If you’ve decided to give Linux a go, maybe for the second time, it’s time to pick out a system and at least load it onto a “live” USB stick. If you’re new to the Linux world, here are the distributions we recommend trying out.
Note: We could publish our own Wikipedia about all the different distributions, or “flavours” in our headline speak, of Linux out there. Instead, we’re going to simply make a pitch for four different systems Lifehacker editors have been known to use. You can try out all of them (except Arch, perhaps) from a live CD or USB image you can download from each of their sites. Generally, if you’re running a Windows or Mac system, you can right-click on the ISO file downloaded, choose to burn it to disc, and insert that disc before your system next reboots.
Ubuntu: The Go-To Option For Most
Because of all that community support and attention, it’s where we recommend newcomers start off with Linux. It’s the best shot you’ve got at 100 per cent hardware support, and it’s honestly the most Google-able distribution when you want to learn or tweak something.
There are also a host of Ubuntu “variations” you can turn to, if you like Ubuntu’s core product but want to try a KDE desktop (Kubuntu), the lower-spec-friendly XFCE (Xubuntu), a flavour-specific to your tiny little computer (Netbook Edition), or many other options.
Linux Mint: Even More Beginner-Friendly
Fedora: The Solid Alternative
Arch Linux: The Starting-from-Scratch Project
Want some detailed guidance on the process? Whitson already showed us a step-by-step Arch installation, ending up with a system he’s still digging into today.
As noted, we couldn’t possibly cover all the distributions out there, or even give full due to some of the more popular varieties: openSUSE, Debian, Sabayon, and the adorable and teeny-tiny Puppy. No slight intended, but we just don’t have as much experience with them. If you think a particular distribution is very friendly to beginners, whether yourself or another first-timer you know, give us the scoop on it in the comments.