CentOS vs Ubuntu: A Detailed Comparison in 2024

Discover the ultimate showdown between CentOS and Ubuntu. Find out which Linux distro leads in performance, security, and ease of use for your server.

Updated: 10 Mar, 24 by Lisa P 16 Min

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In this comparison of CentOS and Ubuntu, we aim to give you an overview of their key features so you can choose the right operating system for your VPS server. Picking an OS for your server can be overwhelming with so many options, especially in Linux distributions. 
Ubuntu and CentOS are among the most popular choices. Whether you're an experienced professional or a beginner, it often comes down to choosing between these two options. It's imperative to note that there is no definitive answer. Our goal in this article is to compare CentOS and Ubuntu to help you decide which one suits your server setup best. Are you ready to go into more detail?

CentOS and Ubuntu are two Linux distributions with distinct characteristics:
CentOS: It is a reliable and secure Linux distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Known for its stability, it serves as a free alternative to enterprise servers. CentOS provides long-term support and is favored for hosting web applications and databases in enterprise environments.

Ubuntu: Developed by Canonical Ltd, Ubuntu emphasizes user-friendliness and ease of installation. Based on Debian, it offers desktop and server editions, making it versatile. With a strong community and frequent releases, Ubuntu is beginner-friendly and popular for various use cases.

  • Purpose and Users:CentOS focuses on enterprises and servers, while Ubuntu caters to desktop users, developers, and small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Release Cycle and Support:CentOS offers conservative, long-term support, while Ubuntu has regular and LTS releases with different support durations.
  • Package Management:CentOS uses YUM based on RPM, while Ubuntu employs APT, based on Debian, both providing extensive software repositories.
  • Software Availability: Ubuntu has a large software repository and broader community support, while CentOS focuses more on server-oriented applications.
  • Community and Documentation:Ubuntu benefits from a large user base and comprehensive documentation, while CentOS has a strong enterprise-focused community.
  • Default Desktop Environment:CentOS is often used as a headless server without a pre-installed desktop environment, while Ubuntu offers various official flavors with different desktop environments.

A reminder: CentOS Linux 8 reached the End of its Lifetime (EOL) on December 31, 2021. CentOS Linux 7 is currently supported. It is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2024. When selecting an operating system, consider this information. Further 

CentOS emerged in 2003 from RHEL's source code when RHEL transitioned to a subscription model. It aims to provide a stable and compatible Linux distribution, maintaining binary compatibility with RHEL. CentOS delivers enterprise-level performance, security, and long-term support without associated costs.

Explore CentOS Features: 🌟 Fascinated by open-source solutions? Delve into "What is the CentOS?" to explore the features that make CentOS a standout choice for developers and system administrators alike.

Key Features:

  1. Stability and Long-Term Support: CentOS focuses on stability, offering extended software support for up to 10 years, making it ideal for production environments.
  2. Compatibility with RHEL: CentOS maintains binary compatibility with RHEL, ensuring software developed or certified for RHEL works seamlessly on CentOS.
  3. Security: CentOS prioritizes security, providing regular updates and patches to address vulnerabilities.
  4. Package Management: CentOS utilizes the YUM package manager based on RPM, simplifying software installation and management.
  5. Server-oriented Features: CentOS is widely adopted for server deployments, offering robust networking capabilities, efficient resource management, and a range of server-oriented applications.
  6. Community and Documentation:  it has an active community that provides support, documentation, and resources through various channels.
  7. Licensing: CentOS adheres to open-source licenses, allowing users to freely use, modify, and distribute the distribution.

It's worthwhile to note that in December 2020, CentOS introduced CentOS Stream, a rolling-release distribution serving as a testing ground for RHEL. However, traditional CentOS releases are still available and widely used.

Ubuntu is a widely known Linux distribution renowned for its user-friendly interface, simplicity, and versatility. Below is a brief history and overview of Ubuntu, highlighting its key attributes:

Developed by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth and his company, Canonical Ltd., Ubuntu was introduced in October 2004. It aimed to provide a free and open-source operating system based on Debian. The name "Ubuntu" derives from the Zulu and Xhosa languages, symbolizing "humanity towards others.

🚀 Ready to explore the power of open source? Learn everything you need to know in our detailed exploration: "What is Ubuntu" and why it's transforming the tech landscape.

