Ten Reasons to Try PCLinuxOS

by Tim Robinson

I first came to Linux more than 6 years ago, when I tried to get Red Hat to install. It came as a CD with a copy of "Linux for Dummies." I was not successful and finally gave up in frustration. I stayed in the Windows world until 2004, when I saw a copy of Suse on the shelf at CompUSA. I'm cheap, so I got on the web, downloaded the ISO and burned a CD. It installed and ran, but Linux was a foreign environment and I felt uncomfortable. Then I found Distrowatch.com

From then on, I downloaded and tried to install a new distro about every two or three days. Many didn't find my hardware (some couldn't see my Logitech Marble Mouse or the Logitech Internet Navigator keyboard), others were just plain ugly (I won't identify those), and a few actually remained on my system for some time as environments where most things worked and I could be productive.

I stayed with only a handful over the next year. These included Yoper, Suse, Vector and Mepis, and then I began to notice the frequent positive mentions of PCLinuxOS in the comments section at Distrowatch.com.

In November 2005, I downloaded an ISO available here:


I selected one to take advantage of my Nvidia card; I checked the MD5sum and burned the CD. This was also my first "live CD," one that could be run strictly from the CD without the hassles of doing an install to hard drive.

What a surprise! I arrived at a clean, good looking desktop and began to explore - and I haven't looked back. Your mileage may vary, but if you try PCLinuxOS and give it a chance, I believe at least one of the reasons for doing so listed below will be the reason you may stay with us.

  1. Live CD

    As entioned above, PCLinuxOS is a "Live CD" which means it can run, and run effectively from the CD, without requiring you to make any changes whatever to your existing hard drives or their contents. It runs slightly slower that way than if it were installed to hard drive, but Live CD mode gives you the chance to see exactly how it looks, feels and what software packages are included by default.

    The initial bootup was flawless. I pressed esc so I could watch the messages fly by. I saw no errors. PCLinuxOS apparently found everything on my system. Soon I was presented with a standard login window with two choices: root or guest. The initial boot message had already alerted me that the passwords were "root" and "guest" respectively, so I selected guest and waited while the desktop started.

    I spent a couple of hours exploring the menus and noted that once I began, the delay from the CD shortened. Apparently once accessed, the menu resides in memory. Programs started in reasonable times, and I was on the Internet in just a few clicks. PCLinuxOS had found my eth0 and set it up automatically.

    Surprise! Sound worked from the start, something I had previously become used to having to set up and adjust manually, sometimes even at the command line.

    All the usual applications were there, but not the glut I had become accustomed to. This is a single CD distribution, so there were one or two choices for each thing I wanted to do. I remember a distribution that had no fewer than 10 editors/word processors. PCLinuxOS takes a different approach, providing a good starting selection and letting the user decide whether to add something else. For most tasks, many people find the default packages to be quite adequate. I did.

    Intrigued, now, I decided to install to hard drive.

  2. Painless Installation

    This is where PCLinuxOS shines. An icon on the desktop starts the installation to hard drive. Each step presents a single window with well worded instructions and simple choices. The most complicated, as with any installation program, is the hard drive setup. PCLinuxOS makes that simple. The entire process is graphical and the default choices make sense under a wide range of situations.

    After setting up the hard drive partitions, the next step is the actual installation. Simplicity here, also, as there are no packages to select. It all gets installed. Feedback is provided to reassure the nervous that things are progressing nicely.

    Ultimately, I set up a user account for myself, assigned passwords for myself and root, and elected to leave the guest account on the system (in case my brother wanted to use the system). When all the questions were answered, I exited the install, went back to the desktop, logged out and selected "reboot" so I could try out the installed system.

    I logged in to my own account and began to play. The desktop is clean and uncluttered, and the speed is impressive. Everything worked exactly as it did in Live CD mode, only faster.

  3. Adding Software

    On the desktop is an icon for Synaptic Software Manager - a graphical front end for apt. This is your gateway to the PCLinuxOS repository of tried, tested and useful software - currently more than 5000 choices. If PCLinuxOS didn't come with something you need, a few minutes in Synaptic and it's installed, ready to use. And there are no hassles about dependencies, either. I've been to dependency hell with other Linux distributions and I didn't like it. No more. When you use Synaptic to install an application, all the dependencies are taken care of automatically. The application won't get into the repository unless it works and does so without breaking something else. The developers are very careful about this. It makes life easier for us users.

