Ubuntu vs CentOS: Similarities & Differences!

Credits:

Ubuntu

CentOS

In this article let us have a look at 2 very popular distros Ubuntu and CentOS and see where each distro shines so that you can pick one that best suit your needs!

For those of you in a hurry, here is the short version of the answer.

The Short Version Of The Answer

What are the differences between Ubuntu and CentOS? The main difference between Ubuntu and CentOS is Ubuntu is meant for beginners to the Linux world in need of stable software and very good out of the box hardware support while CentOS is meant for beginner administrators who wish to experience the community version of RedHat’s RHEL

The table below highlights the important differences between the 2 distros

Ubuntu CentOS
Organization Name Canonical Ltd is the organization behind Ubuntu Distro.

Organization Type: Company

About the organization: CentOS started as the community version of RHEL and later started getting direct support from RedHat similar to Fedora

Organization Type: Community backed by RedHat

Expertise Level Needed Beginner Intermediate/Advanced
Based On Debian RHEL
Target use cases General Purpose Distro

Best Use-case: Programming (many IDE vendors support this distro)

Other Use-cases:

Studies

As a workstation

Specific purpose Distro.

Best Use-case: Enterprise and server uses

Other Use-cases: System admins who wish to try out RHEL

Software Support 9/10

Out of the box software: 4/5

Software Repository: 5/5

A large collection of software in the official repo, most software vendors who support Linux will release packages for Ubuntu.

8/10

Out of the box software: 3.5/5

Software Repository: 4.5/5

Hardware Support 8/10

Official driver support: 5/5

Support for older hardware: 3/5

Good support for 3rd party proprietary driver software

7/10

Official driver support: 4/5

Support for older hardware: 3/5

Hardware Resource Needs Middleweight Middleweight
Support 9.5/10

Paid support: Available: hence good for use in the organizations

Community: 5/5: great, Ubuntu has the biggest online community support in the Linux Distro World!

Documentation: 4.5

Good Documentation

8.5/10

Paid support: Not Available

Community: 4/5

Documentation: 4.5/5

Ease of use 9/10: Very easy to install and use
7/10

Intermediate/Advanced

Stability 10/10: Very stable
9.5/10 Very stable
Release Cycles Fixed release cycle: Long term support releases every 2 years and regular releases every 6 months CentOS Linux: Fixed Release

(Around once 4 years)

CentOS Stream: Rolling Release

The graph below summarizes the table and compares the 2 distros and shows us how they compare with each other on various factors (Higher the points the better that particular feature is in a given distro)

That is just the short version of the answer, let’s go ahead and look at the longer and more informative version and learn more about the similarities and differences between 2 distros.

The Linux Distributions World

The word Distro is short for “Distribution”. Since the Linux source code is open for everyone to see, large communities started evolving to bring together Operating Systems suited towards specific needs/goals.

These “specific needs/goals” include, but not limited to the following.

  • producing documents
  • writing programs and creating software
  • editing pictures, videos, audio and multimedia-production related works
  • store sensitive information by securing the operating system so that no one can hack into it or
  • just browse the internet and consume media.

Say a community of people just wanted to browse the internet with their computers, then there is no point giving them the software to write programs in. Thus since every community’s needs and goals were different these communities started distributing built images of this operating system with all the essential tools installed. These prebuilt images are called distros!

If you wish to know more about the reason behind the presence of so many choices in the Linux World, I suggest reading the article given below.

Reasons Behind The Existence of SO MANY Linux Distros: An Analysis!

The Main Factors of Comparison

The factors mentioned above are just a small list of 100s of factors that differentiate distros. If you are either switching from some other OS to Linux or you are in the process of choosing your next Linux distro and you are confused which one to choose, you need to have a look at these top 5 decision-making factors

  • Factor#1: Good Match with your Particular use-case
  • Factor#2: Support for your favorite software
  • Factor#3: Hardware Support and Proprietary Driver Support
  • Factor#4: Your level of expertise in Linux
  • Factor#5: Hardware Resource Needs

I have written a separate article explaining these factors which you can find in the link below

Top 5 Factors To Choose Between Linux Distros!

Let’s have a look at each of these important factors and see how Ubuntu and CentOS compare against each other.

