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Which is the best Linux distro for new users?

By   |  April 24, 2008

Prompted by regular emails from readers asking which is the best distribution for first-time Linux users we’ve decided to open the question to all readers. What distro do you recommend to friends wanting to start using Linux? Tell us about it after the jump.



18 Responses to “Which is the best Linux distro for new users?”

  1. A.J. Venter
    April 24th, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

    Considering it surpassed Ubuntu on the distrowatch list for a long time, had one major positive review after the other – consistently described as the ‘most polished, fun and easy to use’ Linux of them all, especially in several comparisons with (k)ubuntu, I am surprized that PCLinuxOS is not on the list.
    At this stage it has far more users, a faster growth rate and a more advanced current stage than virtually any of the others on the list.

    I don’t mean to diss the others, they are all very good in their ways – but I wouldn’t even consider recommending anything else to a first time user anymore. I have seen too many of them just instantly grok it – something no other distro has ever achieved and I really would have thought that considering it’s popularity in the last 2 years it ought to be on the list as an option at least.

    Note: I don’t sell or work for the project at all, I have contributed to it but to a bunch of others as well. My own machines vary between PCLinuxOS, kUbuntu, gentoo, fedora and others at various times – I do know which one I keep on my laptop and give to newbs though.

  2. Alastair Otter
    April 24th, 2008 @ 1:24 pm


    Thanks. I have just added PCLinuxOS.


  3. Jozsi
    April 24th, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

    I’d like to vote for Zenwalk!! Can you please add it to the list? :-) Thanks

  4. Lunamystry
    April 25th, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

    Well I am probably ubuntu biased but I think it is best because it is the more popular of the bunch and it has a great forum, (okay how do I know that the other forums are not great?) it was easy for me to use and i have had a brief try of openSUSE, PClinuxOS (was very cool don’t like the name though i think kubuntu could learn a lot from it nonetheless) and fedora and i think ubuntu was well better than them overall. They each had cool things like the boot screen of openSUSE but ubuntu had a whole package. My biased opinion.

  5. Ryan Prior
    April 25th, 2008 @ 10:40 pm

    I have never been impressed by PCLinuxOS. It keeps getting press, so I keep installing it from time to time, and it always just seems lackluster. It’s got some neat interface design choices, but when it comes to getting work done, the interface tends to get in my way. I’ve always gone back to another OS – early in my Linux days I liked Puppy, and now I’m dabbling more with the Debian derivatives. I wouldn’t suggest it to a new Windows user – it may be better suited to somebody coming from a Mac who is really afraid of any interface complexity and who doesn’t really use the computer to get work done anyway.

  6. Jonathan
    April 26th, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

    RPM will die.

    Look at the stats above. 78% of the above uses debian packages. 21% uses RPM. 5 years ago, those statistics would’ve been *very* different.

    Here’s another picture for you:, “red hat”|redhat|fedora, suse|novell|opensuse&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

    I predict that in 5 years, RPM systems will die. It will become too much effort for all the people who still use RPM to maintain their systems, and they will migrate to a debian-based approach… or die.

    I think I had enough beers now, but it’s Saturday night. Mhuhahahahaha.

  7. jon
    April 27th, 2008 @ 7:04 am

    Who’s the sick bastard that voted for Slackware??? :)

  8. Jezebel
    May 3rd, 2008 @ 6:14 am

    Ironically, my first distro was Slackware, and I’m glad it’s where I started. Your average user is better off with Ubuntu / Debian or something else Debian based, but for a person willing and able to really learn Linux, and not afraid to shoot themselves in the foot a few times on the way to guru status, Slackware is a great place to start to force you to learn all you’ll ever need to know.

  9. Greg Rhoda
    May 3rd, 2008 @ 9:59 am

    The best distro for beginning linux users is Mepis linux,i’ve recommended it to all my friends and people i meet for the last 3 years.

  10. Rellik
    May 10th, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

    i have to say my opinion i would recommend Ubuntu for beginners because its more user friendly.
    mainly to the majority of ppl who are used to using windows and most ppl are looking for a easy way to switch over and it is the least complicated linux distro.
    i tried other distro’s before it and ti was the easiest to make the switch with.
    now windows is a long forgotten memory to my hard drive.

  11. james
    May 14th, 2008 @ 5:21 am

    I just tried open solaris and it is very good out of the box live. I have used pclinux more than a year with no complaints at all. I statred with mepis and they have one of the best forums I have been on (pclinux is great also)
    I think the best one is the one that works best with your hardware. so try them all. others to remember are gentoo,mint linux and the new puppy is nice for a small distro it’s pretty innovative.

