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We really want you to start using Linux. But as there are so many Linux operating systems to choose from, some of which we’ve featured here, it can be tricky to decide which one to get started with.

Which is most productive? What about games? Should you choose a Linux distro that focuses on media production? What about programming? Or is there one that covers all bases?

In the end, it comes down to personal preference, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, the MakeUseOf Linux contributors all run Linux either as their main OS or as a dual-boot alternative. While we already have a list of the top Linux distros The Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software Linux is full of awesome apps, both open source and proprietary. People new to Linux and even seasoned Linux users tend to find new and useful software quite often. Here's what we love. Read More , here you can see which Linux operating systems we’re actually using in 2017.

1. Manjaro Linux

Austin Luong is a recent convert to Manjaro Linux, a new distro based on Arch Linux, available in 32- and 64-bit versions What Is 64-bit Computing? What Is 64-bit Computing? The packaging of a computer or computer hardware is crowded with technical terms and badges. One of the more prominent ones is 64-bit. Read More .

“I’ve been using Manjaro for a few months now, having switched from my default operating system, Arch Linux How to Install Arch Linux the Easy Way with Antergos How to Install Arch Linux the Easy Way with Antergos Old PC or laptop need a new lease of life? Thinking about switching to Linux, but don’t know where to start? With Antergos, you can install Arch Linux the easy way! Read More . Considering how Manjaro is based off of Arch though, it wasn’t much of a change at all (they have a thing for green and black colour schemes).”

Which Linux Operating Systems We Use and Why muo linux ourdistros manjaro

Many Linux distributions are based on previous versions. How does this benefit Manjaro, and more importantly, the user? Austin tells me that “Manjaro inherits many benefits from Arch Linux, the up-to-date packages and easy upgrade system being the main draws. However, it’s designed to be much easier to use: the installation process is automated, and you can install programs using a graphical interface by default. Not needing to install everything from the ground up is nice too.”

Making apps easier to install is important. Just look at the process on a smartphone or tablet compared to a desktop computer. Manjaro does well here, but what about the desktop? Manjaro Linux ships with XFCE, which Austin loves “for how malleable and lightweight it is. For instance, I have a mail watcher plugin set up on the desktop to keep track of multiple email accounts. Along with this, Pidgin is set up to communicate with my colleagues on Slack, making collaboration quick and easy.”

The light desktop also makes Manjaro suitable for older hardware. “It has the added benefit of keeping things fast, perfect for an old laptop like mine.”

2. Elementary OS

After trying many Linux distros, Bertel King has settled on Elementary OS, which we recently featured and reviewed It's Time to Try Something New: Elementary OS Loki It's Time to Try Something New: Elementary OS Loki Elementary OS isn't your typical Linux distribution. Some would say it isn't a distro at all. But is Elementary really a usable alternative to Windows and macOS as its developers claim? Read More .

“I’ve used various distros over the years. After a while, I grew tired of maintaining my desktop and wanted simplicity. This was why Chrome OS, a mainstream Linux distro with serious commercial backing, appealed to me. But in the end, Chrome OS lacked too many features, and I found myself frustrated with the direction Google took the project.”

After first looking at Loki, Bertel finally found his way to Elementary OS, and found an ideal balance between simplicity and power. “I have all the tools I need to do work, and distractions are kept at a minimum. The distro has a reputation of being good for newbies, but as a writer, I say it’s also great for professionals and creatives who need to focus on getting work done. There’s a high amount of polish, a solid set of default apps, and an eye for design that set Elementary OS apart from the rest of the pack.”

Elementary OS doesn’t have the same focus on compatibility with older machines that a distro like, say, Manjaro Linux has, but it certainly looks and feels impressive!

3. Ubuntu (GNOME Desktop)

After trying Lubuntu on an aging Shuttle XPC, Moe Long installed Ubuntu on his main rig. “I’ve had Ubuntu running on my PC for about four years now. Increased performance yields and the power of the command line eventually converted me from a mostly Windows user to Linux junkie. Out of the box, Linux uses fewer system resources than Windows. Additionally, I’ve been able to run 16-bit programs, something I couldn’t accomplish natively on a 64-bit Windows operating system.”

Going light on system resources is important to many users, as is compatibility with older software, something both Windows and macOS seem to have discarded. Interestingly, Moe feels that the GNOME desktop option for Ubuntu is similar to macOS: “The GNOME desktop environment is gorgeous, and aesthetically reminds me of using macOS. That was a main draw for me as I admittedly appreciate a pretty desktop environment.”