  4. Default Applications

    As mentioned above, PCLinuxOS includes a wide range of software for most uses, with only a basic selection in each category. The developers spent a lot of time picking and choosing one or two applications that a) work, and b) are light enough to fit within the one CD limitation. The menu is well laid out and most things are easy to find.

    PCLinuxOS includes what may be the most valuable application available: mklivecd. This gem allows you to quickly and painlessly make an ISO that reflects the current state of your system, complete with all my customizations, installed applications, even my data files, if I so desire. Sometime in the near future, PCLinuxOS Magazine will have a tutorial on how to use this gem. Until then, if you are interested, visit the wiki at:


  5. PCLinuxOS Control Center

    One application of note is the PCLinuxOS Control Center, or PCC. This is a goldmine for those of us who wish to change configuration settings, but for whatever reason prefer to do so from within a graphical environment. Virtually everything you could ask for is there in a carefully crafted user interface.

  6. Multimedia Ready

    Got an audio disk you want to play? Just pop it in. Want to view video on the Web? Go for it. PCLinuxOS comes ready to use out of the box. No more hunting through forums and mailing lists, just to get sound to work on your box.

  7. Current Software

    Looking for the latest and greatest? Check in Synaptic for it first. You'll be surprised how quickly after release a new version of software appears there (sometimes literally within hours). Need something that's not there? Visit the PCLinuxOS forum Package Request section:


    and request it. If it's practical, it will get added. Be sure to provide enough information to the developers so they can find the sources, and understand what the software is, does, and why it would be valuable to the community.

  8. Look and Feel

    The PCLinuxOS desktop is clean, uncluttered and highly customizable. Everything "feels" smooth (subjective, I know) and "just works." This is mainly due to the developers' position that nothing is released/added to PCLinuxOS until/unless it is ready, tested, and stable.

  9. Hardware Support

    PCLinuxOS has amazing hardware detection. It runs on a very wide range of systems. I had it up and running, usably fast on an AMD K6II, 350MHz with only 196MB of RAM, and others on the forum are running it on less than that. The basic system requirements are 256MB of memory and not much else, but as I indicated, that minimum is subject to being busted.

    PCLinuxOS comes in several "flavors" as ISOs already set up for either Nvidia or ATI video board. There is also a general ISO which you can then customize for your video board. Additionally, there is now a "MiniME" version of PCLinuxOS which is a very stripped down version. It comes with only enough software to get you up and running in a KDE desktop and with basic software to get online to the repositories. From there, you can pick and choose which applications YOU want on your box and make PCLinuxOS exactly what you want it to be.

  10. The Support Forum

    I saved the best for last, and though I could write ad nauseum about the PCLinuxOS Forum, I'll keep it short. It beats every other forum I ever joined for friendliness and wealth of information. So you're a noobie and are ashamed that you can't figure out how to change your desktop wallpaper? Post a request and sometimes within minutes you'll see a response from a patient, helpful forum member. In fact, I personally have had responses from all the developers to what turned out to be the simplest requests. They all haunt the forum, and they pay attention to the rest of us. 'Nuff said about that. Here's the link:


Come visit. Take your shoes off. Sit a spell. You'll be most welcome.


There you have it. Ten reasons why you should try PCLinuxOS. If you are already using PCLinuxOS, then send this article to that friend you've been talking to about how great it is. If not, then download the ISO of your choice and give PCLinuxOS a whirl. I promise a good ride.

Notes about the author:

Tim Robinson is a long-time resident of El Paso, in far West Texas. He loves Mexican food and collects legends of the Old West and amusing anecdotes of all kinds. As a technical writer, resume writer, and legal assistant, Tim earned his living as a writer for more than 25 years. In 2002, he published "Undying Love", Double Dragon Publishing.


Tim now makes a living as a retail sales manager for an auto parts chain. He often writes for, and is a member of, several Internet diabetic support groups, and of course is an Editor for PCLinuxOS Magazine. He lives alone with two Chihuahuas, Goldie and 2k (born in 2000) in Denver, Colorado, USA.