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How to Choose the Right Linux Distro

Updated on June 26, 2014
"Tux", the Linux mascot originally created by Larry Ewing
"Tux", the Linux mascot originally created by Larry Ewing | Source

What is Linux?

Linux is an Operating System. It is an alternative to Microsoft Windows or the Apple's OS X. If someone tells you that they are using Linux, what they really mean is that they are using a Linux distribution or distro for short.

The distro gives you the look and feel of the operating system. Applications are the different software programs that you can use in the Linux distribution You may be surprised to learn that there are thousands of software applications available for free with your Linux distribution.

Most Linux applications rely on donations to help fund the application development rather than charging for the application. Donations may be in the form of cash or work depending on your abilities.

Most Linux distributions as well as applications are the result of many people working together or building upon the work of others.

Not only is it free of cost but you are also free to change it and create your own applications or your own Linux distribution. You can change it any way you wish without having to worry about getting in trouble for modifying the software.

Reasons for Choosing Linux

The number of reasons for choosing Linux could be just as high as the number of distributions that are available in the Linux operating system. Here are just a few reasons you may wish to try Linux:

  • It's free!
  • It's easy to use.
  • Tired of fighting viruses and malware on yours or your children's PC.
  • Tired of supporting Microsoft or the lack of support from Microsoft.
  • Don't like the latest versions of Windows.
  • Windows is boring.
  • Can't afford all of the expensive software that you have to buy when using Windows or OS X.
  • Want to have more control over how your desktop looks and feels.
  • Have very specific needs for your operating system.
  • Just want to try something different.
  • Your hard drive is broken.
  • You have an old computer that you would like to breathe new life into.
  • You would like to have an operating system that you can move with you and use on several computers without affecting the existing operating system.
  • You would like to get your files off a computer that the operating system is no longer working on.
  • Want to use an operating system that evolves faster and develops new features faster than Windows or OS X.
  • Want to use an operating system that leans toward openness rather than closed and costly proprietary operating systems.

Why Are There So Many Linux Distributions?

Because Linux is free (as in freedom of choice), it can be easily modified to meet the needs of specialized groups or niches.

Although there are many exceptions, most Linux distros have evolved out of three main Linux distributions: Debian, Slackware and Redhat. Often when you read about a Linux distribution you will hear it is Debian, Slackware or Redhat based. For example, Ubuntu is Debian based.

Some distros are designed to work on low-end or older computers. Some distros are designed to work with very high end computers where you may want to get every little bit of power possible. Some distros are designed to be portable so that you can use them on several different computers or on computers that don't have hard drives.

Whatever your needs, there's probably a Linux distribution made just for you.

What makes Linux different?

Linux is FREE. Free to use and free to modify. Thousands of applications are available for free and are easily downloaded using the distribution application manager.

Linux can be installed on a hard drive like most other operating systems you may be familiar with however some distros can be run from a CD, DVD or Thumbdrive.

Linux is secure. Unlike Microsoft Windows, applications cannot be installed without being intentionally installed by the user or administrator. This means that you are much less likely to be affected by viruses or malware unless you actually install it yourself.

Linux distributions have been designed to fill specific niches making your end user experience much more enjoyable.

Choosing a Linux Distribution

Although there are distributions that are more popular than other Linux distros, there is no "best" Linux distribution. This is because each distro is designed for very specific tasks or groups of users.

You may wish to take an old hard drive and test different Linux distributions until you find the one you like. The installation of most distros is quite easy so it's just a matter of installing it and testing it. If you don't like it or you find it's not comparable to your system then just install another destro until you find one that is perfect for you.

Many distros give you the opportunity to create a live CD or DVD. These live CD's or DVD's, although usually somewhat limited give you a chance to test the distro before installing it.

There are even some distributions that allow you to install the operating system on a thumbdrive giving you excellent portability and the ability to use it on computers that don't even have a hard drive.

The following is a list of some distributions that may interest you and why they may be your distribution of choice:

Pear Linux
Pear Linux

Pear OS

Based on Ubuntu, Pear Linux is a Linux distribution that comes with a dock similar to those used on an OS X system. In fact many have said that this distribution is a great alternative if you enjoy the look and feel of Apple OS X.

The operating system comes with many multimedia features right out of the box. It is very easy to use and install.

Because it is based on Ubuntu, it provides a fantastic repository of applications to choose from.

Update:

As of January 2014, Pear Linux has is no longer available. Here is a quote from the developer of Pear Linux:

Pear OS and Pear Cloud are no longer available for download.

Its future is now in hands of a company who wants to remain anonymous for the moment. The concept has pleased them it and now wants to continue and improve the system for their own products. I can not give a name but it is a very large company well known ...

