5 of the Best Linux Distros for Beginners

Beginner Linux Distros Featured

If you’re considering giving Linux a try, you might be put off by the risk of a steep learning curve. Not every Linux distro is as hard to get your head around as Arch, however. A number of Linux distros are perfectly well-suited to beginners.

Let’s take a closer look at five ideal Linux distros for beginners taking their first steps into the Linux world.

1. Ubuntu

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distros out there – its popularity makes it an extremely accessible choice for beginners, with a ton of useful information and community support to help new users.

Beginner Linux Distros Ubuntu Installer

New Ubuntu users can choose between standard and LTS (long term support) versionS. The LTS support lasts five years, while standard releases are every April and October.

Ubuntu offers a simple-to-use graphical installer, so new beginners shouldn’t need to touch the terminal. You also have the option to run the OS directly from a DVD or USB stick if you just want to try it out.

It uses the GNOME desktop environment, which is incredibly simple to use. The standard installation also includes an office suite, web browser, email client and media player.

2. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and also has a huge community to help you on your Linux journey, and like Ubuntu, it’s also one of the most user-friendly distros available. Mint offers MATE and Xfce desktop environments, but for beginners, we recommend downloading the Cinnamon edition, as it’s the simplest to use.

Beginner Linux Distros Mint

Installation is easy and includes some additional packages that aren’t included in the Ubuntu installer to make your Linux transition easier. These include proprietary graphics drivers, for instance. This means you can get straight into using Mint without needing any additional configuration.

If you’ve used Windows, then you should find that the Mint Cinnamon desktop feels very familiar – the “menu” button in the bottom left works in the same way as the Windows “Start” button does.

3. Elementary OS

If Mint is the best Linux distro for Windows users, then elementary OS is the equivalent for those coming from macOS.

Beginner Linux Distros Elementaryos Juno

Elementary OS is another Ubuntu distro, but it’s been designed to be instantly recognizable to macOS users – even the wallpaper looks like it’s straight from a version of macOS. You’ll find a dock along the bottom of the screen similar to the app dock in macOS. There’s even a version of the app store, called AppCenter, that makes installing additional software easy.

Just to make things even more comfortable for macOS users, the “close” button is On the top-left of each window, so you won’t find yourself clicking in the wrong place.

4. Manjaro

Installing Arch Linux isn’t something that a typical beginner should attempt. There’s no graphical installer, and you’ll need to use terminal commands to choose and install the components that you want to install, including your desktop environment.

Beginner Linux Distros Manjaro

There are a lot of benefits that make Arch Linux more than worth trying, however. You can build the exact OS that you want with no additional bloat. You also have access to the very latest software releases, especially compared to other distros.

The good news is that you can have the benefits of the Arch User Repository without the pain of trying to build Arch from scratch. Manjaro provides a simple graphical installer similar to Ubuntu, with a wide choice of desktop environments and packages – all that Arch has to offer, without any of the hassles.

5. Solus

Solus is a special kind of beginner-friendly Linux distribution – it’s not based on any other, like the rest of the distros on this list. That independence gives the developers the freedom to develop Solus with their own principles in mind.

Beginner Linux Distro Solus Desktop

Solus states that it’s a distro “designed for everyone,” making it friendly and easy for new Linux users to switch to. It also explains the choice of desktop environments. You can use everything from GNOME to the Solus-designed Budgie. Budgie is similar to GNOME but with an increased focus on simplicity.

Rather than needing to perform major updates, Solus uses rolling releases, meaning you’ll always run the most up-to-date system. New software can be installed through the Software Center, which is perfect for users who are terminal shy. There’s also plenty of software to choose from, from web browsers like Google Chrome to office suites like LibreOffice.

Beginner-Friendly Linux Distros

Any of these distros would make a good choice for someone installing Linux for the first time. They’re simple to install, easy to navigate and offer plenty of software for users.

Which distro would you recommend for beginner Linux users? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: ElementaryOS via Wikimedia, Solus via Wikimedia

16 comments

  1. I just installed peppermint 10 on a 2007 macbook. It so far seems pretty easy.

  2. MX – for any level.

  3. I am sure that everyone has a favorite for one reason or another. Personally found MX Linux, now number one on distrowatch page hit ranking, hits almost all the high points and still comes in i386 flavor as well. Even works on my EEEPC 1101HA – although does has video streaming issues making me ask why do I still have this thing anyway. All said, Still stands – MX Linux is the best distribution for me.

