A few days ago a friend asked me if I could install a good Linux distribution on his old PC (actually not very old: Intel Core 2, 2 GB of RAM). He's a Windows 7 user and a lawyer who uses the PC mostly for browsing the Internet, office apps and some other specific software that run with Java.

I'm a Windows user too and I don't have much experience with Linux systems. I tried to install OpenSUSE but I had a few problems with WiFi and a few other little things.

Can you suggest a good, simple and stable distribution?

  • I would recommend Ubuntu Mate. There are distros that have a more Windows like desktop, with start button etc, but I think that won't be a big problem. The redhat like desktops like Centos are definitely not user friendly. Mint is an alternative. I've tried it, but have gone back to Ubuntu. A Core 2 PC will do fine. I've had Ubuntu 12.04 installed on a P4 from 2003 and that still worked, although video would be problematic. – SPRBRN May 21 '15 at 11:58

Ah, the famous conundrum "which Linux distro to install".

The best thing would be to install the same distro the friends of your friend use, so he can get help when he needs. If he knows nobody using Linux around him, the simplest and user-friendlier distro is probably Ubuntu. It has a large user base and good support.

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  • 2
    s/famous/infamous/ – Skaperen May 21 '15 at 10:24

Well, yes, this question gets asked a lot and people will recommend this or that distribution and they all have reasons to suggest a certain choice. What I'd say, though, is that you should probably consider it from another point of view. Ask yourself (or your friend) what exactly you are looking for. If that thing is maximum ease of use then you have a very wide range of choices (see this DistroWatch search.

What you may want to ask yourself is the question of which Desktop Environment to choose, i.e. whether you want maximum UI familiarity with Windows 7. If your friend shudders at the thought of developing completely new habits then you don't want to bestow a distro with a completely unfamiliar interface on him.

So the question seems to boil down to the choice of DE. Obviously this is a very subjective matter but I'd suggest trying something with Cinnamon (like Linux Mint which is the parent project of this DE).

KDE might be another good choice for a Windows-like desktop (with Kubuntu or Linux Mint's KDE edition).

My personal favourite would be MATE (again with Linux Mint or Ubuntu MATE edition), which by default has a slightly different layout than Windows users are accustomed to but can be easily tuned to resemble Windows experience.

If you want to go with a very lightweight option, you may want to consider something with XFCE or LXDE (Xubuntu or Lubuntu, respectively).

There are also two popular DEs: GNOME and Unity (the latter used in main Ubuntu edition), but those two are rather far off in terms of Windows UI familiarity.

One more suggestion: there is a distribution called Zorin which boasts a user interface that resembles certain other systems and you can even easily switch between them with a "look changer". The "looks" include Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Ubuntu Unity, Mac OS X and GNOME 2. Some of these are premium features that need to be paid for but I have no idea how much that costs.

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Linux Mint is another good choice. It's rank No.1 on http://distrowatch.com/.

Personally, it's friendly with Windows users more than Ubuntu.

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  • Good point, and it's Ubuntu-based. – dr_ May 21 '15 at 8:39
  • Thank you very much, I think that I'll try Mint. One more thing, what about hardware compatibility? – Ric May 21 '15 at 9:33
  • Ubuntu (and Mint as its descendant) boasts superb hardware detection and compatibility. This comes at the price of a slight performance penalty, though you probably shouldn't bother. Most hardware should be detected without any problems. – Erathiel May 21 '15 at 9:42

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