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10 Best Arch-Based Linux Distros for Users of All Skill Levels
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10 Best Arch-Based Linux Distros for Users of All Skill Levels

One of the best things about Linux distributions is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Contrary to popular belief, some distros are very user-friendly and easy to recommend to anyone who is thinking about making the switch from Windows or macOS. Others are a bit more difficult to wrap your head around and are generally targeted towards developers and programmers. A great example of this is Arch Linux, a lightweight distro that very few non-coders try to tackle due to its steep learning curve.

But while Arch Linux itself isn’t a great pick for beginners, many distributions inspired by it are accessible to users of all skill levels. These distros allow anyone to reap the benefits that come with using Arch Linux but without having to go through the hassle of trying to figure out how to install it. Similar to popular beginner-friendly distros like Ubuntu or Linux Mint, most of these Arch-based distros come with pretty much everything you need right off the bat. And if you ever need additional software, you can expect the process of downloading and installing packages to be easy as pie.

Although some of the distros on this list do require a bit of technical know-how, for the most part, you shouldn’t have any problems with them even if this is your first time using Linux. Without further ado, join us as we take a look at the best Arch Linux based distros available as of 2020.

1. Manjaro

  • Great for veterans and newcomers alike
  • Many desktop environments to choose from
  • Architect version is almost identical to Arch Linux

For a lot of people, Manjaro is undoubtedly the best Arch-based distro currently available and we happen to feel the same way. In fact, we would go as far as to say that this is one of the best Linux distributions in general. Manjaro works just as well on old computers as it does on modern systems and can be used for everything from programming to casually browsing the internet and watching movies. There’s even a spin-off version of Manjaro that acts as a dedicated gaming platform. This is a very versatile operating system that genuinely offers something for everybody.

Manjaro 20 Lysia
Manjaro 20 Lysia Desktop

The great thing about Manjaro is that you can use it just like you would Arch Linux thanks to the Architect version. With this variant, you don’t get a graphical user interface or any pre-installed package, but in exchange, you can fully customize the distro. And we do mean fully customize. You can choose the kernels and software packages you want to use, the graphics drivers you want to install, pick between several desktop environments or stick to the command-line terminal, and more. Architect gives you the same level of flexibility as Arch Linux while making certain things easier to manage.

If you’re looking for a more user-friendly experience, on the other hand, Manjaro can easily provide that as well. In addition to Architect, you can find a bunch of other editions, each featuring a different desktop environment and certain special tools. The official versions give you access to either the Xfce, KDE Plasma, or Gnome 3 desktop environments. There are also a number of community-driven editions that use Budgie, Cinnamon, LXDE, and other DEs. And because Manjaro is so versatile, you can even install it on Raspberry Pi 4 or other microcomputers.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz CPU or better
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 30GB of storage

Latest stable version: 20.0.3

2. EndeavourOS

  • The spiritual successor to Antergos
  • Similar to Arch but easier to work with
  • Modest hardware requirements

EndeavourOS is a relatively new Arch Linux based distro with a very interesting backstory. The project was created by former members of the Antergos Linux project shortly after the distro was discontinued back in 2019. The idea was to create a spiritual successor to Antergos that would be just as friendly to newcomers while also providing a similar level of control as Arch Linux. There were more than a few projects born from the ashes of Antergos but EndeavourOS ended up being by far the most successful one, and it’s not difficult to see why.

EndeavourOS 2020.05.08
EndeavourOS 2020.05.08 Desktop

EndeavourOS comes with a friendly installer that allows you to set up the basic version of the distro quickly and painlessly. In its base form, the distro doesn’t have a GUI and there are almost no pre-installed utilities either. This decision was made to allow users to get things started faster than it would normally have been possible. But don’t worry because installing everything you need is a lot simpler than you think. The project’s website has a very helpful guide that will take you through the entire process step-by-step. This includes teaching you how to create your own bootable media and how to use a few simple Linux terminal commands.

