10 Top Most Popular Linux Distributions of 2021

We are almost half of the year 2021, we thought it right to share with Linux enthusiasts out there the most popular distributions of the year so far. In this post, we will review the top 10 most popular Linux distributions based on the usage statistics and market share.

DistroWatch has been the most reliable source of information about open-source operating systems, with a particular focus on Linux distributions and flavors of BSD. It collects and presents a wealth of information about Linux distributions consistently to make them easier to access.

Although it is not a good indicator of a distribution’s popularity or usage, DistroWatch remains the most accepted measure of popularity within the Linux community. It uses Page Hit Ranking (PHR) statistics to measure the popularity of Linux distributions among the visitors of the website.

[ You might also like: Top 15 Best Security-Centric Linux Distributions ]

To find out what are the most widely used distros of this year, let’s head to Distrowatch and check the Page Hit Ranking (PHR for short) table. There you can choose a wide variety of time spans that will allow you to check the ranking of Linux and BSD distributions in that period of time.

A brief comparison with 2020 will also help us whether those distros are actually experiencing sustained growth or not. Ready to start? Let’s begin.

To begin, let’s take a look at the following comparative table, which lists the position of the top 10 Linux distributions from this year and from 2020:

POSITION 2021 2020
1 MX Linux MX Linux
2 Manjaro Manjaro
3 Linux Mint Linux Mint
4 Ubuntu Debian
5 Debian Pop!_OS
6 Elementary OS Debian
7 Solus Elementary OS
8 Zorin OS Solus
9 Fedora Fedora
10 Deepin Zorin

As you can see, there haven’t been many or remarkable changes during this year. Let’s now take a look at the 10 top Linux distributions with the highest ranking as per Distrowatch, in descending order, as of May 18, 2021.

10. Deepin

Deepin (formerly known as Deepin, Linux Deepin, Hiweed GNU/Linux) is a Linux desktop-oriented operating system derived from Debian, supporting laptops, desktops, and all-in-ones. It aims to provide a beautiful, easy-to-use, safe, and reliable operating system to global users.

It ships with Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE), several native applications, and open-source software preinstalled, that enable you to experience a variety of recreational activities, but also meet your daily needs. Importantly, you can find about a thousand applications in Deeping Store to meet user requirements.

Distro #10: Deepin Linux
Distro #10: Deepin Linux

9. Fedora

Built and maintained by the Fedora Project (and sponsored by Red Hat), a worldwide community of volunteers and developers, Fedora continues to be one of the top used distributions for years now due to its three main available versions (Workstation (for desktops), Server edition, and Cloud image), along with the ARM version for ARM-based (typically headless) servers.

However, perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of Fedora is that it’s always on the lead of integrating new package versions and technologies into the distribution. In addition, new releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS are based on Fedora.

Distro #9: Fedora Linux
Distro #9: Fedora Linux

8. Zorin OS

Zorin OS is one of the best and easy-to-use Linux desktop distributions currently available. It is an alternative to Windows and macOS, thus a gateway into the Linux world. What makes it popular is its powerful, clean, and polished desktop which offers the Zorin Appearance app that lets users tweak the desktop to resemble the environment they are familiar with.

Distro #8: Zorin OS
Distro #8: Zorin OS

7. Solus

Designed specifically for home and office computing, Solus is a Linux distribution built from scratch. It comes with a variety of software out of the box so you can get going without the hassle to set up your device.

Some of its more interesting features include a custom desktop environment called Budgie which is tightly integrated with the GNOME stack (and can be configured to emulate the look and feel of the GNOME 2 desktop).

It is also usable by developers as it offers a wide variety of development tools such as editors, programming languages, compilers, and version control systems, as well as containerization/ virtualization technology.

Distro #7: Solus-Linux-OS
Distro #7: Solus-Linux-OS

6. Elementary OS

Advertised by its developers as “a fast and open replacement for Windows and OS X”, this nice-looking Ubuntu LTS-based desktop Linux distribution was first made available in 2011 and is currently on its fifth stable release (codename “Hera“).

Since the elementary OS is based on Ubuntu, it is totally compatible with its repositories and packages. On a personal note, this is one of the best-looking desktop distributions I’ve ever seen.

Distro #6: Elementary OS Hera
Distro #6: Elementary OS Hera

5. Debian

As a rock-solid Linux distribution, Debian Linux is so committed to free software (so it will always remain 100% free) but it also allows users to install and use non-free software on their machines for productivity. It is used both on desktop and server computers, also to run the infrastructure that runs the clouds.

