Please provide your recommendations of good Linux distros

Hello, world! I’m planning to migrate to Linux from Windows. Please suggest a good Linux distro for me. I’m looking for a distro that is visually appealing, secure, and has powerful support for software packaging, installation and updating. Software installation and updating should be relatively easy and hassle-free (I would be installing IDEs or editors for a few programming languages and other important software). Also, which would be better – a native installation or a Virtual Machine installation? I have a 64-bit machine (4.5 years old) with 4 GB RAM and a 2nd Gen Core i5 processor.

Thanks in advance.

1 Like

Ubuntu is probably the most popular distribution, and one of the best-supported by third parties, along with Red Hat. The package manager is the best I’ve ever used. I don’t recommend Red Hat (or CentOS, its clone) because they are more business oriented. If you type any search in Google, like “how to do X in Linux,” then do the same query replacing “Linux” with “Ubuntu” you’ll probably get as good (or better) results.

A native installation will always be best, but if you need to keep Windows for an app or two that you can’t get on another OS you could consider a VM or dual-booting.


I liked Ubuntu a lot when i first started running Linux, but after a few years their default desktop environment changed and it just felt really needlessly bloated and slow. I went back to Windows for a while (rather than try to make a decision on which alternative DE i wanted to run), then tried Mint, despite my intense dislike of mint as a ubiquitous flavor option. I really, really like Mint a lot. It’s so easy to do just about anything (including uh switching DE heheh).

Ultimately all Linux distros have a lot in common which makes it super easy to switch around frequently (which many people seem to do). Most are very modern and forward-thinking and take advantage of today’s hardware very well. In most of the more common flavors of Linux, the biggest difference (to me anyway, and i’m certainly no power-user) seems to be what software packages come bundled with the OS out of the box, as well as what kind of package management it uses. Like anything, it’s very subjective, so i’d definitely suggest setting up your install in a smart way, so that you can easily switch distros and keep your docs and media, etc., and then spend a week or so with each one you find interesting. Then you can decide later having actually experienced several.

Full disclosure: i’ve since become a full-on Windows 10 fan. Someday i’ll install Linux again, but i doubt it’ll be a dual-boot or even VM situation. It’s either too much hassle and a maintainability nightmare (dual boot) or a performance disappointment (VM).

Try The Elementary OS team was motivated by a “desire to create a Linux-based OS that championed consistency and great design”, and their design ethos focuses on providing a concise and consistent user experience with minimal need for configuration and documentation. For us, Elementary OS is as close to a Mac OS as you can get on a PC.

first try on virtual machine. :slight_smile:

Here are a few common distributions, popular and capable all.

Ubuntu: Probably the one most people would recommend. It is currently the most popular Linux distribution, likely owing to the fact that it seems to prioritize newcomers to Linux. The operating system has a lot of support and documentation practically everywhere, and it is likely a wonderful starting point. The default desktop environment (think of the desktop environment as your screen and navigation bar and windows and how you do pretty much anything graphically) is a bit heavy on the resource side. The Xubuntu flavour, using the xfce desktop, may be a better choice on your hardware. Both should run pretty decently, though.

Mint: Mint is based off of either Ubuntu or Debian, depending on your version of it that you download. It was the first Linux distribution that I used, and is incredibly beginner friendly. Most things work out of the box and you have a decent suite of applications to work with without trouble. A very solid choice-- I’d recommend it over Ubuntu.

Debian: Debian is an older distribution, still remaining updated and worked on. It is very stable and is well known for servers. Not a bad choice for a newcomer due to how popular it is and so how much support and documentation it is, and it is definitely known as the most stable of any major distribution.

Fedora/Red Hat: My second distribution, which I migrated to after a bit with Mint. Overall clean, decently fast, and wonderful support-- Fedora is the opensource version of Red Hat, and either-or are excellent choices. That said, the package selection feels more limited on Fedora than these other choices.

Arch Linux: I don’t actually recommend this one to you unless you want to have to learn a lot about Linux. Arch Linux is what I am currently on while typing this, and it is wonderful. It is a procedure all its own to install, because you install and configure the system and download and install your desktop environment, your tools, everything. Arch Linux has the most beautifully comprehensive wiki out of the Linux distributions, and you’ll likely be referencing its wiki for issues arising with your other distributions even without using Arch Linux itself. Additionally, the sheer volume and quality of the packages, along with the AUR and hassle-free installation makes Arch Linux incredibly powerful. It’s lightweight, blazing fast, beautifully clean, and efficient.

Some people would say never touch Arch as a beginner. Other people recommend it because it’s a more comprehensive learning experience. Read the descriptions, ask any questions you have, and work out which one you want to try.

