If you’re searching for the best rolling release Linux distributions for experiencing the latest upgrades, Linux distributions can be divided into categories based on features, GUI, etc.
What Are Rolling Release Linux Distributions?
These distros don’t release new versions of the Linux kernel, desktop environment, or other significant software components every six months.
They push new updates frequently. You don’t have to upgrade your distribution because it gets regular updates.
Let’s take Arch and Ubuntu as examples. Arch is a rolling-release Linux distribution because its developers provide new kernel and software updates as soon as they are available.
Unlike Arch, Ubuntu offers long-term stable releases. That’s why it’s not a rolling release Linux, because most updates are for security and maintenance, along with well-tested software package updates. This release has no new features or kernel upgrades; thus, the user must wait for the next.
For example, Ubuntu 20.04 uses GNOME 3.36 and won’t get 3.38. To do so, users must update to the newest version.
That’s why non-rolling releases are more stable. Since non-rolling Linux users are most impacted by this syndrome, it is always recommended to start from scratch with non-rolling Linux.
Rolling release distributions fix this. The non-rolling users should always start from scratch because they are the ones who are most impacted by this syndrome. There is no need to install a new version unless the system is unstable.
After installing all required packages, simply update them from the repository, including system packages like the kernel.
Rolling Release Linux Distributions – Pros
You’ll need the most recent version of the software to have “Updated” software with fewer flaws and more and better features installed on your system.
Complete system upgrades or reinstallation requires recently updated features and packages. When it comes to Linux distros, this is a huge advantage because many of them release new versions every six months, like Ubuntu.
Rolling Release Linux Distributions – Cons
The first and most obvious disadvantage is instability, as many packages are untested.
The most recent version of a package may not be compatible with another package you use, so it may stop working, leaving you without a graphical environment until the incompatible package is updated. It’s not common, but it happens.
1. Arch Linux
Arch Linux, an independently developed rolling release, is currently ranked 15th on distro watch. Since its initial release in 2002 under the GNU/GPL licenses, it has been constantly developed.
Arch Linux is an excellent example of a rolling release. Simple package management ensures system stability. Whenever possible, Arch package sources include the latest editions of integrated applications – rolling releases. In some cases, modifying libraries or applications can seriously affect system stability.
Arch Linux is not for the fainthearted. For example, users can install a GUI on top of the standard installation to better suit their needs.
2. openSUSE Tumbleweed
OpenSUSE has two distributions: Leap and Tumbleweed. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is a rolling release, whereas OpenSUSE Leap is a fixed release.
Tumbleweed is a highly recommended development distribution for developers and users who want to contribute to the OpenSUSE project. It is less stable than Leap and thus not suitable for production environments.
3. Manjaro Linux
Manjaro is a stable and easy-to-use derivative of Arch Linux. Manjaro 20.0.3 comes in three desktop environments: KDE Plasma, XFCE, and GNOME, with KDE Plasma being the most popular due to its elegance and versatility. Manjaro is highly recommended for users who want to try Arch but want a user-friendly, feature-rich, and customizable desktop.
4. Solus Linux
Solus, formerly Evolve OS, is an open-source home and office operating system. It includes everyday applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, and GNOME MPV. Users can add more software from their Software Center.
Like other rolling release distros, once installed, Solus does not require an upgrade (which is like an ISO refresh to have newer updates for fresh installation).
Solus is a good choice if you want something different but not too complicated.
5. Artix Linux
Artix Linux is the spiritual successor to Arch-openrc and Manjaro-openrc and is developed by the same team.
Artix images can be booted with either BIOS or UEFI and one of three init systems: OpenRC, Runit, or S6. Following the Arch model, the distribution is being developed in a rolling release format.
In addition to the actual operating system, it is available with GUI desktop environments such as Cinnamon, XFCE, Mate, LXQT, depending on the image. Artix also allows access to the Arch User Repository AUR.
6. Black Arch
Black Arch, a rolling release of penetration testing tools, is also based on Arch. Its functionality is very similar to Kali Linux and ParrotOS. It uses the same package manager as Arch Linux, Pacman, and the latest version is only 64-bit.
EndeavourOS is a rolling Arch Linux distribution. It replaces Antergos. A user-friendly Linux system built on Arch. But Endeavor is not the Ubuntu of Arch-based systems. Rather, it targets Linux users who don’t want to deal with Arch’s installation process.
Instead of overly customized defaults, EndeavorOS wants users to design their own Linux journey. Who cares if you’re a “Distro Hopper” or an Arch Linux purist? While you grow, the system remains focused. The Calamares installation is quick, but the system lacks a graphical package manager.
It supports the desktop environments Xfce, Mate, and LXQt as well as window managers i3-WM, BSPWM, and Sway.
Calculate Linux is a Gentoo-based rolling-release distribution with all the software you need. Calculate Linux is available for download with KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, and LXQ desktop environments.
It is designed for fast deployment. Calculate Linux uses a rolling binary update model but is still compatible with Gentoo source packages via Portage.
Gentoo is not for everyone. From installation to configuration to package management, it takes skill and time. But it has a specialized user base of experts who compile everything under the sun.
Gentoo may be the distro for you if you find other distros too easy.
Reborn OS is another Arch-based flavour on our list, with over 15 desktop environments to choose from. It is easy to install and includes Anbox – an open-source tool that allows you to run Android apps and games on Linux.