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Best Linux Distro: Linux for old laptops, privacy and USB sticks


Best Linux distro

What's the best Linux distro? We round up six of our favourites for all sorts of uses. We have Linux distros focused on lightweight operation on old laptops and from USB sticks, while others are more focussed on hobbyists who want to try something new. Our best Linux distro roundup will have something for everyone.

What is Linux?

When it comes to computer operating systems, you really have two choices: Windows or Linux. Sure, there’s MacOS, but that’s a hardware as well as a software buying choice.

We have nothing against Windows. It can be annoying, certainly, and Windows 10 still feels a little unfinished, but over the years we’ve found it to be easy to install and reliable.

However, many of us here have a soft spot for Linux. Windows, while useful, just isn’t interesting. It’s a tool. Linux, on the other hand, comes in a thousand different varieties, all with their own advantages, quirks and frustrations.

Related: Best laptops to buy in 2016

You can run one distribution, or distro, become bored of it and stick on another – all without spending a penny. Most of the time you can even try out a Linux distro without touching your hard disk, since Linux will run “live” from a USB stick.

Linux has the capability to make computing interesting again, which makes it perfect for those who see their operating system as a hobby. Almost every aspect of a Linux operating system can be tweaked and configured, so you can make your OS the perfect fit for your needs.

However, there’s more to Linux than simply messing around with config files. It’s generally faster than Windows, so can make a modern desktop PC or laptop run with great alacrity; it doesn’t suffer from virus infections; and some Linux distros are lightweight enough to give an older system, grinding away under Windows XP or Vista, a new lease of life.

Here are some of our favourite Linux distros for various situations. All these distros have been thoroughly tested to see if they’ll work out of the box with the minimum of fiddling: Linux may be well suited to hobbyists, but we certainly wouldn’t want to spend hours trying to get a networking adapter or graphics card to work.

For an easy way to try out the following distros – without harming what’s currently installed on your PC – grab a 4GB or larger USB stick and use the magic tool at pendrivelinux.com to create a live Linux OS.

Turn to the next page to see the first Linux distro worthy of your time.

Fred Buddy Guy

June 16, 2016, 7:13 am

kudos for a well written + enlightening + extremely helpful article!!!


June 22, 2016, 9:11 pm

This Article should have been named "The Easiest Linux distributions for Windows users on a single machine". Not that I am faulting the article as it is well written. I highly encourage everyone interested to get Linux loaded no matter the distribution. However this article certainly does not reflect the Best that Linux has to offer in distributions. Linux was designed to be a networking centric Operating system. So it really shines as a Server.

Only one Linux distribution provides unmodified source and complied distribution. Slackware. Which predates Debian by 8 months and is headed by Paul Volkerdink. Making Slackware the first Linux Distribution. Slackware is by far is the most stable Linux Distribution.

Debian is right behind Slackware in stability but does heavily modify the source from original developers.

The rest of the distributions are offshoots of these two to varying degrees.

The one axiom that remains to this day is if you learn Slackware you learn Linux. If you learn an other distribution you only learn that distribution.

This knowledge comes at the expense of starting in Unix in 1993. Switching to Linux in 1989. Slackware taught me command line and I have always appreciated that. As I now know multiple distributions and am able to administer them through the command line. X is fine in Linux but a terminal or shell is the ultimate in Linux system tools.


October 8, 2016, 9:47 am

Your memory is going OldCrow, Linux wasn't even written until 1991 and slackware was first released in 1993. I remember it fondly, downloading all the 1.44mb floppy disk images over a 14.4 connection.


December 15, 2016, 9:21 pm

Slax is great, it is very lightweight and easy to use. I had some troubles with it in configuring the hardware though, and is not very beginner friendly. I've never heard of the Point Linux. Elementary looks promising. I've fiddled with Leeenux Linux, and found it fast and working out of the box, with the only trouble of not being free.

'Tis Moi

February 11, 2017, 11:24 am

So...Mint had you stumped?? How odd. I've installed it to so many PC's -- it's my go-to for old computers running XP/Vista (I serve a lot of elderly clients). I never had any issues-- including the definition you describe. I output to 4K just fine.

It concerns me as from your write-up, Mint is being seriously smashed for the simple reason that YOU couldn't get your hardware to work. Sounds more like PEBKAC.

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