What's your favorite Linux distribution?

Take our 7th annual poll to let us know your preference in Linux distribution.
152 readers like this
152 readers like this
Why the operating system matters even more in 2017

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What's your favorite Linux distribution? Take our 7th annual poll. Some have come and gone, but there are hundreds of Linux distributions alive and well today. The combination of distribution, package manager, and desktop creates an endless amount of customized environments for Linux users.

We asked the community of writers what their favorite is and why. While there were some commonalities (Fedora and Ubuntu were popular choices for a variety of reasons), we heard a few surprises as well. Here are a few of their responses:

"I use the Fedora distro! I love the community of people who work together to make an awesome operating system that showcases the greatest innovations in the free and open source software world." — Matthew Miller

"I use Arch at home. As a gamer, I want easy access to the latest Wine versions and GFX drivers, as well as large amounts of control over my OS. Give me a rolling-release distro with every package at bleeding-edge." —Aimi Hobson

"NixOS, with nothing coming close in the hobbyist niche." —Alexander Sosedkin

"I have used every Fedora version as my primary work OS. Meaning, I started with the first one. Early on, I asked myself if there would ever come a time when I couldn't remember which number I was on. That time has arrived. What year is it, anyway?" —Hugh Brock

"I usually have Ubuntu, CentOS, and Fedora boxes running around the house and the office. We depend on all of these distributions for various things. Fedora for speed and getting the latest versions of applications and libraries. Ubuntu for those that need easy of use with a large community of support. CentOS when we need a rock-solid server platform that just runs." —Steve Morris

"My favorite? For the community, and how packages are built for the distribution (from source, not binaries), I choose Fedora. For pure breadth of packages available and elegance in how packages are defined and developed, I choose Debian. For documentation, I choose Arch. For newbies that ask, I used to recommend Ubuntu but now recommend Fedora." —Al Stone


We've been asking the community this question since 2014. With the exception of PCLinuxOS taking the lead in 2015, Ubuntu tends to be the fan-favorite from year to year. Other popular contenders have been Fedora, Debian, Mint, and Arch. Which distribution stands out to you in the new decade? If we didn't include your favorite in the list of choices, tell us about it in the comments. 

Here's a look at your favorite Linux distributions throughout the last seven years. You can find this in our latest yearbook, Best of a decade on Opensource.com. To download the whole eBook, click here!

Poll results for favorite Linux distribution through the years

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48 Comments

FreeBSD is not a linux distro.

It's like a running joke. Every year, the poll is throwing in those things. This year you finally dropped the "desktop" moniker, so I thought at least we won't have to point out that CentOS is not a desktop oriented distro, but you kept FreeBSD.

Does anyone in your site knows what is the difference between Linux and BSD? Does anyone care? Do you people even aware what is the impression these polls leave? Why is this being done year after year? Is it really that hard reading through the options before hitting post? Why are you doing this? I would really like to get an answer.

Sometimes brevity comes at the expense of accuracy. We didn't want to exclude BSD as an option, but a simple poll title performs better than a lengthy and complex one.

An aside about CentOS not being intended as a desktop distribution: it depends on who you ask.

In reply to by Erez Schatz

I ask your boss, RedHat, if they intend RHEL as a desktop OS. After all, CentOS is a RHEL derivative.
A "Desktop Linux" is a distro that aims for the desktop, which means a lot of emphasis on things that you don't need in a server oriented distro, like RHEL or CentOS. You can run any linux on your desktop, but it doesn't mean the distro is committed to a desktop experience. You can run an ElementaryOS server as well.

As for the main issue, you could just say "open source OS distribution" if you were so worried about brevity and if you really wanted to put in FreeBSD. As it stands, it sends the wrong message that, again, either you don't know the difference, or you don't care. I'll let you select which of the two is worse.

In reply to by Seth Kenlon

The recurring distributions aren't aligned vertically or have consistent colorization year after year. How can you expect the scope of operating systems to be maintained? Just be glad that there aren't 20 versions of Windows represented, or even WSL.

In reply to by Erez Schatz

While technically a fork of Debian, Devuan is now definitely a distro in its own right. As one of the few that haven't succumbed to the infestation of systemd, it's been my go-to distro since Debian released Buster.

KDE Neon

Solus should be a choice.
It is definitly the best Desktop distro I happened to discover in my years of distro hopping.

No puppylinux? Shame...

I wasn't sure puppy was still alive ... looks like they have a recent release. I'll have to try it out again ...

In reply to by GC (not verified)

I have about a dozen different favorite Linux distributions for different use cases, platforms, or situations. I also have some favorite non-linux operating systems, but including non-linux distributions here is a serious fail. Perhaps you should have titled the poll differently, and discussed the objective to better effect.

Missing Gentoo seems insane, especially since there are several distros that most Linux users will never have heard of, and FreeBSD, included in the list.

No Gentoo :-(

I'm a Slackware user, and it has been my distro of choice for more than twenty years.

Wow, still no love for Slackware.

Yeah... Came to say "freebsd is not Linux." Too late. If *BSD is included, my vote is for OpenBSD. I dislike FreeBSD. Don't know why, it just rubs me the wrong way every time I try it. For strictly Linux, I've been moving to ubuntu-mate, although I still run some straight Debian and Arch systems.

The best is Sparky. End of.

I like www.ttoslinux.org the best. It's very rare to see a KDE based Debian distro these days and this one automatically transformed my Intel / NVIDIA desktop into a gaming beast!

Used a few distributions like Ubuntu, Mint, Zorin, Elementary but nothing comes close to PEACH ? which is not even mentioned on your article can be installed on just about any machine or take out your hd and install to another machine boom ? off it goes back to life again WOW!

