Linux is an operating system for system admins, programmers, and coders. That’s all changed now with beginner-friendly distros.
Linux’s most significant advantage is the customization it offers. That’s where the distributions come in. It doesn’t matter in which area of the industry you work in; there are distros that you can use in your work. Some distros work best for doing scientific work, which requires a scientific approach and programming.
Also, most of the distros can be used for day-to-day activity. As a technical person, it is always a good idea to try out different Linux distros and try to understand which one works best for you.
That’s why, in this article, we are going to list the Linux distros that you should give a try.
Right now, there are hundreds of Linux flavors out there. Not all of them are worth considering as they do not offer any unique features to warrant an installation. The list here ensures that you get to know only the best Linux distro out there.
Before you decide to install a distro, we recommend you to test out the distro. You can do it by running a live copy of the distro or simply installing the distro on your Windows setup using virtualization technology, such as the Hyper-V.
Let’s get started.
If you are looking for a familiar distro to get started, then you cannot go wrong with Ubuntu. It is a globally renowned distro. It is best suited for those who are looking to use Linux on their daily basis or are new to the Linux world.
To install Ubuntu, you need the following hardware required to make it work effectively.
- 4 GB RAM
- 2 GHz dual-core processor
- 25 GB of hard disk space
They are the recommended requirement, but you can install Ubuntu on a machine with 512 MB RAM, 700 Mhz processor, and 5 GB hard-drive space.
So, what makes Ubuntu so special?
First of all, it is easy to use.
Secondly, it is secure and provides a great platform for a newcomer.
Technically, Ubuntu is a Debian-based. It also comes with Long Team Support(LTS). This means that you can install a stable version for your machine. There are other versions of Ubuntu that you can try including Ubuntu Core for securely building IoT devices, enterprise edition for enterprise needs, and the Ubuntu Server for server needs.
- Best for Beginners
- Good for day-to-day activities
- Offers LTS support
- Comes with multiple versions
If you need little guidance in learning Ubuntu, then check out this Udemy course.
Arch Linux is a lightweight, flexible Linux distro. It offers great customization out of the box. However, Arch Linux is not for beginners. It should only be used by advanced users who already know the Linux operating system.
It is best suited for programmers or advanced Unix-users. At the core, it is designed to follow a strict design principle. This makes it hard to work with. So, if you are someone with an understanding of the system’s core operation, then the distro is for you.
It is also a lightweight distribution and comes with various customization tools.
Its minimum requirement is 1 GB of disk space, 512 MB RAM, and a 64-bit processor.
- Best for programmers and advanced users
- Customization tools
- Arch Linux follows a strict design philosophy
If you are into cybersecurity, then Kali Linux is for you. It is an advanced Linux distro that offers access to hundreds of penetration testing tools. At the core, Kali Linux is Debian-based. That means that it is constantly updated with new features and tool support.
It relies on the Debian Testing branch, which is a cutting-edge branch that holds all the latest features and bug fixes.
To get started with Kali Linux, you need at least 512 MB of RAM, an AMD64 architecture, or an i386 and a minimum of 3 GB of hard disk space. So, if you are someone who has an interest in pen-testing or cybersecurity, the distro is for you. Initially, the project was named BackTrack, but then it shifted to Kali Linux.
Some of the core pre-installed penetration-testing include Nmap, Wireshark, Aircrack-ng, and so on!
- Suited for penetration testers or cybersecurity experts
- Fast and lightweight
- Comes with tons of penetration tester tools
Learning Kali Linux is easy.
Debian is one of the most popular Unix-based operating systems. I listed it because you can easily find tons of Linux based distros to be Debian based. The main reason behind its being a core component of modern distros is its huge repository. Currently, it is home to 50,000+ software packages. The collection of software makes it an ideal place to explore. The software contains both open source software and
Debian is also very stable, secure, and fast. Anyone can use it. It is flexible when it comes to choosing the desktop environment. At the boot menu, you can select XFCE, LXDE, and KDE.
To make Debian run properly, you need a minimum of 1 GHz CPU, 256 MB RAM and 10 GB of hard disk space.
It also features an active community which contributes to its repository to make it better every passing day.
- Can be used by anyone
- Active community
- Lets users choose the desktop environment
- Offers a mix of both open source and paid software
- Easy to install and learn
If you are looking for a lightweight Linux distro, then Linux Mint is for you. It is based on Debian and Ubuntu. It also provides a user-friendly interface. It is best suited for newcomers, but it is equally useful for advanced users as well. Overall, the Linux Mint provides a solid Linux experience without trying to over-do anything.
Linux Mint, just like most of the distros, is community-driven. You can use it to do anything you want. One thing that you will notice about this distro is its performance. It comes in different flavors. You can choose between Xfce, KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon, and MATE. You are also free to choose from a repository of 30,000 packages.
To use it properly, you need a minimum of 512 MB RAM, 9 GB hard disk space, and a modern processor.
- Based on Debian and Ubuntu
- Secure and easy to use
- Modern desktop interface
- Comes in multiple flavors
- Cinnamon flavor is similar to Mac OS
Get it started with this installation guide.