Key Features: 

  1. User-Friendly Interface: Ubuntu prioritizes usability, offering a clean and intuitive desktop environment. Recent versions employ the GNOME desktop environment, which presents a modern and straightforward interface suitable for both beginners and experienced users.
  2. Easy Installation: Ubuntu ensures a straightforward installation process, enabling users to quickly set up the operating system on their computers. The installer provides a guided experience, making it accessible to users with varying technical expertise.
  3. Software Center and Package Management:Ubuntu incorporates the Ubuntu Software Center, a user-friendly graphical interface for managing software installations and updates. It boasts an extensive repository of applications that can be accessed, searched, installed, and updated. Ubuntu utilizes the Advanced Package Tool (APT) package management system, simplifying software dependency installation, removal, and resolution.
  4. Long-Term Support (LTS) Versions:While Ubuntu releases updated versions every six months, it also provides LTS versions every two years. LTS releases are designed for stability and receive updates and security patches for an extended period, typically up to five years. Ubuntu is an appealing choice for enterprise users seeking a reliable and secure operating system.
  5. Strong Community and Support:Ubuntu benefits from a thriving community of users and developers actively contributing to its development and offering support. Ubuntu provides online forums, documentation, and resources, facilitating user assistance, issue troubleshooting, and participation in discussions.
  6. Hardware Compatibility: Ubuntu strives for broad hardware compatibility, supporting a wide range of devices and architectures. It incorporates various drivers and firmware by default, simplifying Ubuntu installation and usage on different systems.
  7. Customizability and Flexibility: Ubuntu allows users to personalize their desktop environments by selecting from various flavors such as Kubuntu (KDE Plasma), Xubuntu (XFCE), Ubuntu MATE (MATE), and more. This flexibility empowers users to tailor their Ubuntu experience according to their preferences and hardware requirements.
  8. Open-Source Philosophy:Ubuntu adheres to open-source principles and operates under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It encourages collaboration, sharing, and community contributions, promoting open-source software development.

The similarities between CentOS and Ubuntu!

System Requirements:

CentOS: CentOS demands higher system resources than Ubuntu. It typically requires more CPU, RAM, and storage space.

Ubuntu: Ubuntu has relatively modest system requirements and performs efficiently on older or lower-spec hardware. It is designed to be lightweight and optimized for limited resources.

💡 Looking for a nimble operating system? Explore our guide on the "Best Linux Lightweight Distro" and lighten your system load!

Release cycle:

CentOS: CentOS has a conservative release cycle, emphasizing long-term stability. It provides extensive updates and security patches for up to 10 years, making it suitable for stability-focused environments.
Ubuntu: Ubuntu follows a regular release cycle, updating versions every six months. It also offers Long-Term Support (LTS) releases every two years, ensuring extended support for up to five years. Ubuntu LTS versions balance stability and updated software.

Use cases:

CentOS: CentOS targets enterprise and server environments. It excels at hosting web applications, databases, and server-based services due to its stability, security, and long-term support. CentOS is favored in production environments due to its stability and compatibility.

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Ubuntu: Ubuntu caters to a wide range of use cases, popular on both desktops and servers. Ubuntu Desktop Edition provides a user-friendly interface suitable for personal use and productivity tasks. Ubuntu Server Edition serves as a reliable platform for hosting web servers, cloud services, and containers. It also offers strong support for development and testing environments.

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Software Availability:

CentOS: CentOS has a narrower software repository than Ubuntu. It focuses primarily on server-oriented applications, offering stable and well-tested packages for enterprise environments. CentOS repositories prioritize compatibility and security over software versions.

Ubuntu: Ubuntu boasts a vast and diverse software repository, providing a wide range of packages for both desktop and server use. Its popularity among Debian-based distributions ensures a rich ecosystem of applications, libraries, and tools. Ubuntu emphasizes desktop software and developer tools.

Default Desktop Environment:

CentOS: CentOS does not include a pre-installed desktop environment. It is commonly used as a headless server without a graphical user interface (GUI). However, users can manually install and configure desktop environments if needed.

Ubuntu: Ubuntu offers various official flavors with different pre-installed desktop environments. Ubuntu comes with GNOME by default. However, users can choose from other flavors like Kubuntu (KDE Plasma), Xubuntu (Xfce), Ubuntu MATE (MATE), and more. This flexibility enables users to select their preferred desktop environment.

Community Support and Documentation:

CentOS: CentOS benefits from a strong community dedicated to enterprise and server environments. It provides comprehensive documentation, guides, and forums tailored to server administration and troubleshooting. CentOS community support revolves around server-related topics.
Ubuntu: Ubuntu enjoys a large and diverse community, offering extensive documentation and resources for both desktop and server users. Ubuntu is known for its beginner-friendly approach and active support forums. Users can find assistance and guidance on various topics, including desktop usage, software development, and system administration.

