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20.07.2022 00:40

Linux – what is it and which distributions are best?

Computers DIY

What is Linux? Many have heard this name, but not everyone knows how it operates and what advantages it presents. Recently, however, it is gaining more and more recognition among people using Windows. What speaks in favor of Linux?

Linux – what is it and what are Linux distributions? Linux or Windows – main differences?

Linux is an open operating system (or more precisely – the kernel), and it was created in 1991 by Finnish programmer – Linus Torvalds. Although it is far from the popularity of Windows, it is gaining more and more followers every year, also among personal computer owners. What does it mean that this is an “open system”? Every user has access to its source code, which means that everyone can modify it according to their own needs. It is therefore an operating system that is mostly developed by the community, not a single company (as in the case of Windows or macOS).

Open Source access to the system code gives rise to so-called distributions, which may otherwise be called variants. Particular Linux distributions are based on the main kernel created by Torvalds, but they can differ from each other in every aspect – starting from the interface appearance, through the possibility of using individual applications, and ending with having (or not) a graphical environment.

Each of them is modified with particular attention to its purpose. For example, the goal of the developers may be ease and clarity for everyday home use, or to create a powerful server maintenance tool. In other words, a distribution is a ready operating system that has been tailored to specific needs and that is ready to use immediately after its installation. 

Linux or Windows? What are the differences between them? Access is the key – Linux is a free system that can be downloaded by both private users and companies. It is in the case of enterprises that Linux can gain a significant advantage, because the purchase of a Windows license for a dozen or even several dozen computer stations is associated with incurring considerable costs, and this may discourage potential buyers.

In addition, Windows is the same for everyone, so there is no customization to suit individual needs, and this is what Open Source Linux offers. The undisputed advantages of Windows are its intuitiveness and ease of use, and Linux – efficiency, speed and security. The latter is much weaker with Windows. Why? Since it is this operating system that predominates in personal computers, most cybercriminals target it as well. 

Where to start your adventure with the Linux operating system

If you have already decided that you would like to test the capabilities of the Linux operating system on your computer, time to choose the most appropriate distribution. You should start by determining your own needs and preferences, for example, whether it will be a system for a first-time Linux user, or whether it should serve a programmer in his daily work.


At first you probably got the impression that the Linux operating system was intended only for advanced users, but that’s not true. In recent years, many distributions have been created that were designed with beginners in mind. The most popular versions are characterized by exceptional simplicity and intuitiveness. What’s more, their graphical environment is often modeled on the well-known Windows, so running all programs and tools does not pose any problems.

Is Linux installation and operation difficult?

The use of Linux is not more difficult than other popular operating systems, and the occurrence of situations requiring more knowledge in this field is rare. Of course, a lot depends on the distribution you are dealing with, but in the basic versions the support is analogous to the Microsoft system. The varieties dedicated to novice users are distinguished by the fact that after installation, the system offers an environment that is immediately ready for use.

The Linux installation process is a bit different than in Windows, where everything is basically done automatically, unattended. The appearance of the menu is different and it may be a bit scary at first. Performing the installation is not difficult, but it should be noted that the entire process may be different depending on the chosen distribution. In the case of the most popular varieties (for example, Ubuntu or Mint), a detailed step-by-step instruction can be found on many websites and online forums gathering enthusiasts.

Linux hardware requirements? The perfect operating system for an old and weak computer

The Linux operating system is famous for being great for installing on “weak” devices. This is due to much lower hardware requirements than in the case of Windows. So you can easily put Linux on older computers – there are distributions that need really minimal performance. For example, to run the latest version of Linux Lite you need a 1 GHz processor and 8 GB of free disk space, and it is not the least demanding distribution.

It turns out that there is an easy way to revive older devices – just change the operating system to a less “resource-consuming” one. Light Linux distributions include: Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Debian, LXLE (also available in 32-bit version), Puppy Linux, Antix Linux and the aforementioned Linux Lite, which is additionally distinguished by extremely simple operation.

Security – are there viruses on Linux?

When Linux is compared to Windows, the former leaves Microsoft’s system far behind. Linux has been considered the most secure operating system for years for a reason. Why? As we mentioned earlier, it turns out that few viruses are created on it – all attention of cybercriminals is focused on Windows, where access to potential victims is much greater and easier. Moreover, Linux is free from snooping add-ons that are present in commercial systems. Additionally, its developers secure the system by creating strong barriers against malware.

Another important security aspect is the diversity of Linux, i.e. the existence of hundreds of different distributions, and even the same version of a system may look completely different for two different users. All this creates extremely difficult conditions for writing malicious code and, at the same time, effectively discourages potential criminals.

Programs and Applications Available for Linux 

As with commercial operating systems, Linux offers several default, standard programs when installed. Daily use of a computer is usually associated with the need to install additional tools that increase the functionality and facilitate all activities. This includes browsing the Internet, receiving email, playing music and video, editing texts or graphics.

In Linux, additional applications are downloaded as packages. A special package manager has been created to do this, offering access to libraries. They contain most of the programs users use on Windows, including Spotify, VLC Player and Google Chrome. Separate programs have been developed for people who need applications without Linux equivalents. This option is most often used by players, but also to run programs from the Adobe suite.