Being one of the two oldest and famous Linux distributions (the other being RedHat Enterprise Linux), it is the basis of numerous popular Linux distributions notably Ubuntu and Kali Linux.

At the time of this writing, the Debian repositories for the current stable version (codename Buster) contain 59,000 packages in total, making it one of the most complete Linux distributions.

Although its strength is mainly visible in servers, the desktop edition has seen remarkable improvements in features and appearance.

Distro #5: Debian Linux
Distro #5: Debian Linux

4. Ubuntu

Perhaps this distribution does not need any introduction. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has devoted great efforts to make it a popular and widespread distro to the point that you can now find it in smartphones, tablets, PCs, servers, and cloud VPS.

Also, Ubuntu has the plus of being based on Debian and is a very popular distribution among new users – which is maybe the reason for its sustained growth over time. Although not taken into consideration in this ranking, Ubuntu is the base for other distributions of the Canonical family such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu.

On top of all that, the installation image includes the Try Ubuntu feature, which lets you try Ubuntu before actually installing it on your hard drive. Not many major distributions provide such features nowadays.

Distro #4: Ubuntu Linux
Distro #4: Ubuntu Linux

3. Linux Mint

Linux Mint’s well-known motto (“From freedom came elegance“), is not just a saying. Based on Ubuntu, it is a stable, powerful, complete, and easy-to-use Linux distribution – and we could go on and on with a list of positive adjectives to describe Mint.

Among Mint’s most distinguishing features we can mention that during installation, you are allowed to choose from a list of desktop environments, and you can rest assured that once it’s installed, you will be able to play your music and video files without any extra configuration steps since the standard installation provides multimedia codecs out of the box.

Distro #3: Linux Mint
Distro #3: Linux Mint

2. Manjaro

Based on Arch Linux, Manjaro aims to take advantage of the power and the features that make Arch a great distribution while providing a more pleasant installation and operation experience out of the box both for new and experienced Linux users.

Manjaro comes with preinstalled desktop environments, graphical applications (including a software center), and multimedia codecs to play audio and videos.

Distro #2: Manjaro Linux
Distro #2: Manjaro Linux

1. MX Linux

MX Linux tops the list thanks to its high stability, elegant and efficient desktop, and also easy learning curve. It is a midweight desktop-oriented Linux operating system based on Debian. It comes with a simple configuration, solid performance, and a medium-sized footprint. It is built for all types of users and applications.

Additionally, it is essentially user-oriented, to assure that the system works out of the box, it comes with a certain amount of non-free software. One unique thing about MX Linux is that it ships with systemd (system and service manager) included by default but disabled because of the controversies surrounding it, instead, it uses systemd-shim which emulates most if not all systemd functions that are required to run the helpers without employing the init service.

Distro #1: MX Linux
Distro #1: MX Linux

Summary

In this article, we have briefly described the top 10 Linux distributions for the year 2021 so far. If you are a new user trying to decide which distro to adopt to start your journey, or if you are an experienced user wanting to explore new options, we hope this guide will allow you to make an informed decision.

As always, don’t hesitate to let us know What do you think about these top 10 distros? and which Linux distro would you recommend for newbies and why?

If you liked this article, then do subscribe to email alerts for Linux tutorials. If you have any questions or doubts? do ask for help in the comments section.

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70 thoughts on “10 Top Most Popular Linux Distributions of 2021”

  1. I use Linux Mint because it has the best hardware compatibility ‘out of the box’. It’s the only distro that comes with all the drivers I need for my laptop.

    Ubuntu and Debian aren’t compatible with the Wifi adapter in my laptop for example. Not a problem with Linux Mint. I’ve been using Linux for over 10 years and tried lots of other distros.

    I always come back to Linux Mint, because everything just works right the first time with no hassles.

    Reply
  2. If someone doesn´t like this POST because of POPULARITY, choose to go to another and enjoy. Why do I need to think about quality from a third party’s opinion? This post is about popularity and that’s it. I don’t use stuff because of popularity but, if I was gonna using things because of popularity that’s my stuff.

    Thanks for taking the time to publish this post. Not what I was looking for but, a nice point of view.

    Reply
  3. I have to agree something’s not right about the MX Linux listing in here. I have been using Ubuntu and Fedora since the 20-oughts, and have never heard anyone mention MX Linux anywhere. This includes BLU at MIT and the Natick MA FOSS user group. Maybe the makers of MX Linux paid for a placement?

    Reply
    • You must lead a very sheltered life. Even if you only very occasionally visit DistroWatch and/or any other Linux sites, you would find it hard to avoid discussions of MXLinux.

