How to choose the best Linux distro for your laptop

Note: Our best Linux distro for laptops feature has been fully updated. This article was first published in January 2011.

The smart notebook user shouldn’t overlook Linux. The question is: which distro should you pick to run on your laptop?

Experienced users may recommend Arch Linux for fast performance, Debian for stability and Ubuntu for its collection of user-friendly, pre-installed apps.

If that’s not enough choice to make your head spin, Slackware is also very popular amongst people with older laptops, although it’s only really suitable for advanced users. 

In this article, we’ll look at different usage scenarios that should be familiar to users of portable devices and explore Linux distros that are suitable for these particular cases. 

To make everybody’s life easier, we’ve limited this guide to pre-packaged Live Linux distros. We’ll also stick to Live installations as much as possible throughout this tour. This is important if you’re working on a corporate laptop and can’t install software, as you can test drive an OS without special permissions.

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Linux for gaming

Linux is a wonderful platform for gaming, whatever your preferred genre. There’s plenty to choose from, including real-time and turn-based strategy titles, puzzle games and first-person shooters.

To get started in the world of Linux gaming, one of the best Live DVDs has to be Fedora Games Spin, which comes as a downloadable 3.8GB ISO you can burn to disc or copy to USB. Log in as the Live system user (no password) and use the Application Finder to browse over 100 games spread across genres as diverse as arcade, adventure and sport. 

The concept behind the distribution is boot and play – just pop a USB drive, CD or DVD into your laptop, the distro will boot and you can start gaming. This approach is particularly useful if your laptop has been configured by an overzealous system administrator.

If you copy the Live install to a USB stick, you can then install…

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