Debian vs Ubuntu – 11 Differences to Know

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Debian Vs Ubuntu

In the Linux community, the Debate between Debian vs Ubuntu has always been one of the most heated discussions ever, which is the better distro? The old and stable Debian or the new and feature-rich Ubuntu? In this article, we are going to take a look at both these distros so that you can choose the one for you.

Debian vs Ubuntu – A Quick Comparison

PopularityRanks #7 on DistroWatchRanks #6 on DistroWatch
Desktop EnvironmentsGNOME, XFCE, KDE Plasma, Cinnamon, MATE, LXDE, LXQtXFCE, Gnome, LXDE/LXQt, KDE
InstallationEasy and GraphicalEasy and Graphical
Resources2 GB of RAM recommended and 10 GB storage4GB RAM recommended with 25GB storage
Out Of The Box SoftwareAlmost none As Debian is a minimal distroAll necessary applications + optional third-party application download
Software InstallationMostly via TerminalVia Terminal and Software Store
MaintainerCommunity MaintainedMaintained by Canonical
Target AudienceMostly for Advanced UsersFit for all types of users

Comparing Ubuntu vs Debian Side by Side

Let’s look at the individual pointers one by one now so you can make the right choice between Ubuntu and Debian.

1. Popularity

Debian ranks at #7 on DistroWatch while Ubuntu is at #6 on the same. That goes to say that both of these distros are extremely popular in the community !

2. Available Flavors for Ubuntu vs Debian


Ubuntu uses Unity as it’s default desktop environment, but it also comes in other different flavours like :

  • Xubuntu : Which uses XFCE4 as it’s Desktop Environment
  • Kubuntu : Which uses KDE Plasma as it’s Desktop Environment
  • Lubuntu : Which uses LXDE/LXQT as it;s Desktop Environment
Debian Installation Option Featuring The Default Desktop Environments
Debian Installation Option Featuring The Default Desktop Environments

Debian allows you to choose from a vast array of Desktop Environments which include :

  • XFCE
  • KDE Plasma
  • Cinnamon
  • MATE
  • LXDE
  • LXQt

Choosing the Default Desktop Environment would install GNOME. You can also install multiple Desktop Environments during the installation process. Moreover, it also supports various Window Managers like :

  • i3wm
  • Wmii
  • Awesome
  • Dwm

Thus to say the least, both of these Distros provide you with a lot of different flavours so that you can choose the one which suits you the best.

3. Ease Of Installation

Both of these distros provide you with a very easy graphical interface. However, the graphical interface provided by Ubuntu is much more friendly than that of Debian.

4. Resource usage

Debian is a comparatively light weight distro which can run on very low low end and ols PCs as well.

Debian does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets.

Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux kernel, libc, gcc, etc. have been ported, and for which a Debian port exists, can run Debian. For 64 bit desktops, the system requirements are :

  • A minimum of 512 MB of RAM but the recommended amount is 2 GB
  • A Hard Disk storage of 10 GB

The minimum value assumes that swap will be enabled. The actual minimum memory requirements are a lot less than the numbers listed in this table.

With swap enabled, it is possible to install Debian with as little as 170 MB.

The same goes for the disk space requirements, especially if you pick and choose which applications to install.

Ubuntu on the other hand is on the heavier side of things.

Default Ubuntu is quite heavy on resources. However, the different flavors of Ubuntu have different system requirements.

This difference mostly comes due to these different Desktop Environments. The default Ubuntu distro uses Unity and hence is the heaviest.

The system requirements for running Ubuntu is:

  • 2 GHz dual-core processor
  • 4 GiB RAM (system memory)
  • 25 GB of hard-drive space (or USB stick, memory card, or external drive but see LiveCD for an alternative approach)

The system requirements for running Xubuntu are:

  • 1.5 GHz Dual Core processor
  • At least 2 GB of memory. However, it can run on as low as 512 MB of RAM
  • 8 GB of free space

The system requirements for running Lubuntu are:

  • A Pentium II or Celeron system or Equivalent
  • 128 MB of RAM. However it is recommended to have atleast 1 GB of RAM.
  • 8 GB of free space is recommended

The system requirements for running Kubuntu are:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 512 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 8 GB of free disk space

5. Default Software

Debian is considered a minimal distro which means that it comes with the bare minimum applications installed and is not bundled or prepacked with additional software and features.

Ubuntu, on the other hand is very, very feature rich. It gives you a complete desktop and most of the important applications you need to perform your daily tasks.

6. Package Installers

Debian doesn’t have a software as such.

You need to install most of the software packages from the command line itself, even software packages to install software packages.

Ubuntu on the other hand comes with a nice little GUI Software Store from where it can install the required packages, while also supporting installations from the command line as well !

Ubuntu Software Store
Ubuntu Software Store

Thus, in this regard Ubuntu definitely more versatile than Debian.

7. Release Cycles

Debian follows three different releases, namely – stable, testing, and unstable.

It focuses on stability over version numbers and often contains old packages and the stable branch is often packed with those, making it very utilitarian for servers but not instrumental for desktop usage.

Its testing branch is more updated and fluid, and in spite of its name, it is actually not unstable and is very close to what you would call a regular point release.

Debian’s unstable release is called Sid where all the testing of new packages occurs and hence it is not advised to use this as your daily driver.

Ubuntu on the another hand has a 5 year release cycle. However for Ubuntu, this is only true for the default flavour, whereas other versions like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc, you only get 3 years of support.

8. Customizability Debian vs Ubuntu

Debian is a minimal distro, which means that it allows you to customize it in whatever way you deem fit.

You can customize your distro almost to its very core.

With the vast array of Window Managers and Desktop Environments, you can make your distro look however you want to!

Ubuntu on the other hand somewhat lacks in this domain.

When using the default one, you get limited customization options as most of it has been done away with.

However, thanks to the different flavors and Desktop Environments, you can still customize your distro a lot!

9. Support

Debian, as a distro, is developed, tested and build my a massive community. Infact, the intensive testing makes it one of the most stable distros out there.

Ubuntu on the other hand is maintained and built by Canonical.

10. Stability

Debian is considered one of the most stable distros out there, thanks to the rigorous testing by the community . Whereas Ubuntu, inspite of using Debian’s codebase is still prone to crashes. This is due to the extra features which it implements and further extends the code base.

11. Target Audience

Debian is usually more geared towards intermediate to advanced users. The lack of GUI support and the barebones installation might be difficult for beginners to navigate through. It lacks many apps which desktop users need and is not User Friendly to the casual user.

Ubuntu on the other hand can be used for casual desktop users as well as advanced users alike. It comes with a lot of useful apps out of the box which includes important apps for daily users like Office Applications, Web Browser, Email Clients, etc.


Debian and Ubuntu, in spite of sharing almost the same codebase, are vastly different by nature.

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. 

Both have different purposes and hence different target audiences.

If you want a ready-to-go distro, go with Ubuntu but if you like to customize your own distro to the very core, Debian is the one you should go with.

However, we encourage you to try both before settling for either.

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