      As for paying for placement, somehow I don’t think that anticapitalist and his crew of merry developers have the wherewithal to influence all the reviewers on all the sites, unlike Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical. Then there are the users. Are they also being paid?

      Reply
      • Well, I think you may be right, sort of. What throws me off the track is that MX Linux is a merger of Mepis with AntiX. That part did escape my notice in my recent reading about Linux.

        As for the ratings here and at DistroWatch, there is ample reason to doubt that MX Linux is actually in use by all those who have clicked on the MX Linux home page or their downloads page, whichever metric DistroWatch was using. That much of the comment I made still stands and is reflected in several other comments in this thread.

        Though I don’t have a test machine to use for this, I think taking a closer look into how it feels to use MX Linux should be on my to-do list. And I would suggest the same for other Linux users.

        Reply
        • “MX Linux is a merger of Mepis with AntiX”

          AFAIK, antiX and MXLinux are a continuation/outgrowth of Mepis, not a merger. After Woody Woodward stopped developing Mepis, anticapitalists developed antiX using the Mepis code as his basis. He, and others, later developed MXLinux based on antiX. Yes, I know, it is only a small distinction.

          “As for the ratings here and at DistroWatch”

          Tecmint does not rate distros. As far as they are concerned, there only two – Red Hat/Fedora and Ubuntu. As far as DistroWatch goes, they do not rate distros in any way. They just count the number of page hits for each distro. They leave the determination of distro quality up to individual readers. After all, what is great in my opinion, maybe totally unusable in your opinion.

          “Though I don’t have a test machine to use for this”
          You could install distros to a USB stick and test distros by booting off the stick. :-) Tecmint has a write-up on how to do this.

          Reply
          • “AFAIK, antiX and MXLinux are a continuation/outgrowth of Mepis, not a merger.”

            I think I was trying to express something similar to this. Thank you for the clarification.

            Yes, the ratings are not from here.

            I am aware of being able to try MX Linux on a USB stick. My aim is to do more than see if it will work with my hardware. I am soon going to upgrade my SSD, so I’ll be able to work on adding an installed version to my collection of installed Linux distros. That would be a real-world test, and it looks like it would be worth the effort.

        • @Bob,

          Currently, we don’t have such a feature, but we will add it soon… I have removed the comment which violated the terms…

          Reply
          • Thank you Ravi for looking into this. I find it sad that we (all the members of this commenting community) have to resort to removing posts that are so outrageous. People should have more civilized ways to refute wrong information or ideas we oppose in a post.

  4. I noticed that in the end of tbe article there is the mistake. You wrote the year in a wrong way. Please, fix it. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Finding popularity relevant is a clear indication of emotional immaturity and of an unhealthy dependence on other people’s opinions (that are usually completely irrelevant and based on irrational assumptions).

    Reply
    • I disagree, popularity can be a meaningful gauge of the overall enjoyability of a distro (or anything for that matter). Why start searching through the 100’s of distros at random (or even by any specific criteria) if popularity filters out the most enjoyable ones through natural selection?

      Reply
      • “popularity can be a meaningful gauge of the overall enjoyability of a distro (or anything for that matter)”

        That statement reminds me of Gen. George Patton’s quote “If everybody is thinking the same, then nobody is thinking.”

        If that is your attitude then just use Windows because Linux is definitely not popular. Do you use everything based on popularity? All popularity guarantees are that many people use that thing. Popularity does not guarantee quality.

        Reply
        • A good way for personal improvement and growth is to stop yourself from time to time. Stop, analyze and think, like you’re someone else looking at yourself. Stop yourself from following impulses. “Popularity doesn’t say anything.” – wrong. Think about it.

          Popularity says A LOT. Windows is popular because Microsoft is a company that followed very aggressive business strategies at the right moment in time to fill a market gap that wasn’t even there yet and offered common people an easy way to use a PC.

          Linux is popular because there are people who are very engaged with technology. People who have the capacity to process an above-average amount of information at once and enjoy the freedom it gives them.

          This post isn’t about Windows, it’s about Linux.

          I’ve been working in IT on a professional level for 17 years now and you’re right when you say Linux isn’t popular in general.

          That’s not what this is about. This is about popular Linux distributions, i.e. what do people who are very engaged with technology and have the capacity to process an above average amount of information, who like freedom and research, enjoy about specific distributions.

          I’m interested in such a topic because of that. You might think you posted to tell people about how popularity doesn’t matter but instead, you showed them how part of your personality works. So my advice: Stop yourself from time to time and reflect. Good for personal growth.

          Reply

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