I am currently studying for RHCSA and wish to practice on a system (vm) that is as near as possible to RHEL 7. I know about the free development version but as per Appendix 1 (Exhibit 1.C), my intended use does not qualify me for the free copy.

I use Ubuntu for personal purposes and am unfamiliar with the subtle differences in the RHEL-like OSs. I am aware of CentOS, Fedora, Scientific Linux, and Oracle Linux, but my question is strictly for the purposes of practicing for the RHCSA exam - which one is the best match for RHEL 7 when considering the following tasks?

A Red Hat® Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) is able to perform the following tasks:

  • Understand and use essential tools for handling files, directories, command-line environments, and documentation
  • Operate running systems, including booting into different run levels, identifying processes, starting and stopping virtual machines, and controlling services
  • Configure local storage using partitions and logical volumes
  • Create and configure file systems and file system attributes, such as permissions, encryption, access control lists, and network file systems
  • Deploy, configure, and maintain systems, including software installation, update, and core services
  • Manage users and groups, including use of a centralized directory for authentication
  • Manage security, including basic firewall and SELinux configuration

Another user asked a similar question back in 2012, but it was about an earlier RHEL version (and a lot can change in that time).

  • CentOS and Scientific Linux are derived from RHEL. They should both do fine. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


As mentioned in the previous question, CentOS is your best choice since it is derived from the sources of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Also as mentioned in their Technical and Release notes, almost all your required tasks are met in CentOS.

  • 1
    Thanks, after quite a bit of reading it looks like CentOS is RHEL stripped of all proprietary software and branding. Do you know of any tools (specifically command-line utilities) that I would be lacking with CentOS?
    – Schives
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 8:32
  • centos.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=53791 Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 10:05
  • Supplementing Thomas's link's content-- CentOS and RedHat now do have a formal relationship: redhat.com/en/about/press-releases/… Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:03

If you qualify as a "developer" you may be able to get genuine RHEL for free, subject to usage restrictions (basically, "no production usage")


ISTR there was also a RHEL student edition, but I'm not sure if it still exists or what is its definition of a student. It wasn't free, just cheap.

  • Rhel does allow for 'unregistered' installs which would be all of rhel proper minus the benefit of paid support just like CentOS minus the risk of non included packages like it possible with CentOS Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 15:52

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