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Ubuntu vs Linux Mint: All You Need to Know Before Making a Choice

by Tutorial45

As Linux distros go, Ubuntu and Linux Mint are some of the more popular options out there anyone interested in using an operating system outside of the big two, Windows and Mac, are likely to explore. The reason why a new user is more likely to explore either Linux Mint or Ubuntu is due to the ease of use they offer. Yes, we’ve said it right from the start! Both options deliver a seamless user experience that can get you hooked with Linux.

The question of which offer is better between Ubuntu and Linux Mint has been in circulation since the very first version of Linux Mint was released. Thus, creating the foundation we intend to build upon by comparing both options using the features packed into both distros.

Ubuntu vs Linux Mint: All You Need to Know Before Making a Choice

Ubuntu vs Linux Mint: Introduction

It is common knowledge that Ubuntu was developed from Debian, the earliest Linux distro, in 2004. Ubuntu leverages Debian testing branch by adding specific features bi-annually to Debian testing releases. Now, you may be wondering why this isn’t a comparison between Ubuntu and Debian. If you are, you can read the comprehensive analysis of Ubuntu vs. Debian here.

Back to the current task at hand, Ubuntu releases two branches of its distro which are the regular release branch and the long term service (LTS) branch or fork. This information is important because this is where Linux Mint comes into the picture. As you have probably guessed, Linux Mint was developed in 2016 and it leverages Ubuntu LTS. This highlights the symbiotic relationship between both Linux distros. Now, comparing the features of both options you get:

Release Cycle

Ubuntu and Linux Mint are forks of Debian and their release cycles are dependent on the release of the Debian testing branch every six months. Ubuntu releases its regular branch every six months and the LTS alongside it. Linux Mint leverages on the LTS and releases it bi-annually.

System Requirements

Both distros are built to run across the majority of devices you intend to use. In terms of system requirements, Ubuntu demands a bit more power to function properly compared to Linux Mint. Although Ubuntu needs more requirements, it is relatively lightweight and the specifications of today’s devices mean it can be run with ease. You can also choose to make use of Lubuntu, Xubuntu, and Ubuntu Mate.

Ubuntu Gnome offers a contemporary design which comes with eye-catching visual effects while Linux Mint is more reserved and may be seen as less visually appealing. Linux Mint is truly lightweight and can run on older hardware with limited computing capacity. This makes it an excellent option for running Linux on both older and new hardware.

System Installation

Linux Mint and Ubuntu’s aim are to simplify the use of Linux for less technical users and newbies. To accomplish this, both distros offer a simplistic installation process that ensures you get started with their platforms without having to manually tweak too many things.

Linux Mint and Ubuntu support the use of Ubiquity and its installation process, as well as, UEFI. These installers automate the installation process and ensure installation is seamless and without hassles. Thus, as a beginner or someone crossing over from Windows or Mac operating systems, both options simply the crossover process for you.

Basic Interface

The user interface of a distro either welcomes new users or pushes them away from using it. Thus, a visually appealing interface has its pros. Starting with Linux Mint, the distro offers you multiple desktop environments but Cinnamon is the default environment you start with. Cinnamon will remind the user of a Windows interface in terms of its style and functionality. It has the launcher at the bottom left and a bottom panel reminiscent of Windows operating systems.

Ubuntu also offers you multiple desktop environments to experiment with. The default interface you use after the installation process is a Unity like an interface with vibrant colors and an intuitive interface. This default desktop environment consists of a panel at the right corner of a top bar. The top bar provides notifications while the dock panel hosts all the applications running on the system. You can also choose to customize the panel by moving it to other areas of the screen. In summary, Linux Mint default interface will be more familiar to Windows users while Ubuntu will be familiar to Mac users. You can also choose to change the basic interface according to your preferences.


How important is performance to you? How quick the distro launches applications or runs? Or the number of applications you can use on the chosen distro? Here, performance refers to how both options run and function on both older and new hardware. Linux Mint uses less memory or disk space compared to Ubuntu. This means even with a computer with average hardware requirements, Linux Mint would feel faster when used compared to Ubuntu.

The ability of Linux Mint to run faster than Ubuntu means it loads applications faster and does not eat up the amount of resources Ubuntu does when in operation. Thus, if you want to restart an old laptop and continue to use it for the foreseeable future, expect better performance from Linux Mint. Although more recent hardware has more than enough computing resources to deal with Ubuntu’s excesses, Linux Mint also runs faster on modern computers.

Software Manager

Linux Mint and Ubuntu are built to have a fully-functional software management system. Both software managers are clean and intuitive to use which puts choosing either option based on their interface down to your personality or choice. Also, they both provide various software applications under different categories as you are used to. This includes both proprietary software and free options which gives you the opportunity to use your favorite applications.