Factor#1: Good Match with your Particular use-case

By use-case, I mean the type of work you are going to be doing on your computer. The Linux distro world originated because of the difference in use cases.

Ubuntu’s goal is wildly different from that of CentOS’s.

Let’s have a brief comparison between Ubuntu and CentOS in terms of goals, target users, and best use cases to employ these distros.

Ubuntu CentOS
Goal To be the best desktop/laptop operating system for beginners To be the community version of RHEL
Target users Linux beginners who want an easy to install and stable system. System admins who wish to get a flavor of RHEL’s features and security
Best Use Cases to Employ the Distro Best Use-case: Programming (many IDE vendors support this distro)

Other Use-cases:

Studies

As a workstation

Best Use-case: Enterprise and server uses

Other Use-cases: System admins who wish to try out RHEL

Factor#2: Support for your favorite software

If your main work involves some specific software or the latest versions of a given software then that becomes a decision-making factor for choosing a Linux Distribution. So before fixing on a given distro, be sure to google if that distro has official support for your main software needs.

The factors you need to be considering include the following

  • Out of the Box support: The software that the distro ships with.
  • Repository Support: The curated software that is available on the official repos
  • Type of release cycle: This decides the trade-off between up-to-date software and stable tested software.
  • Availability of Graphical Software managers

* Package manager used: This can decide the ease of which you can install and uninstall software

Let’s see how Ubuntu and CentOS fair up against each other in the category of Software support

Ubuntu CentOS
Out of the Box Software 4/5: The regular version comes with all the basic tools needed. 3.5/5

Comes with just the basic apps as this distro is meant for system admins and not a typical everyday Linux user

Repository Support 5/5: Large collection of software and software makers also release specialized Ubuntu 4.5/5

The CentOS is based on RHEL which means you get access to all the RHEL packages!

Type of release cycle Fixed release cycle: Long term support releases every 2 years and regular releases every 6 months CentOS Linux: Fixed Release

(Around once 4 years)

CentOS Stream: Rolling Release

GUI Tools Ubuntu software center and Synaptic software center available. Available: Software center
Package manager used APT and snappy dnf package manager

The bar chart below summarizes the table above. As you can see, Ubuntu is better than CentOS in terms of Out of the box software support. Ubuntu is better than CentOS in terms of Repository support.

Hence, Ubuntu wins the round of Software support!

Refer to the article below if you wish to learn more about package managers.

A Beginners Introduction To Linux Package managers: apt, yum, dpkg & rpm

Factor#3: Hardware Support and Proprietary Driver Support

Not all Linux distros support proprietary drivers officially. Depending on your computer’s hardware, you may or may not have open-source driver support from the manufacturers. This is especially true for hardware such as graphics cards and network cards. Hence it is a good idea to take “driver support” into consideration while choosing your next distro.

The factors you need to be considering include the following

  • Distro’s Policy of use of opensource vs proprietary 3rd party software
  • Official driver support by Major Companies
  • 3rd party driver support from official repos
  • Support for older hardware
Ubuntu CentOS
Distro’s Policy Defaults to open source software, but 3rd party software can be chosen at install time Only opensource officially supported
Official driver support by Major Companies 5/5: Many companies support and release packages for Ubuntu 4/5
3rd party driver support Available 3rd party repos available
Support for older hardware 3/5: Ubuntu has dropped support for 32bit processors. 3/5: CentOS dropped support for 32-bit processors, but driver support for older hardware other than processor is good

The bar chart below summarizes the table above. As you can see, Ubuntu is better than CentOS when it comes to official driver support. Both CentOS and Ubuntu got the same points in terms of support for Older Hardware.

Hence, Ubuntu wins the round of Hardware support!

Refer to the article below if you wish to have a look at some of the top distros in terms of hardware support.

Best Distro For Software And Hardware Support: A Comparison!!

