The best Linux distro is a matter of personal taste and use case. On the following pages, we take you through four potential Linux use cases and select the best for each. We'll look at the best overall OS for general computing, the best for an old laptop, a lightweight distro for USB drives and a privacy-focused option.
When it comes to computer operating systems, you really have two choices: Windows or Linux. Sure, there’s OS X, 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.
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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.