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Best power user Linux distros in 2020: 5 reviewed and rated

Linux power users

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.

The Linux distributions in this feature are user-driven, not guided. This gives them much greater adaptability, as well as allowing them to perform a diverse range of tasks, from acting as a virtual jukebox at parties through to 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 have the makings of a power user.

How we tested...

All of the distros in this article have been around for a long time, and we’ve revised our appraisals of them over the course of several years. Each one has earned a large amount of kudos by offering unique perks or advantages over their peers, either 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 only when you have great control over every aspect of a distro.

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 your goal of a perfect system.

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