Steam for Linux

Steam for Linux

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Choosing the right Linux distribution
By Houtworm
Want to switch to Linux? or are you not happy with your current distribution? Check out this guide.
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Introduction
Choosing the right distro all comes down to your own personal taste,
Which DE you prefer? GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, Budgie, XFCE, LXDE, Openbox, I3, etc.
Do you prefer Long Term Support or Always having the newest updates?
And ofcourse, How skilled are you with Linux?
Choosing a Desktop Environment
A DE or Desktop Environment manages your windows, your start menu, how you interact with the computer, They also come with a set of default applications. Do not look at the themes, colors, icons, etc, These can be changed in any DE.

If you have a fast machine you could run any DE without compromise, If you have to be careful with resources i would recommend a lighter DE.

Below i listed the most popular DEs, You can even choose to install a few and switch anytime at the login screen.

GNOME
https://www.gnome.org/
GNOME is the default DE for most distros, and not without reason. It is a very stable DE, and very pleasing to the eye. There is not really a menu at least not in the traditional sense. It is a very different workflow, But once you get used to how it works it becomes a very next gen desktop experience.

KDE
https://kde.org/
KDE is a great Desktop environment that has a traditional Start menu like Windows. It is stable and easy to adjust to. It has a ton of default apps and some are even being used regularly on other DEs. The biggest advantage of KDE is how they don't sacrifice function over appearance. Where GNOME tried to hide stuff under menus, KDE places it right under your nose.

Cinnamon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamon_(Desktop_Environment)
Cinnamon is a pretty cool DE based on GNOME. It made a lot of tweaks to make it more Windows user friendly. It brings back the start menu for example. It is developed by and the default in Linux Mint, It looks very nice and is used alot.

Budgie
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budgie_(desktop_environment)
Budgie is a fairly new DE. It is based on GNOME it added back a start menu and it looks very nice. It is developed by the Solus team, with some help from Arch and some other distros. It stands out as being a mix between GNOME and KDE. Familiar, Elegant and Functional.

MATE
https://mate-desktop.org/
MATE is a fork of a previous version of GNOME 2 that was replaced by GNOME 3 in 2011. MATE has had a lot of tweaks since that time and it has improved on the beloved Gnome 2.4.

XFCE
https://xfce.org/
XFCE is a very lightweight DE that looks and works a bit like MacOS. It doesn't look that pretty but it sure is fast and functional. It has a start menu and everyone should be able to get around pretty quick.

LXDE
https://lxde.org/
LXDE is another lightweight Desktop Environment It is very basic, It is no longer in development, The team moved over to LXQT. But it still is very functional, It is intended for older machines, even 20 year old machines should be able to run it without problems.

LXQT
https://lxqt.org/
LXQT is another lightweight DE It is a merger between LXDE and RazorQT and is in active development, It is practically LXDE without GTK. It is a nice lightweight and easy to use DE. Even your old Pentium Laptop should be able to handle this.

Openbox
http://openbox.org/wiki/Main_Page
Openbox is technically not a DE, It is a Window manager, It does not come with any applications like a normal DE and therefore not for beginners.It does not have a default layout, You start with a clean desktop, No bars, no menu, nothing. It is a DE you have to build yourself. It is incredibly customizable but it is not being used a lot.

i3
https://i3wm.org/
I3 is technically not a DE, It is a Window manager, It does not come with any applications like a normal DE and therefore not for beginners. i3 is a very customizable WM. I think it is one of the more popular WMs for people who are into designing the best looking desktop.
More tough choices
Release Model
We have 2 different release models; Rolling and Fixed.

Rolling distros are a Install once keep forever kind of idea. If a new version of a package rolls out it will get pushed to your machine in some distros within hours. The biggest advantage is having all the new packages and with that the best possible performance and compatibility. A downside is that you have to update your system a lot.

If you want bleeding edge and the best performance, Always running the newest packages go for a Rolling Release Distro.

