6 of the Best Linux Distributions for Mac Users

Apple’s macOS is an incredibly robust operating system, and its MacBooks are equally impressive. However, there might be a few scenarios where you don’t want to use the default OS, craving something different that appeals to your needs.

While you can technically install Microsoft’s Windows, you might be better off switch to Linux for a better user experience. Here are some of the best Linux distributions that Mac users can install either on their Macs or on dedicated Linux computers.

Tip: Here’s an easy way to switch to Xorg from Wayland in Linux.

1. elementary OS

Described as a “thoughtful, capable, and ethical replacement for Windows and macOS,” elementary OS is currently in its seventh version and widely used by people who want to change their Mac’s operating system.

Elementary Os

One of its biggest appeals is that it mimics the look and feel of macOS, making it a great choice if you want to retain Apple’s aesthetic. It is packaged with a host of apps that you’ll actually use, such as email, a music player, a web browser, a photo viewer and a built-in calendar.

Unlike other Linux distributions, it is not free to download elementary OS. However, you can pay whatever amount you want.

2. Linux Mint

One of the most widely-used Linux distros, Linux Mint has been in development for several years, giving users a stable and incredibly robust option. The team behind it isn’t attempting to reinvent an operating system or disrupt the industry but instead wants to provide Linux users with an effective and easy-to-use application.

Linux Mint Cinnamon

Linux Mint gives you access to over 60,000 software packages and 7,800 games, and there is a menu when you boot up your computer that asks which operating system you want to load. There are several versions of Linux Mint available, with the most popular being the Cinnamon Edition. It gives any computer a sleek feel similar to Windows 11 and will be supported until 2027.

It works on most Macs, but there is only a 64-bit version available.

3. Deepin Linux

An easy-to-use distro, Deepin Linux is ready to get to work as soon as it’s installed on your Mac. It comes packaged with several basic office functionalities and also includes a music player, video viewer, and access to over 40,000 other apps.

Deepin

With its initial release in 2004, its proprietary Deepin Desktop Environment forms the core of the operating system. This allows the OS to ship with third-party apps as well as other packages from Google and Spotify. It supports 64-bit platforms and is a great option if you want your Mac to retain its Apple feel.

4. Zorin OS

Billed as a solution to “make your computer faster, more powerful, secure, and privacy-respecting,” Zorin OS is designed to look familiar, whether you are using Windows, macOS or Linux. 

Zorin Os

There are several editions to choose from, but the Zorin OS Core, Education, and Pro editions are geared toward modern and more powerful computers. For those editions, you’ll need to have at least 2GB of RAM and a 1 GHz Dual Core Intel or AMD 64-bit processor. Zorin does not currently support Macs with Apple silicon processors. If you aren’t sure if Zorin OS will work on your computer, you can download the Core or Lite editions to a USB drive and test it out.

The Pro version of the operating system costs $39, and you can choose if you want your Mac to look like a Windows 11 machine, mimic macOS’s feel or go for a classic Windows environment. It also includes an advanced video editor, a Photoshop-compatible image editor, illustration software, and an audio workstation.

Tip: For Windows users, you can also check out these Linux distributions that are great for you.

5. Solus

Available in four versions, Solus is a feature-rich alternative to macOS that’s easy to install and just as easy to operate. Compatible with 64-bit processors, Solus Budgie is the best option if you want all the modern conveniences of a sleek operating system.

Solus Budgie

However, if you want to tinker with the OS by installing additional packages or making changes to how things run, then Solus Plasma is an excellent choice. No matter which package you go for, all include apps that will make your life much easier. For example, it comes with LibreOffice for creating and editing word documents, tons of creative tools for animation and music production, and access to open-source video games and controller support.

6. Debian

Considered one of the most versatile Linux distributions for Mac computers, Debian is compatible with 10 architectures and several variations of each architecture, depending on the version.

The current stable version is Bookworm, which is the twelfth edition. It supports x64 AMD and Intel processors, IBM System Z, and 32-bit processors (the minimum 32-bit processor requirement is i686). The version will see active support for the next five years.

Unlike other Linux distros, Debian is available for free and includes thousands of packages. This gives the operating system a solid foundation. While it might not be as feature-rich as others, it is nonetheless an excellent option if you want to get rid of macOS in favor of something else.

Tip: Here is all you need to know about Parabola Linux and how to install it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Linux on Mac a good idea?

It is an excellent idea, as Linux provides you with several benefits that macOS doesn’t. For example, it lets you choose which packages you want to install and doesn’t come with any bloatware. There is also an active community behind the development and maintenance, ensuring the speedy elimination of any bugs that pop up.

Can M1 and M2 Macs run Linux properly?

Apple’s Mac computers come in two flavors: those with Intel or AMD processors and those with Apple silicon M1 and M2 chips. The AMD and Intel versions have no problem running a Linux distribution, but you’ll encounter some problems if you have an M1 or M2 MacBook. The two chips can’t natively operate on Linux, but there are several projects, like Asahi Linux, that allow you to install Linux on M1/M2 Mac.

Can I install Kali Linux on a Mac?

Yes, you can, but your experience will be different depending on your Mac’s hardware specifications. But as Kali points out on its website, “newer Mac hardware (e.g., T2/M1 chips) do not run Linux well, or at all.” You could try the single-boot version, or if you want to test the functionality, the dual-boot version is an excellent option.

Image credit: Unsplash

Charlie Fripp
Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp is a technology writer with a strong focus on consumer gadgets, video games, and cyber security. He holds an undergraduate degree in professional journalism and has worked as a journalist for over 15 years. In his spare time, he enjoys playing various musical instruments and gardening.

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