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It’s ‘Best Linux Distro’ Time Again

Who’s going to get bragging rights this year? Last year it was Arch. The year before it was Ubuntu. Call out the troops and get bragging rights by making your favorite our “Best Linux Distro.”

The FOSS Force Readers’ Choice Awards Poll

Arch Linux Best Linux Distro 2015Update: The voting on the first “qualifying” round of our Best Linux Distro poll closed on Saturday, January 28. We have replaced that poll in this article with the Best Linux Distro final round poll. Results from the first round of polling can be found on our Completed Polls page.

It’s time to start the process of choosing the FOSS Force Readers’ Choice Award winner for Best Desktop Linux Distro for 2016. This is the third outing for our annual poll, which began in a March, 2015 contest that was won by Ubuntu, which bested runner-up Linux Mint by only 11 votes. Last year we moved the voting up to January, in a contest which saw Arch Linux as the overall winner, with elementary OS in second place.

Just like last year, this year’s polling will be a two round process. The first round, which began early Friday afternoon when the poll quietly went up on our front page, is a qualifying round. In this round, we’re offering a field of 19 of the top 20 distros on Distrowatch’s famous “Page Hit Ranking” list. Those whose favorite distro isn’t on the list shouldn’t worry — your distro’s not out of the game yet. Below the poll there’s a place to write-in any distro that’s not in the poll to be tallied for possible inclusion in the second and final round of polling to follow.

Our admittedly unscientific poll is basically a fun way to add a little good natured competition between the distros and their users, as the grand prize basically amounts to bragging rights. This isn’t to say we don’t learn something in the process. Last year’s win by Arch, for example, spoke to an incredibly active community around the distro.

Which of the GNU/Linux distros listed below would you choose to win the FOSS Force โ€˜Best Desktop Distroโ€™ Award for 2016?

  • Arch (20%, 1,621 Votes)
  • elementary (15%, 1,251 Votes)
  • PCLinuxOS (10%, 857 Votes)
  • Slackware (8%, 678 Votes)
  • Solus (8%, 616 Votes)
  • Linux Mint (7%, 576 Votes)
  • Manjaro (5%, 431 Votes)
  • Ubuntu (5%, 393 Votes)
  • Debian (4%, 327 Votes)
  • Fedora (4%, 296 Votes)
  • Antergos (3%, 274 Votes)
  • openSUSE (3%, 242 Votes)
  • Ubuntu MATE (1%, 118 Votes)
  • MX Linux (1%, 113 Votes)
  • Xubuntu (1%, 99 Votes)
  • KDE neon (1%, 98 Votes)
  • Gentoo (1%, 92 Votes)
  • Devuan (1%, 53 Votes)
  • BunsenLabs (0%, 27 Votes)
  • OpenMandriva (0%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,176

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It was evident to us almost immediately after the first round of voting began that members of the Arch community were making a considerable effort to get the vote out for their distro — meaning that last year’s win was in some ways a testimony to the distro’s strong community support. The same was true with the second place winner, elementary OS, where the community got actively involved in the voting process.

Here’s how it works: The voting for the first qualifying round will end at noon eastern time on Saturday, January 28. On Monday, January 30, after counting both the votes from our poll and the separate write-in votes, we will publish a second and final round poll which will include the ten top vote getting distros from round one to determine the FOSS Force Readers’ Choice Award winner for Best Linux Distro of 2016. The final round poll will close February 6 and the winner will be officially announced the next day. There will be no write-in votes in the final round of polling.

We will be attempting, as much as we can, to limit the voting to one vote per person. Our polling software will automatically limit the vote by IP address and the use of a non-tracking cookie. However, because the software we’re using for the “write in” votes isn’t equipped to limit voting in this manner, we will filter the write-in votes by IP address before counting, and only count the first two votes from each IP address. This means that voters in a group write-in campaign should vote from separate locations instead of all voting at a central location like, say, the workplace.

