The last time we looked at PCLinuxOS was in 2014. It was enough time for many distributions to come and go, but PCLinuxOS still has cult status, attracting continued devotion from its users. Originally based on Mandrake in the early 2000s, this distribution continues to continue regardless of external trends. PCLinuxOS is known for doing things differently from other distributions, so what makes its users so happy and how does it fare for the average Joe? Check out our PCLinuxOS review below.
From the start, it is obvious that this is not a distribution for novices. For example, the home page gives a terminal command to transfer the ISO image to a USB stick rather than recommending a graphics program. Whichever ISO format is used, it is strange and would not work properly with multiple USB boot creators, although Etcher eventually made it work. Once run, the installer is quite different from any Ubuntu derivative. You may even have to reset once or twice to complete the process.
Fortunately, it has the type of desktop installation that most distributions currently use. You can do whatever you want during the installation of the operating system, safely in its own window. Although unique, its vivid color scheme was visually disorienting when partitioning the hard drive. Unlike something from Ubuntu or Linux Mint, you can question yourself and walk very carefully through its technicolor labyrinth.
Unfortunately, the partitioner crashed when it showed up with something delicate, and we had to restart after making our changes. This removed points. However, there are advanced options that you won’t find in most installers, and you can even change the bootloader settings in some interesting ways.
Like a Fedora system, the time zone and password configuration was configured when it was first started after installation. This can be annoying for a single computer, but perfect if you plan to install this on many machines. You can install it, then let users set passwords and time zones the first time they start up.
On the following boots, we found that loading times were fast, even from an old mechanical hard drive.
Inside the office, you will find that KDE is heavily modified to suit the tastes of developers. PCLinuxOS maintains KDE’s simple click behavior, adds a new set of icons, does not activate multiple desktops, and deletes the menu in a simple Windows 9x style interface.
The office theme is unique to say the least, with a dark theme and reflections that opt for total color contrast rather than tasteful minimalism. Think Doctor Who from the 80s, and you get the idea.
Oddly, the main menu is not divided into the same categories as usual, with the System and Utilities sections not found. Instead, the menu entries are divided into other categories, Konsole being relegated to the Miscellaneous section.
Like its ancestor Mandrake, PCLinuxOS comes with its own centralized settings manager, similar to YaST by SuSE. This is found alongside the normal application of the KDE system settings and is presented in other variants of PCLinuxOS.
The desktop is extremely fast and responsive, but then again, the composer is off by default, so expect a screen tear. After enabling compositing, we were delighted to find that the operating system remained smooth and fast. Overall, the system’s RAM footprint was around 1 GB, with the processor idle below 2%.
It was particularly impressive on a machine that was slow when running KDE Neon – itself a pretty lean distribution. Even with something as inflated as Firefox, it remained fluid and felt much more responsive than the old copy of Windows 7 that we still had installed. If you want to try running KDE on an old machine, this may be your best bet.
As for the software, Timeshift is installed by default. Online videos such as BBC News and YouTube work immediately. Managers don’t seem complicated about proprietary software, with packages like Skype available in the repositories. Virtual Box comes with a quick installer in the system menu for those who want to stay on the cutting edge.
Interestingly, PCLinuxOS uses the apt package manager, something normally used by Debian / Ubuntu-based systems. On top of that, the Synaptic software manager, who will immediately exclude anyone used to something like the Ubuntu software center, but will be greatly welcomed by Linux veterans. Unlike Ubuntu derivatives, PCLinuxOS does not use
sudo, preferring the old root method.
Unfortunately, Synaptic is not divided into categories like most distributions, which makes navigation more tedious. It also seems that there aren’t many games on offer, not even many Linux staples. There’s also no easy way to install Steam – doubly frustrating because the website is trying to provide a DEB file for this RPM-based system.
When diving into the terminal, it doesn’t bother to give an installation command when trying to launch an application that isn’t installed, which Ubuntu variants normally provide. We also had a random problem with our audio chip in this PCLinuxOS review which did not affect other distributions or Windows 7.
This distribution may not be intended for novices, but it does not pretend to be. PCLinuxOS users like to keep things as they are – you install it once and then forget about it. The demographic profile seems to tilt strongly in favor of older computer users, and these people probably could not give two boos on the problems we describe. If you’re fed up with today’s bloat and are yearning for a Linux distribution like things were before Ubuntu, this might be what you’re looking for.
Still not sure which distribution is right for you? Try our list of the 9 best Linux distros for 2020.
Is this article useful?