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PCLinuxOS Review: This Classic Independent Linux Distribution is Definitely Worth a Look

Most of the Linux distributions that we cover on It’s FOSS are based on either Ubuntu or Arch.

No, we don’t have any affinity for either Ubuntu or Arch though personally, I love using Manjaro. It’s just that majority of new Linux distributions are based on these two.

While discussing within the team, we thought, why fixate over new distributions. Why not go for the classic distributions? Distributions that don’t belong to DEB/Arch domain.

So, today, we are going to be looking at an independent distro that tends to go against the flow. We’ll be looking at PCLinuxOS.

What is PCLinuxOS?

Pclinuxos Review

Back in 2000, Bill Reynolds (also known as Texstar) created a series of packages to improve Mandrake Linux, which later became Mandriva Linux. PCLinuxOS first became a separate distro in 2003 when Texstar forked Mandrake. He said that he made the move because he wanted “to provide an outlet for my crazy desire to package source code without having to deal with egos, arrogance and politics”.

As I said earlier, PCLinuxOS does not follow the rest of the Linux world. PCLinuxOS does not use systemd. Instead, it uses SysV init and “will continue to do so for the foreseeable future“.

It also has one of the oddest package management systems, I have ever encountered. PCLinuxOS uses apt and synaptic to handle RPM packages. Unlike most distros that use either apt or rpm, PCLinuxOS is a rolling distro. It also supports Flatpak.

The PCLinuxOS team offers three different versions: KDE, MATE, and XFCE. The PCLinuxOS community has also created a number of community releases with more desktop options.

PCLinuxOS Updater
PCLinuxOS Updater

System requirements for PCLinuxOS

According to the PCLinuxOS wiki, the following hardware is recommended to run PCLinuxOS:

  • Modern Intel or AMD processor.
  • 10 GB or more free space recommended.
  • Minimum 2 GB of memory. – Recommended 4 GB or more.
  • Any modern video card by Nvidia, ATI, Intel, SiS, Matrox, or VIA.
  • 3D desktop support requires a 3D instructions set compatible card.
  • Any Sound Blaster, AC97, or HDA compatible card.
  • A CD or DVD drive.
  • Flash drives can also be used to install, with PCLinuxOS-LiveUSB script just for this purpose.
  • Generally any onboard network card will suffice.
  • A high-speed internet connection is recommended for performing any updates/software installations as necessary.

Experience with PCLinuxOS

I originally encountered PCLinuxOS when I was first entering the Linux world about 7+ years ago. Back then I was trying out distros like crazy. At the time, I didn’t quite understand it and ended up going with Lubuntu.

Recently, I was reminded of the distro when Matt Hartley, community manager at OpenShot mentioned it on the Bryan Lunduke podcast. PCLinuxOS is Hartley’s daily driver and has been for a while. Based on his comments, I decided to take another look at it.

Smooth installation

PCLinuxOS installer
PCLinuxOS installer

The majority of Linux distros use one of three installers, Ubiquity, Anaconda, or Calamares. PCLinuxOS is one of the few that has its own installer, which it inherited from Mandrake. The installation went quickly and without any issue.

After the installation, I booted into the MATE desktop environment (because I had to). A dialog box asked me if I wanted to enable the update notifier. It’s always best to be up-to-date, so I did.

Handy set of utilities

Besides the usual list of utilities, office programs, and web tools, PCLinuxOS has a couple of interesting additions. Both Zoom (a videoconferencing tool) and AnyDesk (a remote desktop application) come pre-installed for your remote working needs. The menu also includes an option to install VirtualBox GuestAdditions (in case you installed PCLinuxOS on VirtualBox).

PCLinuxOS control center
PCLinuxOS Control Center

PCLinuxOS comes with a control center to handle all of your system admin needs. It covers installing software, file sharing, handles network connections, handles hardware issues, and security.

Create your own custom PCLinuxOS live disk

It also comes with a couple of apps that allow you to download a new PCLinuxOS ISO, write that ISO to a disc or USB, or create your own LiveCD based on your current system.

PCLinuxOS downloader
It is easy to create your own custom PCLinuxOS ISO

No sudo in PCLinuxOS

Interestingly, PCLinuxOS doesn’t have sudo installed. According to the FAQ, “Some distros…leaving sudo in a default state where all administrator functions are allowed without the requirement to enter the root password. We consider this an unacceptable security risk.” Whenever you perform a task that requires admin privileges, a window appears asking for your password.

Strong community

One of the cool things about PCLinuxOS is its strong community. That community creates a monthly e-magazine. Each issue contains news, tutorials, puzzles, and even recipes. The only other distro (or family of distros) that has sustained a community publication for over 15 years is Ubuntu with the Full Circle Magazine. Be sure to check it out.

No hardware issues noticed (for my system)

This is one of the last distros I will review on my Dell Latitude D630. (I’m moving up to a newer Thinkpad.) One of the major problems I’ve had in the past was getting the Nvidia GPU to work correctly. I didn’t have any issues with PCLinuxOS. It just worked out of the box.