Steam and Linux – will we play games?

One most important question arises in the minds of players – is it possible to install the Steam platform on Linux? Indeed, this was not possible initially, but Valve finally announced the release of the Steam application for Linux systems as well. The installation itself is not difficult and you only need a few commands. You can find detailed instructions on the internet. 

Due to the needs of people who use computers primarily for gaming, a special program – Wine was created. It allows you to run titles on Linux even if they are not dedicated, for example, The Witcher 3 or Counter Strike. This means that playing games from Windows is also possible on Linux distributions. This is one of the most effective ways to deal with programs created for the Microsoft system.

Related: CMD command line – commands you should know

Linux online – can it be tested before installation?

Would you like to know the Linux operating system, but are not entirely convinced? You can try it without installing it. Many distributions offer LiveCD versions that you can run directly from the media (pendrive or CD) and they do not require installation. This allows you to try out the system or a specific distribution without having to install it on your computer’s hard drive. It is worth remembering that the system running this way may run slightly slower than the installed version.

Linux on a USB flash drive

One of the basic ways to quickly install Linux on a computer is to use a bootable USB flash drive. This means that when you insert a USB flash drive, the distribution installation process will automatically start. Thanks to this solution, you will get a portable version of the system that can be used on any computer. For most distributions, a flash drive with only 4 GB of free space is enough. 

Linux on a pendrive is also a great way to test the system without the need to install it (Linux LiveUSB – works similarly to LiveCD) and the ability to quickly boot the system in an emergency. To create a bootable Linux flash drive, it’s best to use a dedicated tool. First, connect the USB and go to the website that provides the ISO file with the selected distribution, then download it and open the tool with which the system will be saved on the pendrive.

The first step in using Linux is choosing your distribution. Since the modification of the system can be created by any user, hundreds of versions have been created, and each of them differs from another greatly. Variations are created by both large companies (for example Red Hat) and groups of enthusiasts. Among the most popular distributions you will also find those that are friendly to users who have no idea about programming. We will try to answer the question “which Linux should you choose?” by briefly presenting some of the most popular distributions.


Linux Mint

Mint was listed first for a reason. According to many, it is the best distribution and the perfect choice for people who are starting their adventure with Linux and are looking for a distribution for everyday use. Since it is based on Ubuntu, it has a lot in common with it. You can say that Mint is a tuned Ubuntu. In use, it is a bit like Windows, which may speak in its favor and be a great convenience for people transferring from the Microsoft system. 

Linux Ubuntu 

The Ubuntu distribution is based on the previously designed Debian. The intention of its creators was to create a variant of Linux as simple and intuitive as possible. This can already be seen during the installation, which is uncomplicated and understandable. The installed system immediately offers basic applications such as a web browser, office suite or media playback programs. Ubuntu is mainly intended for home and office devices.

Linux Debian

It is one of the oldest distributions, designed in 1993. Debian is appreciated by users for its stability and high quality down to the last detail. The significant advantages also include small hardware requirements – for smooth operation the system only needs 2 GB of RAM and 2-10 GB of disk space, which is much less than in the case of Windows 10. Many newer distributions were created based on Linux Debian (on example Ubuntu and Mint). 

Related: UEFI – what is it and how is it different from BIOS?

Linux Fedora

The designers put innovation first. It is one of the leading distributions that can boast the highest level of security, as well as the richest versions of available packages (programs). Often any upgrades are tested on Fedora before being brought into the paid Red Hat Enterprise Linux system. For this reason, the system is used by home computer users as well as server users, although it is intended mainly for professionals, including programmers.

Linux Manjaro

The developers of Manjaro created the system based on the Arch Linux distribution, with a particular focus on being user-friendly. It is aimed mainly at PC users, which is why it is characterized by exceptional simplicity and stability, as well as speed. Contrary to appearances, this is not a distribution designed only for beginners, because it is also suitable for professionals who, for example, can use Manjaro in text mode (called Architect).


Arch Linux

About Arch Linux we can say that it is a simple system for advanced users. It is easy to set up and use, but at the same time requires basic knowledge, for example in the field of editing text files, which is necessary in order to change any settings. The very preparation of the system for operation requires specific skills. 

“Linux download”, or where to get distributions.

At the end, I should also mention the issue of Linux availability. If this system is free, where to get it to make it legal? Linux is distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL license. This means that it can be downloaded from the Internet and installed on any number of computers, including those intended for use in a company or school. 

Usually you can just input the name of the desired distribution into the search engine and you will find the download. Some versions can also be found on public FTP servers. It is also possible to buy commercial Linux distributions – the creators of a given system offer the possibility of getting a paid version. In return for costs incurred, they guarantee access to technical support, a manual and other additional services. 

In summary, the Linux operating system is appreciated primarily for the possibility of modification – open access to the source code allows you to personalize the system according to your needs. In addition, Linux distributions offer a high level of security, performance and stability. Its functionality is equal to that of the popular Windows, and for professionals it offers almost unlimited possibilities. Thanks to the LiveCD or LiveUSB function, users can test the operation of individual distributions without having to install them on the disk.



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