The Best Linux Distros of 2018
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There are Linux distributions (distros) for every niche and need. The best and most suitable Linux operating system for you depends on your specific needs and hardware. So what’s the best Linux distro for you?

The Best Linux Distros for Every Kind of User

Like most non-enterprise software options, Linux distros continue to evolve. For 2018, many popular Linux operating systems see major changes. Notably, Ubuntu gets a massive overhaul including a drastic switch from the Unity desktop to GNOME. Although you might be tempted to stick with a current distro, it’s worth switching Linux OSes.

Because of the dynamic nature of Linux distros, you’re bound to find a slew of improvements. Particularly as security rose to prominence as a concern, expect vulnerability patches in addition to feature enhancements. Plus, almost every Linux distro remains free to use, so there’s no reason not to at least make a live CD and test out a few OSes.

Reasons to switch to or try out new Linux distros:

  • New features
  • Vulnerability fixes
  • It’s free, why not?

Best Linux Distro Overall: Ubuntu

best linux distros

When it comes to Linux OSes for desktops and laptops, Ubuntu reigns supreme. The Debian-based distro in turn spawned a slew of derivatives such as Lubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu. With its next long-term support (LTS) release, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS arrives with several new features. Though Ubuntu is no newcomer, it’s an operating system that keeps you coming back 8 Things That Keep You Coming Back to Ubuntu 8 Things That Keep You Coming Back to Ubuntu There is so much going on in the Linux world, from new features in GNOME Shell to the release of Plasma 5, and the amazing Elementary OS, so why do you stick with Ubuntu? Read More .

In Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Canonical is switching from the Unity desktop environment to Gnome 3.28. There’s also a major speed boost, and a fresh set of pre-installed software including VLC as well as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for screen recording and game streaming on Linux.

At its core, you’ll find Linux Kernel The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Linux... Answered The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Linux... Answered Thinking about using Linux? You probably have some questions... and we have answers! This article will save you a good deal of confusion and stress. Read More 4.15, and Xorg is the default display server. Because Ubuntu 18.04 boasts a new set of software and features, it’s the best Linux distro The Best Ubuntu Linux Alternatives and Why You Should Switch The Best Ubuntu Linux Alternatives and Why You Should Switch Just because Ubuntu is popular doesn't mean it's the right Linux operating system for you. Could a different flavor of Linux be a better fit? Read More for 2018 overall. There’s a minimal installation, and revamped server edition. As such, Ubuntu 18.04 is ideal for desktops, laptops, and servers.

Download: Ubuntu

Most Stable Linux Distro: Debian

Debian-server

Since it’s one of the oldest Linux operating systems Debian: Enjoy One Of The Most Stable And Trusted Linux Distributions Debian: Enjoy One Of The Most Stable And Trusted Linux Distributions There are plenty of Linux users out there who are using distributions such as Ubuntu or one of the many distributions which are based from Ubuntu, including Linux Mint. However, no matter what you're using,... Read More , Debian is a top choice in 2018 for stability. Linux OSes such as Ubuntu benefit from a Debian foundation, and Debian includes fantastic repositories, package managers, and a lively community. Therefore, Debian affords excellent support.

In Debian, there are a few channels. These include testing, stable, and unstable. Its stable channels provide maximum security and the fewest bugs. When a stable release drops, updates merely patch security vulnerabilities and critical updates.

Although Debian is fairly user-friendly, it’s more advanced than the likes of Ubuntu, ChaletOS, and Manjaro. Still, it’s far easier than getting started with Gentoo. Its stability also makes Debian a fantastic Linux distro for programmers.

Download: Debian

Most Beginner-Friendly Linux Distro: Manjaro

Manjaro-3

Manjaro Linux Easy to Install, Simple to Use: But Should You Switch to Manjaro 17? Easy to Install, Simple to Use: But Should You Switch to Manjaro 17? Manjaro 17 is an excellent option switching from Windows or macOS to Linux and is surprisingly simple to install. Check out what's new in Manjaro Linux 17 and find out if you should switch. Read More is incredibly easy to install and use. Essentially, it’s Arch Linux simplified Manjaro Linux: Arch For People Who Don't Have Time Manjaro Linux: Arch For People Who Don't Have Time Read More . Featuring low system requirements, a Windows-like appearance, and lovely desktop environment, the beauty is that Manjaro uses Pacman for its package manager.

