The 10 Best Debian-Based Linux Distributions

The default Debian OS, one of the most stable distributions out there, and its popular offshoot Ubuntu are great versatile choices for a Linux distribution, but if you have more specialized needs you may want a Debian Linux alternative.


Here is a list of the best Debian-based distributions that provide robust features and stable environment to Linux users.


Ubuntu is, in a way, the most popular Debian-based Linux distribution for desktops, and for good reason. It offers a user-friendly graphical user interface and has the widest driver support. Many Linux users, newbies and experts alike, love it because it just works. It is also widely used on servers, especially by cloud providers such as Amazon.

Ubuntu is based on Debian Unstable, effectively snapshots and polishes it for general use. The Long-Term Support (LTS) versions have guaranteed updates for five years from their initial release, ensuring system stability.

Pop!_OS is a modified version of Ubuntu designed by System76 for their line of Linux preinstalled PCs. However, you don’t need to have a System76 machine to use it. You can download and install Pop!_OS as you would any other Debian-based Linux distribution.

System76 positions this operating system as ideal for STEM and creative work. The desktop features a number of shortcuts and gestures to make opening and switching between windows easier. You can easily tile and stack windows.

Pop!_OS also offers “toolkits” for data science, media production, engineering, and bioinformatics that bundle popular software tools such as Blender, R, and Jupyter.

The distro offers special features to System76 owners. You can download firmware updates for your machine using a special tool provided only to System76 users.

When you think of a Debian-based desktop Linux distro, you probably think of Ubuntu. Q4OS aims to be a leaner, meaner desktop and a suitable alternative to Ubuntu.

Where Ubuntu is based on Debian Unstable, Q4OS follows the stable version. The default desktop is KDE Plasma, but the developers give the option to switch desktops, including the Trinity desktop, using the distro’s “lookswitcher” tool. It is even possible to run Plasma and Trinity side by side in Q4OS.

While it may seem contradictory to refer to KDE as a “minimalist” desktop environment, this may say more about modern computers than the desktop.

It seems that when Linux distributions come out, some people think they just have too much stuff in them and put out “minimal” Linux distributions. SparkyLinux is yet another take on creating a “minimalist” desktop distro.

Like Q4OS, SparkyLinux aims for a lightweight desktop experience through the LXQt environment by default, although images are also available with Xfce and KDE. It is based on Debian rather than Ubuntu.

You can also install other custom desktop variants: GameOver, multimedia for audio, video, and web development, and Rescue for fixing a system that won’t boot. There is also a MinimalCLI version available without X server.

SparkyLinux gives you the choice to install a “stable” version or the latest “rolling” version, depending on whether you need stability or the latest software.

Zorin OS is a Debian based Linux distro over Ubuntu that tries to present an interface familiar to Windows users. The idea is to make it easier for people who are used to Windows and macOS to transition to Linux.

Many people also enjoy installing Linux on older computers, and Zorin OS offers a “Lite” version just for that purpose. Their website even digs into Windows 11 and the requirement for a TPM 2.0 module that many computers, even those from recent years, lack.

You can change the look and feel of the interface to match the style of the operating system you are used to, be it Windows or macOS. You can even install Windows apps directly into Zorin OS. It also comes with NVIDIA and ATI drivers for gaming and integrates with smartphones like Windows and macOS can.

Devuan is a fork of Debian that came into existence after the latter made the switch in its init system from the old Unix System V-inspired system to systemd, a move that has been controversial in the Linux community for a variety of reasons, ranging from alleged software bloat for developer behavior, the potential for a systematized monoculture, and the project’s dominance by Red Hat (where it came from).

A number of Debian developers left the project and started Devuan to promote what they call “init freedom”, the release of a variant of Debian that does not have a systemd . used. By default, Devuan uses the sysvinit system, but you can choose among others.

Many companies run Linux on their servers because it’s secure, but security isn’t good until it actually works. That’s why many organizations use penetration testers to try and break into their systems. If you want to learn how to do this, Kali Linux is your distro.

Kali Linux is packed with hundreds of penetration testing tools like Nmap. It gives you a complete penetration testing toolkit on an easy-to-use Linux desktop. The documentation is also extensive, with “recipes” showing how to do something with the operating system.

We are not lawyers, but you should only attempt penetration testing on machines and networks that you own or are otherwise authorized to attempt to crack.

MX Linux is a lightweight Linux distro that tries to be a middle ground between minimalist distros and big ones like Ubuntu.

By default it uses the Xfce desktop, with additional KDE Plasma and Fluxbox options.

The distro is a successor to the original MEPIS distribution and antiX; the name is a combination of both project names. The developers of this distro strive to make it work well on both older and newer machines.

The usual division of labor in the Linux world is that desktop environment developers make the desktop and Linux distributions, just package them, but KDE got into the Linux distro game with KDE Neon, a version of Ubuntu that uses their desktop and KDE features. apps such as the Krita drawing program.

The homepage promises the latest version of the KDE Plasma desktop, but like the main Ubuntu distro, there is a long-term support release available.

Deepin describes itself as “the best Linux distribution out of China”, aimed at a global audience.

The distro has its own desktop, the Deepin Desktop Environment, along with a range of proprietary applications, including a package installer. The interface is attractive, while the underlying system is based on Debian.

Lots to discover in the Debian world

Even within Debian and Ubuntu, you don’t have to choose the stock OS. Many people have used the flexibility of Linux to customize these systems to their liking, and Debian-based systems are no exception.

There are tons of Linux distributions to explore, and more people will build on the Debian/Ubuntu code base in the future. Keep in mind that having so many free operating systems can lead to distro hopping.

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