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On numerous forum websites, I see many people ask "I have X computer system. Which distro should I use?". These many questions inspired me to write an article that will hopefully answer at least 90% of future questions of that nature.
Debian: Debian Linux will be well-suited for those who need stability (http://www.debian.org/distrib/). Debian Linux uses older software that is known to be stable. Generally, hospitals that use Linux will use Debian on important systems. Debian is usually a wise choice for a server system because the software is usually stable. The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 512MB memory, 5GB hard-drive.
Ubuntu: For those that like Debian, but want the latest software and an interface with better graphics, Ubuntu is a common choice (http://www.ubuntu.com/download). Ubuntu is stable, but many Linux users recommend Debian for critical systems. The average mainstream desktop/laptop user will probably want Ubuntu. The recommended system requirements are 800MB memory, 1GHz processor, and 5GB hard-drive.
Kubuntu: Same as Ubuntu, but uses KDE (http://www.kubuntu.org/getkubuntu). Users that dislike Unity may prefer Kubuntu. The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 10GB hard-drive, and more than 1GB memory.
Xubuntu: Xubuntu is a lightweight Ubuntu system for older hardware or hardware with less resources (http://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/). Xubuntu uses the XFCE interface instead of Unity. The recommended system requirements are 512MB memory and 5GB hard-drive.
Linux Mint: For people that want a Debian-based system, but dislike Unity may be interested in Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php). Linux Mint may come with the MATE, Cinnamon, XFCE, or KDE interface (user's choice). The recommended system requirements are 1GHz processor, 1GB memory, and 10GB hard-drive.
BackTrack (Kali): BackTrack is a Ubuntu-based high-security system while Kali (http://www.kali.org/downloads/) is newer and Debian-based. BackTrack (now called Kali) is often used for hacking into other systems. Although, that is illegal unless you are hacking into a computer of your because you forgot the password. BackTrack/Kali is also used to evaluate security. Some companies may use BackTrack/Kali to find security flaws in their own system.
Slackware: Slackware is a simple lightweight system. Usually, Slackware is preferred among advanced users due to Slackware being less of a user-friendly system compared to other distros. The recommended system requirements are i486 processor, 256MB memory, and 5GB hard-drive.
Arch: Arch Linux is a minimalistic system that is supposedly very simple (https://www.archlinux.org/download/). It is also a lightweight system that is used among advanced Linux users.
Fedora: Some Linux users may say Fedora (http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora) is the RedHat counterpart of Ubuntu (Debian system). Fedora is perfect for many mainstream desktop/laptop users. Fedora handles graphics well and uses appealing interfaces. The recommended system requirements are 1GB memory and 10GB hard-drive.
Red Hat Linux: RedHat is usually used as a server system. Fedora is the client/desktop system while RedHat is the server "version". So, if you would like to use Fedora as a server or need a system that is more stable than Fedora, then use RedHat.
Puppy Linux: This is a very lightweight system that is usually used on older systems due to the light requirements (http://puppylinux.org/main/Download%20Latest%20Release.htm). Puppy Linux may not have the best-looking interface, but it is still easy to use. The recommended system requirements are 333MHz processor, 64MB memory, 512MB swap, and 1GB hard-drive.
Damn Small Linux (DSL): This is a lightweight Linux system that requires 8MB of memory and at least an i486 processor (http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/download.html).
CentOS: CentOS is often comparable to Linux Mint, but CentOS is Red-Hat-based instead of Debian-based (http://www.centos.org/modules/tinycontent/index.php?id=30). People who like Linux Mint, but want a Red-Hat system may be interested in CentOS. The recommended system requirements are 256MB memory and 256MB hard-drive.
For all of the mentioned systems, at least one forum site exists for any given system. However, most Linux systems have many forum sites, so help is abundant. I mention this because some people want to select a system based on the available help. Well, that should not be a factor because there are many sites where you can get help.
As for software support (not for the system itself), applications of every kind exist for each distro. So, on any given distro, you should be able to find an office suite or what ever application you desire.
All of the mentioned distros in this article are being actively developed, so that should also not be a factor in your decision.
Generally, for old laptops, use Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, or Slackware. If your hardware is new and you want the "best" distro for your general needs, choose Ubuntu, CentOS, Linux Mint, or Fedora depending on which one you like the best.
If you are choosing a system based on your knowledge level of Linux, then use Ubuntu, CentOS, or Linux Mint if you are a beginner/newbie. If you are experienced in Linux and want to further your knowledge, then choose Slackware or Arch. If you are a Linux wizard, then I have no clue why you are reading this.
If your concern is reliability and stability, then choose Debian or RedHat Linux. If you like the latest software, then get Rawhide Fedora which is a rolling-release version. If you prefer Debian Linux, then get Ubuntu and enable backports and proposed updates. Arch Linux is on a rolling-release developmental cycle.
NOTE: Stability is a relative term that cannot be measured or accurately defined. I refer to Debian as being more stable because the majority of the Linux community agrees with that. However, many people debate about the most "stable distro". I did not include any of my personal opinions in this article (or at least I tried not to). I included some of the most common and well known distros and the most commonly recommended distros on randomly selected forum posts on many forum sites. There was no bias in the selection process.
- About the Distros - http://dcjtech.info/topic/about-the-distros/
- Which Linux Server Distro is Right for Me? - http://dcjtech.info/topic/which-linux-server-distro-is-right-for-me/
- Which Firewall Distro is Right for Me? - http://dcjtech.info/topic/which-firewall-distro-is-right-for-me/
- Which Embedded Linux Distro is Right for Me? - http://dcjtech.info/topic/which-embedded-linux-distro-is-right-for-me/
- Which Distro is Right for Old Computers - http://dcjtech.info/topic/which-distro-is-right-for-old-computers/
- Linux vs All Operating Systems - http://dcjtech.info/topic/linux-vs-all-operating-systems/
- Linux Distro Download Links - http://dcjtech.info/topic/linux-distro-download-links/
- Linux Distros Reading Guide - http://dcjtech.info/topic/linux-distros/