What's the best Linux distribution for beginners?

Whether you are a beginner yourself or teaching someone else about Linux, take our poll to let us know what your preferred distribution is.
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There are hundreds of different Linux distributions, each meeting the unique needs of its users. This diversity of distributions is what makes Linux the preferred operating system, but choosing the best one to get started can be quite daunting. First-timers need to take into consideration hardware, internet connection, installation method, desktop environment, support community, and more. So which one should a beginner choose? Take our Linux poll!

If you are a seasoned Linux user, what distribution did you use first? Was it an easy transition or do you wish you had started with a different distribution? For newbies, how is your new life on Linux going? What distribution are you using now? Take our poll and leave us a comment with your Linux story. 

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Lauren is the managing editor for Opensource.com. When she's not organizing the editorial calendar or digging into the data, she can be found going on adventures with her family and German shepherd rescue dog, Quailford. She is passionate about spreading awareness of how open source technology and principles can be applied to areas outside the tech industry such as education and government.


Linux Mint Cinnamon

I second this. Linux Mint Cinnamon

In reply to by Danie van der Merwe (not verified)

Elementary OS

Elementary is by far the longest distribution I have maintained without reinstalling it and actually get work done. I do want to upgrade to the latest version but it’s not even on my priority list since everything I need so far is working flawlessly and the desktop is very very responsive and clean.

In reply to by Robert B (not verified)

Linux Mint. I WOULD have chosen Ubuntu but honestly I wouldn't recommend the gnome desktop to beginners. Yes it's definitely nice and snappy, but it isn't very windows like.
Linux Mint instead uses Cinnamon which imo really resembles windows the best. Oh and because it's based on Ubuntu, it also takes advantage of it's popularity.

I'd recommend Ubuntu for ease of install. Both Fedora and Ubuntu have great documentation and how to use LInux once the OS is installed.

I use Fedora (with KDE), but I would suggest someone new try out 2 or 3 distros to try to get a feel for the one that seems best for their needs. To that end, you can set up a virtual machine (on Windows if you like) with something like VirtualBox, then load a distro onto it and play around. The experiment of setting up a virtual machine, then installing Linux is good practice for the variety of tasks you want to learn.

I agree with above - Mint with Cinnamon is going to feel the most like a Mac or Windows desktop out of the box. Many years ago, when Ubuntu was still in single digit versions, I got tired of tech supporting my wife's Windows desktop and installed Ubuntu, recreating the icons on her desktop just like they were on her Windows desktop. It helped that we already used Thunderbird, Firefox , and Open Office. It was several weeks later when she commented her computer had been "less crashy" recently. She didn't even notice the OS change.

For Windows users, Linux Mint is the easiest.

For Mac users, Elementary is the easiest.

If I had no other information I would choose Elementary OS as the easiest distro.

I think the desktop is more important than the distribution. Most newbies dual-boot, so having a Windows-like desktop is way less frustrating. Comparing Windows and Gnome for example, one is upside-down and backwards and that has a negative result with muscle memory, at least for me. So a distribution with Cinnamon, Mate or Xfce would be my recommendation. Personally I'm using Mint/Cinnamon now, and I'm a 25-year Linux user.

In addition to Mint, others providing a Windows-like look & feel are Feren and Zorin. I'm sure there are others. I would hope that as beginners get more comfortable, they can begin to see the wider range of available experiences.

There are different situations involved for each person so I think just which distro might be appropriate is a conditional matter. If it's just a typical user who wants a desktop/laptop option that isn't Windows or Mac, I'd suggest Ubuntu, if only because it has such a wide user-base and highly active online support system. For a student however, especially one focusing on a future in the IT field, than Ubuntu is still a good option but Debian, Slackware, Arch, or Gentoo might be better choices as they require a slightly different skill set to challenge the user to educate themselves on not just the software (OS and applications) aspect but how that interacts directly with the hardware.

Linux Mint Cinnamon is my distro of choice.

I moved from windows about a year ago, I chose mint because it looks similar to Windows, so simple to navigate.

I've tried ubuntu but didn't get on with that, and I've smoked many others that for a novice were over complex.

Mint has been great, it takes care of itself, runs smooth as glass, never crashes, no viruses, it simply works and runs like a dream.

