Best Simple Linux Distro [STUB ONLY]




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At some time or other, many computer users think about trying Linux as an operating system instead of Windows. Of those who try it out, probably less than 1% stay with it in the long term. One reason is that, in the past, Linux was strictly an enthusiasts' OS and made no concession to ordinary PC users. However, things are changing, and there are now Linux 'distros' (short for 'distributions', each distribution comes with versions or variations of packages built on top of the linux kernel) that cater for those who just want a work tool or home computer for the usual browsing and file management, and have no time to change their way of life to suit a new OS.

We think it's time to look at some 'basic'-style distros, Linux versions that can be used successfully by people new to Linux who don't want to get under the hood. There are also a couple of other factors that are relevant here:

- Community support is important - so the quality of forum support and advice available is a factor. Some Linux user forums are noted for their suitability for newcomers with little knowledge - and some aren't.

- A LiveCD or LiveUSB could be handy here. This is a Linux CD or USB that can be run as a trial OS before installing it, to see if you like the idea. This saves finding out too late you don't like the distro anyway. But note, you need a decent amount of RAM to do this, it won't work well (or at all) with 256MB of memory, as found on old machines.


The candidates under consideration for this review are:

Tiny Core Linux
Linux Mint
Ulimate Linux


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by Panzer on 2. December 2013 - 15:31  (112702)
by Panzer on 2. December 2013 - 15:29  (112701)

Microlinux - "... Once MLED is installed, even Joe Sixpack or his french counterpart Madame Michu can use it without even giving it a thought ...":

by steppinrazor on 15. November 2013 - 21:37  (112253)

Heya! I'll be your new editor for this article. I'm new to editing for Gizmo's but have been using this site constantly ever since I found it! :)

I'll look into any suggestions but remember its the Best SIMPLE Linux Distro not the BEST Linux Distro.

For more in depth discussion on this topic I started this forum post:

Otherwise continue to give me suggestions with little blurbs about the distro, and feedback (once I get something up), I love feedback! :)

by robert.thompson on 15. November 2013 - 14:45  (112244)

I have tried many, many distros and fround that Linux Mint to be the easiest distro to use:

- Simple, graphical installer that can automatically install Linux Mint "along side" your Windows operating system thus giving you the choice to start either when you turn on your PC. (Read: you will not trash your Windows system.)

- Great desktop that is quite similar to the Windows desktop.

- It automatically installs LibreOffice which can read & write files in the MS Office format.

- Installs many other excellent "Windows equivalent" software applications.

- Updates the whole system with on click. It tells you when you need to do an update.

- No more virus etc problems.

- According to "", Linux Mint has been the most downloaded distro for the last 2 years; try it and you will see why.

- It just works!


by steppinrazor on 15. November 2013 - 17:18  (112247)

Linux Mint is definitely on my list. I'm gonna go on a spree of burning install CDs today, and that's definitely a distro I'm going for.

by Col. Panek (not verified) on 20. June 2012 - 16:42  (95156)

I need a menu, not a search button, to find the apps I want to run. I can never remember the names of 'em. So Ubuntu Unity drives me crazy, and Mint Cinnamon works the way I want it to. But Ubuntu is more up to date and polished, I think. So I installed Cinnamon on Ubuntu 12.04, and I like it. (I might try Enlightenment again, if I can figure it all out.)

by Anonymous Viper (not verified) on 17. November 2012 - 23:31  (102491)

i like using gnome classic, mostly because of its simplicity

by MidnightCowboy on 20. June 2012 - 18:08  (95163)

At first look, Enlightenment is a bit frustrating simply because it is different. It's well worth the effort though because once you get to know it you appreciate not just the power and simplicity, but the beauty this desktop has to offer.

by stroback on 18. June 2011 - 11:12  (73955)

Pinguy OS ( pretty much settles the question:

Simple and intuitive install with all the functionality right out of the box.

by RonnieJ on 15. August 2011 - 9:49  (77675)

