New to Linux? Start HERE!

I’d like to create a mega-thread that is very high-level for anyone new to Linux to understand and get a recommendation for a distro. There are many threads asking for recommendations and my hope is that this post will be stickied and can be referenced to answer those questions! Ideally I will avoid the below situation.

A quick refresher for those wanting to know about Linux and the Framework laptop support

Links to Official Framework Support Docs

Framework | Linux on the Framework Laptop
Getting started with Linux - Framework Guides
Officially Supported vs Compatible Community Supported Linux Distributions

So! Onto the recommendations! I created a (hopefully) nice flow chart below that presents some binary choices for new Linux peeps to look at decide on which distro to try first! Remember guys, distro-hopping is totally acceptable and even encouraged! Try anything and everything until you find something that clicks with you! This is the way.

Below will be a more in-depth look at each distro, feel free to ignore or check them all out with links to various guides and threads dedicated to each one! Let me know if I missed something or edit this post yourself if you find useful links! Links to forum posts and install guides may eventually get out of date!

Fedora Links

Fedora Website
Install Guide
Fedora 37 Forum Thread

Fedora and her various flavors should be chosen by those not only wanting official support but also want leading edge updates to packages. This distro should be chosen by gamers or anyone who thinks they might need this update cycle. Be warned, Fedora has a strict policy of not including non-free software in the base image, you will need to do some configuration to add some common codecs and software most users will want. It isn’t stupid easy but if you have decent Google-fu skills, everything is quite solvable. Like Ubuntu, Fedora is not rolling release so you will need to move to new versions of Fedora as they lose security updates.

Ubuntu Links

Ubuntu Website
LTS install guide
Non-LTS install guide

Are you pretty chill? Worried that you might screw something up? Want minimal user intervention to get a decent “Out-Of-The-Box” experience? Have no fear Ubuntu is here! Choose this distro if you have pretty minimal needs or are exceedingly troubleshooting averse. Pick LTS version for maximum stability or non-LTS for some feature updates. You will need to update to new versions of Ubuntu regularly if not LTS. Good documentation and wide compatibility are hallmarks of this distro. If you want things to update quickly or want more freedom to really change how your OS looks, feels and operates…this ain’t for you. Pick something else!

Linux Mint
Mint Links

Linux Mint Website
Install Guide
Forum Thread for Mint

Much like Ubuntu, Mint tries to provide as much of an “Out-Of-The-Box” experience with common apps and software preinstalled for the user to make switching to Mint utterly seamless.

Pop!_OS Links

Pop!_OS Website
Pop!_OS Install Guide
Pop!_OS Forum Thread

Pop!_OS was created by System76 for use with its own brand of laptops but has gained popularity for its ease of use. Built off of Ubuntu, it maintains much of the same compatibility of software. Our very own Linux Support Lead actually used to work for System76 before Framework poached him away (Hi Matt)!

Manjaro XFCE
Manjaro Links

Manjaro Website
Manjaro Install Guide
Manjaro Forum Thread

This is the only community-supported distro based on Arch Linux. What’s that mean for you? Arch has a reputation of being the most tweakable Linux distro out there. Vanilla Arch can be built from the ground up to being everything you want and nothing you don’t! That’s pretty scary though and so Manjaro exists to help people new to Arch get their feet wet and learn the systems and settings with Arch. Being rolling release like EndeavourOS, you never need to worry about major point releases (think like Windows 10 vs 11, those are point releases) instead, you just get Manjaro, always up-to-date. You also get the power of the incredible Arch Wiki if you have questions about deeper systems involved in how your machine runs!

EndeavourOS Links

EndeavourOS Website
Currently no dedicated forum threads or Install Guides

This is the only other Arch derivative on this list. This distro is known for its beginner-friendly attitude and thanks to being Arch-based, the incredible Arch wiki is chock-full of useful information directly applicable to your distro! Several desktop environments are available to choose from! Being rolling release like Manjaro, you never need to worry about major point releases (think like Windows 10 vs 11, those are point releases) instead, you just get EndeavourOS, always up-to-date.

Elementary OS
Elementary OS Links

Elementary OS Website
Elementary OS Forum Thread
No dedicated install guide.

Elementary OS is based off of Ubuntu and has similarly broad compatibility but is stylistically much different. Like the other suggestions, it is dedicated to offering a clean user experience with a minimal learning curve.

