Entering the Linux universe can be overwhelming. There are so many Linux distributions (distros) that a beginner can easily make the wrong choice. There are various game distros, hacking distros, special portable distros and much more. Every Linux distribution is designed with a certain user experience in mind. In fact, did you know that even Chrome OS is actually a Linux-based system?
If you’re switching from Windows or macOS for the first time, you need a beginner-friendly Linux distribution. The most difficult aspect of Linux is the fact that it is a new system for you. So, in this article, we’ll help you find the best Linux distro that can help you get started quickly with as little frustration as possible.
If you’re coming from Windows, Ubuntu is the best place to start. You’ve probably heard of it before because most Linux laptops you find at electronics stores come with Ubuntu pre-installed.
Ubuntu is about the closest thing to a Windows-like experience, with a few exceptions. The desktop is similar, file and folder structures are nearly identical, and most Windows-like apps come pre-installed. For example, you get LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office and there is even an app store similar to the Microsoft app store.
For these reasons, Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions. It also means that there are frequent updates, bug fixes, and a great community to help you out when needed.
Mint, like Ubuntu, is extremely popular because it’s beginner-friendly for both Windows and macOS users. In fact, Mint and Ubuntu are extremely similar and it can be hard to tell them apart at first.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, so it comes with a similar interface that will help Windows users quickly adapt to the new environment. It also comes with the same collection of Linux apps and tools as Ubuntu, so you’ll have plenty of free software to work with.
That said, Mint is a better option for you if you have older hardware. It is one of the most efficient Linux distributions and can run on very old systems. It only needs around 512MB of RAM to run, which is quite impressive.
So if you have an old system, you can use it to try out Linux Mint before making your final decision.
If you come from macOS, Elementary OS might be the perfect choice for you. It is undoubtedly one of the nicest and cleanest Linux distros, so it will definitely remind you of your Mac.
Elementary OS is available for a “pay what you can” fee, however, you can technically get it for free since you can choose to pay $0. That said, the developers surely deserve something for creating such a nice Linux distro that works well and is fully customizable. It also comes with its own app store, so if the included native apps aren’t enough, you can download anything from the AppCenter.
Zorin OS is another Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. This means it will look a lot like Windows. In fact, the developers focused on providing a true Windows-like experience by designing Zorin’s interface after Windows 7. You can even opt for a Windows XP-like design if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Zorin OS also comes with beginners documentation to help you get used to a Linux distribution. It may not be as popular as Ubuntu or Mint, but its main purpose is to help Windows and macOS users with the exciting transition to Linux. Zorin is incredibly easy to use for everyone.
Linux Manjaro is a beginner Linux distro that can also push you to learn more about Linux systems in general. It’s a suitable replacement for Windows and comes with plenty of software out of the box, including Steam. This also makes it a great option if you’re a gamer.
However, the interesting thing about Manjaro is AUR. AUR is a software repository maintained by a dedicated community. This software is not officially released for Manjaro, but it adds more diversity. Using AUR involves a learning curve for you as a newbie Linux user, as it will push you to learn more about packages and package managers, which is a good thing in the long run.
Do you have old hardware that you would like to bring back to life? MX Linux might be the best option. This Debian Linux distribution is so light and efficient that you can take out your Pentium II and start using it again. It is also very easy to learn and use thanks to its user-friendly GUI and pre-installed applications.
If you’re looking for a learning experience and a way to reuse your old hardware, try MX Linux. It is officially compatible with very old laptop models and gives you plenty of customization options once you get used to it.
Pop!_OS is a solid Linux distro for beginners that you can also use for advanced tasks. Also, it is an excellent gaming distro as it was developed with Nvidia hardware in mind. Unlike most Linux distributions, Pop!_OS comes with pre-installed Nvidia drivers. So if you’re looking for a plug-and-play gaming experience, this might be a better option than the alternatives.
The only downside is that Pop!_OS is a heavy Linux distribution. You won’t be able to run it on really old machines, and that’s understandable since it’s designed with Nvidia GPUs in mind.
Apart from games, Pop!_OS also comes with amazing development kits. You can start developing software right away, and you can even use ready-made machine learning tools.
Adaptation to Linux
Getting used to Linux can take time, but with the right Linux distribution, you can get used to it quickly. Soon after, you’ll realize how much more customizable and secure Linux systems are, and start exploring more specialized distros. Plus, you’ll be able to join all the cool communities that will make the whole experience feel like joining a club. Linux is not as threatening as it seems.