Voting rules and other information: To vote in the main poll there is no need to fill out the captcha. Simply mark your vote and click on the “Vote” button. Write-in voters must complete the captcha after typing the distro name into the text box. Write-in votes for distros that are included in our poll will not be counted. You are allowed to vote both in the poll and to submit a write-in vote if you desire. Write-in votes must be for a traditional GNU/Linux desktop distribution. Votes for BSD operating systems, Android and other mobile operating systems, or distros designed to run only on single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi will not be counted.

Let the voting beginโ€ฆ


  1. Sakis Migdalas Sakis Migdalas January 21, 2017

    “Best” with respect to what criteria? And which is the scale for each criterion?

  2. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 21, 2017

    @Sakis “Best” as in anything that can fall under the definition of “best.” What’s the best desktop Linux distro by your measure? That’s the only criterion. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nonya Nonya January 21, 2017

    Good Questions! At best this is a very subjective thing, which distro is best. What works best for one person may not work so well for others. I have been using computers since the DOS 3.3 days (ooops, giving away my age there!). I have never been reluctant to do things from the command line, and I don’t mind configuring things. However, these days I find that I like distros where everything “just works”. Others may like to experiment with settings etc… I have been there. These days I like all of my hardware to work with minimum issues, so I can get on with the things that I use the computer for.

  4. Eduardo Eduardo January 21, 2017

    Slackware, the oldest GNU/Linux distribution in active development, is sorely missing.
    P.D.: The captcha really is annoying. Thanks, anyway.

  5. Daniel Daniel January 21, 2017

    I did not think ReactOS qualifies for this poll. It is not a Linux desktop distribution.

  6. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 21, 2017

    @Daniel Good catch. You’re 100% correct. ReactOS has been removed from our polling.

  7. Sakis Migdalas Sakis Migdalas January 21, 2017

    @Christine, exactly my point. The question should be rephrased: Which Linux distro do you personally prefer? And I highly doubt that people have tested *all* Linux distros in order to assess the “best” one based on any other criterion than personal preference. There is nothing objective in this, only subjective preference. So what do we learn from this, how will it impact on Linux in 2017? What was the impact of the “best” Linux distro from last year? How did that promote anything?

  8. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 21, 2017

    @Sakis Academy members haven’t seen all nominated movies either, but that doesn’t keep them from voting on “Best Picture.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Mason Mullins Mason Mullins January 21, 2017

    I’m shocked that Slackware was left off the list. Submitted a write in.

  10. K.J. Petrie K.J. Petrie January 22, 2017

    Where do I vote. All I can see is a list of results so far and a form to add a new distro, but how do I vote for one that’s already listed? Where is the voting link or button hidden?

  11. K.J. Petrie K.J. Petrie January 22, 2017

    Oh, I see. I have to post a comment before I’m allowed to vote…!

  12. ali ali January 22, 2017

    i’m a java developer and i just paid 3200$ for a 2015 macbook pro. i have been using 2010 mbp and i needed a new one. i evaluated the linux option, xps13, lenovo t460, etc. and i decided my time is more valuable than $3200. with linux option i can’t be sure if all of the hardware play nicely with my favorite linux flavor, if it will sleep and wake up, etc. so i went out and paid $3200 for a laptop i know will work out of the box. linux community is like children comparing whose toy is better. unless there is just one linux, so it makes sense for laptop manufacturers to strive for compatibility, linux will be confined to servers and will never reach mainstream desktop/laptop usage. so have fun ceating distros and comparing them.

  13. Tom Tom January 22, 2017

    Should we care? ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. karl karl January 22, 2017

    Where is centos?

  15. Mike Mike January 22, 2017


    Have fun wasting thousands of dollars on Apple shit. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Any developer worth his salt (except apparently perhaps Java developers) can afford to spend the few minutes it takes to determine if a machine’s hardware is supported by their favorite distro. For any developer who isn’t an idiot, compiling a custom kernel is also trivial and quick.

  16. Mike Mike January 22, 2017

    Oh, and anyone who thinks Mac’s “just work” should spend some time on Apple’s forums. It’s an eye opener.

    Apple is crap.

  17. lfs lfs January 22, 2017

    Are you really going to search the best linux distro without Slackware or Gentoo on the list? Well, it reminds me “documents” as ~which nazi tank was best in lost war?~ or ~which us bomber was best against MiG-15 in Korea war?. Really funny, enjoy.

