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alanv 06-06-2010 02:04 PM

Linux distros comparison (stability, speed, security)

I started checking out Ubuntu a month ago (on a VM) and two weeks ago I decided to check out Debian itself. I found them A LOT easier than I expected and I am starting to really like Linux. I am thinking about using Linux as my main OS (I will dual-boot first and then I will "drop" my current OS).

My questions are:
Is it true that Debian (and its family) is more stable and has more software than other distros? What about Fedora/Redhat, Slackware/OpenSuse, Gentoo?

Which distro would be the most secure, which one would be the fastest?

I know that it depends on the user and configuration, but by "default" which distro is better suited for which tasks?

I looked around for tests comparing them, but didn't found anything.



sycamorex 06-06-2010 02:14 PM

Hi and welcome to LQ.


I looked around for tests comparing them, but didn't found anything.
I find it very hard to believe:)


Is it true that Debian (and its family) is more stable and has more software than other distros?
Debian itself (I'm not talking here about its family) is one of the most stable distros out there and has LOTS of packages.


Which distro would be the most secure
The one which is being used by the most experienced and security-focused administrator/user.


I know that it depends on the user and configuration, but by "default" which distro is better suited for which tasks?
You answered your question. Generally, Distros like Gentoo, Arch, Slackware, even Debian require more command line customisation, whereas Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, Suse, etc, etc. have more GUI (Graphical USer Interface) tools.

The best option would be to try a few and see which one works best for you.

catkin 06-06-2010 02:19 PM

Debian has a huge repository of software and is stable. Ubuntu can leverage that repository -- it shares the same .deb package format -- but is not as stable as Debian.

Slackware is very stable and the official distro comes with relatively few applications packages; it aims to be a stable platform and very "standard". The "very standard" characteristic means it is relatively easy to build applications from source so the number of potential applications is huge, at the cost of more manual work to build them. There are "third party" sources of pre-digested source builds for Slackware, some of which have a very good reputation such as SlackBuilds and there are automated ways of accessing them such as sbopkg.

In two years of running Linux-based distros I have used ubuntu and Slackware; I much prefer Slackware but I'm happy to get "under the covers" on the command line and manually editing config files. That's not for everyone.

Another aspect you might consider while choosing is the online support community; have a nose around the various support forums and see which you feel most comfortable with.

EDIT: for a personal workstation, the desktop has a big impact on performance. KDE and Gnome are very fully featured but are slower than lighter weight desktops such as Xfce and lighter weight desktops such as the *boxes. Before switching from ubuntu I switched from Gnome to Xfce and found the user interface perfectly adequate and a lot snappier -- on a two year old machine with dual core CPU and 4 GB memory.

pixellany 06-06-2010 02:21 PM

Linux distros are all about the same.....except:
  • Some are faster and some are slower.
  • Some use more storage than average, and some use less.
  • Different distros also have different cosmetic features, themes, etc.
  • There are big differences in the implementation of package management for installation of software.
Security is really a function of how you set things up, but some distros might make this easier to do.

Head over to and pick anything in the top ten on their "hit list". If you don't like it, try another. Repeat as required.

hilyard 06-06-2010 07:21 PM

All here have been very objective and helpful. alanv is well-served!

As a complete newbie, I found SuperOS better than Ubuntu for me. Frankly, I am a little disappointed with all the bugs in the new LTS *ubuntus, especially lubuntu. However, I just found this site that may be helpful to newbies bent on using ubuntu -- It seems to also have good info on other distros.

Should security be a concern (as it was with me), simply add Bastille to your install (see {The <sudo> command is much touted in 'buntu circles, but it opens a hole that can be exploited.} Bastille, while a bit cumbersome to set up, is actually about the only good thing to come out of HP in a long time, in my objective (lol) opinion.

Gentoo is above me, at this point, but I've been told that many found that it challenged them to learn Linux better. Myself, I went first to sidux, then to antiX (both Debian) from ubuntu. Both have great support and will continue to allow one to better learn our favorite OS -- GNU/Linux. This is my subjective experience and opinion based on it.

Try a LiveCD like Slax -- it's fun!

MTK358 06-06-2010 08:36 PM

[QUOTE=alanv;3994503]which one would be the fastest?/QUOTE]


RockDoctor 06-06-2010 08:53 PM

They're not all exactly the same, but close enough. Pick the one you like the best based on whatever arbitrary objective and subjective criteria you want to judge by. Or just keep the first one that seems to do everything you want.

alanv 06-06-2010 10:00 PM

Thank you very much for all the suggestions.

