11 Best Linux Distros For 2021: How To Choose Your Windows Alternative

Linux always gives you tons of options and we're here to help you decide.

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Last year, Linux grew at a tremendous rate due to a ton of factors. While the world of Linux does offer tons of choices, it might get overwhelming at first. That’s why we’ve prepared this Linux distribution list to help you select the best Linux distro to suit your needs. Some distros perform better at one kind of task, and some are all-rounders, and so on. So, let’s get started with the best Linux Distro List for 2021

11 Best Linux Distros For 2021

1. Best Distro For Windows Users And Beginners: Linux Mint

The popularity of open-source software and Linux is rising with each passing year, and more people are learning Linux. For those users, selecting a Linux distro with a smooth learning curve is of primary importance. This ease-of-usage is the most worthy point kept in mind while recommending a Linux distro for beginners. You can read my complete list of recommended Linux distros for beginners.

linux mint - best linux distros for 2021

Linux Mint is one of the fastest-growing Linux distros around and is a lot better for beginners than Ubuntu. If you want to know more about Linux Mint Vs Ubuntu differences, do make sure to check out our Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu article.

Added to that, Linux Mint has established itself as a perfect replacement for the Windows operating system with its nearly-perfect desktop experience. Another reason why it’s the best distro is; you don’t need to spend a lot of time installing the distro and packages before you can get some real work done. It doesn’t have a heavier footprint, which makes it great for old PCs as well.

Why is Mint best for beginners?

  • Easy-to-use Cinnamon desktop
  • Large, supportive community
  • Easier to run on Old hardware

Visit the Linux Mint website to download the official ISO.

Best alternatives to Linux Mint:

  • Ubuntu
  • Zorin OS
  • Linux Lite
  • Pop!_OS

2. Best Linux Distro In 2021 For Beginners And Experienced Users: Ubuntu

A Linux article cannot be called a Linux article unless there’s Ubuntu mentioned in it. For a lot of beginners and experienced users, Ubuntu and GNOME is a match made in heaven. The more recent OS versions have added a mammoth list of new features and improvements that, after glancing, even a typical Windows user would want to switch.

Ubuntu - best linux distro 2021

Not to mention the community at large will always be there to help you if you get stuck. That said, no matter what you intend to do, you can do it easily on Ubuntu.

Why choose Ubuntu?

  • Active user community
  • Highly stable
  • Easy to use. Suited for beginners and intermediate users.

To get its ISO images, visit the official Ubuntu Website.

3. Best Linux Distro In 2021 For Ethical Hacking: Kali Linux

When it comes explicitly to the best Linux distros for ethical hacking purposes, there’s absolutely no match for Kali Linux. It comes with hundreds of useful tools that belong to different categories like vulnerability analyses, wireless attacks, web applications, exploitation tools, stress testing, forensic tools, etc. Based on the Debian Testing branch, most of the distro packages are imported from Debian repos.

Kali Linux - best linux distro 2021

Apart from full-featured desktops, Kali can also be installed on Raspberry Pi, Chromebook, BeagleBone, etc. It’s also available for Android smartphones with the arrival of Kali NetHunter.

Why install Kali for ethical hacking?

  • A Regular rolling release model
  • Tons of tried and tested ethical hacking tools
  • Solid Debian base
  • Vast learning resource

Visit the Kali Linux website for downloads.

What else to try for ethical hacking?

  • Parrot OS
  • BlackArch Linux
  • BackBox

4. Linux Distro In 2021 For Gaming: Pop!_OS

The gaming scene on Linux has significantly improved over the past few years, and it’ll only get better in the coming years. Thanks to the Proton compatibility layer, more than 50% of the top 10 games and more than 73% of the top hundred games are already playable on Linux.

Pop!_OS - best linux distro 2021

While there are many “gaming-specific” distros enough to overwhelm you, Pop!_OS  is a distro that many people in the Linux community, including me, prefer. That’s mainly due to two different images users can download – one for AMD/Intel GPU and the other that comes with Nvidia drivers. It is also the best Linux Distro for laptops.

Want to learn more about the state of gaming on Linux? Read our Here’s how to choose a Linux Distro for Gaming article. Also, if you’re searching for more gaming distros, our 13 Best Linux Gaming Distros article might help you choose the right one.

Why choose Pop!_OS?

  • Pre-installed graphics drivers for Nvidia and AMD
  • Excellent community support
  • User friendly

Download Pop!_OS

Other distros for gaming:

  • GamerOS
  • Manjaro Linux
  • Ubuntu

MX Linux - best linux distro 2021While there isn’t any concrete method to measure Linux distros’ growth, Distrowatch does a pretty good job of keeping track of visits to a particular distribution listing. As per their data, MX Linux has generated lots of interest among the users over the past 12 months, and it’s currently ranked #1. MX Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution that uses the lightweight Xfce Linux desktop environment. You can give it a try if you’re looking for a fully-fledged operating system for everyday work.

Why choose MX Linux?

  • Clean and simple user interface
  • Portable installation option
  • Unique “midweight” category of Linux distros

Visit the MX Linux website for download.

6. Best Linux Distro In 2021 For Programming: Solus

After booting into Solus’s Budgie Desktop, the first thing you’ll notice is how striking it looks and feels. While Solus is not specifically targeted at developers, it comes with many development tools pre-installed that make it one of the best distro for developers.