  4. I would put Pop! OS ahead of elementary, system76 OS of choice is great for gamers and beginners of all ilks.

  5. Please define “Beginner”.
    Is it somebody who is switching from Windows to Linux? Or is it who is it someone who is totally new to computers? If it is the former then the choices mentioned so far, with addition of PClinuxOS, sound OK. OTOH, if it is the latter, then most of the 800+ distros on the DistroWatch list, with the explicit exception of any DIY distros, such as Gentoo, Arch and Linux From Scratch, are OK.

  6. I do not think Manjaro (my distro for 3 years at least) is a beginner’s distro even though it’s easier than Arch.
    And Elementary OS was quite buggy a few years ago. Has it been improved?

  7. I would say Fedora is a great distro for beginners as well. Especially if you’re using a laptop or 2 in 1. As well as Zorin. Zorin is amazing for beginners.

  8. Zorin has improved and it has those “Windows” looks, for people who are too scared to change. I bet a lot of people wouldn’t notice or care if you kept the same background and a solitaire game.

    Other good n00b distros are Lite, MX, Kubuntu, Ubuntu MATE. They need something that’s kinda familiar, EZ to customize and configure, and rock solid of course.

    On my Chromebook I run GalliumOS, an XFCE spin of Ubuntu with all the right drivers for Chromebook.

  9. I’m a diehard Ubuntu guy, but Zorin 15 should have made this list IMO. It’s very polished, and perfect for new converts from “the other guys”. Someone mentioned MX, which I like, but not having X is a problem for many software titles still, so not a good recommend for a new user.

  10. I would suggest Ubuntu Mate. for its extremely friendly GUI.

  11. “Best Linux Distros for Beginners” Same (bad) old article over and over again.
    As dragonmouth said there is no such thing as beginner in O.S. installation. It should say otherwise. More like “easy to install Linux distributions”. Eventually, even a “Windows” user is not a beginner. Maybe a dumb(ed down) user. But not a beginner. So you cannot use this title and add your favorite distro after it because that is what you like to do. And worse giving a bad name to the other distro that don’t deserve it. At all. You cannot compare distro that doesn’t serve the same purpose. Get that imprinted. To finish I’d like to say that pretty much all of those distro are Debian based. So you should say Debian based. Not Ubuntu based. Those times are long gone. Also I don’t know if people who maintain those distro would appreciate the fact that you said that their distro is based on another one. You got it all wrong. But that is not surprising. At all.

  12. What about PClinuxOS,. It is a distro for beginners.

  13. For a first timer I would recommend Linux Mint Mate rather than Linux Mint Cinnamon which uses the graphics card for the menu system which often crashes back to software mode. For Nvidia graphics cards the Driver Manager can be used to install one of a selection of repository contained drivers.I would suggest a LTS release to avoid short End of Life releases. Newr kernels are available during the LTS periods once the user gets the hang of the system. An advantage of using a Ubuntu based release is that Nvidia CUDA GPU accelerated pgigroup community compilers are tested and freely and readily available.

  14. Another Linux distribution that is quite suitable for beginners, even more-so than a few of those listed in article is ZorinOS.
    The developers carefully and purosefully applied some similarity to Windows 7 in their GUI, made sure that most of multimedia functionality that a beginner would prefer is pre-installed, and offers on-line tech support programs that starts at 19 Euros.

    Furthermore, Zorin, like Ubuntu can be obtained pre-installed on certain computers – mostly in UK/European Union at this point, but heading to North America.

    Unfortunately, the mentality of promoting those Linux distribution that are generally most/more popular is bad reason for designation at better/best for beginners.

    I can speak with some authority on this topic, as a Linux/BSD professional for more that fifteen years, and with direct affiliations to more than one Linux distributor, that has performed hundreds of Linux installs for (Linux) beginners, most of whom had come from Microsoft Windows XP/7 environment. To-date, not one has contacted me to complain, only to express satisfaction.

  15. Based on the responses to this article and accepted usage on the ‘Net, ‘Linux Beginner’ is a euphemism or a code phrase for refugees from Windows.

  16. MX is for Debain what Ubuntu used to be for Debian, only a whole lot better, with cool graphical (point-and-click) tools. Wqual to MX, but easier to install, is Ubuntu-based Linux Lite , with an awesome tool set every bit the equal of MX!

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