In this post, we will finally offer you some assistance in choosing a Linux distro. As you have learned from the previous chapters, the choice matters. A secure OS is the basis for implementing privacy measures, but you should also feel comfortable working with it.
There are hundreds of distros and that does not make it easy for beginners. Therefore, we will only name a few distros that are popular, have a lot of software available and are able to replace your Windows or macOS system.
Before we get to the recommendations, let us clear up a common misconception about Linux in general. Many people think that there is not much malware available for Linux and therefore, you do not need antivirus software. That is not true.
Most servers of big companies run Linux, so there is plenty of malicious software that is designed to attack Linux specifically. Attackers have much more to gain from attacking company servers than Windows personal computers, so they write Linux malware. There are 3 ways Linux deals with attacks:
After clearing that up, we will now help you decide what Linux distro you should install. A we have described in the last 5 posts, there are so many options that it is hard to choose. We will therefore give you some recommendations and name the distros we think are great. Those are not only good for beginners. A good distro should be easy to understand, but also offer many customisation options for more advanced users. Therefore, choosing a Linux distro is not easy!
Our recommendation is to start with Ubuntu or at least an Ubuntu derivative. Ubuntu is maintained and updated by the company Canonical and their 600 employees. That means it will not be discontinued anytime soon. Ubuntu additionally has great community support.
When choosing a Linux distro, you should focus on the big and established distributions. They will be maintained more reliably and have development teams that are large enough to fix issues in time. The installer of Ubuntu and its derivatives is also quite easy and that is a big advantage, because you could destroy your current OS and lose all data when an installation goes wrong. That will not happen with Ubuntu.
We actually only recommend Ubuntu and no other distros, because of the available software. In our opinion, there are much better alternatives than Ubuntu itself that use the same code base and software repositories. We think that the standard Ubuntu has made some questionable design choices in the past, but its wide use means wide support by software developers.
If you do not like the GNOME Shell desktop that is standard in Ubuntu, go for KDE neon or Zorin OS on modern PCs. Zorin OS is more stable than KDE neon and uses a heavily modified GNOME Shell, KDE neon uses the KDE desktop and always has the latest KDE features. Another option is the community favourite Linux Mint, which has a classic desktop and is very well designed by its community of developers. On older PCs, we strongly recommend Xubuntu. It has all the features you need, without being too resource-heavy. If your PC is really old (>10 years), you probably want to go for Lubuntu, which has less features than Xubuntu, but supreme performance.
If you want us to name just one ideal alternative to Ubuntu itself, that would be Zorin OS. We do not base this decision on looks, even though Zorin looks like an improved Windows 7. The biggest advantage of Zorin OS over most other Ubuntu derivatives is the large collection of pre-installed software and the smart modifications the developers made to GNOME. Besides that, the visual and technical customisation options will satisfy both beginners, as well as experienced users. You can use Zorin OS without ever using the command-line. Everything can be done with a GUI, so beginners will not cause hard-to-fix issues if they type in the wrong command. Personally, we really like Linux commands, since we have been using Linux for years, but newcomers could find it difficult due to the sometimes confusing names of commands. Personally, we at InvisibleUser use Zorin OS on all of our modern machines and Xubuntu/Lubuntu on or older laptops and PCs. In our opinion, you need a PC you can rely on and work with, so go for a rock-solid distro, not a short-term trend like elementaryOS.
Should you decide to make the switch to Linux, try them out with a live OS flash drive before installing a new OS. All Ubuntu flavours and most derivatives offer this option. A live-OS is better for testing than running them in a virtual machine, because it is less buggy and closer to the actual new OS in performance. That is much more helpful for choosing a Linux distro.
Should you still want to use a virtual machine, for example if you do not have an empty flash drive at hand, there are some things to look out for. Please set it up the right way in the virtualisation suite VirtualBox. That means that you have to set up the following configuration:
You can experiment with another distro later if you want, but for new users, Ubuntu is the way to go. The Ubuntu family is very diverse, so choose any of those distros, except for elementaryOS, of course! A big distro that gets regular updates is preferable.
There is an Ubuntu family tree on Wikimedia. It includes all distros and will help you understand how they are related.
Make sure that you download the Ubuntu Desktop Edition, there are also Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu IoT (internet of things) and Ubuntu Cloud. They are not for personal computers. Regular versions of Ubuntu are released every 6 months in April and October. Every 2 years, a new long-term support (LTS) version is released. Those are much more thoroughly tested, very stable and get support and patches for 5 years. It is your choice if you go for the most recent version with the newest features or the LTS version that never crashes. We advise you to use the latter.
We hope that we could make choosing a Linux distro a bit easier for you.