those who like extra spice, obscene luxury, and a splurge of eye candy.
Designed primarily for gamers with mid-range or high-end computers, Garuda pushes the limits of what Arch Linux can offer you in a package that requires a pretty decent system to fully enjoy.
Even the modified Calamares installer that Garuda comes with makes the statement, “I’m here to give your eyes a massage.” The default theme is dark, and the most popular edition of the distro comes with a heavily modified version of KDE plasma with a Latte dock.
When you first boot, Garuda kindly provides a post-install assistant that offers you a long and well-curated list of all the applications you’ll need to get started with productivity, gaming, development, and other types of work you’d want to do with your computer. If you’re not familiar with the applications, Garuda also describes each of those that aren’t self explanatory.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box Linux distro that has a lot of “kick” to it and offers a “for dummies” experience that properly introduces you to Arch Linux, Garuda may just be right up your alley!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s the most stable Arch-based distro?
Because of Arch’s nature, the answer to this question is pretty complicated. If you’re looking for a more stable experience than what Arch Linux offers you, there’s really no safe answer. While Manjaro prides itself in being able to provide a stable experience by delaying the release of packages for a few weeks to test them out, it’s not a guarantee that the maintainers have ironed out all the kinks.
How stable your experience is in any Arch-based distro depends very much on how you use it. Generally, you’ll experience a decent level of stability if you read your terminal output carefully (especially the last few lines before an interruption) and learn what a command does before typing it.
As far as distros are concerned, EndeavourOS allows you to install the long-term service stable kernel right off the bat, giving you an excellent platform with which to create a stable experience for yourself.
Manjaro’s approach of holding packages back a week or two can sometimes prevent problems from slipping through the pipeline. It’s worth noting, however, that Arch on its own is remarkably stable as long as you stick to the best practices while using it.
2. Which distro should I use if I’m a beginner?
If you’re just beginning to get into Linux, it’s probably better that you use an Ubuntu/Debian-based distro. The Debian world requires less tedium to get things right, and you don’t have to know your packages quite as intimately as you do with Arch.
However, if you insist on using something based on Arch, then Manjaro and Garuda are both great options. EndeavourOS might be a close third if you have some Linux experience, but it doesn’t hold your hand quite as much as the other two.
3. Can I dual-boot an Arch distro with Windows?
After that, the installer should pick up that you have a Windows system and ask you if you’d like to install your Linux distro alongside it.
Note that if your clock keeps changing every time you switch operating systems, you may have to open a terminal in your Linux distro and type
hwclock --systohc to set the hardware clock to the current time and sync it between the two.
Image Credit: Arch Linux Bildschirmfoto
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