  18. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 22, 2017

    @Ifs You don’t trust that Slackware has enough support to garner enough write-in votes to make it to the final round poll?

  19. etyrnal etyrnal January 22, 2017

    By this method we could easily discover that McDonaldz is THE BEST RESTAURANT.

  20. Eddie G. Eddie G. January 22, 2017

    Ok. To all the people who are complaining about this contest? In a nice “New Yorker” kinda way?….SHYADDAP!
    This isn’t about metrics or measuring which distro is the “Best” for EVERYONE. Its a fun way to see who can get their distro either on the list or at the top. Can we all for the love of Swiss cheese and peanut butter just GROW THE HELL UP!!?? (Sorry Christine for the abruptness, but this sh*t annoys the H3LL outta me!..LoL!)
    Secondly, to the commenter who thinks spending $3200.00 on a COMPUTER makes ANY kind of sense? well this conversation isn’t even for you! People don’t use Linux to get some satisfaction of it being a “Mac Clone” people don’t install Linux on machines that cost from $300 – $800 dollars to try to impress the elite with their OS. People install Linux in order to get things done on their machines without proprietary licensing getting in the way. They don’t spend that kind of money on a computer because they have families, children, car payments, insurances, mortgages, and other bills. Only a fool would spend THAT kind of money on a device THAT WILL BECOME OBSOLETE WITHIN A FEW YEARS! I’m currently running Fedora Linux (25) on a Lenovo ThinkCentre M-83…packed with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD and you know what?….this is a machine from 2013!….Unlike a Mac I’ll get updates for my OS until I decide to either install something else or else the machine gives up the ghost. You on the other hand? will eventually come to the point where the latest version of your MacOS WILL NOT install on your machine. (I know first hand about this as my iMac from 2010 went through all the motions of downloading the latest OS from Apple…”Sierra OS” and then after the entire horse & buggy show it told me that the hardware was too old for this OS…thank GOODNESS I did NOT pay FULL RETAIL PRICE for that machine! but that it was given to my by a family member!) So keep on shelling out untold amounts of money for hardware that doesn’t “play nice” with others, and leave us Linux users alone!…

    ‘Nuff Said!

  21. Mike Mike January 22, 2017

    For something off the beaten path: try GoboLinux

    I’ve been testing it out for some time and there are some elements of sheer brilliance within it. I’m adapting pieces of it to my own LFS based “distro”.

    It is not for newbies or the faint of heart though.

    Some of the choices on this poll make me cringe due to wrongheaded, misleading, or cavalier attitudes regarding FOSS.

  22. Libor Libor January 23, 2017

    It’s a shame that CentOS is missing there (6th hit place on mentioned Distrowatch during last 6 months). And the worst is that Slackware is missing.

    IMHO this poll will give useless results. Neither for servers nor for clients.

  23. Thong N Thong N January 23, 2017

    I agrees with most of the reply about this is very subjective. As for Linux, I use and work on many flavors of it because base on my client needs I recommend the best linux distro or custom built to their needs. I use Linux on a varity of machines, including Linux on IBM mainframes.

    For this days and age, the question needs to be: what is the best Linux distro for the avarage home user? My answer to this question would be: I think its Linux Mint/Ubuntu Mate base on the home user I have helped converted over to Linux.

  24. J J January 23, 2017

    MX-16 !
    The MX family (MX14,15, and now 16 plus AntiX, building on the heratige and community from Mepis) is great.

    Debian stable polished to a gleaming gem.

    A great community plus all kind of useful tools, and updated packages. Truely a stable, medium weight powerhouse with XFCE.

  25. Jim Bowering Jim Bowering January 23, 2017

    I also voted for MX. Excellent OS, super community.

    For everyone moaning about how this poll is too subjective: THAT’S THE POINT! Get over it and go quibble about what’s the best ice cream or something, okay?

  26. Mike Mike January 23, 2017

    > “whatโ€™s the best ice cream”

    That’s too subjective. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. Michael O. Michael O. January 23, 2017

    Hi Thong N, Have you heard about Manjaro Linux? I use the KDE desktop and just works fine. I don’t have to upgrade or re-install every 6 months and looking for drivers that don’t work with the new version of Ubuntu/mint. I am an average user with an Agriculture/agronomist degree.

