Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons)

Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons). When you step into the world of Linux, choosing your best Linux distro can be overwhelming. Ubuntu and Debian are two of the most popular Linux distributions across the globe, each differing in their capabilities, features and aesthetics. In this article we will introduce Ubuntu and Debian with their respective pros and cons and we will compare both Linux distros. 

Debian was released before Ubuntu and Ubuntu is developed based on the Debian testing snapshot release. So they have many things in common, but there are still lots of differences. Both of them are unique, but they’re also similar in many aspects. In this post, we will see how they compare against each other.

What is Ubuntu

Ubuntu is Debian’s fork. The name “Ubuntu” is derived from South African tradition, and it roughly means “humanity”. Ubuntu OS is developed by a UK based company called Canonical Ltd. founded by Mark Shuttleworth, a South African entrepreneur. 

Ubuntu software was developed with an objective to make Linux more beginner friendly and approachable, whilst still keeping it open source. Ubuntu focused on usability by offering more steady updates and a wider range of software and hardware drivers. Ubuntu editions can run on virtual machines or a typical computer system. Seeing this, it has an intuitive UI, easy installation process and strong media support. Due to its modern approach, Ubuntu has over 40 million users across the world.

This distro runs on tablets, smartphones, servers, cloud VPS and PCs. 

Pros of Ubuntu

  • Free Operating System for Personal and Enterprise Computing.
  • User friendly OS that is easy to install and set up.
  • Download and install available for free.
  • Less prone to malware attacks than Windows; built in firewall.
  • Works on a Range of Devices or Computing Platforms. It also works on network servers, robots and virtualized computer environments via a virtual machine or containers.
  • Monitoring
  • Highly customizable.
  • Strong community support.
  • Supports latest hardware and software.
  • Lock screen and do not disturb option.
  • Gnome extensions.
  • High security.

Cons of Ubuntu

  • Very few gaming applications.
  • Limited Functionality Due to Limited Applications.
  • Sometimes system crashes due to heavyweight design.
  • Difficult To Migrate.
  • Problem with MP3.
  • Difficult to install apps.
  • Commercialization issues, should it stay open source.
  • Ubuntu is released regularly within a short period, it is not frequently tested as Debian, so it is not as stable as Debian.
  • Has problems with software and hardware compatibility.
  • Likely to have bugs due to too many feature updates.
  • Not so smooth when switching from one release to next.
  • Complicated interface especially for new users. 

Next in our comparison Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference is Debian!

What is Debian

Debian is older than Ubuntu and an original Linux distro. It was released in 1993 and is one of the oldest open source, community driven Linux OS. Debian server is also widely used by software and hardware developers as it it runs on numerous architectures and devices. It offers a public bug tracker and other tools for developers. It runs on various devices such as server systems, laptops, PCs, etc. As a Linux OS, Debian is versatile and stable, but not so ideal for beginners. It is more recommended for advanced techies.

Debian serves as a framework for Ubuntu, Linux Mint, MX Linux, Deepin, AntiX, PureOS and many more. Users can go through the Debian Social Contract: a document with detailed guidelines for open source developers. 

Today, Debian is developed and maintained by a strong Debian Community, and there’s no commercial company at its core like Ubuntu and it’s Canonical Company.

Pros of Debian

  • Stable Linux distro with mature, larger and strong community.
  • The distribution system has the largest number of installed packages worldwide.
  • A Comprehensive Installer.
  • Variety of Hardware Architectures.
  • Easy to transition between technologies as it supports different system architectures.
  • Secure and Stable.
  • Free and Proprietary Software.
  • Thoroughly tested; the tested version is rock solid stable.
  • Includes wide range of software repositories.
  • Stable versions with less bugs.
  • Timely upgrades of important security and operations features.
  • Highly reliable when switching from one release to the latest.

Cons of Debian

  • Software updates take a long time to achieve a stable repository. The latest features aren’t available faster.
  • A Conservative Operating System.
  • Debian Uses Systemd.
  • Issues with the GNU Principles.
  • Bug Tracker software available.
  • Debian software not always up to date.
  • Not user friendly; working with the terminal is difficult for beginners.
  • Kernel is old, hence sometimes may not support latest hardware.