Once you’ve got the basic stuff out of the way, you’ll be able to install software packages and a desktop environment. There are a couple of apps created by the developers you can try but most of the software packages come straight from the Arch Linux repositories. As far as the desktop environments are concerned, there are plenty of choices, including Mate, Cinnamon, Xfce, Gnome, Budgie, and more. If you’re a beginner, we recommend trying out Cinnamon first or Xfce if you’re looking to install the distro on an older machine.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 2GB of storage

Latest stable release: 2020.05.08 (rolling release)

3. ArcoLinux

  • Lets you create personalized distros
  • 16 desktop environments to choose from
  • Great for newcomers and veterans alike

ArcoLinux is all about giving users the power of choice. The distro is available in multiple editions and there are multiple ways of installing any desktop. Alternatively, you can stick to a basic installation if you want to be able to customize every aspect of the OS, similar to how you would do it with Arch Linux. Having too many choices can often be overwhelming but you don’t have to worry about that if you read the documentation and follow the handy guides found on the official website. There’s also a blog and a forum so you can always rely on help either from the developers or the community.

ArcoLinux Cinnamon 20.6.6
ArcoLinux Cinnamon 20.6.6 Desktop

If you want to take the easy way out, you’ll definitely want to grab the full ArcoLinux installer. This will allow you to set up a complete operating system that comes with tons of software packages pre-installed. Not just that but it also gives you access to three desktop environments right off the bat – Xfce, Openbox, and i3. The standard edition of ArcoLinux is great for beginners but you can pick between 16 desktop environments by choosing a slightly different of the distro variant known as ArcoLinuxD. The drawback here is that you’ll have to learn how to install everything manually.

If you want to have even more customization options at your disposal, you’ll want to check out ArcoLinuxB. With this edition, you can essentially build your own Arch Linux based distro from scratch using scripts and applications provided by the ArcoLinux project. Taking this third route is more time-consuming when compared to the other two but learning how to build personalized operating systems is undoubtedly a very rewarding experience. Furthermore, the distro can be booted directly from a USB so you don’t even have to install anything on your computer.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 1GB of storage (2GB+ for complete install)

Latest stable version: 20.6.6

4. Chakra

  • A great choice for fans of KDE Plasma
  • Comes pre-installed with many applications
  • Unique half-rolling release model

Chakra is a community-driven Arch Linux based distribution that touts itself as being “the premier Plasma experience.” Just as its motto indicates, Chakra Linux focuses heavily on the KDE Plasma desktop environment and everything that comes with it. You won’t be able to choose between multiple desktops in this case, however, KDE is very versatile so you can still expect a fairly high level of customization. One of the reasons for that is Qt, a software platform known for providing fantastic user experience.

Chakra Linux KDE 5.10.5
Chakra Linux KDE 5.10.5 Desktop

A neat feature that allows Chakra to stand out from the crowd is the rather unique update system. Instead of opting for either a static or a rolling release schedule, Chakra tries to combine the best of both worlds. The end result is a so-called half-rolling release model where the core system is updated periodically to ensure stability. At the same time, you can expect to be able to grab the latest version of any application whenever you want. Speaking of applications, Chakra has its own repository where you can find packages developed by the community and there’s also support for the official Arch Linux repos.

Chakra is a bit more complicated than other distros found on this list and is best suited for users who already have some experience with Linux. But if you’re adamant about trying Chakra Linux even though you’re a beginner, don’t forget to check out the forums and the tutorials section on the main website. The community doesn’t seem to be particularly active, at least when compared to those of similar projects, but you can still find some valuable tips and tricks there nevertheless.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 8GB of storage

Latest stable version: 5.10.5

5. Archman Linux

  • Lightweight distro suitable for both old and new systems
  • Very good community support and documentation
  • Great for newcomers and veterans alike

Archman is an independent project that started in Turkey but eventually managed to attract worldwide attention. This is a constantly evolving operating system that tries to lower the barrier of entry for users who want to experiment with Arch Linux based distros. Archman also manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to the fact that user feedback plays an important role in the development and management process. This is one of those “by the community, for the community” type of projects and that system yielded some great results so far.