  28. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 23, 2017

    @Mike This is only the qualifying round in order to get input from our readers on what distros should be included in the final round of voting. Just as we did last year, the question will change to something more precise in the final round, as indicated in the second paragraph of the article linked below.

  29. ReekyMarko ReekyMarko January 23, 2017

    I hear I have to comment first to vote, so this is just that.

  30. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 23, 2017

    @ReekyMarko The reader who made that comment was misquided. There is no necessity to comment in order to vote in the poll or to enter a write-in candidate for consideration in the final round.

  31. TEXCENTRIC TEXCENTRIC January 23, 2017

    Why do some people whine about such trivial matters? Get a life already Snowflake.

  32. Thad Thad January 23, 2017

    @TEXCENTRIC Well, if I want to know how best to spend my life on important things, I’m definitely going to take advice from a first-time poster with an all-caps name who calls people “Snowflake”.

    AT ANY RATE, I’m not going to vote because I’m not in a position to judge. I’m still using OpenSUSE as my primary (because I love its one-click install feature) and GalliumOS on my laptop (because it’s a Chromebook), but I haven’t kept up with the latest and greatest. Solus really looks like it’s breaking some interesting ground (and is pretty to boot) but I haven’t actually used it.

    We’re just on the cusp of some very interesting changes in the Linux world, with Wayland, Vulkan, and Flatpak (or Snap, I suppose, for the Ubuntu users) starting to catch on. I think things are too volatile at the bleeding edge right now for a user like me, but I’m really excited to see what’s on the horizon.

  33. Reid Reid January 23, 2017

    Interesting, though it could be retitled “Most Popular”! I’ve used so many distros over the years, starting with Slackware in the late ’90s. Like many, have gravitated to Debian derivatives, specifically Mint & Ubuntu, just because I can install and use them with minimum hassles on almost any equipment. But that’s not knocking the others, and I know many folks have deeper knowledge than I do!

    Love Linux – it’s depth, variety, and its protean ability to do anything its user needs done. One of those things that makes the world a better place!

  34. Billy Sol Hargis Billy Sol Hargis January 23, 2017

    LXLE simply great on old/low-end cpu’s which I seem to be surrounded by…

  35. K.J. Petrie K.J. Petrie January 23, 2017

    All I knew was I couldn’t see the voting form until I commented and then it magically appeared. I’ve since been told that just clicking the Submit button would have the same effect. Presumably it was just some kind of glitch.

    I’m amazed at the vicious debate about the pros and cons of different hardware and software. After all, it’s an individual judgement based on a person’s specific requirements, and calling someone an idiot because their judgement was that the best option for them was to pay for an expensive piece of kit seems to ignore the implication that they earn far more than most of us, if a few hours of their time was worth thousands of dollars. I might not mind being that kind of idiot. We all have different reasons for our decisions, and they’re mostly valid in the circumstances we find ourselves in. That’s what freedom is all about. And if you run a printer on Linux, you probably use a Free (as in speech) program developed and maintained by Apple, so however bad they might be in other ways, they have also shared part of their system with us. No doubt I’m an idiot for pointing that out. I have no Apple devices myself and will probably never have one, but I believe in being fair. There’s good and bad in us all.

  36. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 23, 2017

    @K.J. +1

    I agree. Software freedom should be just that. Your freedom to use the software, and conversely the hardware, of your choice.

  37. Mike Mike January 23, 2017

    @K.J. Petrie

    Ali, was doing much more than saying he found it worth it to spend thousands on a Macbook; He was denigrating those who choose Linux. Read his post more carefully. That makes him an idiot in my book.

    Being able to easily afford something is also no excuse for not doing your homework, especially for a developer. Incidentally, the difference in time can be measured in minutes, not hours. That’s not counting the time you’ll spend fighting Apple’s random changes to their software over time too. I make enough money to easily buy any hardware/software I want, but I choose Linux.