Another great alternative to your Windows experience is Elementary OS but on top of Linux. It is a popular distro which is aimed at designers and productivity people. Also, if you are new to Linux, you can make proper use of Elementary OS due to its modern, sleek, and intuitive desktop design.
Elementary OS’s initial setup is lightweight as you can install whatever you want later on. It is also focused on privacy and productivity. Their latest release offers key features such as Multitasking view, Do Not Disturb, and Picture-in-Picture for optimal productivity experience.
It comes to its desktop environment, Pantheon, which is built on top of Gnome. This gives the distro good performance. Also, it offers full-fledged customization.
To use Elementary OS effectively, you need a system with 4 GB of RAM, dual-core 64-bit processor, and 15 GB hard disk space.
- Best for beginners familiar with macOS or Windows
- Modern, sleek and intuitive desktop
- Offers productivity features
- Full-fledged customization
If you are looking for a Linux distro for computer science stuff, then Pop!_OS is for you. It is also ideal for developers who are looking for a distro that saves them time and effort. It offers tons of tools for creators.
Pop!_OS is workflow streamlined where you get the benefits of maximizing real estate. You can manage your workflow with the help of workspace, keyboard shortcuts, and navigations. It also comes with full-disk encryption to protect all your important project files and resources.
The distro is developed by System 76. Also, it requires minimal hardware to run it! If you have a decent dual-core machine with 1 GB of RAM and 10 GB of hard disk space, you can run it without any problem.
It offers modern toolkits to simplify development. For instance, you can install Tensorflow with a single line of code.
Other key features offered by Pop!_OS include intuitive desktop, tons of tools, and a powerful search bar.
- Ideal for developers and computer scientists
- Developed by System 76
- Offers workflow features
- It comes with tons of tools!
Another distro that is extremely useful for developers and sysadmins is openSUSE. It is known for its security protocols that give developers an extra layer to protect their work against malicious actors.
If you go to their official page, you will quickly see them offering two versions. One is Tumbleweed, and the other one is Leap.
Tumbleweed is rolling release. This means you get access to cutting edge Linux packages. It is tested, stabilized, and fast! This version is only good for people who want to try out new things. For others, there is Leap — a more stable openSUSE version for a general audience.
openSUSE offers the best open-source tools, including openQA, Kiwi, Open Build Service, YaST, and so on!
YaST is one of the most interesting tools. It is a system admin program that ensures proper system functioning, including disk partitioning, RPM package management, firewall configurations, and so on.
To run openSUSE optimally, you need 2 GB RAM, AMD64 or Intel64 processor, 5 GB of hard disk space.
- Best for sysadmins and developers
- Comes in two versions – Tumbleweed and Leap
- Offers a good collection of tools including YaST
- YaST handles most of the distro features
It is compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). If you ever wanted to try Red Hat Enterprise edition, but couldn’t because of your budget and capacity, then CentOS is for you.
CentOS can be used on a personal computer but is mainly aimed at servers and distributed networks. So, what is its best use? If you are trying to set up a home server, then CentOS is the perfect server distribution you need. It is highly stable and offers a ten years support cycle.
As a user, you can expect the latest software packages from the distro. In fact, many hosting providers also offer CentOS as an option for the server operating system.
The system requirements of CentOS are complex, and hence I recommend you check out their official site for better understanding.
- Best for home servers or experimentation
- Offers ten years support cycle
- Highly stable
- Comes with latest software packages
Privacy has been one of the biggest concerns of online visitors. If you are using Windows, then you are probably sharing too much of your personal information. One way to maintain your privacy is to use the Tails operating system. It offers advanced security for users.
In short, it offers you a platform through which you can surf the internet with full anonymity. It is so good that it is mentioned by famous security magazines. It is also recommended by NSA as found out by their internal reports.
To gain that amount of privacy, it tunnels all the traffic through the Tor network. It also features advanced cryptographic tools.
Also, you do not have to install it separately as you can run it live from a USB drive or DVD.
- Tailored for users with privacy concerns
- Utilisez Tor network to secure your online presence
- Offers advanced cryptographic tools
- Leaves no trace
What about something new?
There are tons of other distros that you can use. Let’s list a few of the other interesting ones below.
MXLinux: MXLinux has become extremely popular distro in just one year of its release. In fact, it has gained the highest number of hits on DistrWatch.com. It is based on the Xfce desktop environment and Debian. It is also easy to use thanks to its familiarity with Mac/Windows.
Zorin OS: Zorin OS has also made its name recently. It’s recent Zorin OS 15 release made it amazing for anyone — even without Linux background. It offers GUI-based applications and is based on Ubuntu.
Deepin: You can also try out Deepin – an easy to use beginner-friendly Linux distribution. It is constantly updated and offers a great user experience.
The open-source nature of Linux is what makes it so amazing! As a user, you get tons of options to try out and choose the one that fits your requirements. If you are looking to build a career as sysadmin, then check out these learning resources.