Fixed distros run on a release schedule. Ubuntu for example gets a new version each 6 months, and every 2 years a version gets Long Term Support. That version gets 5 year support for people who don't like upgrading every 6 months, You only get Security updates in Fixed release models. The other packages only get updated when you switch to a newer version of your Distro.

If you are fine with a little compromise and don't want to update your PC twice every day go for a Fixed Release Distro.

Function, Philosophy and Skill
Now it is important to think about what you want to do with your PC. If you just play games SteamOS is fine, but if you want to do other things besides games it is not a good choice.

It is also Important to know who is behind the distro, What are their values, what do they believe in, And see what matches best with your stance on the subjects.

And ofcourse it is imporant to think about your skill level. If you are a total beginner it might be good to pick a beginner friendly distro.

First Step
I would first choose between a Fixed or a Rolling Distro, Both have their own little section.

Choosing your Distro (Fixed Distros)
I would first look at the Desktop Environment. Write down the Distros that support your choices.
Next look at the skill levels and pick ones that may be suitable for you.
You should have a small list now, Pick the one that fits your beliefs best.

Debian
https://www.debian.org/
Debian is a very big distrobution, Ubuntu is even based on it. It is one of the most used and most Stable distros out there, It is not really fit for gaming but with the right skill you can make it that way. They support every DE, and probably have the largest repo of all.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
Any

Fedora
https://getfedora.org/
Fedora is a community based distro sponsored by and based on Red Hat Linux. Even the creator of Linux himself uses Fedora, It is a very nice distro that does not really like proprietary software. Which is a pro and a con, Steam or the Nvidia drivers require some additional steps to install. It is the most stock GNOME experience there is, Very recommended, Just not so much for gaming.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Package Manager
DNF
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXQT, MATE, Cinnamon, LXDE, SOAS

Mint
https://linuxmint.com/
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, It is one of the most popular distros out there. They created the Cinnamon Desktop Environment which is based of GNOME. If you want a Cinnamon Desktop, Mint is propbably your best bet.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
Cinnamon
DE Support
Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE

MX Linux
https://www.mxlinux.org/
MX Linux is a lightweight Linux distribution based on Debian that uses a slightly modified XFCE as their default DE. It is easy to install, is easy to use and easy to customize. It is not very optimized for gaming by default, But it is fairly easy to make it this way.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
XFCE
DE Support
Any

OpenSUSE Leap
https://www.opensuse.org/
OpenSUSE is a very stable distro based in Germany, It is not the fastest, But it is very user friendly. It was the first company to market Linux for the enterprise business, and it is something they still do today. Their Desktop version benefits from this enterprise support, It has a great community and it is a very solid choice for a distro.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
ZYpp
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
KDE
DE Support
KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE, LXQT

PopOS
https://system76.com/pop
An Ubuntu based distro that is made to be extremely easy, It is developed by System76. It does not have the newest Kernel and GPU drivers by default. also Ubuntus stance on 32bit libraries might become a problem in the future unless PopOS decides to step up their game.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
GNOME, KDE, MATE, Cinnamon, XFCE, LXDE

Slackware
http://www.slackware.com/ (no SSL, yes strange I know)
Slackware Linux is the oldest Distro around. It started out as a hobby (Just like Linux) But people started using it, and people still use it today. It is a very difficult distro, Their package manager misses some basic features like dependancy resolving. Their Repos are also far from complete, It is a Linux distro that is for people who don't like the easy way. It is not far from Linux From Scratch.