I tried accessing the site while on a VPN. The various IPs were banned. Tried TOR, also banned. Peach does not like visitors. No wonder I've never heard of it...

In reply to by Ali (not verified)

Linux lite is my absolute favourite. Yes its aimed at newbs and Windows converts but it's all round great, right out of the box. Very little to do as far as tweaking goes. I install it, update it and run it. Simple. Perhaps a wallpaper change and maybe make the panel a bit thinner but that's about it.

Slackware?

Was looking for Gentoo, figured if I tried the last entry I might be able to key it in, pity.

ArchLabs all the way for me

I have to vote FreeBSD because it's the UNIX-like that I use but it's not Linux, it's superior for my use case and uses ZFS which makes it better for my needs.

As far as Linux distribution goes it'd be Fedora but it's been years since I switched to FreeBSD right around when dnf was replacing yum (though I mostly used dnf during it's testing phase) and with the speed that Fedora moves at it's likely unrecognizable to me at this point.

I think you better split up Ubuntu in the sub distro's.

Where's Intel's Clear Linux? You do know that it has lead performance for the last few years right?

I still think Bunsen Labs/Crunchbang deserve a mighty honourable mention

There are a few newer, up and coming distros that I'm surprised didn't end up in the poll, despite their popularity, Feren OS, Endeavour OS and Solus among them. Personally, I use Feren, because it's a happy balance between the stability of an Ubuntu/Debian base, while being a rolling release, so you always have the most up to date packages, and you don't have to keep doing in-place OS upgrades with reformattting overwriting the files on your partitions, without having to resort to something like Debian Sid or Arch, which in my experience break too much. I can't tell you how many times have had Manjaro or a system built from an Arch installer script just die and be irreparable, or how many times I've had even the more stable and pedestrian MX Linux just update and bork, and the process to fix it isn't worth it if I don't have anything overly critical on the machine, so I just don't, and either re-install or distro hop. I've been a fan of Feren OS for a bit, now, and I'm pretty happy with it, overall.

Exe GNU/Linux. It's TDE in front, Devuan underneath, and minimum hassle (for me) throughout. I don't want a comic book for a desktop, I want to get some work done.

Slackware, of course :)

I'm running -current with Plasma5 on top, thanks to the wonderful packaging work of Eric "AlienBOB" Hameleers.

I can't believe you didn't include boss linux

I use Ubuntu to be as productive as possible, many pre build packages, most issue you encounter have been solved already when searching for it online. Only drawback is dumbed down gnome. Even though you can install kbuntu etc

After Linux Mint dropped KDE, I tried several Ubuntu (kubuntu?) based distros, but they were always buggy, like Ubuntu itself. I finally settled on SolydK, a Debian based distro with KDE that is rock solid and just works. It also pre-installs most of the software that I use.

I can't believe you didn't include _Slackware_ as a choice.

Solus guys. SOLUS!

I'm now running Fedora 31 Workstation officially, I switched from another distro. I must say, I'm very impressed with how well it runs!

Kubuntu, everything just works for me. It should be default ubuntu DE. KDE rocks theese days, people need to check it out

:) I've been TeamUBPorts for a few years now.

It seems to me that Linux on Arm architecture and for touch screens is the now and the immediate future of personal computing.

For servers... idk atm... But servers are going to be more for the masses in the near future too.

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma, simply the best.

Nothng really comes even close to NixOS.

Besides having both stable and unstable branches, being able to use packages from both at the same time, and being able to pretty much package anything I want, from anywhere, without much effort, you also have one place to configure your entire OS, exactly as you want it.

And if something doesn't work, you can just roll back to a previous working build. Or just reinstall everything in a few minutes, exactly the way it was before.

Oh, did i mention everything is built from source? BUT there is a binary cache, so everything is fast AND you can patch and modify whatever you need.

Also, packages (of which the vast majority are pure) and their dependencies are a merkle tree, so you can reproduce any build you want.

Why wouldn't you use NixOS?

I've been using Windows almost all the time lately, but I've tried many distributions and for me the best one is Elementary OS

Devuan on Linux (lean & mean)

I use MX Linux because it's based on Debian and they have a set of tools like no other, one in particular that gives an unbelievably easy and very easy way to customise the system and build it into a snapshot ISO with only a few mouse clicks. This gives me the freedom to strip out anything I don't want, add anything I like, and create a personal snapshot ISO. It's possible to customise the live-usb and remaster it so the next time it boots, it's running the updated configuration. It's even possible to change the kernel while running live, it supports live persistence and frugal installation, so it's nothing short of amazing! For Dual-booting with Windows without messing with the drive, all that is needed is a small ext4 partition, a frugal install with persistence (optional) and viola, it's all done. MX Linux makes all of this drop dead easy, plus it's fast, really fast and all these features are available with the snapshot remasters you make. Furthermore, the support forums are like few I have ever seen. It's truly incredible !

Big fan of MX Linux. I discovered the distro when I was trying to resurrect a 13 year-old dual-core laptop. It was amazing on older hardware. Finally gifted the laptop. As a result of MX Linux, I came across impressed with debian in general.

Find it odd that when I see lists of "lightweight" distros, MX Linux (along with AntiX) are rarely mentioned. These two should be leading the pack.

In reply to by Meet the Pavs

Peppermint 10 is my favorite.

Fedora Workstation is my choice because this OS is fast, it works in the Red Hat ecosystem. If we spear about servers CentOS is my choice. My relatives use different distros. MX Linux, Debian, Ubuntu. Last 10-12 years I used Ubuntu (and other versions Xubuntu, Lubuntu), Debian, OpenSUSE, MX Linux, Manjaro. All of them different. If we speak about Debian-core systems - for me Debian is the best choice (server and workstation).

I can't believe you didn't include NixOS as a choice :D

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