Further, Manjaro employs Arch User Repositories (AUR). You may also consider Linux Mint, a beginner-friendly distro which runs on virtually any PC.

Download: Manjaro

Best-Looking Linux Distro: elementary OS

best linux distros

Upon release, elementary OS created tons of buzz, and justifiably so. In our review, we found elementary OS beautiful and simple to use Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna Elementary OS Luna is a lot more than Ubuntu with some tweaks and a nice theme. Here's what to expect. Read More . However, while it’s decidedly uncomplicated, elementary OS is not relegated to beginners. Instead, it’s perfectly suited to power users as well.

elementary OS comes complete with the Ubuntu Software Center bundled, a stellar package manager, and solid performance on a variety of hardware choices. In short, elementary OS is a lovely bit of eye candy.

Download: elementary OS

Best Server Linux Distro: CentOS

CentOS

Since CentOS is a community-supported version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) Don't Want To Pay For Red Hat Linux? Try CentOS Instead Don't Want To Pay For Red Hat Linux? Try CentOS Instead In case you don't know already, most of the web is powered by Linux -- Facebook, Twitter, Google, and a vast majority of other major Internet sites use Linux for their servers. While server administrators... Read More , it’s stable and robust. Because CentOS gets RHEL upstream, it’s secure and delivers an enterprise-class environment

However, lack of regular updates means CentOS isn’t necessarily best as a desktop operating system. Instead, it’s a top-notch Linux server OS. Additionally, CentOS is the best Linux distro for enterprise environments and programmers.

Download: CentOS

Best Gaming Linux Distro: Fedora Games Spin

best linux distros

While SteamOS might be the most well-known gaming Linux distro 5 Best Linux Operating Systems for Gaming 5 Best Linux Operating Systems for Gaming Linux isn't ideal for gaming, but it's absolutely possible! Here are five Linux distributions made specifically for gaming. Read More , Fedora Games Spin is a better choice. Because it comes packed with a smattering of games, you’re ready to begin playing countless titles such as SuperTuxKart, The Battle for Wesnoth, and Freeciv.

Unfortunately, Steam, Wine, and PlayOnLinux don’t come preloaded. However, these are easy to install. Since Fedora Games Spin is suitable as a Linux desktop, it’s arguably better as a gaming Linux distro than SteamOS which is pretty limited in functionality as a desktop. But for mostly Steam gaming, SteamOS is a worthy choice.

Download: Fedora Games Spin

Best Lightweight Linux Distro: Lubuntu

Lubuntu-Desktop

Whereas Windows and macOS can bog down older hardware, several lightweight Linux distros 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC Don't let your Atom-powered netbook or low-specced laptop gather dust in a closet -- install a lightweight Linux distro and start enjoying mobile computing once again! Read More are ideal for aging PCs like Atom-based netbooks. Lubuntu is, as the name suggests, an Ubuntu derivative.

It uses the LXDE desktop environment, features a comprehensive set of default apps such as Firefox, and runs flawlessly on older hardware. Capable of supporting Pentium 4 and Pentium M processors, Lubuntu suggests 512MB of RAM for general use, and 1GB of RAM for online applications including YouTube and Facebook.

As a close second, consider Puppy Linux with its tiny 100MB ISO.

Download: Lubuntu

Best Linux Distro for Windows Users: Robolinux

Hands-on with Robolinux - desktop environment

Debian-based Robolinux eases the transition from Windows to Linux. Using its included virtual machine (VM) Stealth VM, spinning up a Windows-based virtual environment is a breeze. You’ll find ample stability because of the Debian underpinnings, and a useful mix of pre-installed software.