Thought I would try this one out and I attempted to download. But it is a huge file and when I tried........after about 5 hours, VERY slow d/l speed from the site, it failed. Over 2 Gigs

by MidnightCowboy on 15. August 2011 - 10:44  (77678)

Most distros offering a complete experience are now well over 1G. I appreciate this isn't very suitable for a slow connection, but the best option is to choose the torrent download.

by abanger on 18. May 2011 - 15:13  (72288)

May I suggest considering Peppermint as a candidate.

by George C (not verified) on 17. October 2011 - 1:46  (81564)

Tried it and like it very much. One of the few distro's that have identified my built-in Wifi in both HP notebook and desktop.... even before adding the driver..... wrote to flash drive of 4 GB and had room for all the updates. Plan to use it to check suspect computers at garage sales. Much easier to use than UBCD....

by RonnieJ on 15. August 2011 - 9:52  (77676)

I checked this one out. Downloaded fine, and burnt onto cd...........ran it from the LiveCd...............looked fine, but I never could even get it to recognize my soundcard...........deleted. I've tried several that was more impressive..

by MidnightCowboy on 15. August 2011 - 10:40  (77677)

It would be helpful for the benefit of others if you could say which distros these were and why.

Sound and network card issues are fairly frequent events across a range of distros but a post with details in the appropriate forum usually provides a fix.

by MidnightCowboy on 18. May 2011 - 16:43  (72294)

This article is actually just a "stub" and needs a dedicated editor to write the review. Fancy taking it on? (or anyone?) :)

by Col. Panek (not verified) on 13. April 2011 - 1:45  (70077)

I just got a cheap laptop and installed Bodhi Linux, based on interesting reviews and descriptions. It uses the Enlightenment desktop which is lightweight but has a lot of interesting eye candy. It's based on Ubuntu 10.04, but comes with minimal apps; you need to download the ones you prefer. Having used Puppy, Mint LXDE and XFCE, and Ubuntu, all I can say is go to their website and have a look, and if you'd like to try something different it will only cost you a CD to check out the live version. I could see Mac people getting turned on by the style. I think it will get more user-friendly as it gets into new versions (it just came out). But, I haven't found any bugs yet and my audio, wifi, and webcam all work without fooling around.

by Col. Panek (not verified) on 30. January 2012 - 20:09  (88048)

Update: I just installed Bodhi 1.3 on my son's old XP laptop (512M RAM) for my grandkids to play with. It boots fast, looks good and has everything they need , and none of what they don't. I tried Puppy on it, and that's even faster, but runs as root all the time, no lower privilege users.

by MidnightCowboy on 31. January 2012 - 4:56  (88077)

Maybe not necessary for the situation you describe, but the Bodhi "look" can be changed way outside of just switching to a new theme for anyone so inclined. Another fast distro that is truly different and elegant out of the box is Dreamlinux (just updated after quite a spell).

by Martin Baselier (not verified) on 7. October 2010 - 16:39  (59153)

Arch and Gentoo are missing on the list.

Gentoo is great if you want to fully configure your system. Since it's source based you can optimize it for your specific processor. It's definitely not a beginners distro.

Compiling is done automatically by the package manager and you can set all kinds of options, which back-ends/front-ends/libraries etc to use or not use. It also great if you want bleeding edge and are not afraid to doing some hardcore problem solving. Most stuff can be found on the Gentoo wiki and when updating it will show you if you need to do additional actions for any program. I found it too time consuming in the end though and switched to arch.

Archlinux is also an advanced distribution, partitioning is done by hand in a text interface during installation and you need to answer quite a lot of question for which you need enough technical knowledge. After completion you need to install your desktop yourself and configure everything by editing the configuration text files. It's great if you love the command line and are a control freak like me. When updating it will never overwrite your old configuration files, instead it will create a new default file with the extension .pacnew. You will need to make the changes yourself if there have been changes in the format of the settings file (like added or removed features)

Both of those are rolling releases, which means they're continually updated and there's not a new version every year/half a year/two years, with a complete system update. The benefit is that if something breaks it's only one program and it's easy to find the cause and solve it. It can be troublesome too, like if it's an update to a new kernel driver, which changes your drive names from /dev/hda to /dev/sda (this happened to someone I know a few years back), you would need a rescue stick/CD to solve that and the knowledge to do so.

