If there’s ever been a mismatch in comparing any two distros, it definitely does not get any better as a mismatch than this. While Linux Mint seeks to provide an all-around distro that is ready for work and play right out of the box with a carefully curated software selection and experience, Arch allows advanced users to custom design their own distro with only the packages and software they’d want. So how do these two distros compare, their similarities and differences?
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu which is also based on Debian. It builds on the Ubuntu distro providing a modern, elegant and powerful distro that is also easy to use. Arch, on the other hand, is an independent distro that relies on its own build system and repositories. Arch aims to provide a lightweight and flexible Linux distro that tries to keep it simple.
Linux Mint can be accurately described as a Beginner-friendly or newbie distro. Linux Mint is set up to allow new users of the distro easily adjust to the way and processes of Linux with a pre-configured system. Arch, on the other hand, is a distro that allows users to learn more about GNU/Linux by building from the ground up. Arch is for users who would like to make every choice about what packages are installed or not in order to meet their very specific needs.
Arch does not focus or favor any one particular desktop environment over any other. Support for any Desktop environment is entirely in the hands of the community. Linux Mint, on the other hand, was initially available with either the Cinnamon or the MATE desktop environments. Current alternatives include XFCE and the KDE Plasma desktop environments.These desktops environments have been integrated into the Linux Mint distros so you can expect a very seamless experience.
Linux Mint uses a Fixed release model moving between discrete releases about every 6 months usually around May and November every year. Linux Mint release is based on the recent LTS version of Ubuntu. Linux mint 17.x series were based on Ubuntu 14.04 whiles the current 18.x series are based on Ubuntu 16.04. Arch is a rolling-release distro providing you with updates as soon as they are available. This means you are more likely to get a botched package or break your system requiring more hands time to ensure your systems work compared to Linux Mint’s approach of ensuring only tested and stable upgrades are provided, so newbies won’t have to deal with a broken package every now and then.
One of the Arch’s best feature is the Arch User Repository (AUR). AUR allows users to share source packages for the pacman package manager. Linux Mint, on the other hand, uses Ubuntu’s APT-based package distribution using Personal Package Archives. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and then Debian, which is the largest upstream Linux distro with stable, testing and unstable branches. Arch is relatively smaller but becomes quite comparable with the AUR.
Arch keeps patching of packages to the minimum. They ask this question, how do you complain about something to a developer when you have changed it by patching it? And this makes a lot of sense on so many levels. Linux Mint much like Ubuntu and Debian on which it is based allow liberal patching of packages making them available for a broader audience.
Arch has a pretty fantastic wiki page on getting started and sorting out issues you may encounter. The Arch wiki is by far what is regarded as the most thorough and comprehensive wiki available. The forums provide you with details and descriptions on all or most problems you may encounter. Mint also enjoys a very good community support as users can easily refer from the Ubuntu community.
So Arch vs Linux Mint is more like apples to oranges. If they were cars, Linux Mint would be like a Mercedes Benz, it just works. Arch is a project for a car lover or a rich man (someone who’s got time to spare). It is good if you want to get your hands dirty if you want to fiddle and explore and build on your own, just like assembling your own car. Who needs their own customized car or Linux distro? In the real world, very few people do. What most people need is something that just works, Linux Mint works out-of-the-box. Arch will require you to set it up just right first before it becomes useful. And if you do, the end result is awesome, you get something that works for you, with no bloatware and as light or packed as you want. Just be prepared for constant updates and upgrades as it can be tedious and time-consuming.
Linux Mint are 2 very different Linux distros seeking completely different audiences. Both of these distros look to provide simplicity but from entirely different directions. Linux Mint provides users with an awesome out-of-the-box experience whiles Arch allows users to tailor-make their desktop operating system to meet their needs. These days, there a few Arch-based distros such as Manjaro and Antergos that provide an experience akin to what Mint does and they are getting quite popular. For a distro that uses the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) principle, maintenance can be quite demanding and a bit daunting. Nonetheless, you can keep it as light and as minimal as you desire
Mohd Sohail is a web developer and a Linux sysAdmin. He also loves to write how-to articles, applications reviews and loves to use new Linux distributions.