I visited and between other things I tried out FreeBSD and OpenBSD (plus a gui: FluxBox, Xfce and gnome). Unfortunately the BSD's do not have as much packages as linux (I mean for me). However, the OpenBSD website states that their primary focus is security, does that make it the most secure OS?
Also, the FreeBSD website states that their primary focus is performance, does that make it the fastest OS?

Are there Linux distros that have those primary focus?

Sorry if these questions (about BSD) should be in a different forum.



rich_c 06-06-2010 10:07 PM

Given you've already looked at Ubuntu and Debian, I'd suggest you look at Mepis too! The reason being that along with all the packages in the Debian stable repository, you also get what's in the Mepis and Mepis community repositories. This adds up to a LOT of software that is both stable and, if you want/need it, cutting edge from the community repos.

As has been mentioned, your best bet is to continue what you had been doing and try out a selection of distros on VMs to see what fits your needs best.

pixellany 06-07-2010 12:59 AM


However, the OpenBSD website states that their primary focus is security, does that make it the most secure OS?

After all the recommendations, I'm puzzled as to why you are looking at BSD. For a beginner from Windows or Mac, there will be more community support for a Linux transition than for BSD and other free Unices.

Caram 06-07-2010 01:11 AM

If you're new, go with Mint or Ubuntu. Others will give you a headache.

sica07 06-07-2010 04:24 AM

Try this distrochooser, it should help you a lot:

the trooper 06-07-2010 08:49 AM

Some interesting reading regarding the perceived 'speed' of certain distro's:

alanv 06-07-2010 08:50 AM


Originally Posted by Caram (Post 3994966)
... Others will give you a headache.

But I installed FreeBSD and OpenBSD (+ a GUI) and it was very straightforward. If the BSD's are supposed to be difficult to understand then I will also try Arch and Slackware.

Thanks, I feel more confident now to try new distros!


pdxmusl 11-07-2010 11:28 PM

I'm also somewhat new to linux. About 10 years ago I used to use Redhat linux on a daily basis. Now I'm getting back into it. I built myself a box from some older (couple of years) parts and have been evaluating a variety of distributions.

I tried CentOS first. The thing I didn't like about that was... well.. I have a 4 year old computer, and it's using a kernal from about 4 years ago (actually it might be older than that). Anyway, I'd consider my test computer archaic, but centos seemed to strain under how "advanced" it was. It seems pretty stable and it's close to what I'm used too... But It was a fight to get wireless to work and I couldn't burn dvd's. I could burn cd's, but not dvd's. Which meant.. no backups. (Well, no backups the way I wanted to do them).

I then tried Ubuntu. It's ok. I don't like it's privilege/security concepts. Though it can be enabled, there is no root access. Speaking about security, that's probably a good thing, but if you have a lot of configuring to do. Like say at initial setup. It's a pain. Just log in on root for 5 minutes, configure and log out. Much easier. Anyway, when you install, the user you originally create is added to the sudo users list and sorta becomes the administrator. A lot of configuration requires you to type in your password. It reminds me quite a bit of windows new security concept.. which I hate. But this all being said, It took me a few days to setup my network in CentOS. Keeping in mind, there was a learning curve there, it took about a half hour to completely redo my centos configuration in ubuntu. Wireless worked without me doing anything, and I can back up just fine. If I had to.. i could tolerate the wonky security quirks of ubuntu.

I then tried Kubuntu.. and was reminded that I don't like KDE. It might as well be a windows box. It made me question... why even migrate from windows to this. Kinda pointless. I tested that for about 10 minutes and have moved on. Right now I'm downloading fedora to try out.

All distros have the quirks I know I'm not going to like. I would have stayed with centos had it felt like it was put together this millennium. Ubuntu has some very cool features to it. I really like the installer. It asks you setup questions while it's installing. So the install process is quick. It boots in seconds. Though if it does it the way I think it does, that's probably not a good thing :). It interfaces well with everything I own. Including things that were made this year. With a few extra downloads and a little tweaking, I had the same security features (probably minus centos rigerous security updates) as I did with centos. It's just the whole root concept for ubuntu that makes me want to explore alternatives.

Anyway, that's my opinion so far. Out of the 3 I've tested, I'd have to say ubuntu is winning, but that's because it wasn't as painful to get my network up and running. What I would prefer is a more modern centos.

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