Factor#4: Your level of expertise in Linux

Depending on your level of expertise in Linux, the choice of the distro you need will vary. This is because of the following factors

  • Ease of use: beginner, intermediate, expert
  • Paid customer support: available, not available
  • Online community support: great, good, okay, not good, no support
  • Available Documentation: Great documentation, Good documentation, Okay documentation, no documentation

Let’s see the level of support available for Ubuntu and CentOS and see how they compare against each other

Ubuntu CentOS
Ease of Use beginner 7/10

Intermediate/Advanced

This distro is meant for admins, hence some might not be available

Paid Customer Support Available: hence good for use in the organizations Not available, but you can always upgrade to RHEL and get the support needed with minimal changes as CentOS is essential the same RHEL!
Online Community Support 5/5: great, Ubuntu has the biggest online community support in the Linux Distro World! 4/5: good
Documentation 4.5/5: Good documentation 4.5/5 Great documentation

The bar chart below summarizes the table above. As you can see, Ubuntu is better than CentOS in terms of online community support. Both CentOS and Ubuntu got the same points in terms of Documentation.

Hence, Ubuntu wins the round of User support!

Factor#5: Hardware Resource Needs

This is an important factor if you are planning to employ Linux on a computer with limited hardware resources. This may be an old machine or a new one with less than stellar specs.

The factors you need to be considering include the following

  • Category: Lightweight or Middleweight or Heavyweight
  • RAM Requirements to have a snappy system &
  • Minimum processor requirements

Let’s see how Ubuntu and CentOS fair up against each other in terms of Hardware resource needs

Ubuntu CentOS
Category Middleweight Middleweight
Minimum RAM requirements 4GB 1.5GB minimum
Minimum Processor Requirements 2GHz dual-core processor 64-bit processor Only 64-bit processors

Refer to the article below if you wish to have a look at a step by step guide for choosing a Linux distro for your computer’s specifications.

A Complete Guide For Choosing A Distro For Your Computer’s Specs..!!

The Results!

Let us know go ahead and see the results of our comparison! Have a look at the Bar chart below.

As you can see Ubuntu wins in Software support, Hardware support, User support, Ease of use, and Stability.

CentOS wins in Hardware Resource needs.

I suggest you pick the distro that best suits you based on this graph. For example, if hardware support is more important to you, then pick the distro that has better support for your hardware!

Summary

To summarise the article here is the comparison table from the beginning of the blog again.

Ubuntu CentOS
Organization Name Canonical Ltd is the organization behind Ubuntu Distro.

Organization Type: Company

About the organization: CentOS started as the community version of RHEL and later started getting direct support from RedHat similar to Fedora

Organization Type: Community backed by RedHat

Expertise Level Needed Beginner Intermediate/Advanced
Based On Debian RHEL
Target use cases General Purpose Distro

Best Use-case: Programming (many IDE vendors support this distro)

Other Use-cases:

Studies

As a workstation

Specific purpose Distro.

Best Use-case: Enterprise and server uses

Other Use-cases: System admins who wish to try out RHEL

Software Support 9/10

Out of the box software: 4/5

Software Repository: 5/5

A large collection of software in the official repo, most software vendors who support Linux will release packages for Ubuntu.

8/10

Out of the box software: 3.5/5

Software Repository: 4.5/5

Hardware Support 8/10

Official driver support: 5/5

Support for older hardware: 3/5

Good support for 3rd party proprietary driver software

7/10

Official driver support: 4/5

Support for older hardware: 3/5

Hardware Resource Needs Middleweight Middleweight
Support 9.5/10

Paid support: Available: hence good for use in the organizations

Community: 5/5: great, Ubuntu has the biggest online community support in the Linux Distro World!

Documentation: 4.5

Good Documentation

8.5/10

Paid support: Not Available

Community: 4/5

Documentation: 4.5/5

Ease of use 9/10: Very easy to install and use
7/10

Intermediate/Advanced

Stability 10/10: Very stable
9.5/10 Very stable
Release Cycles Fixed release cycle: Long term support releases every 2 years and regular releases every 6 months CentOS Linux: Fixed Release

(Around once 4 years)

CentOS Stream: Rolling Release

Hope you have got enough data to choose between these 2 amazing distros!

And with that, I will conclude this article!

I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.

If you liked the post, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

Related Articles

Here are some of my other articles that might interest you!

What Is The Best Linux Distro? Analysis & Comparison..!!

A Step By Step Plan To Learn Linux..!

Best Linux Distro For Workstation: Analysis and Comparison!!

A Complete Guide For Choosing A Distro For Your Computer’s Specs..!!

Best Distro For Software And Hardware Support: An Analysis.!!

Distro-Hopping, What, Why & How Explained!

Reasons Behind The Existence of SO MANY Linux Distros: An Analysis!

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