10 Most Used Linux Distributions of All Time

In this article, we will review the 10 most used Linux distributions based on the huge availability of software, ease of installation and use, and community support on web forums.

That said, here’s the list of the top 10 distributions of all time, in descending order.

10. Arch Linux

Arch Linux stands out in the Linux ecosystem because it is not based on any other distribution and yet it is well-known and extensively used by the community.

Traditionally, Arch is not recommended for new users mostly because the installation process is a bit complicated in that it will require a great deal of intervention on the user’s part.

This requires a certain degree of knowledge about partitions, LVM, and Linux in general in order to have a successful installation. The good news is that this is precisely what gives the user the freedom of customizing the system to his or her taste.

Arch Linux
Arch Linux

[ You might also like: 6 Best Arch Linux Based User-Friendly Distributions ]

9. CentOS

CentOS (Community ENTerprise Operating System) is best known for servers. Its desktop version is not as popular but continues to improve its visual appearance year after year.

Although it is best known and most used as a distribution for Linux servers, its desktop version continues to improve. In addition, its robustness, stability, and 100% binary compatibility with RHEL make CentOS the number one alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux on cloud VPS vendors.

This is perhaps one of the main reasons for the sustained growth of this distribution. This is my personal choice for servers if you ask me.

CentOS Linux
CentOS Linux

8. Elementary

Another Linux distribution aimed at Microsoft and Apple users, Elementary (or more appropriately Elementary OS), is also based on Ubuntu.

It was first made available in 2011 and is currently on its fifth stable release (codename “Hera“, which was released last year) is based on Ubuntu 18.04.

On a personal note, this is one of the best-looking desktop distribution I’ve ever seen. Elementary’s well-polished visual appearance is certainly one of its distinguishing features.

Elementary Linux
Elementary Linux

7. Zorin

After not making it to the list of Top Linux distributions, we can say that Zorin rose from the ashes this year.

This Ubuntu-based distribution was born and is currently maintained in Ireland. In order to appeal to Windows users, it has a Windows-like GUI and many programs similar to those found in Windows.

The main goal of this distribution is to provide a free operating system similar to Windows while allowing Windows users to enjoy Linux without issues. Zorin 16 was released this year.

ZorinOS
ZorinOS

6. Fedora

Fedora is built and maintained by the Fedora Project (and sponsored by Red Hat, Inc.).

The most distinguishing characteristic of Fedora is that it’s always in the lead of integrating new package versions and technologies into the distribution.

In other words, if you want the latest and greatest FOSS software, Fedora is one of the first places where you should look.

Fedora Gnome Desktop
Fedora Gnome Desktop

5. Manjaro

Manjaro, an Arch Linux-based distribution experienced remarkable growth during 2016. Without a doubt, by leveraging Arch Linux’s robustness and its features, the maintainers of Manjaro have been able to consistently ensure a pleasant experience both for new and experienced Linux users.

If you don’t remember anything else about Manjaro, keep in mind that it comes with preinstalled desktop environments, graphical applications (including a software center), and multimedia codecs to play audio and videos.

In 2020, 4 versions of major updates were released: 19.0, 20.0, 20.1, and 20.2. Last, but not least, do yourself a favor: give Manjaro a try.

Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux

4. openSUSE

Along with Ubuntu, OpenSUSE is one of the cost-free alternatives to the enterprise king (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). On top of that, OpenSUSE is (as per its developers) the operating system of choice for both new users and geeks alike (you may agree or not, but that’s what they say).

On top of all that, the renowned and award-winning SUSE Linux Enterprise products are based on OpenSUSE. A new version of openSUSE Leap 15.2 was released last year.

OpenSuse Linux
OpenSuse Linux

3. Ubuntu

For those individuals and companies who require professional support from a distribution creator, Ubuntu stands out. Although professional help is available under a support contract, Ubuntu has a large user base and the community support is outstanding as well.

In addition, Ubuntu is available both in desktop and server editions and is based on Debian, it is also a rock-solid operating system. The Long-Term Support (LTS) editions have guaranteed support for 5 years after their release date.

In addition, you’ll see on this list that several desktop distributions are based on Ubuntu – and that is another reason for its popularity.

Ubuntu Linux
Ubuntu Linux

2. Debian

With more than 27 years in the Linux ecosystem, Debian stands out for its robustness, stability, and well-oiled release cycle. In addition, it is the distribution with the largest number of available packages and one of the top choices for servers.