Archman Linux i3WM 2020 06
Archman Linux i3WM 2020 06 Desktop

Archman was designed to be a very lightweight Linux distro and because of that, it works best when paired with the Xfce desktop environment. Having said that, there are quite a few other options to choose from, including Mate, Gnome, Deepin, LXDE, and LXQT. Regardless of which desktop environment you end up with, you’ll need to rely on Pacman for installing software packages, though some applications are available right off the bat. Given that Archman was named after Arch Linux and Pacman, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the package manager is an essential part of the distro.

If you’re already familiar with all the commonly used desktop environments and are looking for something a bit different, it’s worth noting that an i3 version of Archman came out very recently. I3 isn’t a desktop environment per se but rather a text-based window manager. Working with i3 is similar to working with the terminal, however, it was designed to be faster and more efficient in many ways. While we wouldn’t recommend using i3 if you’re a beginner, experienced Linux users should find it very interesting and fun to work with.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 500MB of RAM
  • 2GB of storage

Latest stable version: 06-2020 (rolling release)

 6. Artix Linux

  • Doesn’t use the systemd software suite
  • Many versions to choose from
  • Modest system requirements (base install)

Artix is an Arch Linux based distro that likes to do certain things differently than its counterparts. For starters, Artix doesn’t use systemd, a popular software suite that’s prevalent across many types of Linux distributions. Artix instead relies on runit, s6 init, or OpenRC to achieve a similar result. Despite that, however, Artix does incorporate the Pacman package manager, which allows the distro to access software repositories meant for Arch Linux and even use packages specifically designed for systemd. In order to give users even more tools, Artix has its own repos as well.

Artix Linux 2020 02
Artix Linux 2020 02 Desktop

The fact that Artix isn’t based on systemd can be seen as both a pro and a con depending on how it look at it, but the reason why the developers made this decision was to ensure better stability and more simplicity. If you’re already familiar with Arch Linux or any distros based on it you don’t have to worry about the learning curve because there is none. The base installation is very lightweight and contains little more than a terminal as it was made specifically for advanced users. But don’t worry if you’re a beginner because Artix provides two other types of ISO images that are much easier to handle.

Minimal images combine simplicity with ease of use by including a pre-configured desktop along with a set of basic applications, such as a network manager, file manager, web browser, and a media player. You can choose between Cinnamon, Xfce, KDE Plasma, Mate, LXQT, and LXDE as your desktop environment. Then, you have the community ISO images. These are Artix-based distros that come with a complete set of applications and require very little configuration. If you’re looking for a pre-configured operating system that works perfectly out of the box, make sure to grab a community ISO image.

Minimum system requirements:

  • x86_64 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 500MB of storage (2GB+ recommended for complete install)

Latest stable version: 2020-02 (rolling release)

7. RebornOS

  • 15 desktop environments to choose from
  • Surprisingly good for gaming
  • Comes with support for Anbox

RebornOS is an ambitious project that aims to allow you to “unlock the ultimate vision for your PC.” The distro plans to fulfill that goal by giving users as many choices as possible when it comes to desktop environments, applications, features, and more. In addition to being able to take advantage of the Arch repositories, RebornOS also incorporates a few unique utilities. Probably the most interesting one being the Reborn Updates and Maintenance tool, which lets you easily roll back software packages to a previous date, among other things.

RebornOS 2020.06.15
RebornOS 2020.06.15 Desktop

When it comes to the available desktop environments, the selection is certainly quite impressive. You’ve got staples like Gnome, KDE, Budgie, and Xfce along with some more ‘exotic’ choices like Apricity or Enlightenment. If you don’t want to use any desktop environment at all, you can opt for a window manager like OpenBox or i3 instead. But if you’re looking for a genuine Arch experience, you also have the option to go with a base installation that comes with little else apart from the terminal. Once again, RebornOS is all about choices and the best part is that you only need to download a single ISO to get access to everything.