Comparison Table: Ubuntu vs Debian

Features Ubuntu Debian
Base
Based on Debian
Original Linux
License
Free and some proprietary device drivers
Free
Release
2004
1993
Ideal for 
Beginners and advanced users
Advanced users
Hardware compatibility
Wider
Limited
Release schedule 
Long-term release cycle of 2 years;  Regular releases every 6 months
Fixed cycle of 2 years
Unique Feature
Regularly Updated
Stable
Developed by 
Canonical, a UK-based Company
Community driven Debian Project
Available in
55 languages
75 languages

Next in this article Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons) is to compare both softwares!

Ubuntu vs Debian: Main Differences

1. Ease of Use

If you take a look at the interface of both the distros, you’ll know right away which one is more user friendly.

Debian is a developer first kernel for Linux that is powerful, secure and stable. However, it is not so ideal for those who are new to the world of Linux. Now the Debian Community has worked meticulously to make the installation and configuration easy. But still, beginners may find it a bit overwhelming to set up. 

Ubuntu, on the other hand is aimed towards newbies who are using Linux for the first time. Ubuntu is very easy to install; you can simply download Ubuntu for desktop, IoT devices, Server or Cloud to run on various devices. On the download page, you’ll see various tutorials to create an installation disk or a USB stick. There’s even a “Trial version” option available without having to install the OS. Users can write Debian ISOs to a bootable USB stick or DVD.

Ubuntu’s Software Center is what greatly simplifies the package installation. Debian installation requires you to use Command line or other Package Management tools.

Another core feature about Ubuntu is “Ubuntu One”, its very own cloud storage, which is lacking in Debian. This makes cloud migration easier for users. By the same token, Ubuntu also offers seamless media management (Ubuntu’s videos, pictures, etc.), which may be a bonus point for casual users.

2. Hardware Compatibility

Hardware compatibility is one of the main concerns for those migrating from Mac or Windows to Linux OS. Though the developers’ community has worked relentlessly to resolve this, there are still many kernels that aren’t compatible with modern hardware. 

Ubuntu is able to work with most of the latest hardware and the traditional ones too. Ubuntu’s developers have meticulously tried to hone up the OS, so as to make it compatible with the newest hardware. This means, users don’t have to search for rare drivers and can easily get started with Ubuntu right out of the box. 

Debian developers are also working actively to improve its hardware compatibility. Debian’s latest version 11.3 called “Bullseye” was released on 26th March, 2022 and it is highly stable and secure. It uses the latest Linux kernel with enhanced performance, better hardware support and many bug fixes. 

3. Installation Process

Both distros have their GUI for the installation process. To install Debian the process is much more complicated than Ubuntu. Debian has Debian installer based on nCurses on the other hand Ubuntu has Ubiquity based on the part of Debian installer.

 

Ubuntu’s installer is easier and has one of the most user friendly installation experiences. The Debian on the other hand more complicated  but provides more configuration than Ubuntu. 

4. Platform Support

Ubuntu platform support

  • S390x (IBM System z)
  • x86 64
  • ARM64
  • RISC V
  • ARMhf (ARMv7 + VFPv3 D16)
  • ppc64le (POWER8 and after)

Debian platform support

  • x86 64
  • armel (ARM EABl)
  • arm64 (64 bit ARM)
  • armhf (ARM with hardware FPU)
  • mips
  • mipsel (little endian MIPS)
  • mips64el (64 bit little endian MIPS)
  • i386 (32 bit PC)
  • s390x (IBM System z)
  • riscv64
  • ppc64el (64 bit little endian PowerPC)

Ubuntu and Debian both the distros excel when it comes to hardware compatibility. Debian supports various types of CPU architectures. Ubuntu does the same, plus it also offers support for ARM architecture, which is a bonus. Hence with Ubuntu, it gets easier to install proprietary software drivers and firmware.

5. Software Library

Ubuntu comes with a large software library where you can find loads of capable software such as LibreOffice, a good alternative to the very popular MS Office. Some more software that Ubuntu offers is GIMP (free Photoshop alternative), Audacity, VLC Player, Steam, Chrome and Firefox. Additionally, Ubuntu is preinstalled with a powerful Package Management tool that makes software installation and upgrades a breeze! There is also Ubuntu Minimal server.

