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Debian vs Ubuntu: 15 Things To Know Before Choosing the Best One

After Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu comparison article, Today, I am here in front of you with another interesting comparison review on Debian vs. Ubuntu. I hope this Linux distros comparison article will help you choose the best one for your working environment.

Linux Debian and Ubuntu are the most dominant distros out there in the market. There are roughly 290 Linux distro variations available; out of that, 131 are derived from Debian, and 58 are developed from Ubuntu code. So now you understand how much influence these two distros have in the Linux community.

Ubuntu is developed based on the Debian testing snapshot release. So they have many things in common, but there are still lots of differences. In this article, I am going to cover both the similarities and differences so that you can compare them to get the best one.

Debian vs. Ubuntu: Top 15 Things to Know

Before jumping into the core comparison, I would like to say that Linux Debian and Ubuntu are the best alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS X. By the way, If you want to shift from any other OS, then you may like to visit our list of Best Linux Distributions and check out an editorial list of Best Linux Software.

1. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Basic Foundation

Debian is one of the original Linux distros developed in 1993, and Ubuntu is a fork of Debian, and the first release of Ubuntu was in 2004. Every six months, Debian releases a testing branch, and Ubuntu adopts the latest packages from the Debian unstable branch.

Debian vs Ubuntu: Basic Foundation
Debian vs. Ubuntu: Basic Foundation

Ubuntu uses the same packaging management system; it merges Ubuntu-specific customizations and adds more features and patches into the release cycle when necessary. Whatever changes Ubuntu does with its releases, they also push changes back to the Debian base code.

2. Release Cycle

The release cycle brings a noticeable difference between Debian and Ubuntu. Debian follows three different releases, namely – stable, testing, and unstable. Its stable cycle is rock solid stable with reasonably old packages, which is not a problem for a server but awful for desktop usages.

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Debian’s testing branch is more updated and fluid. The developers actively engineer the next stable cycle on the testing branch. Debian’s testing branch is not unstable; instead, it looks like using a regular point release. And at last, Debian has its unstable version called Sid. In this release cycle, Debian tests all the latest repositories, and that’s why this release is not recommended as a daily driver.

Unlike Debian, Ubuntu follows a strict release schedule. It also provides a regular point release every six months and an LTS – Long Term Support release after two years. Ubuntu starts making its regular point release from the testing branch of Debian, and LTS is supported for five years.

3. Installation Process

Debian supports a lot of architecture, including amd64, i386, ia64, arm64, mipsel, arm, ppc64, etc. On the other hand, Ubuntu also supports multiple architectures, including amd64, arm, and ppc64.

Both Debian and Ubuntu provides a GUI for its installation. But the Debian installer is a bit messier than Ubuntu’s one. Debian uses Debian-installer based on nCurses, and Ubuntu uses Ubiquity based on parts of Debian-installer.

In short, the Debian installer offers much more configuration but manual, which is not suitable for beginners; on the contrary, the Ubuntu installer is much more user-friendly but does not give more options.

4. Package Management

Ubuntu and Debian use the same apt software packaging management system but provide a different software repo set. Debian is more like promoting freedom of choosing free software; thus, it does not include any proprietary software by default. You can always install that paid version, but you have to enable it manually.

Ubuntu focuses on usability, including all the software, including free, paid, open source, closed source, etc. Ubuntu also introduced a universal package management system called Snap. It will be used across the distros and thus prevent more distros-based software fragmentations. Debian users can now also use Snap in their repos.

5. Software Compatibility

You may want to know whether the software repo is compatible or not in between Debian and Ubuntu. The answer is both yes and no. Most of the time, the software repositories work well in both the system with little changes or no changes at all. But many times, you may need to edit the deb packages to satisfy the dependencies.

Moreover, Ubuntu has its packaging system called PPA through Launchpad that indeed doesn’t work on Debian. Canonical has developed a universal package management system called Snap and is also available in Debian repo.

6. Debian vs. Ubuntu Performance

Debian and Ubuntu are both fundamentally fast regarding performance. As Debian comes bare minimum and is not bundled or prepacked with additional software and features, it makes it super fast and lightweight than Ubuntu.

