Why do Ubuntu users become Arch users?

The new Arch Linux subforum may have been a bad idea overall; it seems there are a lot of people slipping in there to check it out and coming out Arch users. Even staff members. 😯

What’s the reason for that? I don’t know for sure. I blame a mixture of things, in a variety of proportions according to the person. How well you like Arch will depend on the machine you use, how well you know it, how much you like tweaking things, how experienced you are with Linux … and a mess of other stuff.

It’s not for everybody. But if you wanted me to recommend it to you, I’d want to be sure you were okay with these things first:

  1. Be comfortable with Linux. I wouldn’t recommend Arch to a first-time Linux user, or to a technophobe (or even a casual computer user). It’s not as cuddly as other distros are (at first), although there are lots of people who hope to remedy that.
  2. Be comfortable with the command line. Because 15 minutes after you insert the CD, you’ll be finished … but you’ll be looking at a terminal login. 🙂
  3. Get a fast connection. Linux almost requires broadband anyway, but Arch is a rolling release, and will need at least intermittent access to repositories to stay up-to-date. It’s certainly not impossible to use Arch over a modem, but I wouldn’t want to do it.*
  4. Know your hardware. It always helps to understand what’s inside your machine; Arch will expect you to know it, inside and out.
  5. Be comfortable breaking and fixing things. This isn’t to suggest that things break a lot in Arch, only that when something does go wrong, you should have an idea of how to make it work — that can mean compiling, booting to a live environment, or just hand-editing a configuration file.

But after that, Arch is what you make of it, so it’s as good, as complete and as beautiful as you want. You can say that about a lot of things in Linux, but if you enjoy “fast” and “easy’ and “clean” on top of all of those, you definitely need to try it out. 😀

*If you are on a slow connection, you might keep an eye on the stable-release version of Arch that some community members are working on.


36 thoughts on “Why do Ubuntu users become Arch users?

  1. Moparx

    Arch Linux is excellent and it is great to see that it is gaining more and more attention.
    I have been using it for years and it runs on nearly every PC in my house (the rest run Slackware).

    I don’t think I will ever switch to another distribution. 🙂

  2. xabbott

    I just think Arch is the perfect blend of Slackware, Debian, and Gentoo. Slackware, very “vanilla.” Debian, package management. Gentoo, rolling release.

    I started using Arch a little over a year ago now. It’s been the end of my distro searching.

  3. drunken.wallaby

    well said xabbott. i fully agree. arch definately is the best from a lot of worlds with just some minor annoyances which are to be fixed easily. i’m using arch for more than 2 years now and for me, too, arch had ended my distro-hopping….

    @k.mandla: thx for writing this excellent blog. it’s always great to check your entries, they are always _very_ interesting. so please keep up the good work!

  4. claudiohfg

    what’s the relation between the title and the context of this article? sorry, but I’ve found none.

    btw, I was a Ubuntu user, but it’s too slow, and the errors we report never seem to be fixed. so I changed to PCLinuxOS.

    I thought about trying Arch, but I’m tired of spending time configuring the system. I spent 3 years doing this on Gentoo.

    PCLinuxOS is fast and stable, and most of the packages are the bleeding edge. of course I’d change some things like compiz, which has KDE and GTK dependencies (total nonsense), but I’m pleased.

    well, that’s that. regards!

  5. Tasos

    I am a proud Arch user. Its really a great distribution. The end of distro hopping.

    PCLinuxOS is also nice. In fact I still like it and willing to use it again. I used it for 6 months and I left it because I wanted more control over my system and the packages installed. And Its more bleeding edge – the latest kernel and xorg.

    One more thing: Dont you just love its init system. Its so simple! And that rc.conf is so sweet!

  6. Dirk Gently

    I’d like to try arch some day and probably will. I use Gentoo at the moment and it took quite a bit of fine tuning so for now… Arch sounds like a good distro to me because I should be able to tune it almost nearly as good as Gentoo.