It would be easy to try out a few on a virtual machine to begin with, but if you can escape your Windows applications, a native installation once you have made your choice is by far the most solid way to go, whether as the exclusive system or simply as a dual-boot one. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know and I can try to point you in the right direction.

Have an excellent day!


I have been using Linux for several years now on my main PC. I feel safer using Linux as there is less chance of getting a virus.

I started with Ubuntu 10 and have since moved to 12.04 and now 14.04 both LTS (Long term support). I use SSDs and the boot up and shut down time is a fraction of my Windows PC.

The range of software is not as great as Windows and I use Visual Studio for developing VB/C# so I still use a Windows PC.

Recently I have added a second SSD and am using Linux Mint. I am using the MATE version of MINT and It has some features I prefer. eg) “Extract here” can open rar files as well as zips. Caja file manager context menu has an “Open in terminal” option which I really like. But the default Firefox search engine is duckduckgo which doesn’t bother me but might bother some people.

Having 2 drives with 2 Linux distros is handy. Setting up dual booting was easy with a GRUB update.

Recently I have set up a PC with Fedora 23. I saw a good review of this distro on YouTube as it is easy to set up as a development machine. I do still use Ubuntu as my development machine, purely because it is higher spec PC. I used Lammp to set up Apache / MySQL / phpMyAdmin and Bootstrap is a good editor. is where to go when you get stuck and is usually quite good.

Linux has come a long way as a viable OS and if my mum can use it, anyone can!


Just a note to say I have tried Puppy Linux and Slax on older PCs which are lightweight distros. They’re ok but ultimately there are some obstacles to making them everyday use. Interesting though.

I started using Ubuntu a couple of months ago and I know I sound ‘corny’ but it literally changed my learning experience 100x!


I also wanted to add a couple of things about Ubuntu. It is much more simpler to use than Windows (at least for me),. When I was young I loved my Dad’s Tandy. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980’s meant you were always outside. To make this short, i couldn’t stand Windows & I was busy with raising kids and then working. I use Windows on and off. I feel the simplicity and freedom of Ubuntu has helped me understand programming a little better.

1 Like

Thank you all for your tips and insights.

I’ve used both Ubuntu and Fedora (currently running Fedora 22 as my main bare metal istall). The main reason I picked it was for similarity with RedHat/CentOS/OEL (but with a nicer UI and latest features), since that is what I have running in production. That said, it seems most tutorials are based on Ubuntu (if they are not on Mac), so it can sometimes be a challenge to find the equivalent package to install.

Coming from Windows 10 to Linux, I have found no matter what there are going to be programs you want to install that are not “Next, Next Finish”. For instance, if you want the latest Nodejs or MongoDB, the default repos are probably not going to have it yet.

All of that said, I really do think moving to Linux was the best thing I could have done from a tooling and learning perspective when it comes to development.

The only thing I still keep a windows box around for is Adobe CS 6. If they come out with a CC version for linux, I would instantly subscribe. This is probably the one thing that may make my next machine a MAC.

Elementary OS and Ubuntu, some old computers seem to revitalize once they are installed Linux Mint on them.

I use Elementary OS because it’s elegant, clean, ubuntu based and I like the overall feel of it.

NicholasDM already nailed it.
For a newbie I would recommend an Ubuntu-based distro.
When I was new to Linux, I also tried others like Debian but Ubuntu is one of the most popular and thus it is easy to find documentation or forum posts.
I personally don’t like the default Ubuntu Unity desktop but that’s a matter of taste.

If you want something different looking, you can look at Mint and Elementary OS.

The good thing about Ubuntu is that it also runs on services like Cloud9 and is the choice for many services as the underlying distro. So the skills you learn with your desktop also help you ease into the backend a bit.

That said, I migrated from Ubuntu because I got fed up with the software support. The software center can get quickly outdated, especially if you are running an older version/LTS (Long Term support version). That means that you have to manually add packages to your distro which is quite a hassle.

At the moment I’m running Manjaro Linux, a newbie-friendly Arch-based distro. It has the advantages that NicholasDM mentioned but is easier to install and to maintain. For example, there is a graphical installer like with Ubuntu and the distro is then set up ready to use. (That’s not necessarily the case with Arch.)
You can use all Arch packages and the great documentation Arch has.
The package manager is very comprehensive.
An example: I wanted to install Leinigen, a tool for Clojure. With Ubuntu, I had to manually download the program and then change stuff in my bash-profile. Still didn’t work, I had to search for solutions on the internet (luckily, there were some questions at stackoverflow and other sites).
With Manjaro I could just use the inbuilt package manager. Done.