Now to performance, Ubuntu software center still takes time to start up as it eats up a lot of computing resources. On the other hand, Linux Mint’s Software Manager is much lighter than Ubuntu’s which makes it load quicker than the competition. The question most people would like to know is if the slowness of Ubuntu affects their use of it? The answer is yes for older computers and ‘not much’ for newer computer models.

Software Sources with More Options

This criterion focuses on usability and the ease of use options both distros offer. The software source tool on Linux Mint is notably better than what Ubuntu has to offer. For many, the usability features Linux Mint offers is one of the reasons they choose to use it instead of Ubuntu.

Some features that help Linux Mint standout from the competition are the options to reset its repository to default when the repository list is askance and the use of separate PPAs. In situations where you may have disorganized the repository list while tinkering, you can simply reset the repository to default and you are good to go. Another important feature is the automatic fixing tool which allows you to fix common errors you may encounter after your regular updates. Ubuntu does not offer these features for one reason or the other. This may come later in the future or Linux Mint simply fixed issues they found with Ubuntu as Ubuntu did with its predecessor.

Out-of-the-Box Software Applications

Out of box software applications are arguably some of the resources that made Windows and Mac operating systems what they are today. The productivity tools and entertainment apps that these options offer ensures you can get started with work or entertainment once a computer boots up or starts. Word, Docs, music players for white noise, and video players are important features for every computer user. So, how do both Linux distros compare?

Ubuntu and Linux Mint also come with a set of out of box software applications that help enable instant productivity or entertainment. However, they come with limitations that you must address before using either as your primary distro. These limitations include a lack of media codecs, adobe flash, and other productivity tools you may have gotten used to.

On Ubuntu, a Restricted Extras package consisting of these applications have been provided for you to activate during the installation process. Linux Mint deals with these issues by providing access to them in its software manager platform. Linux Mint also comes with preinstalled VLC and GIMP applications which will be useful to you in the long run. Thus, both distros are limited where out-of-the-box software is considered but Linux Mint just offers a bit more options right from the start.

User Interface Aesthetics Customization

The average computer user customizes their interface to reflect personalities or taste. Thus, access to themes, applets, and widgets can be a deciding factor for anyone choosing between both distros. The installation process for new themes on Ubuntu requires the use of the Ubuntu Gnome Tweak Tool to handle the customization. Although this process isn’t difficult to do, the need for a separate tool may be off-putting to some.

Linux Mint is built to offer you customization tools which include applets, themes, and widgets or desklets. These tools are generally captivating and it is more than likely that you will find options that meet your specifications with Linux Mint. Added to that, you can access Linux Mint’s community forums through the ‘Themes System Settings’ to get more themes online. You also do not need a separate theme installation tool which makes the process straightforward.

System Customization

Both distros are excellent when it comes to system customization as they give you the freedom to explore until your heart is content. Ubuntu offers diverse preferences you for your customization activities but once again Linux Mint offers a bit more. You can choose to modify icons, menus, file systems, window management, and panels however you choose. This means you are likely to be satisfied with the system customization options both distros have to offer.

Software Update and System Upgrade

Updating and upgrading systems are staples of both distros and they provide versatile solutions for pursuing upgrades. Ubuntu comes with an in-built software updater utility tool which checks for updates once clicked. Linux Mint also has a software update tool which simplifies the search for new updates and implementing them.

You can also choose the option of updating the software version you currently use with both distros. This involves visiting the distro’s software center and downloading the latest upgrade to your current distro.

Niche Use

In terms of niche use, we are referring to the use of both distros as enterprise solutions or in gaming. Ubuntu is an excellent distro for enterprises due to the work and collaborations done by its parent body, Canonical. Linux Mint can also be used for enterprise operations but Ubuntu’s solidity and relationships make it the distro of choice for commercial entities.

In terms of gaming, Linux Mint edges Ubuntu due to its renowned use of fewer resources compared to Ubuntu. Hobbyists and Linux enthusiasts may also find the extended features Linux Mint offers as a deciding factor when choosing between both excellent distros.

Community Support

In terms of community support, Ubuntu takes the spotlight due to its backing by a large corporation, its age in the game, and millions of users. Linux Mint also offers a vibrant support community as it is used by millions of developers and its partners and donors ensure it has received considerable support since its inception.

Ubuntu vs Linux Mint: Which is best for you?

Ubuntu and Linux Mint have become popular across every community and choosing the better option should depend on what you intend to accomplish. If you are a newbie who intends to use Linux for gaming and personal projects, you may lean towards the Linux Mint crowd due to the ease of use and speed it offers. Enterprises, on the other hand, are largely behind the use of Ubuntu due to the relationships it has built with proprietary software and firmware brands across the globe.

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