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Ubuntu is also faster than any other dominant OS, like Windows or macOS. But as we know that Ubuntu adds some unique and additional distro-specific features and software into the core; that added functionality has some effects on its performance as well. Ubuntu acts faster, smoother, and quicker on all the latest computing machines.

7. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Target User Group

If we talk about the targeted user group, then Ubuntu is more suitable for beginners, and Debian is an excellent choice for the expert. Ubuntu offers an easy-to-go just after installation, but Debian needs some manual configuration to go with.

8. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Desktop Environments

Debian is a lightweight Linux distro. If you have an old machine, then it’s better to go with Debian than Ubuntu. There are many choices when the question comes about the desktop environment for both Debian and Ubuntu.

Debian comes with a lot of options regarding choosing a desktop environment except Unity, where users can choose the best one, but Ubuntu comes with a pre-packed flavor like Gnome, KDE, Xfce, Budgie, etc. Selecting a desktop environment is pre-made for you, which works out of the box for the newbie.

9. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Free or Proprietary Software

Debian focuses on including only free software, and Ubuntu consists of both free and proprietary applications. After installing any OS, you may need many utility software for your project, and all the time, free software cannot provide enough functionality that the project requires.

So you may need to grab some paid or proprietary software. In this situation, Ubuntu wins the crown as its software center comes with many useful free and proprietary applications. You can still get non-free software in Debian, but it’s not that easy as on Ubuntu.

10. Support and Community: Linux Debian vs. Ubuntu

Community support is one of the deciding and overriding factors for any open source or closed software to succeed. Open source software remains a mile ahead regarding community supports.

You must be aware that Microsoft acquires GitHub. Why do they do that to get an open source software hub? It’s nothing but to get open source community support for the Microsoft app store and its software repo for competing with other software vendors like Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, etc.

Now come to the core point of community support for Debian vs. Ubuntu. Both the distros are extremely popular with active community support. But Debian goes ahead of Ubuntu as it’s supported by a large community of volunteers. Moreover, the Debian community is more tech and technical-oriented, and Ubuntu focuses more on newbies and beginners.

For a particular business or enterprise requirement, Canonical is there to help you with a price tag. And on the other side, you have to rely on volunteers community support for Debian entirely.

11. Debian Server vs. Ubuntu Server

Using a Linux distro on the server depends on individual requirements. But in the case of Debian vs. Ubuntu as server usages, I recommend you to use Debian if you wish to use it in the enterprise environment as Debian is more secure and stable. On the other hand, if you want all the latest software and use the server for personal purposes, use Ubuntu.

Debian Server vs Ubuntu Server
Debian Server vs. Ubuntu Server

Both the Linux distros are going neck to neck when it comes to Debian vs. Ubuntu on a server. We can see that Ubuntu tops with a 37% market share in a statistic, and Debian runs on 31.4% of all the public Linux servers. You can run both the Linux distros on a server without interruptions, applying patches or updates for months.

12. Drivers and Firmware

As the Debian distro does not contain any proprietary blobs, so there might be some problems with drivers and firmware. That means Debian lacks some of the essential proprietary firmware by default, but the users can enable the repository and install it manually like other paid software.

On the other hand, Ubuntu doesn’t care much whether it’s paid, free, open source, or closed source, so it includes as many drivers and firmware as possible. Ubuntu also lets you install and configure the necessary drivers and firmware automatically during installation or afterward.

13. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Corporate Backing

Debian is a community-driven open source Linux distribution, and its primary aim is to be robust, capable, and, most importantly, free. On the other hand, Ubuntu is also a free and open source like Debian, but it’s backed up and developed by a Canonical corporate company.

14. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Security Aspect

Both Debian and Ubuntu provide a comparable inbuilt security system and vulnerability patching schedule. From a security point of view, Debian follows a strict policy on respecting users’ policy. Debian does not come pre-packed with any access control system or firewall protection. Instead, it believes in the capability of users to stay on top of the security aspect.

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Ubuntu comes pre-installed with AppArmor and firewall enabled. Ubuntu is much more user-friendly for beginners because the newbie doesn’t need to fight much to sort out security perspectives and firewall configuration.

