Choosing the right Linux distribution (popularly known as distro) for you desktop is somewhat a tough job, given the number of Linux distributions available on the net. No wonder if you are puzzled after you take a look at the list of distros available at Distrowatch. But to make a smart choice you can consider the following.

Installation:

Most of the Linux distros, today, use Graphical User Interfaces to install the os on the machine, given the number of distros that comes as a LiveCD (or LiveDVD) are increasing by the day. So it's much easier than installing Windows, for a non-technical person. From a non-technical point of view, I think most of the people hate Windows is being installed. Some, like Zenwalk, still use text-based installation procedure. Go for a LiveCD based distro. Click here to get a list of LiveCD based Linux distros available.

User-friendly:

Most of the users who switch to Linux are previously Windows users. And Windows, admittedly, makes your life simpler with some great functionalities (and sluggish nature and viruses?). Now, here in Linux it's not always a graphical user interface (GUI) that works. You have to make use of 'terminals', the most powerful application available on a Linux OS. 'Terminal' is something like Windows DOS prompt, though not black in color always. :) But some of the distros, like Ubuntu, Fedora make use of GUI as much as possible. Try a distro that helps you understand the system with GUI rather than forces you to use terminal apps.

Community Support:

Since you are one of the thousands of newbies who are switching to Linux, it is quite obvious that you'd have initial problems using the OS. So for help you need a pretty strong community. Before you start it with Linux, go check their communities. Almost every distribution has a forum and an IRC channel. After all Linux is all about Open Source and community driven projects.

Hardware Support:

The same distro that works on an Intel Processor based machine may not work on an AMD one. But that doesn't mean the distro is not available for the other machine. But they are differently designed. Like most of the names of the distros that work on an Intel system ends with something like name-of-the-distro-i386.iso (for the not-so-geeks: .iso files are those which you download and burn to get the LiveCD or LiveDVD). So download the right iso file that suits your machine.

Availability of Softwares (Packages):

Now, softwares (Linux users call them Packages) are a big issue with a Linux based system. What works on Windows won't work with Linux (if you don't install a package like Wine or Windows Emulator). And even the softwares work, they may not be optimized in Linux. But, in my opinion, the packages available in Linux are much better than those you pay to get a copy (?). But installing them may be a tiresome job. So if you want some kind of one-click installation of softwares, go for the distros that has such offers. Like in Ubuntu, the Add-Remove application (also the synaptic package manager) allows the user to search the repositories (the servers where these packages are available) and download and install the packages just with a few clicks. Freespire has such a feature called CNR that has similar facilities.

Connecting to the internet:

Once installed you surely need some help with the programs. And for that matter you need to connect to the net. So make sure you know how to connect with the internet. Just a search in the respective forums would help you.

Read the Reviews:

Yes, do read what other has to say about the OS you are going to use. Because it's the people who use it. And who else ca give you such a first hand information? Try googling for reviews on the OS and you will be flooded, I bet!

A few links that may help you:
  1. List of distros
  2. Distrowatch
  3. Linuxforum


If you are a complete Linux newbie, I'd suggest you to go with Ubuntu: Linux for Human Beings!

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