Ubuntu is a top draw for many switchers from Windows, often enabling newcomers to quickly find a home in the Linux world. “I love how Ubuntu provided a landscape where I was able to ease into Linux. Initially, I relied on the Ubuntu Software Center. But as I became more comfortable navigating the Linux landscape I relied on the command line. Most of my required programs are still available natively or through Wine, and performance is substantially better when compared to Windows.”

While most apps are available across Linux operating systems, you’ll certainly find a host of recognizable names. As Moe enthuses, “My top apps on Linux are Slack, Steam, LibreOffice, Plex, VLC, Sublime Text, and PlayOnLinux. I use Slack, Sublime Text, and LibreOffice for work and productivity. Plex and VLC are my media go-tos. Notably, the Plex Media Server installer for Linux works like a champ. As a gamer, Steam for Linux How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux Installing Steam on Linux computers is straightforward, and the result is usually the same seamless gaming experience you had on Windows. Read More and the PlayOnLinux frontend for Wine PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux Read More give me my gaming fix.”

4. Linux Mint With Cinnamon

Joel Lee has been contributing to MakeUseOf’s Linux section longer than any other member of the team. He’s currently using Linux Mint 17.3 with Cinnamon on a “four-year-old laptop that has crappy specs. I’ve tried all kinds of operating systems on it over the years (including Elementary OS, Deepin, OpenSUSE, various flavors of Ubuntu, and Windows 10) but Linux Mint provides the best balance between performance and usability.”

Joel hasn’t always been a fan of Linux Mint, however. Like many other users, he’s spent some time finding a version of Linux that he’s comfortable with. “Prior to this, I was most happy with Ubuntu MATE, due to the simplicity of the MATE desktop — but it wasn’t customizable enough in some areas, whereas the Cinnamon desktop has a bit more magic and flexibility without sacrificing any speed. Another bonus is that Linux Mint with Cinnamon is similar enough to Windows to be comfortably used in a dual-boot setup.”

Over the years, Joel has had other hardware with Linux installed. “I used to have a netbook (now dead) that ran Lubuntu Lubuntu: A Lightweight Version Of Ubuntu [Linux] Lubuntu: A Lightweight Version Of Ubuntu [Linux] Love Ubuntu, but feel skeptical about 11.04's new Unity interface? Try Lubuntu 11.04, an extremely lightweight alternative to the main branch of Ubuntu. You'll find the menu-driven interface familiar and the resources hit remarkably low.... Read More , which was great because the LXDE desktop was as lightweight as it got yet the system was still compatible with all of Ubuntu’s official repositories.”

5. Ubuntu With MATE

Now it’s my turn. Like many recent converts, my main exposure to Linux came via the Raspberry Pi and the Debian-based Raspbian operating system. Before I became editor of the Linux section, I was contributing to print magazine Linux User & Developer on Raspberry Pi topics — lately I’ve been producing features and tutorials for the same title on mainstream Linux.

At home, I run a dual-boot HP Envy 17″ 2015 model, sharing half my time between Windows 10 and Ubuntu. Until recently, I put up with the Unity desktop, but have found MATE a far more productive alternative.

Running games and word processing tools (switching between LibreOffice and Wine-supported Word 2007 How to Install and Use Microsoft Office on Linux (And Its Shortcomings) How to Install and Use Microsoft Office on Linux (And Its Shortcomings) Your PC runs Linux. How on earth are you going to install Microsoft Office, and use it without running into problems? Read More , probably out of habit) alongside Skype, Audacity and a handful of other creative and productivity apps, the only reason I still switch back to Windows is either for games or because I’m yet to find a Linux email client to rival Outlook.

Now You Know, But What Can You Learn?

These are just five ways to run Linux operating systems. As you may know, there are hundreds of different distros (and that’s a conservative description) and it can be tricky to make a decision. Whether our thoughts on our preferred distros have pointed you in one direction or another, always take the time to try out a distro fully before committing to it full time — especially if you’re switching from Windows!

What you should have picked up from all of this is that it can take a while to settle for a particular operating system. But given how disruptive a Windows update can prove (especially if we consider Vista, Windows 8 and Windows 10), this is hardly a bad thing. Don’t like the latest Ubuntu update? You can switch to a different distro (or simply switch the desktop) without abandoning everything you’ve learned.

Which Linux distro are you using? Why? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credit: dotshock/Shutterstock

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  1. Gio
    August 25, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Kde Neon in my notebook because is beautiful. Centos in my servers

  2. Javier
    August 16, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I'm a elementary OS user and evangelist lol, the OS is just great, nothing the dedication to detail, design, usability and consistency among the core apps. The AppCenter is a thing of wonder and I live the future projections for it as well as the plans of the elementary team.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 16, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Javier, great to see more love for Elementary!