15. Debian vs. Ubuntu: Market Share

According to the Linux counter-project statistics, Debian runs on 16% of all the computing machines, and Ubuntu runs on 23% of all devices. This makes Debian the world’s second most used and Ubuntu the #1 most used Linux distro.

Debian vs. Ubuntu: Which One is Best for You?

Before going to get the best one, you have to settle yourself in a specific thought. First, get the particular answer to the following queries; Expert or Beginners? Controlled or easy to use? Stability or Cutting edge features? Free or Proprietary? Generally humble but controlled or outspoken but democratic? All these thoughts help you get the deciding factors and come down to what’s essential for you.

Whatever you choose, it may not make you suffer because both the Linux distros are comparatively rock-solid, secure, and can fulfill all the demands and requirements of any user.

Final Thought

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 because Ubuntu uses or adds more cutting-edge features, leading to more bugs and crashes.

And if we compare Debian vs. Ubuntu on system performance, then clearly Debian gets the crown over Ubuntu. Debian comes with a bare minimum feature and stable base; thus, it demands fewer resources and runs smoothly on a wide range of devices, including old and modern machines. In the case of Ubuntu, the added features and pre-packed customizations affect the overall performance. Ubuntu provides the latest features that demand more power. Ubuntu Linux is more suitable for modern computing devices.

At last, I only 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. I recommend you to install both and judge yourself, which fulfills the requirements.


  1. Where did that server-market-share chart come from, please? I’d like to see how and when that data was gathered. And I assume it’s just for bare-metal servers, not cloud?

  2. “You may be heard the news of acquiring GitHub by Microsoft. Why they do that to get an open source software hub? It’s nothing but to get open source community support for the Microsoft app store and its software repo for competing with other software vendors like Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, etc.”

    Again WTF do you get your information… Microsoft had already been partnering with github for years as github became MS’s main repo for closed source, and MS developed a lot of the new features in the few years leading up to the acquisition at github. it had very little to do with open source (that was to keep linux-blinkered devs from leaving for no reason other than bigotry, as there is as much closed source as open source on github, despite it’s marketing. Gitlab had already become the main open source repo for fanbois and only ever tried linux fanbois.

    Microsoft acquired it as it was looking to build a git based repository system and instead decided that github was a better investment than doing their own as they had ALREADY written a lot of the new features in partnerships with github anyway as MS used github for MOST of their CLOSED SOURCE internally. Their involvement with open source is insignificant compared to their investment in closed source on GITHUB, which is why they are now 22% of cloud market share to AWS’s 34%… (google and alibab are equal with about 7% each)…

  3. “Ubuntu is also faster than any other dominant OS, ” – you’ve obviously not used windows server core… our test found it faster than ubuntu in a number of senarious, a reason we switched all our ubuntu servers to windows server core in 2019 version.

  4. I’ve already tried Ubuntu, Mint, MX Linux, Manjaro, Peppermint. I preferred mint over the others. But not satisfied totally. Sometimes it lags on my dual-core 4 GB ram desktop. After reading this article, I am exploring the idea of trying Debian with Xfce as it is more stable than Ubuntu.

  5. I do love Debian however, If i have to recommend a OS for the enterprise I would go for Ubuntu. Simply because if I ever need support apart from the comunity I can buy support from ubuntu developers.

  6. I think the prime consideration and comparison between debian stable and an Ubuntu LTS is security and general package updates.

    Debian “stable” releases are supported for a year after the next stable release. So if a stable comes out every two years, and you started on a stable release right at its launch, you get three years of updates:

  7. Throughout the article, you keep saying “Debian is more stable”, the problem is “more” is basically meaningless without context. How much “more” is Debian stable over Ubuntu?

  8. Currently I am using Manjaro, however for a long time I used Debian, and dare I say this distribution is boringly stable, I mean when you configure it correctly, you a rock solid performance with little to know problems, so much so that it becomes boringly stable, unlike Windows where the chance of drama is high whenever you do a driver update

  9. After using Windows since version 3.1 I am finally looking at making the shift to Linux and your article is incredibly timely. I was dithering between Debian and Ubuntu and your excellent comparison has helped me enormously. First class technical journalism compared with so much light and fluffy rubbish on the net these days. Well done, as many thanks.

