Talking tech since 2003

This is a guest post by Walter Carlyle. Walter is an IT professional who enjoys sharing his many years of experience with others.

There are a lot of computer users out there who want to try their hand at Linux but don’t know where to start. With so many versions of Linux, called “distributions” or “distros” in Linux slang, the choice can be daunting. What’s the best choice for a Linux newbie just getting started and looking for an easy-to-use distro to test the waters? Here are five of the most beginner-friendly Linux distros guaranteed to get novices on their way.


A great way to take advantage of sales and make desktop and laptop deals even cheaper is to forgo the pre-installed operating system and install Ubuntu instead. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro and is great for beginners for several reasons:

  • It’s free and Ubuntu will ship CDs of their distro to anyone.
  • Copious amounts of support, including a documentation Wiki and countless online communities.
  • Set release cycle with dependable updates and professional customer support.

Linux Mint

Mint was developed in 2006 by Clement Lefebvre, who was running a Linux help site when he decided that he could use the site’s common complaints and tips to build his own distro with a focus on ease of use. Some of the popular features of Mint include:

  • mintDesktop and mintmenu, an easy to configure and customize interface set.
  • Large selection of multimedia codecs, usually not found in distros.
  • mintInstall, a user friendly software installer.


Knoppix shares one of Ubuntu’s most popular features in that it comes on a bootable “Live CD,” meaning it can be run completely from disk without an install. This is extremely helpful to anyone just starting out since it offers a risk-free way to learn about Linux. It also features a robust hardware detection system and built-in driver support for a lot of peripherals, making it the perfect way to jump right in and get started.

PC Linux OS

This is another Live CD distro, making it easy for Linux novices to try Linux with no risk at all. PC Linix OS is known for its huge software repository, offering a multitude of desktop environments that cover anything a Windows convert would want. Helpful inclusions for beginners include:

  • High level of support for graphics card drivers, codecs and web browser plugins right out of the box.
  • Frequent updates ensure functionality.
  • A breeze to load and configure.


Released in June of 2011, Mageia is the newest distro on this list. Don’t let that fool you, though. This distro is very stable and reliable and has a fervent international support community backing it up. Mageia has one of the simplest installers of all distros, thousands of software packages and an aggressive release schedule. For beginners who want the latest technology instead of their father’s Linux, Mageia is well worth a look.

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