  3. Michael Tucker
    August 12, 2017 at 4:21 am

    What about Peppermint?

    • Christian Cawley
      August 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      What do you like so much about Peppermint, Michael?

      • Michael Tucker
        August 16, 2017 at 11:46 pm

        Of all the distros for old/low power computers, Peppermint 8 was easist to install (Lubuntu and Linux Lite required driver downloads for my wifi to work). P8 has excellent stability. I like Lubuntu, Linux Lite, and Zorin, but prefer Peppermint. I've not run Ubuntu, Mint or other "full power" distros, so I cannot comment on them.

  4. glen
    June 11, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I've tried several distros & finally stayed with Linux Mint Serena Edition, it works great & fast; had a new problem everyday with Cinnamon
    the best lite weight distro I like is Lubuntu; put it on an old PC with limited ram & it works great

  5. Mike F
    March 11, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Linux Mint 18.1 Cinnamon edition. My favorite go-to distro!

  6. Rich
    March 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I am a pc gamer. Gaming on Linux has come a long, long way in the last few years which tickles me to no end. But for now, I run Win 10 pro on my gaming rig. I have a Mint 18 Cinnamon Virtual box machine installed that I use for everything else but gaming. The setup works very well for me. I look forward to the day when I can dump MS all together.

  7. Richard
    February 13, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I definitely agree with using Lubuntu on an older system. My older XP desktop runs perfectly on Lubuntu. ....going on 2 years now. First I tried Mandriva, OpenSuse, Linux Mint, and others but it frequently crashed or had other problems such as hibernate not working. Lubuntu worked flawlessly out of the box.

    • glen
      June 11, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      Lubunto is great, the best for old machines

  8. JacquesD
    February 12, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    I use ubuntu 16.04 LTS on my desktop box, because I don't want to upgrade every 6 month. An OS is a commodity and I want to keep it as long as possible.

    On my laptop I use Windows 10 and I regret the switch from windows 7. At term I may discard it for a Linux distro, Ubuntu or OpenSUSE.

  9. Bob N
    February 12, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    I use Debian (currently Debian 8, Jessie) on my pc at home and at work. I like the KDE desktop and the Thunar file manager. I also run an old (2004) laptop with Mint 17 on it, that has the XFCE desktop because it's ultra light and will run on the old Pentium M processor with just 2 GB of ram. I like Debian because it's a good reliable platform for everything I want to do on a computer, multimedia, browsing, access online accounts etc. I started with Ubuntu in 2006 in order to escape from XP and after trying a few Ubuntu derivatives decided to try Fedora and Debian, and settled with Debian about 2 years ago. Mint 18 is nice and I do like Manjaro but am not prepared to leave Debian just yet. I don't use Windows at all but I keep a couple of virtual Windows boxes just in case. I love Linux for the freedom. I have separate root and home discs on my home pc, separate root, home and var on my work pc means I can install any distro and any desktop without losing anything. I had some bad experiences with Windows, having to reinstall more times than I can remember, then having to find the right Drivers etc. I know Windows works for many people and I wouldn't ever try to convert anyone, but I am glad to be using a system that just works, and contrary to popular belief, every distro I've tried works straight out of the box!

  10. Felix Miata
    February 11, 2017 at 4:39 am

    I've been multibooting since the release of OS/2 2.0 around 25 years ago. I still run OS/2 24/7 in its eComStation incarnation for its unparalleled support of my ancient DOS apps. All my 20+ machines are multiboot, about half of which have some flavor of Windows that rarely gets used, along with 8 or more Linux distros, among which are Fedora, Mageia, Mint, Debian, AntiX, Kubuntu, Gentoo and openSUSE. SuSE 8.0 was my 3rd distro, after being less than impressed with Gnome on RedHat 5 and KDE on Mandrake 7, back when distro choices were seriously limited compared to now. My other 24/7 machine has only openSUSE on it, though in 4 versions. "Upgrading" this 24/7 machine means replacing the oldest installation with the newest pre-release, but most uptime is spent with the oldest supported version running KDE3. KDE3 is a primary reason for using openSUSE. I like it as I found it over a decade ago, and dislike replacing nicely working tools supposedly "improved" versions that are really alphaware and betaware in disguise. Other big reasons for openSUSE are its unparalleled package management duo, Zypper on the cmdline and YaST2 in the GUI, its huge library of optional software, and the competence of its support options.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 14, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Wow, you're the second OS/2 user I've ever met -- always been fascinated by its existence!

