With many hundreds of Linux distros available, it’s often a challenge for a new user to find the distro that best suits their needs. Which one is best for gaming? Office and productivity? Hardware compatibility? Servers? Homemade routers? Well today, we’ll be walking through some important considerations and discussing how to choose a Linux distro without trying them all.
1. What Do You Need the Distro for?
The most important factor when choosing a Linux distro is what you need it for – e.g. work, fun, occasional browsing, enhanced security, multimedia, etc. There are distros for each of these purposes and many more. If you want to check which distros are available for a particular purpose, the place to do so is on DistroWatch.
Navigate to the “Distribution Category” search filter. There are quite a few good options available to you, so if you have a very specific use case, that’s a great place to look.
2. What Kind of Software Will You Be Using?
This is essentially your use case. If you have a specific piece of software that you’ll be using that you need a particular version of, that will influence your distro choice. If you’re a standard desktop user, you’ll probably want regular updates to get new versions of things like Firefox and Chrome. If you’re a gamer, you’ll probably want the latest and greatest kernel to get access to better hardware compatibility. If you’re just using basic software like OpenSSH or Nginx for a server, you’ll probably not mind having older versions of that software – as long as it doesn’t get too many updates and move slowly.
3. What Kind of Hardware Will You Be Using?
If your computer is more powerful and has newer hardware, then you can run almost any distro you like. However, if it is old, this could limit your choices. Depending on its age and specs, your choice may boil down to just a dozen distros made especially for old computers. Typically, these distros for old computers are lightweight and don’t offer everything you can think of but are still a decent choice for most everyday tasks and beyond.
4. How Much Experience With Computers Do You Have?
This may seem obvious, but it’s very important. If you have tons of experience with computers from a technician perspective, you’d be a better fit for a different distro than someone who has very surface-level experience with computers. Additionally, if you have a lot of experience with one particular platform or another, you may want to look at a distro that mimics that workflow. A great example is that as a former macOS user, elementaryOS looks and feels very comfortable and familiar for me.
5. What Kind of Community Are You Looking For?
There are a few constants across different communities, but each community has something different. For example, if you’re looking for a boostraps, rugged, do-it-yourself kind of community, you might look at Arch Linux. If you’re looking for fierce pragmatism, I’d suggest Ubuntu. If you’re looking for a small-but-mighty free software community, you might look at Fedora. It’s fairly simple to find out what kind of community a distro has surrounding it by going to its respective Subreddit and reading through posts and comments. Every community is helpful, but they’re all helpful in different ways.
I hope that’s all helpful information in your quest to find your forever distro (or at least the distro that holds you for a little while). Make sure to check out some of our distro reviews to get started, like openSUSE, MX Linux, Clear Linux, GhostBSD, and EndeavourOS.