Debian and Ubuntu are among the top Linux distributions available and together, they form one of the greatest influences on Linux development. While they’re closely related—sharing a similar OS architecture, features, and package management system, taking a closer look will reveal their subtle differences.
In this article, we’ll run through the Linux Server OS and navigate the Debian vs Ubuntu nuances.
So what is Debian
Debian can be considered the rock upon which Ubuntu is built. This volunteer project has maintained and developed a Linux/GNU operating system for well over a decade, and the Debian project has grown to house over 1,000 members with developer status since its inception. Today, Debian contains over 20,000 packages of free and open source documentation and applications.
And how about Ubuntu
Ubuntu is a completely open source project that maintains and develops a cross-platform OS based on Debian. Support is guaranteed for up to five years and upgrades are released every six months. There is also support for Ubuntu deployments across the cloud, server, and desktop.
Let's look at how they match up
Release Cycle and Support
If we consider Debian vs Ubuntu when it comes to release cycles, it becomes clear that one values constant updates, whilst the other opts for longer-term stable releases.
The Debian stable versions are released every two years, with three years of support. Debian unstable and testing are constantly being updated until they are able to become the next stable version.
Ubuntu releases occur every six months; two years for long-term support (LTS) releases. Their LTS has a long support time, coming in at five or more years.
Both operating systems use the same apt package management system, but house different software repos. Debian is much more conservative about placing paid software in their main repository, whereas Ubuntu will offer essentially anything you could possibly need—paid, free, closed source, open source.
With that said, Ubuntu has since introduced their snap package manager which, unlike apt, is self-contained and works completely independent of the distribution. This package manager is also available now in Debian repos as well.
Ubuntu vs Debian, both are fundamentally quicker than comparable Windows operating systems. Debian is particularly fast since it doesn't come bundled with several performance-degrading features or pre-installed software.
Ubuntu is also quicker than Windows, however, its additional features do have some effect on performance compared with Debian. Expect both Debian and Ubuntu to drop its pace as more and more features pile up. Still, you'll be hard-pressed to find an Ubuntu or Debian machine running slower than its Mac or Windows counterpart.
Support and Community: Debian vs Ubuntu
One of the greatest advantages of using open-source software is the community that surrounds it. Both Debian and Ubuntu are extremely popular Linux distros with strong and active developer communities. When it comes to size, however, Debian takes the cake for having a larger community since it’s essentially built by volunteers.
The Debian community is also a bit more tech-oriented, whereas Ubuntu’s community is more welcoming to beginners and newbies.
For a price, Ubuntu users can also gain access to expert support from Canonical Ltd. For Debian, you’ll simply have to rely on help from their community forums.
Debian has three release types:
- Stable—This is their stable and ready-to-deploy version used on desktop and servers.
- Unstable—This is a more uncertain, still-under-trial version primarily used by developers to play and experiment with the code.
- Testing—This version means it’s still undergoing testing before it can be classified as stable.
Ubuntu currently offers two versions:
- Ubuntu LTS—Ubuntu normally has updates every six months. The LTS version is released every two years. This means that their LTS version contains outdated hardware drivers and software, but is considerably more stable.
- Ubuntu non-LTS—Also referred to as stable release, this version releases updates every six months and is essentially built upon the unstable Debian version where it’s then improved upon and released.
The security and vulnerability patching schedules for both Debian stable and Ubuntu are very comparable.
Ubuntu has AppArmor pre-installed, which is a Linux kernel security module that allows for the restriction of program capabilities by the administrator. Debian does not have any firewall or pre-installed access control system and places more faith in users’ abilities to stay on top of security.
Ubuntu is definitely more user-friendly when it comes to operating system security with help coming right out of the box.
Debian vs Ubuntu isn't going to be decided this simply!
Different systems for different needs
Debian vs Ubuntu - Which is best for you?
Despite what you might hear, choosing a distro isn’t always about what is the best and greatest, but what will work best for you. Recommendations are always useful, but in the end, the choice is yours. Why not test drive each system? You can run these OS as live CDs or even try them on a virtual machine so you can a better idea of how they run.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Debian and Ubuntu are not meant for the same kinds of users. Ubuntu has always been geared towards more inexperienced users that are new to Linux, while Debian is a much more no-frills, minimalist OS with the developer and tinkerer in mind. If you are new to the world of Linux, go with Ubuntu, but if you’re already familiar with Linux, give Debian a shot – you won’t be disappointed.
Well, that is just about it for our Debian vs Ubuntu comparison! Be sure to stick around and check out some of our other blog posts.