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Debian Vs. Ubuntu

Debian and Ubuntu are the two names that Linux users hear from day one. Both of these are popular Linux distributions with a huge user base. One should know the differences and similarities before choosing any of these operating systems for personal or commercial purposes.

If you have just arrived in the Linux world, you may have heard of Debian and Ubuntu. Debian and Ubuntu are the most popular Linux distributions. It is important to know what these two distributions stand for before implementing them in your workplace.

These two distros are also important because you may not be directly using Ubuntu or Debian but whatever distribution you are using is most likely based on Debian or Ubuntu.

Debian Vs. Ubuntu

Debian history

Debian has a long history. The project was started back in 1993 by a number of people to provide a free operating system that is well-maintained and supported. It gradually became a big project with hundreds of volunteer programmers joining it. Today it has over a thousand active developers.

Debian is completely managed by its community. It has its own laws that they call “The Debian Constitution“.

Ubuntu History

Ubuntu was started by Mark Shuttleworth by a team of Debian developers in 2004 to provide an easy-to-use Linux desktop who also founded Canonical. So unlike Debian, Ubuntu is developed, maintained, and supported by a corporate, Canonical.

Canonical aims to provide their software free of cost for everyone. Just download it, install it, and use it. Canonical also provides commercial support that keeps the project going smoothly.

Release cycle

One of the major differences between Debian and Ubuntu is the release cycle of new versions.

Debian New Releases

Debian has no fixed schedule to release a new version. The last couple of releases came out in two years’ difference.

Debian’s new releases are codenamed after the names of characters from Toy story films.

Ubuntu New Releases

On the other hand, Canonical releases a new Ubuntu version every six months and a new LTS version once in two years. LTS version is officially supported for 5 years. If you want to deploy your own Ubuntu server, go for an LTS version instead of shot-term releases.

Canonical codenames their new Ubuntu version based on ‘Adjective Animal‘. In the codename, the first word is an adjective and the second word is an animal. For example, Ubuntu 18.04 codename Bionic Beaver, Ubuntu 20.04 codename Focal Fossa, and the latest Ubuntu 20.10 codename Groovy Gorilla.

Default Desktop Environment

Thanks to the great desktop environments available in the Linux world both of these operating systems are user-friendly.

Among many common features I am going to mention later in this article, the desktop environment is the one. Both Ubuntu and Debian come with GNOME desktop environment. Gnome is well-known for its stability, ease-of-use and rapid development.

Here are the few screenshots of both distributions featuring GNOME desktop –

Debian featuring GNOME

  • GNOME desktop
  • GNOME workspaces
  • GNOME running apps

Ubuntu featuring GNOME

  • Ubuntu GNOME desktop
  • Ubuntu workspaces
  • Ubuntu running apps

Besides having GNOME as their default desktop environment, one can also enjoy other cool desktop environments on both distributions. One can easily install his/her favorite desktop environment on top of Debian including KDE Plasma, Xfce, Cinnamon, LXDE, MATE, and many more. For complete instructions on what desktop environments are available to install and how to install, head over to this Debian wiki.

Whereas Ubuntu has separate flavors featuring different desktop environments such as Kubuntu for KDE, Lubuntu for LXDE, Xubuntu for Xfce, Ubuntu MATE for MATE, and many more.


Ubuntu and Debian both have a GUI desktop environment. There is an easy to follow setup wizard that helps users complete the installation step-by-step. I personally feel Ubuntu installer is much easier than Debian for new Linux users.

There is not much to tell about the installation process because both distributions, when installed, have clear instructions and the installation itself does not much longer.

Debian pre-installed software

One thing that I love the most about any Linux distro is that it’s usable right after the first boot. Performing common tasks such as listening to music, browsing the internet, writing documents, and making a presentation is all possible without installing any additional software on both the operating systems.

In terms of ease-of-use, Ubuntu and Debian both provide GNOME as their default desktop environment. So both distros are pretty easy to work with.

Kernel Live patching

Kernel live patching is a unique feature that allows users to implement kernel updates without rebooting the system. It allows users to implement important security updates without taking down services hence reducing the cost of maintenance and provide services smoothly.

Canonical has provided Kernel live patching support on Ubuntu out of the box. It is easy to enable and free for up to 3 devices for personal use. For complete instructions on how to enable Kernel live patching on Ubuntu, please read this guide.

On the other hand, Debian has third-party alternatives to kernel live patching. KernelCare allows live patching on Debian but it’s not free. For more information on KernelCare and how to use it on Debian, please read this guide.


Debian has a long history. It was started in 1993 i.e. just after two years of Linus Torvalds announcing Linux development in 1991. Since then it has been active and popularly known for providing a rock-solid operating system.

Currently, there are over 120+ Linux distributions based on Debian including Ubuntu itself. Other known Debian based Linux distributions are Linux Mint, MX Linux, Deepin, and a lot more.

It is ranked 6th on Distrowatch, a popular site for finding Linux distributions.

On the other hand, Ubuntu was started in 2004 but gained popularity really quickly. Many non-Linux users think Linux means Ubuntu. It’s extremely popular and many popular Linux distributions use Ubuntu as their base.

Ubuntu is ranked 5th on Distrowatch and receives 1376 hits per day.

Similarities between Debian and Ubuntu

Above are some of the major differences between Debian and Ubuntu. These differences will help you decide which distribution better suits your needs. Now here are some major similarities between the two distributions –

init software — systemd

If you are an advanced Linux user, you are probably aware of systemd. Debian started with SysV but later switched to systemd in Debian 8.0 ‘Jessie’.

In 2004, Ubuntu also started with SysV but later switched to Upstart in 6.10 and to systemd in Ubuntu 15.10.

Currently, both the operating systems operate on systemd. If you are among those who hate systemd, you may use MX Linux, a non-systemd distro based on Debian or Nitrux, another non-systemd distro but based on Ubuntu.

Package manager

Another similarity between the two distributions is the package manager. DEB or apt is the package manager in Debian and Ubuntu. Additionally, Ubuntu also has a new package management system called snap. Learn more about snaps here.

Raspberry Pi support

Raspberry Pi is a microcomputer. Both Debian and Ubuntu provide images for Raspberry Pi every new release. Ubuntu’s latest version Ubuntu 20.10 and the latest LTS version Ubuntu 20.04 is available for Raspberry Pi too.

Debian’s team automatically builds the latest images for Raspberry Pi. For more information, head over here.

Raspbian, the most popular Linux distribution for Raspberry Pi is based on Debian.


Another similar thing between Debian and Ubuntu is the cloud support. Debian cloud team builds images for some cloud providers and one can find all the images on this page.

Canonical besides providing Ubuntu images for AWS and Azure also provides a separate service for cloud called Ubuntu Pro. Ubuntu pro has several additional features including 10 years of package updates, security maintenance, Kernel live patching, and more.


At last, which distribution provides better support and how.

Debian support

As mentioned earlier, Debian is developed and supported by a large community of volunteers. There is documentation to help resolve issues or one can even hire a consultant.

Ubuntu support

Ubuntu also has a friendly community. You can get help from ubuntuforums.org, askubuntu.com, or other Ubuntu forums and community websites or even subscribe to Canonical commercial support.

Download Debian

Download Ubuntu


That’s not all about Debian vs. Ubuntu. One cannot mention all the differences and usage in one article. The above are the major differences and similarities, users will get to know more minor differences and they gain more experience.

Finally, Debian and Ubuntu are well maintained and supported Linux distributions. One aims to provide a super solid distribution supported by a large community, the other provides the latest but stable software backed by a corporate, Canonical.

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Source: Linux Tutorials, FOSS Reviews, Security News