Linux refers to the family of operating systems based on the Linux kernel and each operating system is packaged as a distribution, or distro, of Linux. A Linux distribution is made from a software collection including the Linux kernel, GNU tools, and default software.

There are a large number of Linux distributions. Here is a short list of some of the most popular distributions:

  • Debian is one of the oldest distributions of Linux, first developed in 1993. It is a stable Linux operating system, and software updates are frequent but small.

  • Ubuntu is the most popular distribution of Linux and is based on Debian Linux. It’s widely used and supported and looks most like other operating systems like OSX and Windows in terms of usability.

  • Linux Mint is a distribution that is based off of Ubuntu that comes with less pre-installed software than Ubuntu.

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux , also known as RHEL, is a distribution of Linux developed by Red Hat. It has strict rules around its trademark which prevent free distribution, but it is mostly used in enterprise environments on servers.

  • Fedora is an open-source community-driven distribution of Linux that is backed by Red Hat. Think of it as the Ubuntu equivalent to Red Hat.

  • Arch is a rolling release distribution of Linux that is 100% developed by its community. It has a steeper learning curve than other distributions but it is a great lightweight distribution of Linux.

This is just a small selection of the distributions out there. There are forks and derivations of these distributions as well! We recommend starting with a free beginner-friendly distribution like Ubuntu, but feel free to do some research to see what works best for you.


View the diagram of the Linux distribution history, then press “next” to continue.

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