As far as the applications are concerned, you’ve got the usual suspects like LibreOffice and Firefox but also some fairly unusual ones like Steam and Wine. We find these unusual because, apart from Manjaro, Arch Linux-based distributions are rarely used for gaming. Another surprising addition is Anbox, a utility that works similar to Wine but is meant for Android applications. Not all Android applications work on Linux even with Anbox but quite a lot of them do, and they generally perform pretty well. Andbox doesn’t come bundled with the distro so you’ll need to install it manually if you want to test it out.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM (2GB recommended)
  • 10GB of storage

Latest stable version: 2020.06.15 (rolling release)

8. Anarchy Installer

  • Greatly simplifies the process of installing Arch
  • Easy to use installer with many useful options
  • Can support any desktop environment

Trying to install Arch Linux can be a bit of a headache because the process is pretty complicated. That’s where Anarchy comes in. This isn’t an actual distribution but rather a very useful graphical installer that allows you to set up Arch Linux with relative ease. Like most of the other entries on our list, Anarchy Installer was designed to make Arch more accessible and easier to work with, especially for newcomers. But instead of taking the elements that so many people love about Arch and adding some ease of use features on top, this installer tries to simply Arch Linux itself. And does a pretty good job at it.

Anarchy Installer 1.2.1
Anarchy Installer 1.2.1 Desktop

Installing Arch Linux using Anarchy is similar to installing any other piece of software. The only major difference is that you’ll have to work with a text-based menu instead of a graphical user interface (GUI). But don’t worry because the text-based user interface (TUI) is not as intimidating as it may sound. In fact, it’s quite intuitive. All you have to do is run the tool and select the components you want to install. These components include things like desktop environments, Linux kernels, software packages, shells, and more. Once the installation process is complete, you’ll be able to enjoy a complete Arch-based operating system that’s perfect for day-to-day use.

The default desktop environment used by Anarchy is Xfce but you can also choose between a few other options like Gnome, Cinnamon, Budgie, and Openbox. Of course, if you know what you’re doing you can replace those with any other desktop environment or window manager you want. Similarly, you can install any number of software packages from the official Arch Linux repositories or try some of the packages created by the developers of Anarchy themselves.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 512MB of RAM (2GB+ recommended)
  • 10GB of storage (for complete install)

Latest stable version: 1.2.1

 9 ArchLabs Linux

  • Based on Arch, inspired by BunsenLabs
  • Focuses heavily on minimalism
  • Recommended for intermediate to advanced users

ArchLabs is an interesting distribution that draws inspiration from multiple sources. While it’s an Arch-based Linux distro, it was influenced heavily by BunsenLabs, a continuation of the CrunchBang project which is derived from Debian 9. ArchLabs was designed with intermediate to advanced users in mind so it’s probably not the best choice for beginners, though it’s certainly not the worst one either. The distro’s ISO doesn’t have a live environment, which makes testing it without installing anything locally pretty much impossible.

ArchLabs Linux 2020.05.04
ArchLabs Linux 2020.05.04 Desktop

ArchLabs focuses a lot on minimalism so expect only core applications and utilities when you first install the operating system. This approach means that the ISO images are smaller in size compared to those of other distros and that the OS is faster to install. And since this is an Arch-based distro, you can get as many additional applications as you want from the Arch User Repository (AUR). Among other things, ArchLabs comes with the Pacman package manager right off the bat along with some other basic utilities and a few useful scripts.

The installer itself is pretty straightforward and lets you choose between a variety of desktop environments and window managers. But while you’re not starting from scratch with this distro, don’t expect feature-rich desktop environments like Cinnamon or Gnome. Instead, you can choose between things Openbox, i3WM, DWM, BspWM, and a few others. The default theme and icons are minimalistic as well and the distro works best when you’re using just the keyboard. ArchLabs allows for a lot of customization but it’s a bit more difficult to work with when compared to other distros on this list.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 4 GHz x86_64 CPU
  • 512MB of RAM (1GB+ recommended)
  • 10GB of storage (15GB recommended)

Latest stable version: 2020.05.04 (rolling release)

10. VeltOS

  • Unique desktop environment
  • Based on Google’s Material Design
  • Can be installed on top of Arch Linux

If you’re looking for an Arch Linux based distribution that focuses on functionality and aesthetics, VeltOS might the perfect pick. While initially conceived as a full-fledged distro, the VeltOS project eventually transformed into something that resembles a desktop environment more than anything else. Originally, this was supposed to be a “user-designed” distro and while that idea may sound good on paper, things didn’t pan out because this approach slowed down the development process to a crawl. In the end, the team behind VeltOS decided to take the project in a slightly different direction.