  10. There are several other errors and unclarities in your article:
    1. there is no such thing as a “Debian testing snapshot release”.
    2. you wrote: “Every six months, Debian releases a testing branch”. This is incorrect. Debian testing is released as Debian stable when it’s ready.
    3. “Debian testing branch is not unstable instead it looks like using a regular point release. ” what do you mean with this?
    4. “And at last Debian has its unstable version called Sid. In this release cycle, Debian tests all the latest repositories,” Very strange wording. It’s really simple: a new package first enters sid (a.k.a. unstable). If certain criteria are met (a certain amount of days without a critical bug report and all dependencies are met) it is promoted into “testing”. And when “testing” is ready to release, it is released. (That is the very brief summary.)
    5. Debian also has a graphical installer, not only the ncurses based installer.
    6. You are mixing up “paid” software with “proprietary” software. You should look up what non-free vs free software really means. It’s not about “paid” vs “not paid”. It’s about the rights you get for that software. The term “paid software” is really not relevant in this article at all. You meant: you can always enable non-free software, but you have to do that manually/explicitly. E.g. non-free video card drivers.
    7. I would never recommend to mix packages of Ubuntu and Debian. Just don’t. No one tested that or engineered the packages for that purpose. Don’t.
    8. Debian comes as minimum as you want it. You can also select a lot of stuff (e.g. in the installer or later) that makes it not as minimum as you say.
    9. You claim that Debian and Ubuntu are faster than Windows or Mac OS X. But based on what info do you make that claim? And for which situations? I don’t think you should make such general claims which have no evidence to support them in the article.
    10. What manual configuration do you need for Debian then? In which situations? That is not really explained well.
    11. What’s the difference in usability of selecting a desktop environment in the installer (Debian) or by the flavour of the distro? (Kubuntu/Ubuntu/etc.)
    12. Once the non-free stuff is enabled, you can install it like any other managed Debian package. It’s not at all like external software (“paid software”). I wouldn’t recommend installing such external software at all. The disto cannot take such software into account, so it will break at some point.
    13. I haven’t checked this, but I think Debian also comes witih AppArmor enabled. It got automatically enabled on my Debian system, at least. Better check this before claiming that Debian comes default “with[out] any access control system or firewall protection.”
    14. Strange wording “Ubuntu Linux is more suitable for modern computing devices.” One could read this as if Ubuntu is better suitable for modern computing devices than Debian. But that is nonsense of course.

    Last remark: I wrote all of the above from the top of my head, as a Debian user since 2001. I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes myself.


    • Bang on Manuel. Although I haven’t kept up to date with all that’s happening, I do believe that the article has been written by a newbie to the Linux world. For folks who were around when the whole revolution started and I used to swear by Debian in the late 90s, I found this whole article useless. Your comments are much appreciated for somebody who understands how Debian has always worked and will hopefully continue to work. Right now, I am using Elementary after reading a lot of positive reviews and I have to admit, it has been a fantastic user experience installing it and using it for daily use. I no longer use the brilliant features etc. although I still had to go back to the Terminal to get my sound card forcefully detected on an old Latitude E6410. At 4 gigs RAM, you should see the performance of Elementary vs. a WinXP. I rarely login any more to Windows and I would highly recommend it. I was reluctant to try Mint with my earlier experience a few years ago, wherein I felt I had little control over what the OS installed and how it set things up. Also, there were issues wherein it did not detect older hardware and I couldn’t manage to put too much time debugging it. Again, to each his own, but it’s important that articles such as above point folks to the right essence of what Linux is all about.

  11. This article incorrectly refers to Debian and Ubuntu having rolling cycles, or rolling releases. Neither distro is rolling release, they are point release. What this means is, in the case of Ubuntu, every 6 months you must upgrade the entire OS to the next point release. If you don’t, you will eventually stop receiving updates for your system. Look at Arch and many of its derivatives for a rolling release model. You never have to upgrade to a new point release, and you will always be offered the latest packages.


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