Skill Level
Advanced
Package Manager
pkgtool
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
None
DE Support
Any

SteamOS
https://store.steampowered.com/steamos
Valve's own Linux distro based on Debian, It has Steam pre installed and launches in Steam Big Picture Mode by default. It is very gaming centric, And if you are looking for a no maintenance Linux gaming console, it might be perfect. But if you plan to use your PC for multiple things it might not be the right choice.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
Steam Big Picture Mode
DE Support
Steam Big Picture Mode, GNOME

Ubuntu
https://ubuntu.com/
Ubuntu is based on Debian and many other distros are based on Ubuntu. It is probably the most used Distro, And has been the recommended OS by Valve. This is not the case anymore since Ubuntu will drop 32bit support in the future It is a fairly easy distro but it requires a lot of tweaking to optimize it for gaming.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Fixed
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
Any
Choosing your Distro (Rolling Distros)
I would first look at the Desktop Environment. Write down the Distros that support your choices.
Next look at the skill levels and pick ones that may be suitable for you.
You should have a small list now, Pick the one that fits your beliefs best.

Arch Linux
https://www.archlinux.org/
Arch Linux supports every DE. It is community based it is always running the newest packages, Kernels GPU Drivers, etc. This allows for better performance in all games It has no GUI for the installer, So installing it requires a wiki and some patience, But in return you get a completely bare system and everything that will be installed will be installed by you personally. No Bloat, and Exactly to your liking.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Package Manager
pacman
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
None
DE Support
Any

Chakra
https://www.chakralinux.org/
Chakra is based on Arch linux, but focusses on the KDE dekstop. It is half Rolling, So it keeps back some packages to not annoy you with loads of updates on a hourly basis. Chakra pushes them once in a while and only pushes important packages directly.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
pacman
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
KDE
DE Support
KDE

Debian Testing
https://www.debian.org/
Debian is a very big distribution, Ubuntu is even based on it. It is one of the most used and most Stable distros out there, Ofcourse using the testing repositories removes some of that stability but it does make it a rolling distro. They support every DE, and probably have the largest repo of all.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Package Manager
apt
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
Any

Gentoo Linux
https://www.gentoo.org/
Gentoo is a fast and flexible distro with the Gentoo non profit organisation behind them, it is focussed on speed and only using the minimal. It even encourages you to adjust the kernel to your needs, I don't know if people actually do it, I am sure there are some Die hard Gentoo fans out there.

Skill Level
Advanced
Package Manager
pkgtool
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
None
DE Support
Any

Manjaro
https://manjaro.org/
An Arch based distro aimed to be easy for the average user. It gets the updates a little later than Arch. But it is very easy to use, All programs update with pamac which is an easy GUI package manager where you can install any package in a few clicks, Including Steam.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
pacman
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
GNOME
DE Support
Any

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed
https://www.opensuse.org/
OpenSUSE is a very stable distro based in Germany, It is not the fastest, But it is very user friendly. It was the first company to market Linux for the enterprise business, and it is something they still do today. Their Desktop version benefits from this enterprise support, It has a great community and it is a very solid choice for a distro.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
ZYpp
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
KDE
DE Support
KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE, LXQT

Solus
https://getsol.us/home/
Solus is a very nice distro, It is running release so you always get the latest packages. It does not have the amount of packages Arch does but all the needed apps are there, and if something is missing you can request for it to be added. There is also Steam integration which makes some things work better.

Skill Level
Beginner
Package Manager
eopkg
Release Model
Rolling
Default DE
Budgie
DE Support
Budgie, GNOME, KDE, MATE, i3
Conclusion
I hope this guide has helped you choose the right distribution.

If you have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment.

Contributions are more than welcome,
Any DEs or Good Gaming Distros i forgot?
Nicer screenshots of the DEs to better represent them?
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42 Comments
Louyiihn Jan 27 @ 2:55pm 
I use debian stable and my gaming is fine. however i tend to play native games and platformers/oldschool rpgs, not 3A games so for this type of gaming debian stable is just fine :winter2019coolyul:
The Nintendo guy Jan 26 @ 7:43am 
What do you define as gaming friendly?
As long as it gets up to date packages like ubuntu non-lts or arch/arch based distros. You're fine

So just avoid mint, zorin or debian stable, since they come with packages which are more months or even years old.