I want to thank all users, moderators and other developers who have made Pear OS it is today, that without this adventure would not have been possible.

I'm going in another direction.

Pear Cloud users must recover their files on Pear Cloud servers.
In 10 days (january 31), the files will be deleted and the server will be offline.

Another big thank you to all and I hope to return to the scene of open source very quickly.

Cordially.

David

Linux Ultimate

If you're looking for a Linux distro that has plenty of bells and whistles, then Linux Ultimate may be the distribution for you. This flashy distro comes loaded with tons of applications to play with.

This Linux distro may just be too much for the average user.

Puppy Linux
Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux

The following is a list of the Puppy Linux goals:

  • Easily install to USB, Zip or hard drive media.
  • Booting from CD (or DVD), the CD drive is then free for other purposes.
  • Booting from CD (or DVD), save everything back to the CD.
  • Booting from USB Flash drive, minimize writes to extend life indefinitely.
  • Extremely friendly for Linux newbies.
  • Boot up and run extraordinarily fast.
  • Have all the applications needed for daily use.
  • Will just work, no hassles.
  • Will breathe new life into old PCs
  • Load and run totally in RAM for diskless stations

Because of these extraordinary goals, Puppy Linux was built from scratch and is not based on any other Linux distribution. Puppy Linux offers a wide range of applications and yet still remains small and fast.

Because of its size Puppy Linux usually loads completely into RAM, giving it incredible speed. It also makes it possible to run this distribution from a CD or USB thumbdrive.

Puppy Linux was actually named after a Chihuahua named "Puppy", a tiny dog that was totally fearless.

Puppy Linux is an excellent choice if you would like to do the following:

  • Use a distro that you can carry with you on a CD or USB thumbdrive. Carry your programs and data anywhere!
  • Have an extremely fast operating system, even on old computers.
  • Use on a computer that does not have a harddrive. This is great for testing used PC's.
  • Remove malware from infected PC's. Using built-in or installed antivirus, you can repair your ailing computer.
  • Retrieve lost data. If your operating system ceases to function properly, you can use Puppy Linux to retrieve files that may otherwise be lost.


Fedora 17
Fedora 17

Fedora

Fedora is a Redhat based Linux distribution that provides a reliable operating system alternative to Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. Fedora currently uses Gnome 3 by default. Those unfamiliar with Gnome 3 may at first find it somewhat awkward however you may soon learn why Fedora chose to use Gnome 3.

The application repository is not quite as large as the Debian repository however there are 10,000+ applications available making it a real contender.

If you want a very stable distribution that has a clean and efficient desktop, Fedora may be the choice for you.

Linux Mint
Linux Mint

Linux Mint

This is my preferred Linux distro. If you loved the look and feel of Windows XP you will probably find Linux Mint to be very easy to use and feel very similar to Windows XP.

Linux Mint is based upon Ubuntu giving it a huge application repository with thousands of applications to choose from.

Designed to work out of the box with full multimedia support, Linux mint is the most popular Linux distribution today.


Android

The Android operating system was based on Linux and was first developed for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Android has now been incorporated into other devices such as multimedia players, televisions, game systems and more.

Other Linux Distros You May Wish to Try

  • PinguyOS
  • Zorin OS
  • Ubuntu
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Arch Linux
  • Mageia
  • OpenSUSE
  • Debian
  • CentOS
  • Slackware
  • SolusOS
  • Snowlinux
  • Bodhi
  • KNOPPIX
  • Gentoo

Is Linux Better than Windows or OS X?

Whether Linux is better than Windows or OS X is really a matter of opinion. The important thing is to choose an operating system that meets your needs and will continue doing so for years to come. Don't be afraid to try something new. You may be pleasantly surprised!

What is your favorite operating system?

See results

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • flash167 profile imageAUTHOR

    Marty Andersen 

    5 years ago from Salina, Utah

    I have had the same issue with Windows compatibility. Although there is a program that allows you to use some Windows programs on Linux called Wine, I have found that some of them just won't work in Linux.

    Most of my computers are set up to dual boot however I use Linux most of the time.

    I have been disappointed with the release of Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. I am still using Windows XP and know that eventually the couple of programs that I like to use on Windows XP will become outdated.

    Fortunately other than those couple of programs that I use, I have found good alternatives to my Windows programs. I'm sure it won't be long before I'll be saying goodby to Windows forever.

  • Patkay profile image

    Patrick Kamau 

    5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

    Thanks for these tips on how to choose the right Version of Linux for a computer. I have used Ubuntu a bit and came to like it. The only problem is compatibility with Window based programs.

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