The current stable release (version 10.9, codename Buster) will be replaced by Debian 11 (codename Bullseye) around mid-2021. There are no signs of Debian reverting back to the old SysVinit as the default system and process manager.

Debian Linux
Debian Linux

1. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a stable, robust, and elegant Ubuntu-based distribution. One of the reasons behind its popularity is the fact that up until version 20.x it included out of the box a lot of useful software (such as multimedia codecs).

However, this ended with version 18, leaving it up to the users to install those packages after the operating system is up and running. To make it clear – it’s not that Linux Mint has discontinued support for multimedia codecs and other software it shipped with up until not too long ago.

The reason behind this decision is simple: shipping codecs did not significantly improve the distribution and it meant a great deal of work on the developers’ side.

It is precise because of this that Linux Mint often is the preferred distribution of both new and experienced users – a complete operating system ready for use after installation.

Linux Mint
Linux Mint
Summary

In this article, we have shared a brief description of the top 10 Linux distributions of all time. Whether you are new to Linux and trying to decide which distro you’ll use to start your journey, or are a well-seasoned user wanting to explore new options, we hope this guide will allow you to make an informed decision.

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46 thoughts on “10 Most Used Linux Distributions of All Time”

  1. Mint, Ubuntu, Zorin, and Elementary are all Debian at their core. I use Ubuntu Mate, but would still say Debian is the best of all time because of that fact. That is different from what is best for new users.

    Reply
  2. Linux Mint (which I use) comes out at #1 – and the company producing the article is called Tecmint. Interesting.

    Reply
  3. I don’t have the numbers at hand but you didn’t post metrics either so it’s hard to say if any of the “missing” distros truly hold a place in this list. That said, I’m thinking since over 30 million Raspberry Pi computers have been sold as of 2020, at least 90% of them are running Raspbian/Raspberry Pi OS, that it probably deserves a place in the list.

    Reply
  4. Metric for Desktop Distro usage are always subject to a bit of error and guesswork. Would be interested as to how these figures were obtained. Looking at google searches/trends, or Reddit categories, you will find more Linux users use Ubuntu than any of the others you have mentioned, and there is greater support available for Ubuntu.

    Reply
  5. I’m a total newbie in the Linux world and I just bought a cheap notebook to run some distros.

    I tried Elementary (graphically pleasant but not very complete nor totally user friendly) and I’m now running POP OS. I find this distro absolutely amazing, easy to use, extremely complete, and customizable. I’m surprised it is not on the list :)

    Reply
  6. I have tried Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Kubuntu, Zorin and finally stopped at Mint. Now Mint runs on all my home PCs. Why? It’s user friendly, stable, has good support and good Ukrainian localisation, has all software which I need right off the box.

    Reply
    • @Wadym,

      No doubt, Mint beats all other Ubuntu variants, Mint is one of the best stable and fast OS, I am using it since last 6 years, without any issues..

      Reply
    • Most users stand for a certain distro such as Mint, Manjaro, etc., as they were defending a sports team.

      Most gnu/Linux desktop distros are stable, good looking, it is more a question of personal preference. What sometimes is not as stable as it should, is the software that runs within the distro and on the top of it.

      Reply
    • @Wadym,

      I am an Ubuntu user, but I agree that Mint is more user-friendly, especially for the novice and those coming from the Windows world. Ubuntu suits my needs better because I am a developer, and Ubuntu is more productive for development purposes. Mint changes version every six months, while Ubuntu LTS every two years, which is very important to me.

      Reply
  7. I see Linux Mint taking up the first position in many top distro list. Is it so good? And Arch Linux not suitable for beginners?

    Reply
    • @Jason,

      Arch is not suitable for beginners. And yes, Linux Mint (Cinnamon) is one of the best, if not the best, distribution for beginners. When you get more proficient, you can step up to Ubuntu or, why not, stay with Linux Mint.

      Reply
  8. You should have mentioned Kubuntu in a passing reference, at least (as it always happens, someone often disagrees with the list).

    Reply
    • I am currently a KUbuntu 20.04 LTS user on all my machines (except the RPIs which run PI OS). I too found Mint (as it is an LTS) and liked it, but when I moved to the first AMD Ryzen processors back when the support wasn’t there in Mint, so moved to Kubuntu and just stuck with it.

      I’ve found it very nice and stable for what I do. Note before Mint, I was a long-time Red Hat and Fedora user but wanted an LTS — hence first move to Mint. Windows free for years now.

      Reply

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