Final Thoughts

PCLinuxOS-desktop
PCLinuxOS Desktop

PCLinuxOS also provides an easy way to remaster the system after installation. It allows you to create a live disk of PCLinuxOS with your customization. I

PCLinuxOS feels like part of the past and part of the present. It reflects the pre-systemd days and offers a modern desktop and apps at the same time. The only thing I would complain about is that there are fewer applications available in the repos than more popular distros, but the availability of Flatpak and AppImages should fix that.

PCLinuxOS’ tag line is: “So cool ice cubes are jealous“. It might sound corny, but I think it’s true, especially if you aren’t a fan of the direction the rest of the Linux world has taken. If you find something lacking in the big Linux distros, check out this old-little distro with a great community.

Have you ever used PCLinuxOS? What is your favorite independent distro? Please let us know in the comments below. If you found this article interesting, please take a minute to share it on social media, Hacker News or Reddit.

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  • I’ve been using PCLOS for a couple of years now and I really enjoy it. It works well for me and isn’t dependent on Ubuntu. Neither do I have to wipe my OS and reinstall whenever I want to upgrade. PCLOS upgrades daily. I recommend you try it, I think you’ll like it.

  • I first found PCLinuxOS after Mandriva closed down. I had become used to the easy way of configuring Mandriva and was delighted to find that PCLOS had adopted all the old *drake tools like diskdrake, hardrake etc. To me the partitioning tool diskdrake is the best in the business. It is clear, easy to use and I am amazed that other distros don’t use it. Don’t get me wrong GParted is fine if you have a bit of experience but with diskdrake anyone new to Linux is in safe hands.

    The other thing that attracted me to PCLOS is the package management. I never really got on with RPMDrake, I found it verbose and confusing. Apt is another matter altogether. For some reason it just makes sense to me, I understand what it is doing and why.

    Another thing.

    You say that the choice of programs is more limited in PCLOS than in other distros, that may be true, I haven’t really looked at many others for a while, but one program PCLOS does have which does not seem to be in many other repos is the Palemoon browser. It’s my preferred browser and when I did try Mageia I had to use Firefox so that I could side load Palemoon. Using Firefox after years away from it was a nasty shock and I was glad to see Palemoon back on my system.

    Oh, one last thing.

    Being a rolling release means that the system is always up to date and the number of times updates have broken something can be counted on the fingers of one hand in the time I have been using PCLOS

  • Glad I came upon this article in August of 2022. It peaked my interest to give it a try. I use Plasma but I have also tried gnome, mate, budgie, cinnamon, lxqt and mabox in debian, arch, manjaro, fedora, ubuntu, mint and openSUSE. This journey started 4 years ago when I decided MS was not my big brother. The journey has been long, I have to say, with no one checking all the boxes. Arch came the most close however not being young with poor memory I found it exhausting to install on one laptop, I use 3. Used Windows since version 3.1 and grown use to the GUI. So Plasma is a good fit. That said, having installed PCLinuxOS on my 5 year old HP laptop I have to say this is the most pleased I have been with any linux os. It is outstandingly rock solid. Their choices of software are the best mix that matches my preferences although I did add Kate. They have veracrypt in their repo, installed waterfox in addition to Firefox already there. So far no disappoints in package availability. Most recent plasma version 5.25.4, 5.18.11 Kernel is another great combo. These people do things a little different, yes, however I like what they do. This is a great distribution that pays attention to detail and makes sound logical choices. This is my daily driver now. One benefit, as I see it, which I was not even looking for is systemd is not used. What a surprise that was for me considering the vast majority of distros do use it. I have to say PCLinuxOS has got them beat.

  • Started with Mandrake, and then started using Tex’s packages and finally tried his 0.91 release. Pretty sure it was .91, might have been a point or two later. I liked it because it fixed what was broken with Mandrake. Then I went distro hopping and found that everything out there had something that annoyed me or made me hate it… except PCLOS. So I have been using it ever since. I occasionally use other distros to help people who are using them, or can’t get something they need from PCLOS, but it’s pretty rare. I run my home computers on it and my business and mission critical systems on it. Re-installs are very rare; I think since 2004 I have actually needed to re-install to fix a borked install 3 times, and those three times were all the result of hardware issues or electrical surges. I don’t re-install very often, but it takes about 20 minutes to go from a blank disk to installed, restored to what I need from backups, and working. I love that, and the fact that PCLOS is a real rolling release that actually works without slow self destruction. I also love that it doesn’t waste my time, and instead, gets the hell out of my way and lets me get things done. I understand that it’s not perfect, and doesn’t suit 100% of people, but for me it’s been a literal Godsend ever since about 2004. Thank you, Tex, and thank you to all the people who make up the team and the community for the great things you’ve done over the years.

  • I have used PCLOS since the 0.97. Well, Texstar changed the version to year number, but that doesn’t mean much when the distro changed to rolling release. “It just works” is the slogan, good hardware support. Some hiccups on the way, like changing KDE-4 to KDE-5 without re-install needed some finger work. My oldest install is over 6 years old without problems, on an old mini-laptop. Hardware dies before the install.