And for Arch, I'd say use either archfi or the terminal way
One of the best things about Arch is that you get to choose everything yourself. From the web browser to every single package, kernel etc.
If you need an easy way, I'd recommend going with archfi. A script with a gui which lets you download everything yourself.
It's not an installer, since you have to press the right buttons in the right order and such.
Main thing people like arch is that you get to choose everything and know what you've installed.
You don't have this with those scripts.
I think endaevour os is the closes to stock arch, without going through the hassle of doing everything yourself
BottomScorer Jan 25 @ 6:57pm 
Most distros aren't gaming friendly AGAIN... Use Arch or PopOS. Not a guide but waste of time.
Louyiihn Jan 3 @ 3:52pm 
Arch Linux now has an easier installer than before. Still needs you to learn what you are doing but easier.
The Nintendo guy Jan 2 @ 12:08pm 
Ubuntu's package manager is snap. There is no apt, there is no pacman, dnf or Flatpak. There is only snap. Why does nobody understand it? I mean who doesn't like snaps? Weak sandboxing, slow startup times. It's so good, that mint even blocks snaps, because otherwise, everyone would just keep on using snaps for all of eternity
Resonce Nov 10, 2021 @ 4:05pm 
Budgie 4 ever!
BottomScorer Jun 14, 2021 @ 12:51am 
KDE is better than Gnome. Especially for GPU work or gaming.
B1tF1ghter May 28, 2021 @ 7:24am 
(part 4 / 4)
Anyone recommending it to newcomers causes major cringe (because calling it "newcomer friendly" is a HUGE LIE) and grief in experienced Arch users (because such foolish recommendation behaviour FLOODS Arch forums with "majorly unexperienced users" [to not use certain other term] that ignore guidelances and SPAM their issues without consulting docs first - ArchLinux is an distro paradigm of "*first* RTFM and THEN *maybe* ask for help if you still need it" - and therefore it requires a great deal of HABIT CHANGES in user of it).

In fact at this point I don't really know of any distro that could be perceived as both "up to date to be realistically usable for entertainment ootb" and "newcomer friendly" at the same time.

:TEW2MOBIUS: :TEW2CAT:
B1tF1ghter May 28, 2021 @ 7:23am 
(part 3 / 4)
Second of all, ironically, it's a far more stable system for most of it's users than anything *cough* staggered *cough* "stable" like Debian and the likes.
Obviously that assumes one can HANDLE *proper* configuration (not a sloppy "installed and left defaults due to lack of balls to read docs PROPERLY") AND maintenance of it. Which tbh most people CANNOT.
It is a system of superior stability and close to endless possibilities.
But it REQUIRES KNOWLEDGE.
It can very successfully be used for gaming, it's used by many for it, and in fact it usually offers far better experience due to it's "close to bleeding edge" nature.
But it does require a great deal of ACTUAL knowledge and therefore IS NOT suitable for any newcomers by absolutely ANY means.
B1tF1ghter May 28, 2021 @ 7:23am 
(part 2 / 4)
At this point it's overhyped, don't get me wrong, it DOES have it's uses, but at this moment right now it runs on hype from X years back as if people stopped evaluating it's usefulness REGULARLY after just slapping the "newcomer friendly" tag on it some time ago - this distro changed, A LOT - it's no longer what it was X years ago and therefore using reviews of it from X years ago paints very misleading picture for any people without deeper expertise in *NIX.

People who don't use ArchLinux as their daily driver tend to crack jokes like that system "breaks a lot" "because it's bleeding edge".
It's a great lie, sadly very cringe for any real more experienced Arch users.
First of all, it's not PERFECTLY bleeding edge, it's VERY close to, but it does not always update packages absolutely IMMEDIATELLY after upstream (it results in some bogus pkg repo behaviours *from time to time*, like Mesa upstream-stable being put in "testing" branch sometimes even for WEEKS).