Which Linux distributions have the most installed machines? What is the distribution in terms of distro, architecture, and version? e.g.

Ubuntu vs. RHEL vs. SUSE vs. Fedora vs. CentOS vs. Arch vs. …
Ubuntu 8.04 vs. Ubuntu 9.04 vs. Ubuntu 10.04 vs. RHEL 3 vs. RHEL 4 vs. RHEL 5 vs. …
amd64 vs. i386 vs. ppc vs. ppc64 vs. ARM vs. …

  • 7
    Since it is impossible to track the number of installations, there can only be speculation on this issue.
    – txwikinger
    Aug 16, 2010 at 18:34
  • The numbers will probably be very different when comparing Desktop vs. Server. Is there much point in lumping those together? Aug 16, 2010 at 19:37
  • Probably the most flamewar magnet question of all time :)
    – wzzrd
    Aug 18, 2010 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


Comprehensive data on this topic is available from IDC, a large market-research firm that sells reports. As was mentioned earlier by Stefan Lasiewski and in the original question, there are a number of different ways to slice and dice server/desktop and raw operating system data.

A complicating factor for Linux in particular is the number of paid versus unpaid subscriptions in the market. Consequently, you are likely to find that market estimations will have a wide margin-of-error.

Given these facts, I would say that this question is unanswerable without further detail or specificity. In addition, all answers would be subject to debate on the rationale and methodology.


I guess is Ubuntu for desktop, and CentOS and Ubuntu for servers


For servers, I think Ubuntu is the vast majority. For example, if you look at Linode's stats, 48% of all VPS deployments are Ubuntu, and the next closest competitor is Debian with 24%. CentOS isn't nearly as popular as others seem to think.

Given this is only one VPS provider, but I think it's probably pretty indicative of real-world scenarios.

As far as desktop deployments go, I can't provide any verifiable numbers... but I think most people would agree it's most likely also Ubuntu.

EDIT: actually I found the Linux Journal Reader's Choice Awards for 2009, and they indicate that 45% of readers choose Ubuntu. Take it as you will.

  • 4
    Those numbers only reflect Virtual Private Servers at a single provider. It's a big leap to assume that this single sample represents the world. Perhaps Linode provides better support for Ubuntu. Likewise, it's debatable weather the LJ survey represents the installation base at large. The results may just mean that Ubuntu Desktop users are more likely to respond to that particular survey. Aug 16, 2010 at 19:37
  • Agreed. I've never worked with nothing but SuSE or RedHat on servers.
    – Eldelshell
    Aug 18, 2010 at 7:32

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