Linux, home to almost every programming language, is a Unix-like operating system. The open-source operating system is based on Linux kernel and is generally packed in many of the Linux distributions.
Linux distributions, often known as a distro, are operating systems developed from a software collection based on the Linux kernel. Most users use Linux by downloading one of the many Linux distros. Linux operating systems are most familiar to coders, programmers, and gamers.
- Top 10 Linux Distros
- List of Top Ten Linux Distros
- Linux Distros for Beginners
- Linux Distros for Servers
- Linux Distros for Developers
- Linux Distros for Gaming
- Linux Distros for Hacking
- Linux Distros for Privacy
However, with time, many have made attempts to make the OS more user-friendly to everyday PC users.
Linux is that it comes in a variety of forms, which are known as ‘distros’ or ‘flavors’ that suit the needs of all users. The reason for multiple Linux distros is the fact that Linux is so quickly and efficiently configurable.
Even though Linux distros come with different bundled software, many of the primary applications are pre-installed on each OS. It is one of the added perks to using Linux as all the various distros are compatible with Linux software and applications. Throughout the history of computing, Linux is the only OS that is so customizable.
With plenty of Linux Distros to choose from, users must select the one that best suits their requirements. For that matter, we have shortlisted top 10 best Linux distros that are great in a variety of domains such as gaming, ethical hacking, privacy, and even learning.
Do you like to use commands rather than clicking? Or do you want a Linux Distros similar to Windows? Or do you want something high on privacy? All of these and many other factors will determine which would be the best Linux Distro for you.
Generally, the top distros are custom-made to meet the needs of users. For instance, Kali Linux is specially designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. Therefore, we have picked the top 10 distros across all different verticals.
List of Top Ten Linux Distros
As aforementioned, Linux Distros come in a wide variety of systems, from personal computers to servers to supercomputers. Commonly, each of the Linux distros comprises standard components such as Linux Kernel, a window manager, software, desktop environment, GNU tools and libraries, and a window system. More so, most of the software is free and open-source. The software is either available as source code or as compiled binaries.
The availability of the source code offers users the liberty to make changes to the original software.
Linux Distros for Beginners
We have narrowed three of the easiest and user-friendly Linux Distros for first-time Linux users. In case you are new to Linux OS and want to get right into using it, then Ubuntu, elementary OS, or Linux Mint are the best way to go. To make it easier, we have elaborated on each of the Linux Distros in detail.
Globally, Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distro, has become synonymous with Linux. While it is one of the many distros available, it has become the first choice for everyone, especially for novices. One reason for the unparalleled popularity is because it is very accessible and the most stable distros.
The team behind Ubuntu - Canonical Ltd is very active and releases a new version every six months. The UK-based privately software firm also releases a long time support version every other year.
Here are the system requirements to install Ubuntu:
- 700 MHz processor
- 512 MiB RAM
- 5 GB of hard-drive space
- VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution
- A USB port to install media
- Internet access is helpful
Ubuntu needs no introduction, as is one of the most sought distros. It is free and open-source Linux Distro and is often used by laptop users. It is based on another popular distro - Debian and offers three editions - Desktop, Server, and Core. The distros are also famous for cloud computing. The addition of Snaps has made it very easy to install applications.
Ubuntu comes with a very user-friendly interface and makes it easy for newbies to play around. More so, users can choose to customize their appearance as it offers abundant configuration options. Commonly, most prefer to install a theme on Ubuntu.
More so, Ubuntu is best to multitask and complete tasks efficiently. It comes with various desktop environments such as Gnome, Mate, and Unity. While it is based on Debian, Ubuntu is the foundation for many of the other Linux Distros such as Lubuntu, Linux Mint, and Elementary OS.
One of the major perks of using Ubuntu is that it has a large, vibrant, and thriving online user community that is always ready to help. In case of issues, one can go to one of the many forums or subreddits for help.
For users with limited hardware, the computer must try Ubuntu MATE, instead of Ubuntu.
Linux Mint is a distro based on Ubuntu and comes with all the simplicity of it. It is one of the reasons Linux Mint has become a prominent choice for users. One of the great things about the distro is that it comes with a lot of software. More so, it is best for those who like to switch between different operating systems like Windows or Mac.
Users need the below minimum requirement to install Mint:
- 512MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
- 9GB of disk space (20GB recommended).
- Recommended graphics card - 1024×768
- USB port.
Another major perk of using Mint is that it offers better support for media formats. Therefore, making it easier to play music files and videos. The Mint comes in three different variants, and each of them uses a different desktop environment.
Configuring the windows and menus is even easier on Mint. Among the three different flavors of Mint, Cinnamon is current and highly popular among users. However, if you want a basic version, then one can always choose to use the MATE or Xfce.