I run it on a great up old i3 laptop, and my new ryzen 5 gaming rig and that is truely impressive!

The love dvd is a nice sample but you won't appreciate it fully until you install it. Dusk boot it you like mint does it all for you.

Other disros are very good in their own way and we're all individually looking for what suits us.


The first version of Linux I used was Soft Landing Systems in '92. I had some experience with NCR's Unix system (Eunice), so it was very comfortable. After they folded their tent in '93, I switched to Slackware, which initially was a direct fork of SLS. I have used that almost exclusively for home systems ever since, without installing the GUI until '98 or '99. The only exception is my firewall running FreeBSD. At work we used RHEL, then CENTOS, both on hosted platforms. I never did get comfortable with their packaging tools, but they provided the level of security we needed to pass VISA's PCI audits.

I agree with Winchdoctor. For Windows users, Linux Mint is ideal. (However, depending on the circumstance, I sometimes recommend Manjaro or Linux Lite.)

For Mac users, Elementary obviously the most ideal.

That said, for an ambitious beginner who really wants to understand computing, I might suggest LFS.


Peppermint is the best lightweight, easy and user friendly OS, and good for gaming

I agree, it works flawless. It’s more of a netbook os as is, but ANY Linux can be configured to anyone’s liking. I urge people to try peppermint on a usb to see if they may be interested.

In reply to by Ru5en (not verified)

Kubuntu is the closest to Windows, attractive for the beginners and comes with everything a beginner needs.

OpenSUSE? Slackware? Is this 2003? :)
While I like Ubuntu, I like Mint more, but it has disappointed me as one of the few distros that couldn't deal with my pcie wifi card that I have on my desktop (and it is fairly new)
But Manjaro dealt with it nicely out of the box. Plus it has great support for Steam.

Zorin OS. It's designed for beginners and has lots of usability features included. It also comes with layouts resembling other operating systems.


You left mint out of the poll on purpose right? Mint is by far the best distro for new users. I'm sure you expected that!

Linux Mint or Elementary OS. I cut my teeth on Mint 4 years ago and am now more proficient in Linux then I was after 15 years of Windows. Elementary would be my number one if they changed some default settings out of the box. In fact, just based on how hard it is to break Elementary OOB and the installer make it one of the most used friendly operating systems out there. PopOS has the best installer, though... imho. Anything that uses Gnome...or KDE...as a default, though, should not be on this list. I'm a Gnome user and it's not the most intuitive to customize. And KDE has so much customization that it can be downright confusing to a beginner.

1. Elementary (I changed my mind lol)
2. Mint
3. Zorin
4. Ubuntu

Most distros are easy af imo, but mint and Ubuntu are pretty decent out of the “box”. They don’t require much, if any work, to get the WiFi and everything working(drivers). If I discover that there are still issues with stuff like that, I’ll try and make a Linux distro with numerous drivers available to select.

Seriously why are you guys going sideways when it's obvious Deepin OS. Is the best distro in 2019 for beginners moving from windows. I know people that are switching from windowsto Deepin in their work environments with any hitches. It just works

Linux mint

Manjaro Linux

Mageia XFCE.

I would recommend Linux Mint. The experience I had with Linux Mint was better than what I had with Ubuntu. That was a while ago, though, so maybe it'd be good to take a look at Ubuntu again.

There is no "best" as long as the new user to linux Don't try to install gentoo or vanilla arch..
Then honest all are fine...

Imo if your brand new to linux and not the most computer savvy...if you have nvidia card go with ubuntu or spin off...if you have a AMD card go with an arch spin off....

Now for the Inevitable person(s) that's going to cry but I have arch and nvidia works fine yes it does.. but I said "not the most computer savvy"
But go ahead and cry I need salt this morning for my eggs ?

MX Linux.

I adore MX Linux. It's versatile, simple, reliable & powerful. I've also installed it on my girlfriend's lappie here in East Africa...never ever any problems at all. I simply refuse to waste my precious time doing annoying Windows support in my spare time. All of her friends on campus are struggling with Windows 10 since it's a thieving mobile data bundle hog...always frigging updating with a mind of its own.