Whew! That’s a lot of choices! Welcome to Linux, I hope you like choice because that’s all this ecosystem is! Hopefully the flowchart helped you pick a distro but as always, there are others and if you are willing to invest in the time, you can get most other distros working too! I’m sorry that I wasn’t quite as able to give every distro as good of a description as they deserve, I’ve distro-hopped in the past but haven’t used all of the above distros so I have less hands-on experience as I would like. If this post gains traction, I may try my hand at desktop environments next. Now that this post is a Wiki, I invite long-time users of suggested Distros to replace my less than stellar descriptions with a good, high-quality, one paragraph summation of a distro that describes best it’s philosophy and what makes it unique.


Great work, pinned!


@Fraoch It got buried within some hidden text but you could you unpin the Fedora 35 thread? I don’t want to give new users the impression that Fedora 35 is recommended as it is EOL since December.

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Nicely done!

Mods and I will watch it. Sometimes pins get unpinned. I’m pretty good about repinning pinned posts when I catch them.


@Matt_Hartley I’ll be trying to keep the links up-to-date as new releases and new guides get released so that this post is consistently useful. I can only promise to keep up with Fedora since that’s what I use, hopefully since it is now a wiki other users can help keep it up-to-date. All the formatting can make it confusing to edit tho lol.

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I’m planning on writing a new Manjaro doc specifically for Manny with KDE/Plasma. I’ve been running it on the framework solidly for about 6 months with no issues, and is a bit more user friendly that XFCE; I’d consider it to be on the “closer to official” track in your branching tree.

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Manjaro is based on Arch. Mint and Pop!_OS are based on Ubuntu, that’s the only reason why I labeled them as such. I’ll eventually get around to creating a decent flowchart for desktop environments as well to cover all the bases. Just downloaded some ISOs so I can write some actually worthwhile summaries based upon some quick VM testing.

I was thoroughly amused by the idea that Ubuntu is stable. 10+ years ago sure, today…nope. Every time I use it there is some new upgrade issue, some new way Ubuntu wants to do something, some new project that they never finish. If you install the latest Fedora one month after it is released your install will be infinitely more stable. Ubuntu takes everything good about Debian and then breaks it.

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I’ll add a few things that I think aren’t obvious, even to people who’ve tried a few different Linux distros.

  1. The desktop environment dominates the day-to-day experience for most people, but most desktop environments are available for most distros. You can even have multiple desktop environments installed at the same time and choose between them for every login. And of course Linux desktop environments are highly customizable. So the look and feel of the default desktop environment isn’t a great way to pick a distro. With that said, note that distros do put their own marks on desktop environments; GNOME and XFCE look a little different in Fedora than they do in Ubuntu or Manjaro.

  2. The other thing that people talk about being a big difference is package managers. While package managers are a key difference between distros, DNF and APT and Pacman all do pretty much the same things for most users. DNF and APT even have very similar commands. So I would argue that this isn’t a great way to pick a distro either.

  3. What matters most is whether you want to be on the leading edge or trailing edge of kernel and software package versions. The package repositories are where distros really distinguish themselves. Arch and its derivatives are on the leading edge, like they will have available updates everyday, as soon as the developers release new versions. Debian will offer much older versions of everything, like many months (even years) old. Fedora and some Debian derivatives like Ubuntu are somewhere in between. Fedora is closer to Arch, getting new kernel versions about a week after their release, for example. Distrowatch is a great site for comparing distros, but note that the package versions shown are the versions on the installation media, not the latest versions in the repositories. For example, Distrowatch shows Fedora 37 having the 6.0.7 kernel, but that’s only upon initial installation; an up-to-date Fedora 37 system will have the 6.2.9 kernel right now. Also note that even on this point, you can run an “unstable” or “testing” edition of many distros too, and have something close to the latest packages even on Debian (Sid), but it will put you in a minority with less support if you encounter a problem.


@tim300 You’ll note that’s pretty much how the distros are categorized…by your point no. 3

I’ll make a flow chart for desktop environments later. I want to spend a week with a VM of each to give a good solid summary of each.

Agreed. Others should read my comments as underscoring what your flow chart depicts and expounding on some nuances that are, like I said, not obvious to newcomers.

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It’s stable in the sense that someone can run an Ubuntu LTS release for five years with only security updates if they’re concerned about issues related to new projects and big feature upgrades.

I think the “stable” vs. “unstable” terminology is one of the most confusing things for newcomers. I like this comment on an old Hacker News thread about it: The thing is that the blog entry mixes up, as too frequently happens, the two of... | Hacker News

The thing is that the blog entry mixes up, as too frequently happens, the two often used meanings of “stable”:

  • Rock solid/reliable/“good”

  • Not changing

And they are completely independent!

