Is Linux Mint the best distro? It may be the only distro

What is the best Linux distro? There are tons of articles, YouTube videos, and social media posts dedicated to this subject. Ubuntu, Elementary, Pop!_OS, and Zorin OS are a few that can consistently be found in best of lists.

Another one that is usually number one or two on many lists is Linux Mint. This distro has three user interfaces that are similar to Windows: Cinnamon, XFCE, and MATE. These are some reasons why these versions of the operating system are considered to be the best distro:

  • Users can play DVDs on computers running one of these without having to install additional software.
  • They don’t have annoying update warnings that most operating systems flash before their users’ eyes
  • It also comes with unique applications that other distros don’t have and runs some applications a little better.
    • Warpinator, for example, allows users to share documents with other Linux Mint users on the same network.
    • An example of an application that works better is Insync. This application, that syncs Google and Microsoft accounts with different desktop operating systems, will run on almost any Linux distro. However, installing it places an indicator in the Linux Mint menubar that tells if the application is up-to-date, still syncing, or if there is an error. The only other distro that this indicator installs on is Ubuntu.

However, I have another reason why I consider it to be the best distro. It is the most important reason (at least for my situation).

I acquired a MacBook Pro Duo Core 2, that is more than 10 years old, several weeks before publishing this article. It came with OS X 10.10 Yosemite preinstalled, or at least that is what was advertised.

The first boot was into OS X Utilities because OS X was not installed. Newer Macs can reinstall MacOS over the internet, but the 2007 model, I found out, requires physical media, so when I tried to install the system, it failed.

The DVD writer did not work on the computer. I found this out when I inserted a Tom Cruise movie in it, and it would not eject. The case is warped where the DVD writer slot is. The drive tries to eject the DVD, but Tom Cruise is still stuck.

This means I had to rely on a USB drive to install an operating system. I tried different versions of OSX from a USB drive: 10.7, 10.10, and 10.11. All of these, however, repeatedly failed during the installation process.

This really didn’t bother me too much because I had purchased the computer, so I could test how Linux ran on a Mac. Several of the distros I tried had Mac-like user interfaces and mentioned Mac compatibility on their Websites, such as Elementary, Zorin Ultimate, and Ubuntu Budgie.

Linux Mint 20 and 20.1 – Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE – were the only operating systems that could be installed and used on the 2007 MacBook Pro out of the box

The other Linux distros I tried:

Here is the 2007 MacBook running Linux Mint 20.1 MATE. Cinnamon and Xfce also run just as well on this computer.

I encountered one of three problems with these Linux distros.

  • They would not run on the MacBook from a live USB drive
  • Would not fully boot after being installed
  • Would not work with the internal keyboard out of the box.

Linux Mint has not been designed specifically for Macs, though it can run fairly well on many Macs. I tried it and several other distros on a 2015 MacBook Air that I own. I didn’t install them, but I ran them on a live USB drive. The WiFi didn’t work on Linux Mint 20, but it did on Zorin, elementary, and Ubuntu.

These operating systems typically are designed to work well on newer Mac laptops, those with a more advanced processor than the Duo Core 2 processor that is in most of the MacBooks built before 2011.

However, Linux Mint , as well as working well on new hardware, has been designed with older PCs and Macs in mind. This is one reason why it succeeded on the 2007 MacBook Pro when the other distros failed. Another reason is that some of the other distros didn’t come with the right drivers preinstalled.

Here is an overview of what happened when I tried to install other Linux distros:

Elementary, Zorin, and Xubuntu could be installed on the 2007 MacBook. Zorin never booted to the desktop after it was installed; Zorin Lite, a version of Zorin designed for older computers, also had the same problem. Elementary booted to the desktop image, but the dock and menubar never appeared. Xubuntu booted on the USB drive, but the keyboard wouldn’t work with it.

The others would not boot to the desktop when being used from the live USB.

Linux Mint worked just as well as it did on my other computers. Everything on the Mac worked: WiFI, bluetooth, and the webcam.

Currently, I also own a Dell D830, built in 2007, and all three versions of Linux Mint 20 work well on it. I have owned several other computers with Intel 64-bit processors over the years and the three versions of the operating system has worked well on them. Other lightweight distros worked on them as well, but Linux Mint always seemed to require the least amount of setup once it was installed.

Several manufacturers that ship computers with Linux Mint preinstalled. Some of the computers have been designed for advanced activities, like video editing, gaming, and data science.

Linux Mint was designed to work on a wide variety of hardware, from 64-bit computers that are more than a decade old to brand new computers. For many in the former category, it may be the only distro that works.

Final thoughts

I purchased an old MacBook to test how Linux works on Mac and write articles, like this one, about the experiences. If you are purchasing an old computer to try Linux on, my recommendation is do not buy a Mac. Old Lenovo and Dell computers are much better options.

However, if you have a Mac that is older than 10 years collecting dust somewhere that you want to use again, you may want to skip trying other distros and install Linux Mint 20 or 20.1. It is most likely the only one that will work.

For those with Macs that have a processor that is more powerful than the Intel Duo Core 2, you may find one of the distros, listed above, that look more like MacOS to be a better choice than Linux Mint. Mint will most likely work well on one of them, but it may not work as well out-of-the box as some of the others that were designed with Mac-like interfaces.

In general, those new to Linux will most likely find that Linux Mint is the best choice out of all the distros. It will probably work a little better with their hardware; it has a look and feel similar to Windows; and it is one of the larger Linux communities, so they are more likely to find better support.

To install Linux Mint, visit the Website.

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