I just came across the FAQs for no-cost Red Hat Enterprise Linux and looks like they are giving Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for free for individual users, since CentOS has been my desktop for years and now it is going to reach EOL in 2021. I am wondering what are my options here as an individual to keep using CentOS/Red Hat as my desktop.

Is RHEL a replacement for CentOS 8 by Red Hat (a free offering for individual users)? Is it better to install this no-cost Red Hat rather than installing CentOS Stream?

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    "it is going to die" - It is?
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 15:13
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    The premise of this question is extremely misleading. CentOS isn't going to die. And really, CentOS won't be terribly different from what it was before; instead of being nearly identical to RHEL, it will be just slightly more cutting edge than RHEL.
    – Nick2253
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 17:30
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    @Nick2253 Actually, CentOS used to be slightly behind RHEL when it comes to point releases, and now it's going to be slightly ahead of it. Not a noticeable difference for most who just want either a "free RHEL" or the few that wanted a "free exact clone of RHEL at every point in time" (which CentOS never was).
    – TooTea
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 21:08
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    @Clockwork Netcraft does not confirm it. Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 8:09
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    @Nick2253 It remains to be seen how much that ‘slightly more cutting edge’ aspect will impact things. A lot of people who used CentOS did so because they wanted a stable system without paying for RHEL (and were too short sighted to realize that other platforms are just as stable if you use them right), and the CentOS Stream shift looks like it may throw some of that stability out the window. Of course, there are also those who will now refuse to use it because of the arguably deceptive handling of EOL dates by RH, but that’s another story... Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 13:08

5 Answers 5


If you want to practice RHEL, you might as well use RHEL, which is now available for no-cost production use, in a personal capacity, for small workloads of up to 16 nodes or instances (in addition to the no-cost development-use developer subscriptions which have been available for a few years).

CentOS Streams gives access to what will eventually become the next point-release of RHEL (8.4 as of this writing). It’s great if you want to anticipate upcoming changes in RHEL; its appropriateness for other uses depends on a number of factors.

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    Reading the PDF with the fine print from the linked page, it seems that "small workloads" is <= 16 nodes or instances, be it physical or virtual machines (I did wonder what counts as a "small workload" -- the phrase makes it sound as if it was limited by CPU use or something.) But also that it's still under "Individual Developer subscription" and only allows personal use, and not use "as a representative or on behalf of an entity". Which is fine for the use in this question, but maybe worth pointing out before someone gets the wrong idea. :)
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 20:13
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    @ilkkachu yes, that is correct, thanks for pointing it out — as you say, fine in the context of the question, but not generalisable to all circumstances. Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 22:14
  • Naive question: Are they not obliged to provide free access to their distribution anyway because of GPL? Sure, unsupported and all, but still? Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 6:42
  • @Peter No. They only have to provide the source code to those to whom they have distributed their distribution. I hope that you're now enlightened.
    – user313992
    Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 7:55
  • @UncleBilly Thanks, somewhat :-). The recipients of that source are, in turn, free to redistribute it (for free) as they see fit, right? Including all buildscripts etc. -- all you need to create the distribution? Sorry, veering off-topic. Is there a relevant question in FOS? Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 8:06

Gregory Kurtzer, the gentleman who originally founded CentOS, has started a new project called Rocky Linux that is supposed to be what CentOS was. It has not made an official release yet, but they claim it is "under intensive development by the community" and are expecting to release something by the end of March 2021. That appears to be your best bet if you're looking for something as similar as possible to what you currently use.


I am wondering what are my options here as an individual to keep using centos/redhat as my desktop.

As you've mentioned RHEL is now free for SoHo users.

  1. Subscribe to RHEL
  2. Use this manual to convert your CentOS installation to RHEL: https://access.redhat.com/articles/2360841

An upgrade should happen seamlessly and the only thing you'll have to do in the end is rebooting. RHEL and CentOS are 100% binary compatible.


I would go with Oracle Enterprise Linux, it’s reasonable free (including Repo access) and it has the added benefit of giving you learning opportunities into Oracle‘s add-on offerings and commercial support very competitive to RedHat pricing (I hear).


It is pretty much as close to RHEL as CentOS is/was.

BTW OEL8.1 was distributed a bit late, but is now current at 8.3 (however some offerings still prefer EL7 like tutorials, packages, cloud services. I doubt this acceptance will improve after the dead of CentOS8...)

I don’t think they offer a CentOS Migration script, but if you set up your machine with configuration management or scripts you should pretty much be able to repeat it.


I'm not sure of the exact status to date, but Cloud Linux looks to have a CentOS clone (ie. another community driven fork of RHEL). They claim that migration is as simple as changing a few repo settings (although I guess time will tell for sure).

In terms of licensing, it's free (as far as I can tell) under any circumstances, but you can purchase paid support if you need/want it.

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