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Which one? The newer versions, the Enterprise versions, are free and 'free' - you pay for support. Fedora, the community version, is both free and 'free' and support comes from the community. Older versions (RH9 and below), while being free and 'free' are all end of life and so unsupported.
Red Hat Linux up to version 9.0 can be downloaded free of charge. So can every version of Fedora Core. All versions of Red Hat Enterprise Edition must be purchased. If you are asking this question because you wish to install a version of Red Hat, I recommend you give Fedora a try. The community support base is huge (and free). While Red Hat 8.0 - 9.0 are similar, there is less support (there is still some community support, just not nearly as much as Fedora). However this is just my opinion. Have fun using whatever Linux you choose and don't hesitate to ask a question if you get stuck.
CentOS is an Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. CentOS conforms fully with the upstream vendors redistribution policy and aims to be 100% binary compatible.
Prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor = Red Hat
Anything after Redhat 9 is not essentially free, you have to buy it to use it according to the license terms. And if your going to ask, this does not violate the GPL since basically your using an OS that uses their Trademark name, blah blah blah, etc.
But that's why there is CentOS. Redhat always releases the Source RPM's for their products and CentOS is a clone, basically stripping away anything that violates Redhat's trademark, logo's, etc.
This post is old but it goes out first when searched about RHEL. RHEL is not free... An alternative is CentOS as what posted here, you can also try the latest version of slackware... I have been using it also on my servers both file server and web server.
I have commercial RHEL5.5 in the office and free Scientific Linux 5.5 at home. Developers claim that these two are essentiallty the same, that is SL5.5 is fully compliant with RHEL5.5. In fact all distros labeled as el5.x work just fine. SL5.5 comes with much more accessory packages already installed, even games. The good thing is that for those who wants to try first, SL comes in three flavors - live CD/DVD and frugal install allow one to try SL without screwing up the current OS, and those who like it can do the full install. Just google Scientific Linux.
You will only be able to use Red Hat without paying for a short time. Go to http://www.redhat.com/rhel/ and down the left hand side bar there is the option to "Try" - you will need to sign up for this. Below that are purchase options. If you plan to use this in a production environment or to use it beyond the test period you will need to either shell out the cash or opt for CentOS or Scientific Linux.
Although I'm new here, I've been a Redhat admin since 96. Officially, the word from Redhat is that the software is free. Although I have to admit, they don't make it very clear. For one reason or another, I'm assuming they cant force the payment on the software itself, that why they went with a service model. Maybe has to do with the GPL, but I've never looked into that. They have one link thats easy to get to that has all the old stuff. If you want to get RHEL, sign in, and request the trial. A download link will be provided.
The only thing RedHat sells are service subscriptions. This entitles you to a certain level of support, and access to the Redhat repositories.
Gotta pay for RHEL itself, but its clones, CentOS, Scientific, etc. are free.
If you want RHEL itself, you gotta buy a subscription, so in that sense, it's not free, but the clones that were recompiled from its source code, for example, CentOS or Scientific, are free, so if you can't afford a RHEL subscription, but wanna learn Redhat for some reason, CentOS would be your best bet as it's free.