Compared to Ubuntu, Debian has a limited software library. However, most software will work with Debian as well. Firefox, VLC Player, GIMP, LibreOffice, etc. will seamlessly run on Debian as well.

6. Stability

As for stability, Debian is way more robust and stable due to its limited set of features. It is less likely to have system crashes or blue screens randomly, and it stays put. This is the reason why many developers still prefer it for business grade web hosting and applications.

Ubuntu is Debian’s fork and it uses Debian’s codebase; hence Ubuntu is stable as well. However, too many features make it prone to bugs and random crashes. 

7. Performance

Ubuntu and Debian, both have fast performance. 

Debian has an edge in this matter as it is lightweight to install and run. It doesn’t have too many features and pre installed software that negatively affects the performance.

Ubuntu is also fast, but not more than Debian as extra features affect its performance. And as time passes, both the distros may perform a bit slow due to feature bloating.

8. Support and Community

Given the fact that Debian is developed by the community driven Debian Project, it obviously has a larger community. This tech oriented community is strong and highly reliable.

Ubuntu, on the other hand, also has a strong community that is more inclined towards guiding newbies or amateurs. Canonical Ltd. offers expert support for Ubuntu users at a fixed fee. And for Debian, you just have to refer to the community forums.

9. Server usage

Debian Server versions are preferred over Ubuntu Server. This is because Debian is a more secure and stable solution. On the other hand Ubuntu comes with pre packed software and is the best for specific usages. So both Linux distros are same level compatible on the service level as you can run both Debian and Ubuntu without any interruptions and apply patches or updates.

10. Releases

Debian releases:

Debian releases the OS in three types:

  • Stable: it is a stable version you can run on servers and desktops. It is ready to deploy.
  • Testing: it is a version that’s under testing before it gets stable
  • Unstable: it is an unsteady version that is under trial. Developers use it to fiddle with the code.

Ubuntu releases:

Ubuntu offers the OS in two release types:

1. Ubuntu LTS: LTS stands for Long Term Support. It is a version that’s released every two years. But, Ubuntu is updated every 6 months. Hence, the LTS version may have out of date hardware drivers and software, yet it is still stable. The latest release is “Jammy Jellyfish” Ubuntu 22.04 released on 21st April, 2022.

2. Ubuntu interim releases: it is released every 6 months and comprises the latest software. These interim releases are built upon unsteady Debian versions. Developers strive to improve it by adding latest software and new hardware drivers and release it as a standard release. 

To conclude, Ubuntu releases their updates every 6 months, while Debian has a stable release cycle that is irregular. This means that Ubuntu’s releases always comprise the latest software.

It is time to summarize the article Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons). Read below. 

Ubuntu vs Debian – What’s the Difference Conclusion

To summarize both distributions offer a fast response to critical security updates, both use systemd and their associated subsystems.

It is safe to say that Debian and Ubuntu are both two essential and dominant Linux distros with a set of different features and tools. Debian is more stable than Ubuntu, that is because Ubuntu uses or adds more cutting edge features, that results in more bugs and crashes.

 

Debian vs Ubuntu system performance, the clear winner in this study is Debian as it comes with a bare minimum feature and has astable base. Debian demands fewer resources and runs smoothly on a wide range of devices (old or new machines).

 

In Ubuntu, the added features and prepacked customizations sometimes affect the overall performance. Ubuntu provides the latest features that needs more power. So Ubuntu Linux is more suitable for modern computing devices.

Ubuntu is more intuitive, feature rich design that makes it easier, user friendly and is developed for newbies and inexperienced users in the Linux world.  On the other hand, Debian is more ideal for advanced techies that are already experts in Linux. Debian has a minimal design and is aimed towards pro developers, open source experts and tinker enthusiasts.

If you are new to Linux, you can absolutely go with Ubuntu. But if you’re well versed with Linux already, then Debian is your ultimate choice!

These two Linux distros differ in many ways, they are pretty unique and depending on your project but it is tough to say whether Ubuntu is better than Debian or vice versa. 

At last I can say that Debian and Ubuntu are both great Linux distros. Many users prefer to use Debian over Ubuntu and vice versa. Ubuntu is more for beginners, and Debian is best for techies. Regardless, with the points (pros and cons) mentioned in this post, you can easily point out the one that is best for your next project. I recommend you to install both and judge yourself, which fulfills the requirements.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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