I’ve also mentioned it in my Top 4 Beginner-Friendly Distros That Are Not Ubuntu-Based article. The only hurdle between you and learning how to use Solus is the eopkg package manager, which shouldn’t be hard to learn.

Why choose Solus for programming or daily use?

  • Support for a wide variety of version control systems
  • Striking looks
  • Beginner-friendly

Visit the official Solus website for ISO download and more information.

Some more choices for developers:

  • Pop!_OS
  • Ubuntu
  • Manjaro Linux

7. Most Beautiful Linux Distro: elementary OS

Most beautiful Linux distro isn’t a criterion that can judge an operating system’s capabilities in the true sense, but it plays a major role in choosing a new distro. Thanks to the flexibility offered by the Linux ecosystem, developers can create new and appealing distros. Ubuntu-based elementary OS is the most beautiful Linux distro in my opinion and experience, known for its unparalleled performance.

elementary os

This fast and open source replacement for Windows and macOS borrows some design elements from macOS. Shipping without many defaults Ubuntu applications, elementary OS delivers a lightweight experience as well. With its Pantheon desktop environment built using Vala, GTK+, and Granite libraries, elementary OS is deeply integrated with its applications like Plank, Epiphany, and Scratch. Overall, it can be used by experienced and beginners alike to carry out daily computing tasks.

Why choose looks of the elementary OS?

  • Lightweight desktop
  • macOS-like appearance
  • Lesser applications, slick interface

Visit the elementary OS website for download.

Honorable mentions:

  • Solus
  • Pop!_OS
  • Zorin OS

8. Best Linux distro In 2021 For Privacy And Anonymity: Tails

If I tell you that Edward Snowden uses Tails Linux distro for carrying out his communications and browsing the web, some of you might wonder what’s the reason behind this choice. Some of you would be having a rough idea. As its name–The Amnesic Incognito Live System–suggests, Tails is a popular choice for secure web browsing.

tails os

Tails live operating system can be booted on almost any computer using a DVD or USB image. This Debian-based secure distro makes sure that all internet connections are forced to go through the Tor network. With this, you end up leaving no trace on the computer. It also comes with many cryptographic tools that help you encrypt your emails, files, and instant messaging. There are other options as well for privacy-focused minds.

Why choose Tails for anonymity?

  • Forces every connection via Tor network
  • Stores everything in RAM for no trace.
  • Also suitable for general use.
  • Built-in encryption suite

Visit the Tails website for download.

More options for privacy-conscious Linux users:

  • Whonix
  • Qubes OS
  • Alpine Linux

9. Best Linux Distro In 2021 For Servers: CentOS Stream

Can you imagine setting up a server on a Linux distro that’s known for its instability or frequent crashes in the middle of something? The answer to this question is pretty obvious. Other factors that matter are hardware support, security, power efficiency, and optimized performance. There are many free and paid options for such scenarios, and CentOS Stream is my recommendation in this category.

centos 8

Last year, RHEL-owned CentOS came to an unexpected halt and is now independent and called CentOS Stream. Due to this, the latest release, CentOS 8’s support window, was reduced to up to 2021 from 2029. However, older versions like CentOS 7 will be supported until 2024.

Why choose CentOS Stream for servers?

  • Popular RPM and Yum Package Management
  • Widespread support across the tech industry

Visit the CentOS website for download.

Other Linux distros for servers:

  • RHEL
  • Debian
  • Ubuntu LTS

10. Best Arch-based Linux Distro: Manjaro Linux

Manjaro Linux is my favorite Arch-based distro. It’s easy to install, looks great, and strikes a perfect balance between cutting-edge software and stability. It is also perfect for people who want to get away with the hard installation process of stock Arch.

manjaro linux

Much like Pop!_OS, Manjaro Linux is also an all-rounder. Be it gaming, development, or daily usage, Manjaro nails it in every aspect.

Why choose Manjaro?

  • Extensive Arch Linux documentation
  • Vast community and supportive forums
  • User-friendly Arch Distro

Visit the Manjaro website for download.

Manjaro alternatives:

  • Fedora
  • openSUSE

11. Best Distro In 2021 For Raspberry Pi: Raspberry Pi OS

When it comes to making computing accessible to more people, Raspberry Pi has played a pivotal role in this decade. By spending as low as $10, you can get a single board computer for web browsing, learning programming, etc.

raspberry pi

There are many Linux operating systems that you can install on this little machine, but there’s no match to the in-house Raspberry Pi OS. It’s the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s official operating system that’s perfect for beginners and experienced users. You can install it by writing it directly to the SD card or use Foundation’s own NOOBS installer. Based on Debian GNU/Linux operating system, Raspberry Pi OS comes with many useful preinstalled applications that ensure that you can get started right away.

Why choose Raspberry Pi OS for Raspberry Pi?

  • Officially supported OS for R-Pi.
  • Lightweight Pixel desktop environment
  • Availability of a lite version as well

Visit the Raspberry Pi OS website for download.

Other Linux distros for Raspberry Pi:

  • Ubuntu
  • Arch Linux ARM

Want something else? Linux Always Leaves You With More Options

The distros on this list are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Have you come across any distro that deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments section.

Adarsh Verma

Adarsh Verma

Fossbytes co-founder and an aspiring entrepreneur who keeps a close eye on open source, tech giants, and security. Get in touch with him by sending an email — [email protected]

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