  7. finferflu

    Ah! I’m one of those former Ubuntu users who switched to Arch and never went back 😛
    I actually found Arch on a thread on the Ubuntu forums where I was asking for a fast KDE distro, and somebody pointed me to KDEMod. I eventually failed miserably at installing it, when I rebooted at the end of the installation, I was presented with a GRUB prompt or something of that sort. I gave up, then when I was fed up with all the other distros I had tried out, I downloaded a newer version and it worked. And it was love. 😀

  8. Pingback: Return to ArchLinux « FremLog

  9. nugnuts

    This is an intriguing topic. I believe this site sheds some interesting light on the subject:

    While that article discusses some hypothetical reasons for users switching from Mandrake to Gentoo, I think similar psychology may explain a significant Ubuntu to Arch migration. I don’t think the Ubuntu->Arch phenomenon should be viewed in as disparaging a light, however.

    Ubuntu makes GNU/Linux extremely accessible; arguably more accessible than any other distro. Because of that accessibility, though, there is an associated “newb” ethos. You certainly do not have to have much GNU/Linux knowledge or experience to become proficient in Ubuntu. The ethos of Arch, however, is a bit more elitist. (Note I do not at all intend to imply that Arch users are elitists, or snobby, or what-have-you. Instead, I’m saying that because Arch is not interested in automating everything and creating as cushy an experience as possible, there is a notably higher learning curve. Becoming a proficient Arch user then, can be a sort of badge of honor; if Arch is known to be ‘difficult’ to master, and you have mastered it, there is some distinction between you and an Ubuntu user, who may be more likely to be a “newb”.) I think there could be a significant portion of new GNU/Linux users making the switch from Ubuntu to Arch to “learn more about Linux” or their hardware or the command-line or whatever, with the underlying effort being to shrug off any sort of “newb” stigma.

    Similarly, you could also just have a lot of users who want to get down into more nuts-and-bolts type tinkering, try compiling more code for their system, edit some config files, etc., to fulfill some specific needs (without necessarily trying to shrug off “newb” stigmas) and Arch clearly makes that type of work easier than Ubuntu. Arch’s ports-like ABS is unparalleled in Ubuntu, which surprisingly does not offer any comparably integrated code-compiling system. (You’d figure a distribution like Ubuntu would be a frontrunner in any user-friendly endeavor.) Some people with more experience or more particular needs can get what they want much more easily from Arch than Ubuntu.

    Ubuntu makes GNU/Linux extremely easy. The cost is that it makes certain customizations a bit more difficult. Arch makes getting the specific custom system you want about as simple as possible. The cost is a higher learning curve and more manual intervention, because you can’t automate each individual’s ideal custom system. Ubuntu is arguably the best introductory distribution out there (which is not to say it’s *only* good at being introductory). Arch is arguably the best at providing exactly the system a particular user wants. Some people may switch purely for the challenge or the perceived honor. Some may switch for some particular customizations that Arch affords over Ubuntu.

    Either way, the more GNU/Linux users the better, regardless of distribution. 🙂

  10. pasquale

    i will try Arch someday 😀 anyway i’m an ubuntu user and i have to say thanks to Ubuntu community. without ubuntu probably my linux experience would never starts. (sorry for my bad english)
    for now i’ve installed in my harddisk: ubuntu, gentoo and debian etch XD i have to try arch 🙂 hoping will be a great experience as other users says… because sometime ubuntu run slow 😦 maybe for my non-experience (with good tweaks, etc) and i don’t like too-automatic system that can destroy (this last is a big word) my work.

  11. JaDa

    Archlinux is pretty cool. I am using sinze 1 year maybe longer …… I just tried it, love it, use it. Archlinux runs for me on 2 Laptops and on 4 workstations. That says all 🙂
    First I recommend everybody take a look at the Archlinux Wiki.

    If you don’t have a another computer standing next to you, print out all what you think you need to know.
    There will be Xorg, Graphic Cards Nividia, ATI, Intel, Wireless, Ethernet, etc.