VeltOS 0.3.0
VeltOS 0.3.0 Desktop

The current version of VeltOS uses a desktop environment based on Google’s Material Design and looks fairly similar to Windows in many ways. This makes it a great choice for users who are thinking about switching from Microsoft’s operating system but don’t want to feel overwhelmed by a complicated distro like Arch Linux. At the same time, though, the installation process isn’t exactly the walk in the park because VeltOS doesn’t come bundled with a lot of applications so you will need to install certain things manually. But if you’re willing to do a bit of work, you definitely won’t be disappointed by what VeltOS has to offer.

VeltOS only has a couple of specialized utilities so you’ll need to grab any other packages you need from the Arch Linux repositories. The other thing you may have to worry about is the lack of updates. While the project is still technically alive, there haven’t been any new updates in a couple of years. Unfortunately, the VeltOS website doesn’t work either so finding guides or tutorials that can help you set everything up could be a challenge.

Minimum system requirements:

  • X86_64 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 10GB of storage

Latest stable version: 0.3.0

Arch Based Linux Distros vs Graphical Installers

We used many terms throughout this article that you might not be familiar with if you’re just taking your first steps in the wonderful – and sometimes complicated – world of Linux. Terms like distro, desktop environment, or graphical installer might be a bit confusing, so we’ll give you some quick explanations because it will help you decide which of our entries is most suitable for your needs.

Distros

Distributions, often referred to as distros, are operating systems based on the Linux kernel. Distros usually, but not always, come with a terminal, a package management system, and a collection of various applications. In the case of Arch Linux, you only get the bare minimum and have to manually install everything else, which has its fair share of pros and cons. Arch-based distros usually come bundled with useful applications and desktop environments in order to make life easier for users, especially beginners. It is worth mentioning that the wiki page provides plenty of information on Arch Linux and other Arch-based Linux distros.

Desktop Environment

A desktop environment is comprised of a collection of programs or applications that run on top of an operating system. If you’re a Windows or macOS user you already know what a desktop is but a lot of Linux distros don’t include one right off the bat. Arch Linux is one such example. If you’re comfortable working with the command-line terminal you don’t actually need a desktop environment. However, it’s definitely more convenient if you do use one.

Graphical Installer

We used this term when we covered the Anarchy Installer but there are a couple of other examples out there, such as the Zen Installer for instance. A graphical installer (in the case of Arch Linux) is a tool that adds a graphical interface on top of the distro in order to make the installation process easier. Setting up Arch Linux without such an installer can be pretty difficult and the tool can also be used to install desktop environments or applications in addition to the operating system itself. Graphical installers are very useful for those who like what Arch Linux has to offer but don’t want to bother with the installation process.

Final Thoughts

Arch Linux is a fantastic distro but, unfortunately, one of its biggest strengths is also one of its biggest drawbacks. The fact that the distro doesn’t come bundled with any applications or desktop environments means that you can pick each and every component you want to install and potentially create a fully personalized operating system. You simply can’t get that level of control with regular operating systems like Windows, or even many other Linux distros for that matter. Naturally, the disadvantage is that you have to know what you’re doing. Or do you?

While Arch Linux itself isn’t a good pick for beginners or even intermediate users in many cases, a lot of the distros based on it are definitely very user-friendly. Installing such a distro is a lot easier and even though you might lose some flexibility in the process, you’ll get a lot more accessibility in return. And like pretty much everything else that’s related to Linux, all these Arch-based distros are free so don’t hesitate to check them out. Who knows, maybe one of them will end up becoming your new favorite distro.

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