Another great feature that Mint packs are that it allows users to restore their computer easily. The introduction of ‘Timeshift’ makes it simple to restore it from the last functional snapshot. Interestingly, all of the desktop environments allow various customization options.
It is one of the most user-friendly distros as it is based on Ubuntu. A distro is a great option for newbies and advanced users. It offers an out of the box experienced by simultaneously offering elegance, functionality, and stability.
With every passing day, the number of Linux users is increasing, and the same is true for Mint. Mint is one of the fastest-growing distros with a large user community. If you are a user looking for a gradual learning curve, then there is no better distro than Mint.
Mint distro has gained immense popularity that it is an ideal contestant to Ubuntu. More so, it is best for those that are making a switch from Windows OS, as the Mint offers an identical desktop environment. Another significant perk of using Mint distro is that it provides an out-of-the-box experience. More so, the lighter footprint is an added perk.
Elementary OS is by far considered as one of the best looking and beautiful of all the Linux distros. If you are a user that does not enjoy the hacker style terminal interface and wants to stick with elegance, then the elementary OS is the best choice.
Here are the system requirements to install elementary OS:
- Recent Intel i3 or comparable dual-core 64-bit processor
- 4 GB of system memory (RAM)
- A solid-state drive (SSD) with 15 GB of free space
- Internet access
- USB flash drive
Apart from an attractive UI that shares similarity with macOS, it also comes with a powerful and super desktop environment dubbed Pantheon. Pantheon is based on a free and open-source desktop environment, Gnome. Therefore, the elementary OS makes an excellent replacement for Mac users.
Being based on Ubuntu, the distro offers a user-friendly Linux environment simultaneously with a robust system. The latest version of elementary OS is Loki, which can be installed using the application installer - AppCenter. The current version Loki is even more elegant and prettier than its previous version dubbed Freya. One of the drawbacks of using elementary OS is that it does not come with many preinstalled applications.
However, it compensates by providing an integrated application installer - AppCenter, that makes it very easy to install apps outside the terminal. The AppCenter has both free and paid apps to make your life easier.
Elementary OS comes with the Epiphany browser, basic tools, and email client - Gaery. One of the best parts of elementary OS is that it has the crafted looks of both mac OS and Windows. The smartly designed delivers a lightweight experience as it is shipped without many of the default applications.
Linux Distros for Servers
While Windows and macOS are leading operating systems for common use computers, Linux commands the stats for the most popular web server OS. But which distro to use is an age-old question, as nearly all Linux distributions are capable of turning into a server. But that does not mean that one should take up that notion.
Indeed, certain distributions make for an efficient server OS. The reason Linux powers the majority of supercomputers is because it simultaneously offers freedom, stability, and security.
CentOS is one of the most popular distributions for web servers. It is a community offshoot of the enterprise version of the discontinued Red Hat Linux. CentOS's primary focus is to provide stability instead of providing regular updates. Therefore, CentOS offers security updates for almost ten years since the release of the version.
The minimum system requirement varies on the CentOS version a user plans to install.
- For 32 bit operating systems - 512 MB RAM (minimum)
- For 64 bit operating systems - 1024 MB RAM (recommended)
- Recommended System: 4 GB+ RAM to enjoy the complete functionality
One of the main reasons for its use in servers is because it is highly reliable. As a result, CentOS does not make up for a good distro for the daily use of computers. But on the other hand, one can enjoy the packages of Red Hat Linux for free as they are fully compatible with CentOS.
CentOs is the community edition derived from the sources of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Therefore, one can enjoy the enterprise-level system for free as CentOS is an open-source distro. On the downside, the number of hosting providers using CentOS has reduced significantly, but still, it is an excellent distro for internet servers.
Even though CentOS does not pack the latest software packages, it is still one of the best picks when it comes to stable distros. It does come with the popular RPM and Yum package management. More so, it has an active community, and one can always find support from the broader tech industry. In simple words, it is a free version of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Well, Debian is undoubtedly one of the best distros as even the most popular distros such as Ubuntu is based on Debian. Although it is not the best distro for a beginner, it is an ideal choice of the distro for both servers and desktops.
The system requirement to install Debian is as follows:
- 512 MB RAM
- 10 GB HDD
- 1GHz Pentium 4 processor
- Installation Media - USB
It is a known fact that most Linux users are developers and programmers, and therefore are undoubtedly open-source enthusiasts. As a result, Debian is often considered as the best option.
More so, the Debian distros are often considered to be tested regularly. The stability that the distribution packs offers developers peace of mind. But one must note that Debian is ideal for programmers that have experience of using Linux. Newbies should opt to use either Ubuntu or any of the other above-listed beginner distros.