As such, Robolinux is the best Linux distro for 2018 if you’re switching from Windows Why Robolinux Is the Best Linux for Windows Users Why Robolinux Is the Best Linux for Windows Users Switching from Windows to Linux can be tough, but Robolinux, one of the best versions of Linux for windows users, makes it easier. Read More . Alternatively, try ChaletOS, which emulates the look and feel of Windows 7 while minimizing required command line use.

Download: Robolinux

Best Linux Distro for Programmers: Fedora

Fedora - Best Linux distros for programmers
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Developers require stability and security. Fedora is a RHEL iteration with simple upgrades and a regular six-month release cycle. Linux founder Linus Toralds prefers Fedora as his Linux OS of choice. Fedora is incredibly stable, a must for any programmer. Plus, there’s a thriving community for any support topics.

Yet, while Fedora maintains stability, it still benefits from regular updates. With its balance of features and reliability, Fedora is one of the best Linux distros of 2018.

Download: Fedora

Best Linux Distro for Power Users: Gentoo

best linux distros
Image Credit: fforget/Flickr

The Linux From Scratch (LFS) concept is a method of building a custom version of Linux from the source code. Gentoo is a popular LFS distro How to Gain Total Control of Your PC With Gentoo How to Gain Total Control of Your PC With Gentoo Gentoo is a true Linux operating system for power users, but with the right knowledge, anyone can gain control over their PC with Gentoo Linux -- even you! Read More that’s not for the faint of heart. But the resulting customized Linux OS is a rewarding bit of software.

Similarly, NuTyX abides by the LFS model. Power users will appreciate Arch Linux is a compelling option for seasoned Linux users as well. Check out Sabayon for an easier version of Gentoo.

Download: Gentoo

Best Linux Distro for Kids: Sugar on a Stick (SoaS)

best linux distros

Just because Linux can be complex doesn’t mean it has to be. Sugar on a Stick (SoaS) Learn Linux With SoaS, a Child-Friendly OS Learn Linux With SoaS, a Child-Friendly OS Linux is a superb operating system for kids to learn computing, and never has this been more obvious than with Sugar on a Stick (SoaS), an educational Linux OS. Read More targets kids and offers a safe, intuitive space to play educational games and learn basic programming skills.

Another child-friendly Linux OS is Ubermix, which balances ease of use with power and even features touchscreen support.

Download: Sugar on a Stick

Best Linux Distro for Single-Board PCs: Ubuntu MATE

best linux distros

Ubuntu MATE is an excellent consideration for single-board computers (SBCs). For instance, Ubuntu MATE Ubuntu MATE vs. Mint: Which Linux OS Should You Choose? Ubuntu MATE vs. Mint: Which Linux OS Should You Choose? Checking out Ubuntu for the first time? Want something familiar? It's a common problem that usually boils down to the choice: Ubuntu MATE or Linux Mint? Read More runs well on SBCs such as the Raspberry Pi and Odroid XU4.

Amazingly, Ubuntu MATE doesn’t compromise functionality when running on less powerful devices such as the Pi and XU4. Rather, this Linux OS retains all the familiar features of Ubuntu, but with the lightweight MATE desktop environment.

Download: Ubuntu MATE

The Best Linux Distros of 2018: Final Thoughts

There’s no shortage of Linux OSes for every niche. Finding the best Linux distro of 2018 requires considering both hardware support and specific needs. What Linux operating system is best for a general use laptop or desktop differs from a Linux gaming rig or server.

Thankfully, there are plenty of Linux distros for every need. Moreover, it’s easy to customize almost any Linux OS for a tailored build. Find out which Linux distros we prefer using here at MakeUseOf Which Linux Operating Systems We Use and Why Which Linux Operating Systems We Use and Why It's one thing to recommend a Linux distro. It's another to show you which ones we actually use on a daily basis. Here are the ones we prefer and why! Read More !

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  1. Dman
    October 14, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    Elementary OS has it's own software centre, not Ubuntu's.