      • Felix Miata
        February 14, 2017 at 5:35 pm

        M$ never got my money, at least, not directly. I was happy with DesqView 386 running on PC DOS as primary environment for Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect until after Warp 4 had been out over a year, when I eventually realized to use the Internet properly I needed an otherwise unnecessary mousing environment. It wasn't until 1997, 7 years after switching from 1-2-3 to Quattro Pro for DOS as main workhorse that OS/2 became my primary. SuSE 8.2 marked the beginning of running two PCs 24/7. It wasn't until 2009 that I swapped display positions and made Linux primary. I built my own PCs, so didn't have to pay any M$ tax until I chose a discounted rate in the form of a couple of very inexpensive refurbs with Win7, one to connect to my main TV, the other to access web browser versions of the dark side to continue compat testing after XP support on free hand-me-down Dell PCs terminated. Neither Win PC actually gets much use. OS/2 still runs DOS apps best, while KDE3's 8 virtual desktops keep me content for most else.

  11. Paul Z
    February 10, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Xubuntu user here!!! it runs perfectly in my Lenovo Intel i5 and 8 GB RAM.

  12. Samuel Cohen
    February 10, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I Prefer Peppermint 7 as it is a) a combination of Ubuntu and Mint b) Is Cloud Based and c) Open ended you can add most software!

  13. Christian Cawley
    February 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Great to see what everyone's using, thanks for sharing and keep them coming!

  14. Charles C
    February 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Opensuse (no GUI) at work server and home server. For desktop I still prefer win10

  15. Blake Hartshorn
    February 9, 2017 at 2:43 am

    RHEL at work, CentOS on my home server, Fedora on my desktop, and Debian on my laptop. Yes, one of these things is not like the other. Fedora on my primary personal computer keeps me on Redhat habits and gives me an idea of what will be coming down the pipe in future RHEL versions. I use the KDE spin and with rpmfusion added, I have no issues running Steam or utilizing multimedia as a desktop should. I do build wine from source myself if I want to play Windows games, though. Carry over habit from when I had problems with this back on Fedora 20.

    Debian on my laptop is to keep me sharp. I use this computer less than my desktop. If I want to change jobs at any point, I do have a risk of running into Debian or Ubuntu Server, so I need to stay relatively familiar with it. It sucks, it really does, like, it needs to take its antiquated package manager and go home, but you still have to know how to use it.

    • dragonbite
      February 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      I like Fedora (KDE spin too). The biggest thing that keeps me from using it more is the short lifespan of the distribution.

      • Kaze
        March 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm

        I like fedora. But the short lifespan and the lack of compatibility with many other software I depend upon makes it a bad choice for me.

  16. Groud Frank
    February 8, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    I hop between Ubuntu & Ubuntu-based distros & Arch-based ones. I use Antergos currently. The up-to-date packages, the AUR and the modularity of Arch is just invaluable. Manjaro is nice too but they preload way too much stuff on the Gnome 3 variant. Love their GUI tool for managing the kernel and Nvidia drivers though. Wish Antergos offered such tools.

  17. Nz
    February 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Use a rolling distribution Sabayon, with kde desktop. I have not had to do a major release upgrade in 9 years, because it is a rolling release. So happy

  18. KP
    February 8, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I still have trouble with win10 overriding dual boot. If I ever figure that out, I will try the new flavors.

  19. Emre YILDIZ
    February 8, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I prefer dual booted Manjaro Linux XFCE 64bit on my 2011 model Laptop. It runs perfect than Windows 10. But my new Desktop PC has the shining manjaro linux KDE 64bit OS. All of the Linux operating systems are very good but i think manjaro has some advantages.

  20. B
    February 8, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Been using lxle on older hardware for several years. Runs well with minimum resources down to p4 and 1gb ram. Well supported and maintained.

  21. Robert Partridge
    February 8, 2017 at 4:18 am

    For years I've used Mint with XFCE as my primary OS but just last week decided I needed a change - wanted something that updated more frequently and preferably a rolling release. Decided to go with Antergos with XFCE. There were a few minor things that the installer didn't take care of properly (like time zone settings and no volume icon) but I was able to take care of it easily enough myself.

  22. KT
    February 8, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Whole lot of O.S.'s in my house:

    My main rig is a dual boot Pclinuxos64 kde on one HD for 99% of what I do and Windows 7 for Steam and kodi only on the other HD.

    Linux mint 17 mate for a dedicated kodi box on another pc.

    Wife dual boots Linux zorin for most stuff and windows 7 for games.

  23. Ralph Notoro
    February 8, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I use Kubuntu on my main rig. Love it, and wouldn't change it for the world. My aging Laptop, however still has Windows and struggles. I am on the hunt for a Linux distro that would work best with it, but I have a hard time changing it as it was the first laptop I bought with my own money.