A few of the main reasons to use Debian are the robust development platform, the availability of packages, and the simplified Debian package management. Debian distro’s upgradability is one of the main reasons it is an excellent choice of the operating system for servers. Upgrading to the next stable release is very easy, and one can do it leveraging apt-get package manager. The good part of it is that everything is well documented, and one has to follow the instructions.
Another plus of Debian is its security. Each of the packages is thoroughly tested before releasing it. Releases come every two to three years, and the active community is ever ready to fix any bugs.
More so, Debian is one of the stablest distributions as it has been around for a very long time. Apart from that, the powerful distro offers a wide range of software packages. Users can easily reconfigure packages in case the default configuration does not feel suitable. Beyond that, Debian’s biggest plus is that it is free and open-source.
Linux Distros for Developers
When it comes to developers, there is no better operating system than Linux. While most distros are good to work with, several distros are specifically designed to serve the needs of developers and programmers. We will look at Arch - the most popular Linux distro for developers.
Arch is one of the most potent Linux distros. It is one of the best-suited distros for developers and allows complete freedom to configure. Users must note that it requires a bit of a learning curve, and everything has to be installed manually. The Arch does not come with a lot of pre-installed software, and programmers can choose to configure and install packages per their requirement.
The minimum system requirements to install Arch is as follows:
- A x86_64 (i.e. 64 bit) compatible machine
- Minimum 512 MB of RAM, but for better performance, it is good to have 2GB of RAM
- 1 GB of free disk space, but it recommended to have 20 GB for efficient usage.
- Active internet connection
- USB drive
- Knowledge of the Linux command line
Also, the distro is only for advanced users, as programmers must follow a set of commands at the time of installation. It is by far the least user-friendly distros as its primary foundation is to allow programmers to tweak the system as to their requirements. One of the major perks is that it does not come with unwanted packages that take up the disk space.
The Arch was developed with an idea to keep things simple and minimalist. Arch may seem complicated for new users, but it is best for programmers that enjoy using a clean distribution with no clutter. The distribution certainly favors experiences users rather than newbies. There was a user-friendly Arch version dubbed Antegors, but it was later discontinued.
More so, as it is specially developed for programmers, it uses the rolling release model instead of significant releases. The distribution is continually updated. The distribution comes with a Linux Kernel and a package manager called Pacman. The system comes without a graphical interface and uses have to choose the required components, and hence, it is often referred to as the personalize OS.
Some of the significant benefits of using Arch Linux are the massive potential for customization of the system, regular bug fixes, and zero maintenance.
Linux Distros for Gaming
The times have passed were Linux distros were not suitable for gaming. However, times have changed now, and gaming on Linux has become very stable over the years. There are many distros in the market, and there are few that are made with the sole purpose of gaming. However, there are few options available that work as great distros for gaming.
SteamOS is often considered as the best Linux distro for gaming. The Debian-based distro is packed with the steam application, and one can enjoy the advanced Linux desktop environment. Interestingly, one can switch to ‘Desktop Mode’ to use the distro beyond gaming, such as daily tasks.
Here are the minimum requirements to install Steam OS:
- Processor: Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 200GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA graphics card
- A USB port for installation, UEFI Firmware
SteamOS packs various pre-installed software and drivers as it is developed, keeping in mind gaming experience. It ensures that every game, including high-end games, runs smoothly without any glitches. SteamIOS also supports various graphic cards, controllers, and drivers. Gamers need not worry about compatibility as it supports most joysticks or gamepads. Players can also enjoy a vast collection of built-in games from the Steam game store.
More so, it is a perfect distribution for both newbies and advanced users. Apart from having all things pre-installed, the intuitive user interface makes it easy for one of the most user-friendly distributions. The SteamOS is free and open-source and has vibrant community support. However, one must remember that SteamOS is not suitable to run on old computers. Users must have high-end hardware to support steam.
Manjaro is a distribution based on Arch Linux - a distribution designed for developers. While Arch is specially designed for advanced and experienced users, Manjaro, on the other hand, is created, keeping in mind the newcomers. It is one of the most beginner-friendly distributions and one that keeps in mind gaming.
The minimum hardware requirements for Manjaro are as follows:
- 1 GB RAM
- 1 GHz Processor
- 30 GB free space on the hard disk
- USB Drive
- Internet Connection
Interestingly, the user interface offers various built-in GUI applications. Linux is attracting more gamers than ever before, and one good reason is the Manjaro distribution. Ten years back, players would think twice before taking down the Linux road as it wasn’t user-friendly and had the lack of games on the Linux platform. However, now we look at a completely different scenario as more and more distributions are offering a game friendly interface.
While SteamOS is considered the number one option for gaming on Linux, the latest iteration of Manjaro is also gaining a lot of attention from gamers. Steam comes preinstalled on Manjaro, and it also offers wide-ranging hardware support. To even make it more user-friendly, Manjaro comes with a hardware detection tool. It also comes with pre-installed graphics drivers for both AMD and Nvidia graphic cards. One can easily switch between Linux kernels on Manjaro.