    Help, you will get quick us possible in the Archlinux Forum
    or at the USA Linx User Group
    http://usalug.org/ (also non americans are welcome)

    One’s Archlinux is installed you will maybe or not Installing some nice GUI tools to make your life easier with Archlinx. Just try it out and find your own Arch way.

  12. remi

    I think the Ubuntu -> Arch migration makes sense.

    I’ve used a lot of Linux distros over the years but I always kept going back to Windows for one reason or another. Then, about 2 years ago, I fell in love with Ubuntu. 2 years later, I run Ubuntu on all of my personal desktops/servers, all of my business servers, and a number of workstations at my office (people liked my workstation so much that my boss asked me to setup abunchof workstations with Ubuntu).

    So, now that I’m comfortable with Ubuntu and I’m getting ready to have the mini-celebration I have every 6 months, when a new Ubuntu version comes out, … why is it that I’m currently installing Arch on my laptop?

    I’m installing Arch because my Linux learning curve has plateaued with Ubuntu and I’m not learning nearly as much as I was when I started, when I had to learn something new every day. I know *just enough* about things to be able to get them to work in Ubuntu … but Ubuntu shields me from having to know too much. Now that I’m comfortable with Linux, I want to dig deeper. I think Arch is the perfect solution for that. It makes you learn more than Ubuntu, but less than were I to switch to Gentoo or … a BSD/Unix system.

    Ubuntu -> Arch is a good, comfortable stepping stone for people wanting to learn more.

    Similarly, Arch -> Ubuntu is a good stepping stone for people who know more but want a single-click, super easy experience, and might not want to do it themselves all the time, in my opinion.

    ( also, I live in the command line … and I’ve heard that Arch is a happy place for command line junkies such as myself )

  13. Jen Smith

    Great writeup. A few months back I took the plunge into Arch myself and haven’t regretted it. I’ve been using Microsoft operating systems since I was a kid, back with DOS 2.10.

    A few years ago I finally threw Windows in the trash where it belongs, and started with Ubuntu. Great place to start with Linux as it holds your hand a lot and shields you from the “harder stuff”. After a while, I kind of hit that “learning plateau” as Remi put it.

    I toyed with a few other distros (Gentoo, PCLinux, etc) and finally came across Arch after I caught a mention of it in an IRC channel. I had everything backed up, so what the hey, I reformatted my drives and gave it a go.

    Definitely not for the first timer, as you’re building your OS from the ground up. But the Arch Wiki and forums are *extremely* helpful, and I had a base system up and running in no time at all. There were a few moments where my eyes glossed over and I said “wait, what?” but nothing that the Wiki or Forums didn’t help with.

    Now that I have it up and running I’m *very* satisfied with this distro. Stupidly fast, very easy to configure (I love the rc.conf file!) The community is excellent if you get stuck. You get to build the OS exactly how you want it, and you learn a lot on the way.

    If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty a little working with the guts of the OS, I highly recommend trying it out. Takes a little longer to set up, but the end results are well worth it. This former Ubuntu user has found a new home.

  14. Travis Willard

    Nice writeup – and I have to say nice comments too. You’ve got yourself quite the blog going here. 🙂

    I’m actually surprised at the popularity Arch is getting of late – when I left Windows XP and started with Linux, I went straight into Arch at the suggestion of a friend. At the time (…2004? maybe?), it was a small-ish community of friendly people and the fact that I could build my system exactly the way I wanted it was awesome.

    There were some install hiccups with wireless, but I got that sorted out, and nowadays all the relevant network drivers are provided on the install CD, so anybody else like me would have significantly fewer problems.

    I liked it so much, when I was asked to be a “dev” I said sure! 😀

    Part of me wishes I’d tried Ubuntu, and part of me things that if I ever got a PC to just screw around with, Ubuntu would be one of the distros I’d try out, ‘for fun’, but for me Arch is the bees knees, baby.