What Microsoft doesn't realize is that many users in Africa access the Net via Android Hotspot (tethering) which eats into airtime credits with colossal Windows updates. This is annoying a lot of users - especially "small" tech support users (including repair shops & ex-Japan/ex-UK refurbished hardware resellers) who usually try to save money by buying data bundles instead of paying a monthly fee for a fiber or cable Internet connection. So Windows is a pain in the ass for those users.

I'm hoping the MX Linux devs will one day release a tightly integrated KDE Plasma version. Yes, you can install KDE, Budgie, GNOME Base, LXDE & Mate from the package installer. But they're not as refined as their flagship Xfce setup. I truly believe that this would be a game changer because their Xfce version is solid & reliable since it is based on Debian Stable with no SystemD. However, users can easily install software via 4 different (independent) streams: Stable Repo, MX Test Repo, Debian Backports, or Flatpaks. See simple MX Package Installer in action: http://i.imgur.com/sahFbmm.png

In reply to by Sohail (not verified)

Tried all on your list. By far the easiest (and most reliable) is Linux Mint, Cinnamon edition.

Tried all on your list. By far the easiest (and most reliable) is Linux Mint, Cinnamon edition.

PCLinuxOS was always the easiest for me, and most new users feel very comfortable quickly.

But I will always be thankful for SuSE (when it was release 5.2) and a few other distros of the time for letting me get my feet wet.

I just see it as a personal preference, no more.


Deepin is best distro for beginners and most beautiful GUI in the world helps new users to stay in touch


Deepin is seriously impressive and simple on installation and use.


Deepin .... Simple and a flawless installation


everyone is -> Linux Mint Cinnamon, My choice is Linux Mint [Xfce]

As a large portion of the posts already says (with at least one wondering whether it was left out on purpose ;-) – yes, Linux Mint. Why? Because of the underlying Ubuntu/Debian basis and its large ecosystem including the arguably largest online community to get help from, and because it adds a bit to Ubuntu including an even higher level of beginner-friendliness.

It doesn't even matter that much whether you choose the Cinnamon, MATE or Xfce edition – all three come with a very similar look & feel, thanks to the Mint makers' excellent and elaborate efforts towards a consistent theming that not just looks good but actually increases usability. Especially when you routinely switch between editions, because, say, the old laptop is better served with Xfce, while the more powerful desktop PC runs Cinnamon just fine, this is going to be easier than with any other distro I so far tried.

But Linux Mint is not just very well suited for beginners, either. Being based on Ubuntu LTS and thereby also, in the end, on Debian, it not only offers their features and advantages, it also has some nice Mint-specific additions, like a built-in btrfs-based disk snapshot utility, or an easy way to switch kernel versions. I'm still far from being a Linux veteran, but I wouldn't consider myself a beginner anymore, either, and although I might add a Fedora machine some day just to get some experience with the Red Hat Linux ecosystem, too, I don't see a reason to use anything else but Mint. To sum it up, with either of its desktop environment choices and most prominently with Cinnamon it just doesn't get in my way.

SolydK, a little known (it seems) Danish based distro. It is based on Debian, so avoids the bugs introduced by Ubuntu. And unless you need a light-weight desktop for very old hardware, KDE is the only rational choice!

PCLinuxOS - Radically Simple....
SystemD FREE

Why screw around with the rest, when you can have the best.

I picked something else because I have assumed that Linux could rescue an older Windows laptop or desktop computer because I have been lead to believe that by all of the Linux hype that Linux could do such a thing. We want to be Linux users. Linux has to be more accurate with the distro machine specs information. I always see the minimum ram specs. There has to also minimum distro machine specs for KERNAL and PROCESSOR and BIOS and MOTHER BOARD CHIPSET DRIVERS.
There are so many Linux OS to older Windows machine mismatches I'm not going to try to figure out any more. I was able to quad boot Windows on a 2005 Acer Aspire 5515. I just made 4 primary partitions and installed Vista, 7, 8, and 10.
I can not get Linuxlite the next to newest and newest to install on a 1/4 partition of that same harddrive. This small Linux Distro would only be installed on the whole drive. I am going to try to upgrade that old laptops processor to a dual or quad core if I can find a compatible one. And try to upgrade the ram from 2 to 4 GB. Or I will have to use a newer machine

Take a look on it

Obviously, Linux Mint.

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