These differences make CentOS and Ubuntu better suited to specific use cases and environments. The choice between CentOS and Ubuntu depends on factors such as the target system, available resources, desired stability, and specific requirements.

Consider the specific requirements, use case, and expertise level when deciding between CentOS and Ubuntu. Both distributions have their strengths and cater to different needs. Ultimately, the decision should align with the user's priorities, be it stability, usability, hardware constraints, software availability, or community support.

Here's an assessment of when each is preferable, along with recommendations based on different requirements:

Stability and Long-Term Support:

CentOS is ideal for enterprise environments that value reliability and compatibility. Its extended support and commitment to binary compatibility with RHEL make it suitable for critical applications and production servers.

Ease of Use and Desktop Experience:

Ubuntu excels at providing a user-friendly and polished desktop environment. With a wide range of options, it suits various user preferences, especially those transitioning from other operating systems.
Recommendation: Choose Ubuntu for personal use, desktop environments, and user-friendly interfaces.

Hardware Requirements and Performance:

Ubuntu has lower system requirements, making it suitable for limited resources or older hardware. It performs well on lower-spec machines without compromising performance.

Recommendation: Choose Ubuntu for older or low-spec hardware and when optimized performance is essential.

Software Availability and Flexibility:

Ubuntu offers a broad software repository and a diverse ecosystem, catering to various use cases. CentOS focuses on server-oriented software, prioritizing stability and compatibility over the latest versions.

Recommendation: Choose Ubuntu for a rich selection of software, development tools, and desktop applications.

Community and support:

CentOS has a strong community dedicated to enterprise and server environments, providing valuable support and resources for server administration.

Ubuntu has a large and diverse community offering active support across different topics, particularly for beginners, desktop users, and general Linux assistance.

Recommendation: Choose CentOS for server-specific support and Ubuntu for general Linux support and desktop usage.

Take this short quiz to determine whether CentOS or Ubuntu is best for you:

Primary use cases:

  1. A) Enterprise server environment
  2. B) Personal desktop usage

Importance of long-term stability and compatibility: 

  1. A) Very important
  2. B) Not top priority

Limited resources or older hardware: 

  1. A) Yes, limited resources or older hardware 
  2. B) No, relatively modern hardware

Preference for user-friendly interfaces:

  1. A) Yes, ease of use is a priority
  2. B) No, comfortable with technical interfaces

Need for a wide range of software options and development tools:

  1. A) Yes, diverse selection required 
  2. B) No specific needs or fewer options

Importance of community support and documentation:

  1. A) Very relevant, relying on community resources
  2. B) Not top priority, prefer independent troubleshooting

Focus on server administration or general Linux usage: 

  1. A) Server administration is primarily
  2. B) Broad interest in Linux usage

Willingness to sacrifice the latest software versions for stability and compatibility:

  1. A) Yes, we prioritize stability and compatibility
  2. B) No, I prefer the latest software versions

Now, let's calculate your answers and reveal the results!

If you answered mostly "a": 

You value security and stability. You prioritize relationships and enjoy taking time to savor life's moments. You look for consistency and predictability in life. Based on your responses, CentOS is likely the best fit for you. It offers long-term stability, compatibility with enterprise server environments, and robust community support for server administration.

If you answered mostly "B":

Based on your responses, Ubuntu is likely the better choice. It provides a user-friendly desktop experience, a wide range of software options, and a diverse community for general Linux usage.
Notice that:
this quiz serves as a general guideline, and your specific needs may differ. It's imperative to research and evaluate both CentOS and Ubuntu based on your unique requirements before choosing.

Ubuntu and CentOS are popular Linux distributions, each with its own strengths. Ubuntu offers a user-friendly experience, a wide software range, and regular updates, while CentOS prioritizes stability, compatibility, and long-term support. Ubuntu suits personal desktop usage, productivity, and general Linux needs, with a diverse community and extensive documentation. CentOS is reliable for enterprise servers and mission-critical systems, with tailored community support. Choosing between them depends on specific needs: Ubuntu for user-friendliness and software variety, CentOS for stability, and enterprise compatibility.

Lisa P

Lisa P

Hello, everyone, my name is Lisa. I'm a passionate electrical engineering student with a keen interest in technology. I'm fascinated by the intersection of engineering principles and technological advancements, and I'm eager to contribute to the field by applying my knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems.