By Mayank Sharma
Explore the power and flexibility of Arch Linux with the best Arch-based Linux distros
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
The best Arch-based Linux distros provide impressive customizability. Arch adheres to a rolling release model, which means you can install it once and keep updating it till eternity.
For all its advantages, Arch remains one of the most cumbersome distros to configure and install. In fact, even though the installation process is one of the best documented ones, it’s elaborate and involved enough to scare away everyone except hardcore geeks.
Arch’s daunting installation process has given rise to a number of distros that go to great lengths to help new users experience the power of Arch Linux without going through the rigmarole of building an Arch installation from the ground up.
We’ve evaluated these Arch-based Linux distros across numerous areas, like the hardware requirements, system architecture, software repositories, and the apps included. We also looked at the efficiency of the productivity apps, how functional and visually attractive the desktops were, the documentation, and the ease of installation.
Here’s some of the best and unique options on offer.
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The best Arch-based Linux distros of 2023 in full
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Best Arch-based Linux distro overall
Reasons to buy
+ Helpful custom apps Good choice of desktops Attractive themes
Helpful custom apps+
Good choice of desktops+
Reasons to avoid
- A few unconventional shortcuts
A few unconventional shortcuts
Manjaro is available in three officially supported flavors (Gnome, KDE Plasma, and Xfce) and over half a dozen community-supported ones. Besides the 64-bit ISOs, you can also download images for dozens of ARM-based devices such as the Raspberry Pi 4, Pinebook, and the Pinebook Pro.
Unlike Arch, Manjaro uses a customised Calamares installer, which makes it fairly easy to anchor the distro to your computer. The installer gives you the option to choose between LibreOffice and FreeOffice as the default office suite, if you want to install one.
Manjaro includes all the usual mainstream popular apps such as the LibreOffice suite, GIMP, VLC, Firefox, Thunderbird, Steam client, and more. You can pull in additional apps using the intuitive Pamac package manager, which can grab apps from Manjaro’s official repositories, as well as the Arch User Repository (AUR). Manjaro also supports both Flatpaks and Snaps and you can install apps from their respective repos using Pamac. Another plus are the project’s custom tools, especially the Manjaro Hardware Detection tool (MHWD) that you can use to install the correct drivers for all attached devices.
All things considered, with its bundled apps and custom tools, Manjaro is a ready-to-use desktop distro that scores highly in both form and function, and is currently one of the most popular Linux distros overall.
Read the full Manjaro review here.
Best Arch-based Linux distro that's terminal-centric
Reasons to buy
+ Dual installers Useful Welcome app Vibrant community
Useful Welcome app+
Reasons to avoid
- No graphical package management app
No graphical package management app
Considered by many as the spiritual successor to the once-popular-now-disbanded Antergos project, EndeavourOS is the newest distro in our list.
In its bid to cater to a vast number of users with different use cases, the distro ships two flavors of the distribution-agnostic Calamares installer. There’s the offline installer, which as the name suggests doesn’t need an active connection to the Internet and installs a customized Xfce desktop environment. If Xfce doesn’t work for you, use the online installer that lets you choose between the Gnome, KDE, Deepin, Budgie, Cinnamon, Mate, LXQT, i3 desktops.
If you use Nvidia hardware you’ll appreciate the efforts put in by the developers to help you enjoy your graphics hardware. In terms of apps, EndeavourOS ships with many of the desktop essentials. However, the intention of the developers is to give you a usable base that you can flesh out as per your requirements.
One of the distro’s best features is the welcome application that has links to documentation, and several crucial post-installation tasks including the ability to add popular apps such as LibreOffice, and the akm kernel manager to switch kernels.
The distro’s only failing for the time being at least is that it lacks a graphical package manager. But for what it’s worth it does have very easy-to-digest information on using the command-line-based package management systems.
Best Arch-based Linux distro for beginners
Reasons to buy
+ Attractive looking desktop Lots of documentation
Attractive looking desktop+
Lots of documentation
Reasons to avoid
- Website could be better designed
Website could be better designed
Unlike other Arch-based projects, ArcoLinux is pitched as a learning platform that hopes to transform new users into Arch masters. To that end the project produces not one but several distros.
The ArcoLinux learning process has been broken into six phases, and the various ArcoLinux distributions are part of those phrases.
There’s the minimalist ArcoLinuxD release, which ships with just enough components to help you build your own custom ArcoLinux installation. Then there’s ArcoLinuxB that enables you to modify the stock ArcoLinux ISO and build your own custom image. The project hosts a string of such customized ISOs as contributed by its community.
The main ArcoLinux release comes with three desktop environments, is chock full of productivity apps and is designed for the average desktop user. This is the release that’s designed to be used as a regular desktop. Virtually all aspects of this distro have been tweaked and the customized desktop looks inviting, with its attractive icon theme and the Plank dock.
4. Parabola GNU/Linux-libre
Best Arch-based Linux distros that's completely free
Reasons to buy
+ Endorsed by the FSF 100% free yet functional
Endorsed by the FSF+
100% free yet functional
Reasons to avoid
- Limited hardware support Designed for experienced users
Limited hardware support-
Designed for experienced users
One of the few distros that are endorsed by the GNU/Linux project, Parabola GNU/Linux-libre goes to great lengths to ensure it only includes free as-in-freedom components. That covers everything from the kernel and the hardware drivers to libraries and applications.
Instead of the standard Linux kernel, Parabola uses the version from the GNU Linux-libre project that’s been stripped of all proprietary and non-free firmware blobs and code. Thanks to this philosophy it won’t support many wireless cards and top of the line graphics hardware.
This respect for freedom is also applied to the official Arch repositories from which the distro sources its packages. In fact the project maintains a list of packages in the Arch repos that don’t adhere to the free software specifications, which currently lists over 800 packages.
Unlike some of the other projects in this list, Parabola puts out several releases. The distro is one of the few distros that continues to support the 32-bit architecture. It is also one of the few that supports multiple init systems, systemd and OpenRC. There are also editions that boot to a command-line environment and others that boot into an LXDE desktop.
The good thing however is that you can use any of the ISOs to install any variant of Parabola. For instance, you can use the CLI OpenRC Live CD to install a system with the Gnome desktop that uses systemd.
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How to choose the best Arch-based Linux distros for you?
Configuring and installing an Arch-based Linux distro isn’t easy, and that’s why you must select the right one for your needs.
You’ll first want to check whether your hardware’s capable of running the Arch-based Linux distro without lag and if the distro supports your system’s architecture (32 or 64-bit). You could then consider the documentation available, duration and ease of installation, and the software repositories. If you’re a beginner, you may want to steer clear of distros that are better suited for experienced users.
You’ll also want to assess the desktops in terms of their visual design, the themes they offer, the customizability, and the overall functionality.
The best Arch-based Linux distros: How we test
To select the best Arch-based Linux distros, we analyzed the features and performance of many distros. We looked at how swift the installation was, how smoothly they ran across old and new hardware, whether they were available for 32 and 64-bit systems, and the ease of configuring and setting it up.
Along with checking the available documentation, we looked at how active the forums were for discussions and if there was any official support. We also considered whether they had graphical package managers, productivity apps, and customizable desktops, among other aspects.
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With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.
What is the most lightweight Arch Linux distro? ›
Manjaro XFCE - Best lightweight Arch-based Linux distro
Manjaro offers cutting-edge software packages based on the Arch User Repository (AUR).
Ubuntu – a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with the largest community support of any Distro.Is Gentoo better than Arch? ›
Gentoo's official package and system management tools tend to be rather more complex and "powerful" than those provided by Arch, and certain features which are at the very heart of Gentoo (USE flags, SLOTs, etc.)Is Arch faster than Ubuntu? ›
Performance and Scalability: Although both operating systems are sound in performance, Ubuntu faces hardware compatibility issues with older systems. Considering scaling, Arch Linux is better than Ubuntu due to its lightweight feature.Is it worth switching to Arch Linux? ›
There are ample reasons to switch to Arch Linux: the availability of the latest software, complete control over the system, and the ability to customize Linux to your taste—only to name a few.What makes Arch Linux so hard? ›
The amount of knowledge required makes Arch more difficult to install than most distros. You have to do a bit of reading, but if you can follow a guide, you can get things up and running. In the end, you're left with a system that does exactly what you want.Why Arch Linux is so fast? ›
Arch Linux is a rolling release distribution. That means new kernel and application versions are rolled out to you as soon as they are released. While most other Linux distributions serve you old Linux kernel versions, Arch is quick to provide you the latest kernel. The same goes for software.How much RAM Arch Linux uses? ›
Before you start the Arch Linux installation you should make sure that all the necessary requirements are met. Your computer should have at least 512 MB of RAM and 1 GB of memory. For streamlined use, 2 GB of RAM and 20 GB of storage are recommended. The computer should also be x86-64 compatible.What Linux distro does US government use? ›
The United States Department of Defense uses Linux - "the U.S. Army is the single largest installed base for Red Hat Linux" and the US Navy nuclear submarine fleet runs on Linux, including their sonar systems.What is the number 1 Linux distro? ›
To make your selection process easier, we have listed the top three Linux distros in these categories: Best Linux distributions for a VPS – Ubuntu Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and Rocky Linux. Most user-friendly Linux distros – Linux Mint, Elementary OS, and Zorin OS.