    You are correct Apple developed CUPS, but they are mostly a parasite on FOSS and contribute very little while taking much. Don’t get me started on how horrible CUPS’ design is either…

  38. /dev /dev January 23, 2017

    Personally, RHEL and CentOS are the best OSs I have ever worked with. I don’t care too much about being mainstream becasue of a great great long term support by RH, simply amazing. But indeed if I want to have a mainstream I prefer Arch

  39. Al Al January 23, 2017

    Linux’s world is so entertaining, that’s for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. tracyanne tracyanne January 23, 2017

    Although I’m currently using Ubuntu (Unity), In my opinion Linux Mint (Cinnamon) is simply the best Linux I’ve used since Mandrake.

    I’m using Ubuntu because 1. I couldn’t be bothered spending the time to replace it with Linux Mint (Ubuntu came pre installed), and 2. I replaced Nautilus with Nemo.

    Since I tend to “live” in the File manager, that single replacement improved Ubuntu to the point where I think Ubuntu Unity is actually pretty damn good.

  41. bigsky bigsky January 23, 2017

    @ Billy Sol Hargis. You got that right. Let them argue over nothing. Thanks Christine Hall great job.

  42. subash subash January 23, 2017

    Ok How do I vote

  43. tiox tiox January 24, 2017

    I’m fairly surprised to see Mint up there alongside Arch after the security debacle that made Clem get real about how his desktop should be distributed.

    That being said, for people who are growing any one bit tired of Linux Mint (Apt issues, fears of insecurity etc.) y’all can check out Ubuntu MATE for )almost_ the exact same thing in an official Ubuntu flavour (with more cool OOTB config tools to boot).

    I only tried it out initially to see how Nemo does in MATE. I am happy to say it turns out well… so long caja is still a required component of the MATE DE (so no touchie dconf).

  44. Azrielle Azrielle January 24, 2017

    I wrote in MX16. There is no comparison to those who’ve tried it.
    Runners up would be Korora 23 Mate 32bit, OBRevenge, and Elive 2.7.8 beta.

  45. Azrielle Azrielle January 24, 2017

    MX16 “just works” on every laptop, desktop, notebook, and netbook I’ve ever tried it on. That would be 18 separate models so far. Brands include Acer, ASUS, Dell, eMachines, Gateway, Dell, Lenovo, and an ancient homebuilt nVidia/Athlon desktop circa 2003. I was hooked with its predecessor MX15 about a year ago. It’s quite versatile OOTB, and you can add virtually anything you want after that. When you’re through, you can create a “snapshot” iso of your finished OS so you can load it onto another system, or use it in case of a catastrophe.

  46. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 24, 2017

    Just a reminder. Write-in votes for distros already included in our poll will not be counted. Also write-in votes for anything other than desktop Linux distros will not be counted, so there’s no reason to write in votes for BSDs, Android, macOS and the like.

    I only bring this up because I hate to see anyone wasting their vote. ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Mike Mike January 24, 2017

    > “I hate to see anyone wasting their vote.”

    Too late, Trump is president.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  48. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 24, 2017

    @Mike The same thought occurred to me as I was posting.

  49. Jim Jim January 24, 2017

    Lord, I am so tired of people discussing politics in the comment section. The cheating liar lost to the lying cheat. Talk to your therapist about it. At least he gets paid to hear the whining. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I WOULD say the same if the other person won.)

  50. Mike Mike January 24, 2017


    It was a joke. No one is whining but you.

  51. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 24, 2017

    @Jim The joke wasn’t even about politics and would have worked just as well at any time about any sitting president. Chill man.

  52. Bob Stockdale Bob Stockdale January 25, 2017

    Why are there no Gentoo based distros. Gentoo, Calculate, Sabayon, Funtoo and others are great distros. They are fast, stable and customizable. I would have voted for Sabayon or Calculate if they were on the list.

  53. Thong N Thong N January 25, 2017

    @Michael O, yes I heard of Manjaro and sorry to hear about your issues with drivers. My users do not have any issues when they update their systems. Maybe they are not the average users, since they only use their computer for WEB, music, watching YouTube, and/or light office apps.

  54. Thong N Thong N January 25, 2017

    @Michael O – what drivers do you need to reinstall manually?
    I know in the past (old ages) wireless cards have issues, to the point where the wireless cards are useless.