Arch is binary based and has too flavours 32bit and 64bit. In addition to their repositories they have a build system for creating packages from source. They have utilities available to do this easily. They make it quite easy to extend the list of available programs. This is explained in detail on their wiki.

I originally started with Ubuntu and really liked the fact that it would create a partition for itself during installation, it resized my original windows partition for me, created a boot menu so I could choose between Windows and Linux and I only needed to answer basic questions during install, like confirming the time, choosing the time zone, preferred language and keyboard layout. 30 Minutes later I had an up to date working Linux system with every program installed I would need for normal use.

Flash is missing though and other proprietary software, like codecs to play mp3. It's easy enough to install, but Mint makes those small details just a bit easier and less troublesome.

The problem with Ubuntu for me was, that I like to configure a lot of stuff manually to set it up like I prefer, and every half yearly update this caused me problems. If you don't do a lot of tweaking those updates work quite well. I've seen so with other people. Usually all problems were solved within a couple of hours though, but it still didn't go as smoothly as I wanted it to.

I've also read some people have good experience with PCLinuxOS and Fedora. Every distribution has its own quirks, they use different patches, include different default software, default settings, etc. So were one distribution works great for someone, it may not do so for someone else, due to the hardware used.

There may be some machines were Fedora will recognise all hardware automatically and Ubuntu doesn't. It can also be the other way around.

Ubuntu has probably the largest community and it's great for newbies with technical problems. I must say I saw a lot of repeating questions on the forums there when I was an active member (and Ubuntu user). I also found that questions which were too difficult, got very few responses. This is partly due to the amount of traffic. If your problem is too hard, few people can answer it and more easily answered problems come to the top of the recent posts. Nobody (or at least almost nobody) will check 3 pages of posts, to see if there's one particularly difficult one for which he happens to have the answer. And bumping your post every 24 hours for weeks on end is also not a good solution.

The Ubuntu on line documentation, maintained by Canonical is not the best in my opinion. It's not up to date at all times and misses information. There are a lot of tutorials and how-to's available on the internet though. Since Ubuntu is mainly focused on ex-windows users, most documentation (including Cannonical's) is GUI based, which is not the best way to do so in Linux.

Commando's in a terminal are less ambiguous and there are not so many changes between versions. It usually allows you to change more option too, than you can do from the GUI front-end. The configuration files are usually quite well documented (by using comments to explain what they do).

The Arch wiki is great and it was one of the reasons I switched to Arch, since I ended up there quite a lot of times when searching for a solution. It's well maintained and quite up to date. It will also explain enough to make you understand what you're doing.

The community is smaller and more technical. Questions which can be easily answered by a simple Google search or reading their wiki will not be received positively. They won't hold your hand and tell you step by step what to do, but expect some basic system knowledge. Also responses are less quick then on the Ubuntu forums. Usually they are friendly as long as you are too.

Gentoo also has excellent documentation, very technical though and the same goes for their forums. It's especially helpful if you want to compile beta software and test it. You'll need the most technical knowledge of these 3.

Neither Gentoo, nor Arch has an official live CD, unlike Ubuntu or Mint.

I think another thing to consider when changing to Linux or try it, is the desktop environment, also referred to as DE. There are 2 major DE's, Gnome and KDE. They're the most fully featured and it's mostly a matter of taste which one to use. Following them is Xfce, a bit lighter with almost as many features. It's my personal favourite.

There are even lighter DE's. The main ones are Lxde and Enlightenment, also known as E17. E17 has been in alpha/beta stage for years, but it has a quite attractive look and there are some distributions which have used it successfully. I haven't seen it working bug-free though. You can use one of these two if you have quite old and slow hardware and little ram available. E17 is the more attractive looking, Lxde is more stable, but lacks more features.

