Rolling vs. Point Release Linux Distros – Which is better?

Ubuntu or Manjaro? Standard Release vs. Rolling Linux Distros. Let's look into Rolling release and Point release cycles so that you can decide which one is for you. Both the development models have their Pros and Cons. 

Any software development can be classified into two broad models, the first one being the Standard Point release and another the Rolling release. Linux distributions development also uses one of these models.

Let’s look into both these release cycles so that you can decide which one is for you. Both the development models have their Pros and Cons.

Standard Point Release Development

Standard point release has been there for a while and mostly seen in a majority of software development models. In this system, software versions are made that must be reinstalled over the previous version. A point release is typically referred to as a minor release of a software project, specially targeted for bug fixes and house cleaning.

A major release is issued for adding new significant features. For example, consider Android development, Android 7.0 is Nougat which is a substantial release from Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Android 7.1 Nougat is a minor point release, followed by Android 8.0 Oreo major release and Android 8.1 Oreo point release.

elementary OS desktop
elementary OS desktop

It is imperative to know that there will be “End of Life” (EOL) for each version in this development model, after which, the dev team will no longer release updates. No more updates imply open security holes and compatibility issues with the latest hardware. Several major Linux distributions follow this system, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS, Fedora, etc..

Rolling Release Development

In the Rolling release development model, updates are released continuously, and so there is no such thing as minor version release or significant release. The updates are released frequently (varies from distribution to distribution) across all areas of the operating system, including the Linux kernel, the desktop environment, and all applications.

This implies the operating system is always up-to-date and doesn’t have an end of life as long as the distribution itself is maintained. Linux distributions often release what is called a snapshot, which is an ISO image containing updates on that particular day. That is to make sure that users will not have to spend a lot of time downloading huge amounts of updates after installation.

Manjaro Desktop

Arch Linux, Solus, OpenSUSE, Manjaro, PCLinuxOS, Debian, Antergos, Gentoo are some of the popular rolling Linux distributions.

Rolling vs. Point release distros: Which distro is best for you?

So, which is the best Linux distribution model? The answer can’t be generalized to everyone. The difference between these two distribution models is the stability, convenience, hardware support, and new features.

If you have an older computer whose hardware is recognized and supported by the distribution you want to use, then point release is for you. That way, you can make sure that your PC will never land in trouble due to hardware compatibility later on.

I can’t stress it enough; a Rolling release comes with significant updates, including Linux Kernel and hardware drivers pushed via daily updates. On an old computer, this may be too much. Not just old PCs, some new PCs also may do wonderfully good on a distro, but can’t handle another distro effectively. That’s when you need to stick to Point release as well. One more reason to stay with Point release distro is to preserve the customization, look & feel, and themes that you applied. You don’t wish to see it changing again and again.

On the other hand, Rolling distribution is the way to go if you have a modern PC and don’t mind changes to look & feel. The most significant advantage of Rolling distribution is you always get the latest technologies faster than the point release model.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, Rolling distro is for the latest and greatest updates, while fixed release distro is for a stable and reliable system.

Kiran Kumar
Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of FOSSLinux.com. I'm an avid Linux lover and enjoy hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities, especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. I hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more and spread Linux love!. If you find a time, drop me an email or feedback from the 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!

3 COMMENTS

  1. I use KaOS since 4 years and it is more stable as any other OS that I used before, including the Ubuntu LTS spins.

  2. One should specify that OpenSuse TUMBLEWEED is rolling whereas the “normal” OpenSuse branch is Standard Point. Likewise Debian stable is Standard Point whereas Debian unstable can somewhat considered a rolling release albeit it not really is.

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