  15. ioky

    Yeah, I have use many distro before I get into ubuntu, and I finally stay with ubuntu for about a years maybe a years and half. I was a great distro, with many package you can choose. The only thing that I don’t like it is that, after each release, there is always some little problems, and annoying thing break, (for example, at 8.04 the trash can Icon didn’t display correctly) And when you ask those question in the forum, No one is able to answer you, haha, however it is a great forum though, One way or the others, I always get a little bit disappointed with the new release. But one day, I found Arch Linux, and I read about it, and I go to their wiki(which is amazing, it really tell you everything file by file.) And I learn about it, and switch to arch, and I love it, it is just too good to be true. When I switch, it is not a smooth step because I was first install it on a Laptop, as you now laptop is much harder to setup than Desktop.(maybe not harder but much more stuff need to be done.) However, once it was done, the machine fly. It is much faster than the Duo 2 Core laptop than my friend has, which run on Vista. My machine is like 4 years old, I can’t imagine how fast it would be, if I run it on a newer machine. And I do whatever I want with my computer. That is how an OS should be.

  16. Matt House

    One thing that people frequently overlook. It takes a lot more in depth knowledge to be able to tear down and set up Ubuntu so it is as truly personalised as Arch than it does to personalise Arch.

    Just some food for thought.

  17. Peter


    That’s very true, but it also means that it’s easier, and faster to get a clean install of arch than to strip down Ubuntu. It all depends on how much you love apt-get over pacman 😛

  18. Amit

    I am Linux user since last 6-7 years and mostly using Debian based distributions. I’m not newb nor afraid of configuring my system manually. Currently I’m using both Arch and Ubuntu and let me say Arch is very good but I can’t see any reason to move completely from ubuntu to Arch. Actually, I can do everything on my Ubuntu system that I do on my Arch. If you can’t do the same (or similar) on ubuntu or any other Linux distribution then I think even if you are Arch user, you are newb to Linux 😉 …

  19. eksith

    “Why do Ubuntu users become Arch users?”

    Same reason many FreeBSD users become OpenBSD users 😉

    There’s an inherent attraction a lot of *NIX users have to simplicity, minimalism and code correctness. Above all else, they want stability and the ability to control their environment.

    When you start small, it’s easy to do just that.

    Again, both conversions demand the user be intimately familiar with the platform first or a willingness to learn…

  20. Pingback: Why I’m switching to Arch Linux | Linux

  21. Pingback: Probability approaches 1 « Motho ke motho ka botho

  22. Xew

    Due somewhat to your blog, I switched to Arch from my command line install of Ubuntu. It was my 3rd attempt, but this time I didn’t have any trouble at all. I love it to death, and the rolling release and the fact that my system is always up to date is incredible.

  23. Cortux


    I am currently an Ubuntu user, I would call myself a newbie because I just started using Linux, coming from Windows, I dont know much about compiling and using the command line etc. Although I am fascinated about looking at different Linux Distros and would hopefully one day be proficient in the Linux world. Could anyone advise me on a way forward (learning) on how to use a distro such as Arch. We all have to start somewhere.

    One thing for sure, I will never go back to Windows.

    1. mulenmar

      Easy: http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Main_Page. Arch Linux’s Wiki is one of the best official sources of information I have encountered in any GNU/Linux distro.

      With Arch, you don’t generally need to compile things, they come prepackaged, but compiling and recompiling packages is, to me anyway, an order of magnitude easier.

      However, there are a few pages from the Wiki that I would strongly recommend you read.

      http ://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Beginners_Guide
      — Just that, a beginner’s guide to installing Arch Linux

      http ://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Arch_vs_Others
      — Paticularly the Arch_vs_Ubuntu section. Like it makes clear, there is a great deal more configuring to do

      http ://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/FAQ
      — Well, it’s an FAQ, what more description do ya need? 😛 You might be interested in question 1.4: “I’m a complete GNU/Linux beginner. Should I use Arch?”

      Personally, I migrated from Ubuntu to Debian (what Ubuntu is based off of) first, because Debian uses the same package manager as Ubuntu does but requires more configuration. From there I moved to Arch, but I still enjoy Debian.