  2. Michael Biller
    May 30, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Deepin 15.5 is an awesome distro that seems to get shunned like Linux Mint. They are two of the best distributions out there. Like some other commenters, I always come back to either Mint or Deepin. Finally, I just quit distro hopping and use them both. My computers are happy!

    • Friar Tux
      July 20, 2018 at 11:00 pm

      I believe Linux Mint with the Cinnamon DE is absolutely THE best. I have tried hundreds of distros and all but about a dozen have failed in the out-of-box-install and use category. Mint won every time. Most of the ones mentioned in this article failed miserably including the much prized Ubuntu (first one mentioned). Manjaro for beginners... not a chance. Manjaro KDE loads, reboots, but as soon as it opens the desktop things start going wacky - screen jumps about, splits up into fragments, etc.. The other flavours of Manjaro either wouldn't install programs, or the main menu and other gui buttons didn't work... Nope, not for beginners. I could list the faults of each distro here but I think I've made my point, I think. Besides, the wee wife says I'm ranting...

  3. Manuel Torrez
    April 29, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Developers seek stability and updates, Manjaro offers best of two worlds. I think Manjaro is perfect for developers, or at least it's excellent for me.

  4. Michael Massey
    April 26, 2018 at 10:04 am

    I'm a fair to middle Linux user. I've tried 12 plus Linux distros in the last 10 years. I'm not a noob or a l33t. Time and time again I come back to Mint. I've had very little problems. Easy to install. Good for the average Joe/Jane. Works on all of my new and old computers/laptops. I think it is funny how many "best" lists will not recommend it. I don't get it.

    • Robin C Hahn
      May 5, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      I completely agree. For polish, consistency, elegance and reliability, Mint can't be beat. I have also dabbled with the others and keep coming back to Mint for anything production, meaning anything which I know I need to work right, out of the box.
      But you're right, Michael: every "Best Of" list appears to leave Mint off their lists... not even an honourable mention. What is the deal with that?

  5. Steve
    April 26, 2018 at 1:00 am

    I think Mint should have definitely made this list in some capacity!

    • dragonmouth
      April 26, 2018 at 11:39 am

      It did make it - as Ubuntu. The difference between Mint and Ubuntu is much less than between Ubuntu and Debian.

  6. Michael Whitt
    April 25, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Like most Linux aficionados I run a number of Distros but I still naturally gravitate to Mint for normal day to day stuff. Honestly aside from something like Raspberry Pi Desktop (i.e. Raspbian for Desktop) Mint is what I suggest for people looking to try out Nux.

    Manjaro is nice for someone wanting to try Arch without having to build from the ground up, however Ubuntu or Mint are, in my opinion, far easier for updating than installing apps from X than Octi is.

    Sad to see Mint didn't make the cut here.

  7. Bobo
    April 25, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Oh boy, talk about misinformation. This list should say "best linux distro 2005" because in 2018 linux is nothing like described here. Surprised you didn't give the best lightweight award to Ubuntu Netbook or EasyPeasy..

    • Coon
      April 25, 2018 at 10:16 pm

      EasyPeasy As for those days, futuristic vision of the desktop.

    • Defi
      April 26, 2018 at 7:30 am

      You're free to provide counterpoints.

  8. dragonmouth
    April 25, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    What are your criteria for determining which distro is the "best"in any category?

    "Best Linux Distro Overall: Ubuntu"
    That's debatable. Just because it is the most used does not mean it is the "best". Windows is the most used O/S. Is it the "best"? Personally I thin PCLinuxOS is the "best" overall. It is more flexible and configurable than Ubuntu.

    • Coon
      April 25, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      number of packages in the repository and the community

      • dragonmouth
        April 26, 2018 at 11:31 am

        Again I point to Windows. It has more software and bigger community than any other O/S. But is it the best?

        • Jim
          April 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm

          No, it is far from the best. Yet most people would rather struggle with the known than face their fear of the unknown.

    • Coon
      April 25, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you for the description, it makes me think what's important.