Best power user Linux distros in 2017: 5 reviewed and rated

You're not a power user unless you're running one of these distros

Note: Our power user Linux distros round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in May 2013.

The Linux power user is a celebrated breed, and one that does not simply burst fully-formed from the earth. All newbies must toil long and hard with their Linux installations before they can describe themselves as one.

At the very least, the power user will have a great degree of skill concerning all things Linux, whether it's the kernel, Bash or package management systems – and they won’t be afraid to get their hands dirty in the name of configuring the system.

It seems, in many ways, that power users are a dying breed. Almost all modern Linux distributions require little effort to get up and running, or to install new software or configure basic functionality. By definition, no power user will want to run any of these distros. This is why, despite their popularity, the likes of Ubuntu and Mint are not featured here.

In addition to a driven installation, which separates these distros from most others, what's even better is the adaptability quotient of the distros in our roundup. You can easily coax any of these operating systems to perform tasks as disparate as churning out music at parties, or hosting complex websites.

The development methodology and underlying package management system are still relevant concerns, but if you're driven by the desire to squeeze every ounce of power out of your Linux distro, you could be a power user…

How we tested...

All of the distros on our list have been around for a number of years, and indeed we’ve revised our appraisals of them over the course of several years. Over this period, they've each earned a large amount of kudos by offering unique perks or advantages over their peers, whether in terms of software management or ease of installation.

All these distros are extremely stable and so our roundup isn't so much about performance as adaptability. We're looking for things that make them ideal for experienced Linux users who are tired of newbie-oriented distros and want to do more with their Linux machines. This is possible when you have great control over every aspect of the distro.

Everything should be configurable and capable of being changed to your liking. The ideal distro for power users is one that encourages tinkering extensively with all the different aspects of the OS, and makes you work towards a perfect system. Which hopefully, you’ll get in the end.

  • Linux Format is the number one magazine to boost your knowledge on Linux, open source developments, distro releases and much more. Subscribe to the print or digital version of Linux Format here