What Linux distro does NASA use? ›
The enterprise solution at NASA is Red Hat. If you want to play on the official NASA network, you have to have a Security Plan, and the only Linux that has one already and is supported by IT is Red Hat Linux. Off-Network you can use all sorts of Linux (I use Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi 4 in my lab).Is manjaro better than Arch? ›
Generally speaking, Manjaro is more user-friendly than Arch. It can be downloaded in different flavors, based on the desktop environment. For instance, the three official releases use either XFCE, KDE, or GNOME. However, there are a number of “unofficial” releases for other environments.Is Arch better for gaming? ›
For the most part, games will work right out of the box in Arch Linux with possibly better performance than on other distributions due to compile time optimizations. However, some special setups may require a bit of configuration or scripting to make games run as smoothly as desired.Why do people like Arch Linux? ›
Arch Linux is a free and open-source Linux distro that gives you immense customizability and control over your machine. Arch's lightweight and minimalistic nature is the prime reason for its rising popularity in the tech community. The x86-64 centric Linux distro adheres to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid).What is Arch Linux best used for? ›
In other words, Arch Linux is a distribution optimized for x86-64 architecture targeted at experienced Linux users. It lets you have full responsibility and control over your system. You'll get to choose what packages you want, the kernel (yes there are multiple), the boot-loader, the desktop environment, and so on.Is Arch Linux not stable? ›
That's not to say that Arch Linux is unstable. It's not, far from it. But for new users, there are certain precautions that should be taken so that the inherent freedom of Arch does not get in the way of system stability.Is Arch better than Fedora? ›
While Arch is somewhat more convenient to run because you don't need to update your OS as often, it can cause issues when Arch decides to make a system breaking change which means that some updates may require manual intervention, and the system will just be less stable overall compared to Fedora.Is Gentoo harder than Arch? ›
Gentoo is harder - it involves compilation and early decisions on cross-package features you want to enable with tags - it may take an entire day. If you feel very brave (and have excess time), you may try Linux from Scratch; as the name suggests, it helps you to create your own, custom distro.What are the limitations of Arch Linux? ›
- Installation is a Hectic Process. ...
- Some Updates Can Break Your System. ...
- Advanced Distribution. ...
- It offers bleeding-edge software that may cause stability issues.
- It has a lesser community than other distributions like Ubuntu OS.
It is based on the minimalist philosophy of Unix and is designed for advanced users who want to have complete control over their system. Users choose Arch Linux because of its flexibility and robustness. Other distributions come with a lot of packages pre-installed. Arch Linux has only what is necessary.
What should I install on Arch Linux? ›
- Update The System.
- Install A Display Server.
- Install A Desktop Environment.
- Install A Display Manager.
- Install An AUR Helper.
- Install Additional Kernels.
- Install Microcode.
- Rank Mirrorlists.
Arch Linux has a broader approval, being mentioned in 5 company stacks & 32 developers stacks; compared to Windows 10, which is listed in 8 company stacks and 11 developer stacks.Is Arch Linux better than Kali? ›
Arch is a lightweight operating system that may be modified for everyday use. Kali is a security tool used by ethical hackers and security researchers.How often does Arch Linux break? ›
Arch is stable enough that (unless you're doing stupid things, like grabbing half of your system from the AUR) there will only be a breaking change every three years or so. Just set a cron job to update it for you and you have nothing to worry about.What percentage of Linux users use Arch? ›
Or in relative terms when dicing just the Linux numbers, Arch Linux is at 12.85% to Ubuntu 20.04. 4 LTS at 11.75%. SteamOS Holo does also show up now and in at 5.23% for Linux users.Is Arch Linux good for old computers? ›
Absolutely. It would run perfectly fine. I've installed Arch Linux on much older computers & till date it is running fine. 2.1GHz Processor & 4GB is enough for it to run smoothly.Is Arch good for beginners? ›
Most will recommend new users avoid Arch Linux. It's too complicated. It requires you to know too much about Linux and hardware to set it up.What Linux distro does Snowden use? ›
The United States Department of Defense uses Linux - "the U.S. Army is the single largest installed base for Red Hat Linux" and the US Navy nuclear submarine fleet runs on Linux, including their sonar systems.Which Linux distro is use in supercomputers? ›
The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer uses the CNK operating system on the compute nodes, but uses a modified Linux-based kernel called I/O Node Kernel (INK) on the I/O nodes. CNK is a lightweight kernel that runs on each node and supports a single application running for a single user on that node.
Which Linux is best for everything? ›
- Fedora. Best Linux distro for programming/programmers. ...
- Arch Linux/Manjaro Linux. Best Linux distro for programming for absolute control over your desktop. ...
