Get started quickly with the least amount of headache
Entering the Linux universe can be overwhelming. There are so many Linux distributions (distros) out there that a beginner can easily make the wrong choice. There are various distros for gaming, distros for hacking, special portable distros, and so much more. Each Linux distro is designed with a certain user experience in mind. In fact, did you know that even Chrome OS is actually a Linux-based system?
If you’re switching away from Windows or macOS for the first time, you need a user-friendly Linux distro for beginners. The most challenging aspect of Linux is the fact that it’s a new system for you. So in this article, we’re going to help you find the best Linux distro that can get you started quickly with the least amount of frustration possible.
If you’re coming from Windows, Ubuntu is the best place to start. You probably already heard about it because most Linux laptops you find in electronic stores come with Ubuntu pre-installed.
Ubuntu is pretty much the closest you can get to a Windows-like experience, with just a few exceptions. The desktop is similar, folder and file structures are almost identical, and it comes with most Windows-like applications pre-installed. For example, you get LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office and there’s even an app store similar to Microsoft’s app store.
For these reasons, Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distros out there. This also means there are frequent updates, bug fixes, and there’s a large community to help you out when needed.
2. Linux Mint
Mint, like Ubuntu, is extremely popular because it’s beginner-friendly to Windows and macOS users. In fact, Mint and Ubuntu are extremely similar and it might be difficult to tell them apart in the beginning.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, so it comes with a similar interface that will help Windows users quickly adapt to the new environment. It also comes with the same collection of Linux applications and tools as Ubuntu, so you’ll have plenty of free software to work with.
That said, Mint is a better choice for you if you have older hardware. It’s one of the most efficient Linux distros and it can run on really old systems. It needs only around 512MB of RAM to work, which is quite impressive.
So if you have an old system lying around you can use it to test Linux Mint before making your final choice.
If you’re coming from macOS, Elementary OS might be the perfect fit for you. It’s certainly one of the prettiest and cleanest-looking Linux distros out there, so it will definitely remind you of your Mac.
Elementary OS is available for a “pay what you can” fee, however, you can technically get it for free since you can choose to pay $0. That said, the developers surely deserve something for creating such a beautiful Linux distro that performs well and is fully customizable. It also comes with its own app store, so if the included native applications aren’t enough, you can download anything from AppCenter.
4. Zorin OS
Zorin OS is another Ubuntu-based Linux distro. This means it will resemble Windows closely. In fact, the developers focused on delivering a true Windows-like experience by designing Zorin’s interface after Windows 7. You can even choose to go with a Windows XP-like layout if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Zorin OS also comes with beginner-friendly documentation to help you get used to a Linux distro. It might not be as popular as Ubuntu or Mint, but its main purpose is to help Windows and macOS users during the exciting transition to Linux. Zorin is impressively easy to use for absolutely anyone.
Linux Manjaro is a beginner-friendly Linux distro that can also push you to learn more about Linux systems in general. It’s an adequate Windows replacement and it comes with plenty of software that works out of the box, including Steam. This also makes it a great option if you’re a gamer.
What’s interesting about Manjaro however, is AUR. AUR is a software repository maintained by a dedicated community. This software isn’t officially released for Manjaro, but it adds more diversity. Using AUR involves a learning curve for you as a beginner Linux user because it will push you to learn about packages and package managers, which is a good thing in the long run.
6. MX Linux
Got some old hardware that you’d love to bring back to life? MX Linux might be the best option. This Debian Linux distro is so lightweight and efficient that you can bust out your Pentium II and start using it again. It’s also very simple to learn and use thanks to its user-friendly GUI and pre-installed applications.
If you’re looking for a learning experience and a way to reuse your old hardware, give MX Linux a chance. It officially supports really old laptop models and it gives you plenty of customization options once you get used to it.
Pop!_OS is a solid beginner’s Linux distribution that you can also use for advanced tasks. In addition, it’s a great gaming distro because it was developed with Nvidia hardware in mind. Unlike most Linux distros, Pop!_OS comes with pre-installed Nvidia drivers. So if you’re looking for a plug-and-play gaming experience, this might be a better choice than the alternatives.
The only downside is that Pop!_OS is a heavy Linux distribution. You won’t be able to run it on really old machines, and that’s understandable since it’s designed with Nvidia GPUs in mind.
In addition to gaming, Pop!_OS also comes with amazing development kits. You can start developing software straight away and you can even use machine learning tools out of the box.
Adapting to Linux
Getting used to Linux can take time, but with the right Linux distro, you can quickly get the hang of it. Soon after you’ll realize how much more customizable and secure Linux systems are and you’ll start exploring more specialized distributions. In addition, you’ll get to join all the cool communities that will make the whole experience feel like joining a club. Linux isn’t as threatening as it once seemed.