  24. enzro
    February 7, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Antergos had been my distribution of choice for 3 years or so. I've been using Linux exclusively since 2007. I love Linux and specifically antergos.. All the benefits of arch with a nicely configured desktop. I use gnome. Antergos has stopped me distribution hopping. I'm home. Thanks to antergos.

  25. Ken
    February 7, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Been using KDE like forever. Tried all GNOME variants right from Ximian up to cinnamon and MATE but always found KDE productive.
    I'm comfortable with any KDE based distribution, rpm, Deb or arch based. Manjaro with KDE is an excellent choice!

  26. Rob Causer
    February 7, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Kali Sana. Does everything I need & the forensic tools were a godsend diagnosing & rebuilding my desktop system.

  27. likefunbutnot
    February 7, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I use OpenSUSE as a desktop Linux and CentOS/FreeBSD/OpenIndiana VMs on servers. The Debian people were jerks to me 20 years ago and I have had a lasting antipathy for Debian derived software ever since.

    OpenSUSE isn't the fanciest desktop Linux, but it was the last thing I used when I set up a Linux workstation and I've left it alone mostly out of inertia. My desktop setup is essentially the same that it was in the late 90s and most actual work I do involves a shell prompt, so most of the time I'm going to shrug my shoulders and live with whatever is put before me.

    • rrbachamp
      February 11, 2017 at 3:45 am

      I made the switch from Ubuntu to OpenSUSE Leap 42.1 with the KDE Plasma Desktop after a month of the initial launch. I'm currently running with a two monitor shared desktop setup. The only quirky thing I found was that I have to reconfigure NVIDIA's multi-monitor desktop setup on a reboot for some reason it is not retaining the saved settings. It's been rock solid otherwise.

      I also loaded the new OpenSUSE Leap 42.2 Server on an old busted up Toshiba laptop that I pulled from a box beside a dumpster. I initially had OpenSUSE Leap 42.1 Desktop running on it for months before installing Leap on my main desktop computer. The laptop sure isn't pretty with its crack display, case, and busted keyboard but it's currently my temporary LAMP stack web development server. No issues with it so far. OpenSUSE Leap 42.2 Server even recognized that it was running on a laptop so that I could set up the power management. Brilliant!

      I'm sure liking this OpenSUSE Leap 42 series hybrid distro much more than Ubuntu or Debian. I highly recommend that you try it. With KDE Plasma you can have the fanciest desktop around. Enjoy!

      • Malachy
        February 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm

        The dual monitor reset issue is fixed in Plasma 5.8.4. I had the exact same nvidia issue up until this release, now it remembers dual settings flawlessly.

        • rrbachamp
          February 14, 2017 at 1:31 am

          That's awesome news, Malachy! I'm planning to upgrade my desktop's OS in the spring. The nvidia issue is just a minor inconvenience for I rarely have to reboot or shutdown my system.

  28. dragonbite
    February 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Been using KDE neon lately. It looks gorgeous, is surprisingly light on resources without sacrificing effects and has the benefit of using Ubuntu packages (meaning most applications packaged for Ubuntu will work).

    And I haven't even upgraded to Plasma 5.9 yet!

    If this didn't work so well, I probably would have gone to Xubuntu, Fedora or openSUSE running Xfce since Gnome and Unity run really, really heavy on my system. That's why I was surprised at hoe light and responsive KDE was in comparison!

    • Milas
      February 8, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      I have an old laptop with core2duo processor and 3Go for Ram. I have used ubuntu since 10.04 then used LinuxMint with Cinnamon 17.1 for one year then converted to Xfce with Xubuntu 16.04, Xubuntu is very light in my old laptop, simple, no high consommation in sources... Xubuntu is the best for me and my old laptop.

      • dragonbite
        February 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        My specs are very similar (4GB Ram instead of 3) which is why I was going the Xfce (Xubuntu) route until I found KDE neon.

        I have even older machines still running Xubuntu like 12.04 because it's a Pentium M (32 bit) and on my old Netbook, which is really, really underpowered, I was running Ubuntu Mate on it which does feel lighter than even Xfce but not bare metal and lacking for features.

    • Aaron Peters
      February 14, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Have you used Kubuntu in the past? And if so how does Neon compare?

      I've been an Ubuntu user since Dapper, a KDE user since v2.0, and Kubuntu has been my go-to ever since there was a Kubuntu.

      • dragonbite
        February 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

        I tried Kubuntu such a long time ago, and KDE and Plasma have come so far since then, I don't think it would be a fair comparison.