- Gentoo/Sabayon Linux. Best source-code-based Linux distro for programming. ...
- Kali Linux. ...
On top of the list, Debian Linux is the most stable Linux distribution. The great thing about it is that it is user-friendly, lightweight, and compatible with other environments. The Debian team has a longer work period, which allows them to fix most of the bugs before releasing a new version.
Amazon EC2 running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is a proven platform for development, test, and production workloads. With more than 6,000 certified applications from over 1,500 independent software vendors, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is a versatile Linux platform that provides superior reliability and security.What OS does SpaceX use? ›
And each SpaceX rocket and satellite uses a variation of the Linux operating system that powers each of the world's billions of Android phones.What Linux distro do Google employees use? ›
The best-known Google operating system is Chrome OS, but inside Google itself, the company also uses its own Linux desktop distro — gLinux.How far behind Arch is Manjaro? ›
Usually about a week or so behind Arch. These are used to store patched software packages from the unstable repositories, as well other new software releases that are considered at least sufficiently stable.Why Arch over Ubuntu? ›
Overall, with Ubuntu, you get a particular type of desktop experience offered to every user, with little to no ability to customize it. But, Arch Linux gives you the freedom to define how you want the desktop experience. Note that this might be a good thing for experienced Linux users.Why is an arch so strong? ›
An arch derives its strength directly from its shape. Downward force from the top of an arch is carried along the curving form all the way to the base. At the same time, the ground pushes up with equal force.Why arch over Debian? ›
The main reason why I think Arch is better than the rest is the package manager, otherwise known as pacman. It is fast and extremely solid. No other package manager has been this reliable in all my years of running Linux. Another important reason is that the documentation is extremely good.Why did Steam switch to arch? ›
The Steam Deck runs a customized version of Steam OS 3.0 that is based upon Arch Linux, with the desktop mode being powered by KDE Plasma 5. The decision to move from Debian to Arch Linux was based on the different update schedule for these distributions.
Who is Arch Linux intended for? ›
It is targeted at the proficient GNU/Linux user, or anyone with a do-it-yourself attitude who is willing to read the documentation, and solve their own problems. All users are encouraged to participate and contribute to the distribution.Why doesn t Arch have an installer? ›
Arch used to have an installer with a text-based user interface called the Arch Installation Framework (AIF). After its last maintainer left, it was deprecated in favor of arch-install-scripts. Since 2021-04-01, Arch has an installer again. See archinstall for details.What language is Arch Linux written in? ›
Arch LinuxIs Arch Linux the best Linux? ›
Arch Linux is well known for not just being incredibly stable but for also being considerably more challenging than many other distributions. Because of that, several developers (and teams of developers) have attempted to make Arch more accessible to those without years of Linux experience.What distro is Arch Linux based on? ›
|Developer||Levente Polyak (lead developer)|
|Influenced by||CRUX, BSD|
Generally speaking, Manjaro is more user-friendly than Arch. It can be downloaded in different flavors, based on the desktop environment. For instance, the three official releases use either XFCE, KDE, or GNOME. However, there are a number of “unofficial” releases for other environments.Is Manjaro the best Arch based distro? ›
Not only is Manjaro the best Arch-based distribution, but it's also in the running for the best Linux distro. Let's go over some of Manjaro's differentiating strengths, milestones, and accolades.Why is Arch Linux so hard? ›
The amount of knowledge required makes Arch more difficult to install than most distros. You have to do a bit of reading, but if you can follow a guide, you can get things up and running. In the end, you're left with a system that does exactly what you want.Is Arch Linux unstable? ›
That's not to say that Arch Linux is unstable. It's not, far from it. But for new users, there are certain precautions that should be taken so that the inherent freedom of Arch does not get in the way of system stability.Is Arch Linux best for gaming? ›
Certain games or game types may need special configuration to run or to run as expected. For the most part, games will work right out of the box in Arch Linux with possibly better performance than on other distributions due to compile time optimizations.
What are the disadvantages of Manjaro? ›
Cons of Manjaro
Since Manjaro is a rolling release, it requires updates almost weekly, making it less stable. You have to manually download, confirm, and install the OS.
It is not only very reliable, but also comparatively fast. ABS: ABS (Arch Build System) is the package management of Arch Linux and can also be customized. AUR: The Arch User Respository is run by the community and provides a variety of different software.Is Endeavor better than Manjaro? ›
Endeavour OS offers a lot more variants officially. Apart from what Manjaro has, it also has LXQT, BSPWM, Openbox and Qtile. Since each flavor has a different Desktop Environment and their own DE-specific bundled apps, this ends up in not having a “strict” baseline of a minimum of system requirements.