Most distributions allow you to change you DE, but they usually have a preference and choose one them as the standard, in the case of Ubuntu this is gnome. I've noticed in reviews that the preferred desktop usually works better than the other choices. So if you like a certain DE, you're usually better off, when choosing a distribution for which this is the default.

The exception on this rule are Arch, Gentoo and Slackware, since they have no desktop installed by default. There may be more of them which I don't know off.

by steppinrazor on 15. November 2013 - 20:58  (112251)

Only problem with Gentoo is that it isn't exactly simple and it definitely isn't user friendly... I'll look at the Live DVD as I would love to actually run Gentoo for myself and I didn't know they had a Live version, but unless their is a graphical installer from the DVD then Gentoo is far from simple. Sabayon might be a different story; it's Gentoo based but claims to be a "runs out of the box" system. I've wanted to try Sabayon before but it was a little too heavy for my netbook. Now I've got an excuse to try new distros though, so I'm ready to have some fun! :D

by Panzer on 16. November 2013 - 8:04  (112260)

Gentoo LiveDVD doesn't have a graphic installer (some devs rebelled against the idea some years ago). I have a tutorial of how to easily install Gentoo through Ubuntu in just under 2,5 hours, but it is not in English (sorry).

You can try Calculate Linux ("... It is based on Gentoo, but provides a number of preconfigured features ...") or Gentoo fork ExGENT ("... exGENT Linux can be installed to hard drive in 1 - 5 min. (Depending on computer type). This means that all of you who might hesitate to perform a normal Gentoo installation - which can take up to a couple of days - now have the chance to get this great Linux system (Gentoo) installed on your computers very easy ...").

You can even install it on USB with persistance option enabled (new software stays on USB even after reboot):

by steppinrazor on 16. November 2013 - 20:38  (112272)

Cool! I'll add those to my list. I've always wanted Gentoo but could only manage to get to somewhere around compiling a kernel.

by Panzer on 11. January 2014 - 9:34  (113526)

steppinrazor, here is a list of Gentoo Install Guide videos if you decide to try one more time:

by MidnightCowboy on 15. November 2013 - 21:52  (112254)

For me, apart from being able to try out a chosen distro using a live session, there are two vital factors that determine if something is "simple" (or not).

First, many users will only have access to one machine and will not want to write off their Windows installation immediately. This means IMO that any Linux installer that does not offer a default "install xxx alongside Windows" (dual boot) is a no go for starters. To be simple, no new Linux users will want to mess around trying to sort out partitions with GParted and/or have to worry about where Grub might end up. :)

Next is support. Undoubtedly there will be questions. Ubuntu based distros would seem to offer the best resources but the sheer volume of information available can appear daunting to new users. It is important therefore that the best simple Linux distro has its own forum where new and established users can provide feedback and request support. It is important too that the nature of the support provided does not assume a preexisting advanced knowledge of Linux or provide answers such as "search the forum". Most folks tend to be human, even Linux users :D, and so it is important that their issues are addressed with humanity. Some of the forums I have encountered are at best condescending and often downright rude in their attitude towards someone who doesn't already know the answers to their own questions. MC - Site Manager.

by Panzer on 15. November 2013 - 9:52  (112242)

You can get Gentoo LiveDVD here:

by kendall.a on 8. October 2010 - 3:15  (59167)

First of all, this is a "stub". It is not a complete article yet. Second of all, please do not make such long posts. If you desire to make long posts, then feel free to come over to our forums to have some discussions.

by rhizome (not verified) on 31. July 2010 - 15:00  (55254)

The final review/ discussion should make a distinction between regular and lightweight distros especially with regard to older hardware.

As a linux newbie I had Puppy Linux LiveCD up and running within 2 hours including download and burning the cd on my 10 year old Dell pc, PIII, 512MB RAM, 10GB HD Win98.

Puppy, Slitaz and Tinycore are the only live CDs that load fast on old hardware. The advantage of PL is that it's 100mb download, can run as a live cd AND store your preferences and files on your hard drive (called a Frugal Install.) So you don't need to install the OS itself to your pc to have the benefits of an installed OS. In this config it boots to desktop in under a minute.