  12. Rifat
    August 25th, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

    I’ll prefer mandriva 2008 spring to all. It’s fabulous and 100% working with it’s fresh looks. Most importantly you’ll feel like it’s better and easier than even microsoft operating systems. Give it a try u genius!

  13. burla
    August 27th, 2008 @ 3:23 am

    tried many distro and also Ubuntu/Xubuntu/LinuxMint.
    There are a lot of noise, but they all slow and not easy to install.

    Mepis, AntiX and Puppy are the current best distro.
    They are easy to install, good HW detection and fast.

  14. JM
    November 21st, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

    I have tried them all and I am shocked that UBUNTU & KUBUNTU rate so high. The major distros have their strengths and weaknesses that move them up and down that list but UBUNTU’s status here seems to mean it is perfect. I found some issues with it. Integration with Active Directory and Application Integration for Windows Apps in WINE drivers for various hardware ….etc….etc…. No way should it be so high.

    PCLINUXOS gave me the least problems. Although it is based on Mandrivia – it surpassed it in performance. Such is the same for the Debian based distros. Red Hat – Fedora Core … Get a clue. SUSE – good going but the time spent with Novel and Microsoft was wasted – it did not improve like I expected. Integration and driver base is the issue there.

    As for intuitive – Windows Like – interface – KDE /w 3D. Gnome can satisfy any MAC user.

    Hope I helped confuse you…


  15. Ralph
    November 22nd, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

    Personally, I think for someone who wants to go Linux because of a desire to understand the system and really *learn* Linux, Gentoo or Slackware are fantastic options. The learning curve is steep, but after a few weeks you have learned more about computers and OSes than in years spent with user-friendly distros. You must be willing to spend the effort, of course.

    On the other hand, if you just want a system that you can use and do not have to think about, i.e. a replacement for a Windows or MacOS system, I’d vote for one of the Debian-based distros. Most of them generally don’t get into your way too much. Also if you’ve learned enough and need a productive system that can auto-configure itself to a high degree.

    I have started with Gentoo and remember that, although I had to learn a lot in the first few weeks, there was also much satisfaction in it. I later switched to an Ubuntu when my new job required me to be productive and I needed a system that could take care of itself most of the time. There just was no time for the endless tweakings of a Gentoo anymore. Ubuntu fitted that bill, although I have to say there was some annoyance until I found where it was hiding all these settings (GUIs can, after all, get in your way).

    I am, of course, an IT professional, and my views are certainly based on that background.

  16. ArthurD
    November 25th, 2008 @ 1:29 am

    Here is my 2 cents on the subject. The reason I, and my friends prefer Ubuntu comes down to the following two reasons:

    1. It’s flat out has the most user support of any linux distro I’ve ever used. Just google almost any potential linux topic for Ubuntu and you’re bound to find at least one link on the subject. I can’t tell you how many times this has helped some of my friends find answers to their problems. For example one friend’s son of 6 was playing games on his computer, and deleted the main panel. He called me in a panic over this as he was new (less than 1 month) to linux. I popped on the net, and found a story about a person who had the exact same problem except it was their daughter that deleted the panel, and it had the exact steps to fix his problem. This experience had enough of an impact on him that he also learned how to set up individual accounts for each member of his family.

    2. Software is very easy to install and the package managers are in locations that make sense. If I’m looking for a Application I typically check applications>add/remove applications. If the package I’m looking for is system level I typically check the system>administrator>synaptic package manager. If both of those fail to satisfy my software needs I resort to my first point, above, for the solution. I’d say 95% of the time these three options result in my finding a software solution to fits what I need.

  17. kiwisoup
    February 13th, 2009 @ 5:02 am

    Linux Mint.

    It has everything that Ubuntu has, even the same repositories, BUT it also has extra stuff on top of that.

    -It’s not orange and brown and ugly. Graphics are nice, especially the boot/login screens.
    -A package installer with actual descriptions and screenshots
    -Single bottom panel and intuitive “Mint Menu” are more familiar to Windows users.
    -Majorly improved support for drivers and codecs out of the box.
    -Can import files and settings from windows programs, such as Yahoo Messenger and Firefox.
    -Because it is based on Ubuntu, it is compatible with anything that works with Ubuntu, you have access to Ubuntu’s repositories and anything you read online for fixing a problem in Ubuntu will work in Linux Mint.

  18. kiwisoup
    February 13th, 2009 @ 5:07 am


    Oh, AND just like Ubuntu has Wubi, Linux Mint has Mint4Win a modified version of Wubi, which really helps out those people who are new to linux and are paranoid about partitioning.

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