  55. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 25, 2017

    @tracyanne Ain’t it the truth. In fact, all distros are good. It just depends on preferences and purposes.

  56. DroWn DroWn January 26, 2017

    I’d say, simply based on the list, Ubuntu wins, how many of these distro’s are actually Ubuntu.

  57. Mike Mike January 26, 2017


    By that logic Debian wins since Ubuntu is based on Debian the way Mint and others are based on Ubuntu.

    One look at the Linux distribution timeline makes it clear that Debian is the distro king.

  58. JR Namida JR Namida January 27, 2017

    Have used Linux since May 2007, when I discovered it was more stable than Vista. Started with Mepis, then AntiX, and now use MX-16. Linux is good I find MX-16 is stable will load on all the new builds I do, and every closet and garage system malware bloated Win system I have located and put back into useful service.

    Last weekend stopped at a garage sale, installed MX-16 into a $5 computer desktop that the seller thought was good for parts because windows would not boot. He had never heard of Linux, nor about booting a live o/s from plastic. I showed seller how to download the ISO, and he was able to burn a DVD, and boot the system.

    Maybe another Linux user in the future, after he had move the system to his kitchen table and connected it to his internet modem for this install, that had made his computer work again.

  59. Randal Randal January 28, 2017

    So your giving a subjective question, and then not honoring peoples subjective replies? MacOS is BSD based, but Android is a Linux Kernel with a custom work environment. I have a 62 year old friend, with his first smart phone, which is his Android based desktop, and if he were to buy his first computer, he wants the same system, for his ease of use.
    For others of us, our servers can be our desktop, and our desktops can operate on our servers. Then there are machine specific ones, like Raspbian, which is a good system as there are limited choices still for some boards. (but may be the desktop of choice for kids in school, etc)
    Myself, I don’t have just one, as I have different machines and each has different goals. Raspbian, Lubuntu, Slackware, even a really old, sneakernet storage server, that runs OpenSuse on it. On most, I could just choose to install and log in whatever desktop/window manager preference I choose. (or not and go command line)

  60. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 28, 2017

    Voting is now closed in the qualifying round of our “Best Linux Distro” poll. We are counting the write in votes now to determine the slate in our final round of voting which will begin at noon eastern time on Monday, January 30, 2017.

    Good news! Write in voting was so heavy that we’ll be expanding the slate in the final round from the planned 10 distros to include a full 20 distros.

    I can’t wait to see who you choose to receive this years “Best Linux Distro” award!

    Thanks for participating in Round One everybody.

  61. Sc Das Sc Das January 30, 2017

    How do I vote?? Do I have to write a comment in order to that.. ??

  62. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 30, 2017

    @Sc Das Voting in the qualifying round closed at noon eastern time on Saturday. The poll for our final round of voting is scheduled to go online in about an hour, at noon eastern time.

  63. Sc Das Sc Das January 30, 2017

    Oh…. Thanks CHall!! I was going nuts thinking timer shows “53 mins to go” and I couldn’t find the VOTE button.. Apparently, its a count-down for voting to start..

    Thanks again!!!

  64. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 30, 2017

    @Yup. I hope your favorite distro made the cut and will be included in the upcoming final round! For the first hour or so, the new poll will be available on our Home page only. We’re working on an article now introducing the new poll, and the poll will be included in that article as soon as it’s published.

  65. Digit Digit January 30, 2017

    no idea how to vote on this. pity it’s only those few to choose from. none of the above, i’d have to vote for , since the ones i would want to vote for arent there. bedrock, guixsd, gentoo.

  66. Christine Hall Christine Hall January 30, 2017

    @Digit You’re looking at the now closed “qualifying round” poll. The final round just went up on our home page and includes distros that qualified by way of write-in entries. Maybe your poll made the cut.

  67. Risto Alanko Risto Alanko February 6, 2017

    How can I vote? No link… only results.

  68. eOS #1 fan eOS #1 fan February 6, 2017

    someone from Arch community hack it! probably ๐Ÿ™‚

  69. Luis Luis February 15, 2017


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