For sheer design and Win-like comprehensiveness I like Linux Mint 9 RC1 LXDE (lightweight version) interface and file manager best (compared to PL 5.01, Slitaz 3.0, Tinycore 3.0, Vector Light 6.0) but it isn't quick running as a live cd on older machines despite being touted for such. I have yet to install it to the hard drive it as it demands more space than I currently have available. If it runs fast installed it would be first choice.

As it stands, in descending order I liked the following Live CDs best:

Puppy Linux 5.01 (the frugal install is a brilliant idea.)
Slitaz 3.0 (Light and fun and easy to install add'l software.)
Linux Mint 9 RC1 LXDE
Tinycore 3.0 (nice and light but very sparse for newbies.)
Vector Linux Light 6.0 (no faster than Mint and not as slick.)

by Tom&jerry (not verified) on 10. July 2010 - 21:33  (54062)

This is a general post as I have had some trouble and headaches with installing Linux Distros.

First of all KEEP CLEAR OF UBUNTU. This nasty distro is probably the worst out there. It promises the earth, which is why I got my mother to install it, then falls flat on its face and caused untold problems to the degree that I spent about a month long-distance (I was in the US and she was in the UK) helping my mother getting the bloody thing working properly so that she could do very basic stuff like check emails, go on the net, writing letter, and playing DVDs. I do not expect this type of behavior from a Linux distro, but then again it is more commercial than most yet does not charge you for it.

After reading about what people have to say about Linux Mint 7 ( I found that a lot of users were also pissed off at Ubuntu, especially the later versions from 9 onwards.

These were the issues that I found with Ubuntu 9.x and 10.x:

Does not tell you how and where to update, or how to add programs (this was burnt as a live CD at a library and then taken home to install) in a way that one does not have to go onto forums to try and find the answer, or do something like delve into the CD and print a manual.

It sets a password for root without telling you what the damn password is, which is different to the user account one is booted into without being told that you have booted into a user account. There is only one person using this pc so that was real dumb of the makers of this distro (Linux Mint sets the user account as root so there is no user home folder - subsequently one password required).

The OS updates automatically without telling you that it has set that parameter. So it does not tell you how to change that parameter either.

Updates now regularly break the installation to the degree that I got MAD ENOUGH to turn ALL updates OFF (yes, I am in the UK now). I never alloow anything to be updated, unless I am installing a new piece of software that requires new libraries (Why the hell can't the old ones be used?).

With ALL updates turned off there is now an annoying red triangle in the top panel bar near to the right that just sits there letting you know that your system is out of date. Talk about getting me well and truly angry ..... In Windows that NEVER happened as I was able to control how Windows notified you of whether the system was up to date or not.

Ubuntu is a truly nasty piece of junk. And it is all down to the people that code it. Why? Because Linux Mint is built on Ubuntu yet Mint runs better than Ubuntu ever did if what I have read on the forum is to be believed. Yet even these guys are seriously thinking of junking the Ubuntu base and going over to a purely Debian based flavor of Mint, because these guys are finding that the lax and lazy people at Ubuntu who are causing the problems that Ubuntu users experience is now trickling up to Linux Mint itself. Users have said that Linux Mint 7 is the best version and after that issues started cropping up here and there.

And believe me, I am not at all surprised.

For those wanting to ditch Windows, like I have wanted to do since 1999 when I first tried installing Linux - 4 distros by the way - I have found it quite frustrating to see that there is still a ways to go before I will switch myself. Linux Mint 7 is very tempting. But I may wait until they go over to a more stable base (Debian).

Anyway, that is my 2 cents worth.

Try Linux by all means but stay away from one nasty sucker - Ubuntu.

by Neb (not verified) on 11. October 2011 - 18:44  (81248)

I am sorry but I have to tell you that you don't know what you are talking about. You are simply having some problems that have nothing to do with Ubuntu and everything to do with your attitude and lack of knowledge. You also say that you would wait till Mint gets a more stable base (Debian) - if you had problem with Ubuntu I would suggest that you don't even think about Debian and Debian base...

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