We haven’t covered any major thing on the Raspberry Pi since our article on the 8 New Raspbian Features to Start Using on Your Raspberry Pi close to a year ago. No one needs to state how successful the Raspberry Pi has been since its inception till date, thus, the factor behind this article.
Today, we bring you a list of the best Linux distributions you can run on the Raspberry Pi perfectly. But before we delve into that list, let me brief you on NOOBS.
The Raspberry Pi supports several OSes and as such usually comes without one. Most of the time, however, it ships with an SD card that includes NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) – an OS that includes of a variety of Operating Systems from which you can choose which to or you to choose which to run on your Raspberry Pi setup.
While you can buy an SD card with NOOBS preinstalled, you can set it up yourself by following the instructions on the Raspberry Pi website.
This list includes the Operating Systems typically in NOOBS and more.
Raspbian is a Debian-based engineered especially for the Raspberry Pi and it is the perfect general-purpose OS for Raspberry users.
It employs the Openbox stacking window manager and the Pi Improved Xwindows Environment Lightweight coupled with a number of pre-installed software which includes Minecraft Pi, Java, Mathematica, and Chromium.
Raspbian is the Raspberry foundation’s official supported OS and is capable of accomplishing any task you throw at it.
OSMC (Open Source Media Center) is a free, simple, open-source, and easy-to-use standalone Kodi OS capable of playing virtually any media format.
It features a modern beautiful minimalist User Interface and is completely customizable thanks to the several built-in images that it comes with. Choose OSMC if you run the Raspberry Pi for managing media content.
OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) is a small Linux-based JeOS (Just enough Operating System) developed from scratch to turn PCs into a Kodi media center.
On a side note,
JeOS (pronounced “juice“) is a paradigm for customizing operating systems to fit the needs of a particular application such as for a software appliance, Wikipedia
You can think of OpenELEC as a barebones Kodi as it has fewer customization options and limits access to certain areas e.g. SSH and it is more complex to customize.
Nevertheless, OpenELEC is a powerful media center that might suit your needs if OSMC doesn’t.
4. RISC OS
RISC OS is a unique open-source OS designed specifically for ARM processors by the creators of the original ARM. It is neither related to Linux nor Windows and is being maintained by a dedicated community of volunteers.
If you want to choose RISC OS, you should know that it is very different from any Linux distro or Windows OS you have used so it will take some getting used to. A good place to start is here.
5. Windows IoT Core
Windows IoT Core is a Windows OS built specially for the Raspberry Pi as a development platform for programmers and coders. Its aim is for programmers to use it to build prototypes of IoT devices using the Raspberry Pi and Windows 10.
It has an emphasis on security, connectivity, creation, and cloud integration. Unlike other titles on this list, you can’t use it without running Windows 10 on your PC as you need Visual Studio on a Windows 10 setup to work with it.
Check out Microsoft’s collection of projects to get you up and running with Windows IoT core here.
Lakka is a free, lightweight, and open-source distro with which you can turn even the smallest PC into a full-blown game console without the need for a keyboard or mouse.
It features a beautiful User Interface and so many customization options you might get overwhelmed. Its PS4-like UX brings style to the Raspberry Pi so pick it if you’re a gamer.
Read our dedicated publication on Lakka here.
RaspBSD is a free and open-source image of FreeBSD 11 that has been preconfigured in 2 images for Raspberry Pi computers.
If you didn’t know, FreeBSD isn’t Linux, but it works in pretty much the same way as it is a descendant of the research by the Berkeley Software Distribution and it is among the world’s most broadly used Operating Systems today with its code existing in game consoles e.g. PlayStation 4, macOS, etc.
RetroPie is an open-source Debian-based software library with which you can emulate retro games on your Raspberry Pi, PC, or ODroid C1/C2 and it currently stands as the most popular option for that task.
RetroPie used the EmulationStation frontend and SBC to offer users a pleasant retro gaming experience so you can’t go wrong with it.
Learn about other ways to play retro games on Linux here.
9. Ubuntu Core
Ubuntu Core is the version of Ubuntu designed for Internet of Things applications. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux-based Operating System in the world with over 20+ derivatives and given that it has an active and welcoming forum, it will be easy to get up and running with Ubuntu Snappy Core on your Raspberry Pi.
Linutop OS is a secure Raspbian-based Web Kiosk and digital signage player. It is dedicated to professionals with the need to deploy public Internet stalls and digital signage solutions using Raspberries.
This OS is perfect if you run hotels, restaurants, shops, city halls, offices, museums, etc. and it is compatible with Raspberry Pi B, B+ and 2.
What’s the future of the Raspberry Pi? Forward ever. Drop your comments section tell us why you agree or why you think otherwise. Also, feel free to add your OS suggestions to our list as we discuss below.