  • Windows 95: It’s definitively not rock solid. But is it “stable”? Sure! You will have a hard time finding something more “stable”. When was the last time it received an update/changed? It’s “stable”, but not “stable”.

  • RHEL: Rock solid? I don’t really have a lot of experience with it, but let’s say yes. And its whole business model is about changing as little as it can. It’s “stable” and “stable”.

  • Fedora: Rock solid? Let’s say yes. Does it change? All the time. It’s not “stable”, but it’s “stable”.

  • Linux in 1991: No idea. But I’m guessing it was crashing all the time. And it surely was changing fast. It was not “stable” and not “stable”.

“Stable” software can be not “stable” on purpose. You may want to avoid changing so much that you may want to keep the bugs, people rely on that buggy behaviour!

Not “stable” software may have shitty QA and not be “stable”; or it may be so well tested that even changing all the time, it never fails.

If I have a contract with the government for a software that needs to provide a service for the next 5 years, I surely will target RHEL X. Not because I think it’s specially good, but because I don’t want to find myself in court about whether the contract said I need to keep supporting them every time they update the OS. I will deliver something working better or worse today and once accepted… it will keep working the same, bug by bug, relying on the same CentOS X bugs, in 5 years because the underlying system has not changed a bit.


@tim300 You explained better than I could what I meant by stable. Thank you.

There is a lot of very solid advice in this thread! A lot of accumulated experience, some of which I’m sure is the result of accumulated scar tissue.

My number one piece of advice when staring your Linux/Framework adventure is to give yourself some space and time to explore. Don’t give up your existing setup. Dual boot or use two laptops. Don’t make this a stressful time!

Maybe the best way I can put this is for some a Mazda Miata is the perfect daily driver. For others it’s a Honda Odyssey. It’s going to take some time to figure that out and the answer isn’t always obvious. Once you land on something that feels right, stick with it for a while. The things that appear insurmountable today will not feel that way in a week or a month.

As an example. A friend using Fedora was frustrated that there wasn’t a point and click setting to make Monday the first day of the week. So, I had them install the sources for the locales, “sudo dnf install glibc-locale-source”. Edit the locale “sudo vi /usr/share/i18n/locales/en_US” to add “first_weekday 2” in the LC_TIME section. Compile that “sudo localedef -c -i en_US -f UTF-8 en_US.UTF-8” and logout and back in. Might look like magic at first but it is empowering as time goes on.

Be a bit hard headed. Go into it with the attitude that Linux is going to be right for you. There are thousands and thousands of people who use Linux day to day and they are NOT smarter than you.

You might even decide to love Arch because you really like the satisfaction of knowing all the details and making those choices yourself. It could happen :wink:


However it is not. Ubuntu LTS is regularly broken by its own security updates, or other updates made to fix whatever Ubuntu decided to ignore on roll out. It is neither truly stable in the packaging sense, nor is it reliable/stable. I have had enough issues with Ubuntu LTS in production environments that I steer developers away from it. It is easy to setup, and get going (no SELinux making life hard / not my thoughts on the matter.just what I have been told by the end users asking me to fix things on their Ubuntu hosts). I would much rather spend an extra hour or two getting their stuff working on Redhat and never have to touch it again than to have to deal with yet another Ubuntu driven emergency.

My point was the average user will look at it and think…yeah I will have a great experience on Ubuntu…only to most likely be disappointed because it is not reliable.

Fair point then, and good to share that experience. Admittedly, my own experience is primarily with Fedora / RHEL and Arch derivatives.


My linux path was Debian → Ubuntu → Manjaro → Archlinux → Fedora. I left Manjaro when it became evident that they had used the community to get into a position to monetize the distro, and on to Fedora because I needed to get familiar with SELinux for future employment. Currently working in a Redhat shop, and not a surprise it is rock stable/stable.

I have plenty of Ubuntu stories including the one where I moved my mother from Ubuntu to Fedora and suddenly did not have monthly troubleshooting calls. Have not had any in 5 years. It is particularly important to me since she does not live close to me.

So yeah I try to steer people away from Ubuntu as a first time experience. Hell Archlinux is probably one of the best newbie distros from a return on investment viewpoint. Every minute of reading you do to get an Archlinux install up and running is a minute you can apply to almost any distro 99% of the time.