Stable vs. Bleeding-Edge Linux Distros: Which One Should You Choose?


One of the major choices that many Linux users face when choosing a Linux distribution is its stability, or how much the software changes.

Some distros favor stable, tried-and-true software while others will include newer software that may not be as reliable, also known as "bleeding-edge," a play on "cutting-edge."

So, which one should you choose? Let's find out.

Stable: Best for Most People

If you're completely new to Linux, you will probably want a more stable distro like Ubuntu, Debian, or openSUSE. The software on these systems doesn't change that much.

ubuntu stable desktop

A lot of the time, this will mean using older versions of programs, but there's little advantage in running the latest versions. Distros will typically make new software packages available to fix bugs or security problems. The latter is very important when dealing with internet-facing programs like browsers. That's why you should update your packages on Linux regularly.

Stable distros are good choices for running servers, for all of these reasons.

Bleeding-Edge: Great for Advanced Users, Developers

If you have more experience with Linux, you might want to check out a distro that has newer, bleeding-edge versions of software, like Arch, Gentoo, Debian Unstable, or Fedora. These distros appeal to advanced Linux users because the newer software offers newer features.

arch bleeding edge desktop

Bleeding-edge distros are also popular with developers because they have newer versions of languages, libraries, and drivers. The downside is that these distros may be more prone to crashes because the software is less tested than on a stable distro.

Related: Linux Operating Systems That Offer Bleeding Edge Updates

Compromise: Running a Bleeding-Edge Distro in a VM

You don't always have to choose between one or the other. You can run a bleeding-edge distro on a stable host machine using virtualization software like VirtualBox.

arch virtualbox bleeding edge

You can have the best of both worlds: a stable system for daily work, whether that's Linux, macOS, or Windows, and an experimental virtual machine for development or tinkering.

Linux Gives You Choice in Software Newness

Linux gives you a lot of choice in the type of software you can install on your system. If you're switching distros, you might be wondering whether or not you can keep your data. The answer is "Yes." You can keep your important data whenever you want to install a different Linux distro to try something new.


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