      1. mulenmar

        ^^ Sorry about putting spaces in the URLs, WordPress assumed my answer was spam because of all the links. Copy-and-paste into your address bar, remove the space, and you’ll be good. :biggrin:

  24. Robert

    I was an Ubuntu user for.. 4 months or so when I started using Linux. After Ubuntu, I went into a hell of burning installation cd’s and checking out every distro available. I finally went back to the safety of Ubuntu.

    After breaking Ubuntu (I’m always messing with things), I couldn’t fix it. I tried Arch, and after a long, non-clean setup, I got it running. But it wasn’t the way I wanted. I gave it another shot, I reinstalled Arch. This time I knew what to do and I had this perfect distro. Stable, fast, and exactly my way.

    I just purchased a new ATI card, and installing drivers manually (should have backed up..) I totally screwed up my system.

    Installed Ubuntu 9.10 to check how it was like. I’m running it now, but I’m not happy at all. 3D performance is pretty much garbage, don’t know why, it boots freaking slow, I don’t like grub2 at all, I can’t find out how to configure some parts of Ubuntu.

    Hell, downloading arch again, never to switch back to ubuntu!

    Ubuntu should have a more ‘simple’ (checkout the arch wiki to find out what kind of simple I’m referring to) underlying setup so experienced users can easily edit it!

    And I love the usb .img from Arch. Distro switching costs a lot of CD’s, even if you use RW’s which tend to break after 5 or 6 distro switches ^^

    1. mulenmar

      I still have about 40 different CDs and DVDs of various GNU/Linux/Xorg/whatev mashups from my distro-touring days. 🙄 Didn’t discover the glory of the USB .img file until my recent netbook purchase, and found I didn’t have any other way to even partially liberate the machine.

      If I understand even half of where Ubuntu is taking the internals, I like it. Once it’s finally sorted out and as well-documented as the current inittab, xorg.conf, etc systems are now…well, it looks like it’s going somewhat *BSDish — firmly organized and efficient. Only with Linux’s somewhat more extensive hardware support. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Xircom Cardbus-Ethernet adapter.)

      Now, as long as Intel helps clean up and maintaing their Poulsbo chipset driver, and Canonical calls in a few graphics designers, everything will be set for the 10.04 LTS version to blow Windows out of the water! :mrgreen:

  25. Rowan

    I am not Linux newbie, i have it running on all my PC’s + manage our Linux projects / Web & Email servers at work.

    Surprisingly i have been a Kubuntu user for the past 3 / 4 years, after switching from Knoppix to Fedora to Open Suse i decided to give Kubuntu a go and havn’t looked back. Kubuntu 9.10 is a great release.

    Yes its the dreaded ‘K’ubuntu the one which has so many flaws and breaks at the drop of an upgrade (or so i have heard).

    Anyway, I decided to give Arch ago about a month ago because i wanted something more ‘bleeding edge’. I was impressed!

    The things i liked:
    1) Minimalist approach
    2) Rolling release ideology.
    3) ‘Bleeding edge’ packages including a Xorg / Nvidia drivers which i was really hanging out for.

    Things i didn’t like:
    1) KDE-mod has lots of broken packages.
    2) Arch repositories are no where near as large as Debian. Despite claims of a different approach (with ABS). There are still no where near the amount of packages available. Plus Debian has a lot more ‘unsupported’ / 3rd party support.

    I couldn’t find particular packages in Arch / AUR which i needed despite the website claiming that they were in ‘Extra’ (this was after updating / cleaning the package database).

    To anyone considering Arch >

    I think Arch is a good distro, i don’t really see how installing Ubuntu server or even minimalist and staring from there would be ‘much’ different. If you really want to go ‘Hard Core’ nothing is stopping you edit the ‘default’ files Ubuntu installs, after all it is Linux and you are free to do whatever you want with it.

  26. George

    I’ve always wanted to learn more and more about Linux since i started with Ubuntu 10.10 maverick, and with my first boot i was like omg this is 100 times faster than Win 7! i hope my distro-hopping days end with Arch c:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s