With so many features, Arch-based Manjaro has gained a loyal user base and hopes to double it with efforts towards making gaming fun and easy on Manjaro.
Linux Distros for Hacking
Linux is often synonyms to developers and hackers. It is a known fact that most hackers worldwide use Linux due to its easy configuration capacity. There are no operating systems that can even come close to Linux's ability to exploit systems. One reason for its vast popularity is because the source code is available freely.
While Linux is a commonly popular operating system for hacking, Kali Linux is the king of the arena. Without a doubt, one of the main reasons most people want to use Linux is to learn ethical hacking. Often each OS gets tied to specific tasks, and so does Kali Linux that is linked to hacking.
There is no better distro than Kali Linux for ethical hacking purposes. Frankly, there is no other distribution that can match Kali Linux. The distribution comes with a bunch of useful tools that one can use to ethical hack systems. The devices are categories in various verticals such as wireless attacks, stress testing, web applications, vulnerability analysis, exploration tools, and more.
The minimum system requirements to install Kali Linux are as follows:
- 20 GB free disk space
- RAM for i386 and amd64 architectures, minimum: 1GB
- USB boot support
Kali Linux is based on the Debian Testing branch, and therefore most of the packages are imported from the Debian repository. In the previous versions, updates were not delivered in a not so trustworthy manner. However, in the latest release, it has partnered with Offensive Security and Cloudflare to make sure that all updates are distributed reliably.
One of the most significant advantages of Kali Linux is that it can be installed on various systems such as Chromebook, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone, and more. More so, with the arrival of Kali NeHunter, users can use it on Android smartphones. Some of the benefits of using Kali Linux are regular rolling updates, tried and tested hacking tools, tremendous learning resources, and robust Debian base.
Kali Linux has always been free to use and supports multiple languages. It comes with over 600 penetration and security testing tools and highly customizable.
Globally, it is the most widely used distribution for penetration testing. The number of built-in penetration tools makes it most convenient for ethical hackers. Apart from being an advanced penetration testing platform, it is also offers learning scope for young ethical hackers. More so, it has an active community and provides decent documentation.
Linux Distros for Privacy
Security and privacy play a vital role in the era of computers and digital data. More often than usual, we come across computer systems unknowingly exposed to hackers. Therefore, it is essential to have a distribution that is secure and offers privacy. More so, Linux OS is commonly used on servers that store data, and it is a must that the distribution must be powerful, robust, and secure to keep it safe from hackers.
A computer with weak security is just a welcome call for all hackers. Therefore, it is necessary to have the most secure Linux distribution.
If we tell you that some of the most popular whistleblowers and hackers use Tails for communication, then you might wonder why? One of the biggest reasons is that it provides anonymity and ensure complete privacy. It is one of the best systems for safe and secure web browsing.
Tails is a bootable Linux distribution that can keep you safe while browsing the web. Users can easily use a USB image to boot Tails into almost any computer. Tails maintain anonymity by forcing that all internet connection travels through the Tor network. The Debian-based distro makes it impossible for anyone to trace you.
More so, it comes with various cryptographic tools that allow users to encrypt any data, be it files, emails, or even instant messages. The privacy-oriented distro aims always to conceal the location and identity of users. It is almost impossible to intercept as it routes data through the Tor network.
While, one might guess that the interface must be complicated, but in reality, it is a clear and user-friendly interface. If privacy and anonymity are your primary goal, then there is no better than Tails. More so, the best part of Tails is that it stores all on RAM, and hence, there is no trace.
While the above were the various Linux distros for various categories, Linux even has something for kids. If you feel your child has a developer or hacker in them, then try one of the distributions specially designed for kids.
Ubermix is excellent to start for kids to learn Linux and understand how it works. In today’s computer world, learning Linux could be of great importance. There are very few distributions that are specifically designed for kids. You need not look any further than Ubermix, as it has it takes to learn Linux.
The best part of it is that it is easy to set up and use. Frankly, it is a good start for adults who want to jump into learning Linux. The Linux distribution comes with touch support to make it more attractive for children to use. It is even a great tool for teachers that want to introduce Linux to kids.
Ubermix takes no longer than five minutes to install and comes with pre-installed applications. It is a powerful distribution for kids and teachers.
The above are the top ten Linux distributions that cover a wide range of industries. Our list of top ten includes all segments, be it development, ethical hacking, gaming, privacy, anonymity, and more.
There are hundreds of other distros both paid and free, but these are the most popular in their respective verticals. Linux users are growing by the day, and our list offers an excellent way for them to choose the best distribution to suit their needs.