Difference Between Debian and Ubuntu

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Debian and Ubuntu

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Okay so how often have you turned on your computer and watched the slow glow of the screen wake you up from the terrible sleepless night you’ve had. Let’s face it almost everyone today has a bad sleep schedule. Be it, kids or adults. The kids are up all night poring over different textbooks, preparing for the latest exam and the adult, well, most adults are binging the latest show since their jobs eat the rest of their day. Unless you are one of those people that is uber responsible and has it all, which is highly appreciable and makes you a unicorn, one can safely assume that you experience a lack of sleep.

Anyway, that slow glow of the screen is an indication that your computer is waking up as well. Congratulations. But unlike you, the lucky machine before does not require sleep. To achieve optimum functioning, a computer or any electronic device these days requires a good operating system. And a power source or charge, of course. But more importantly, an operating system.

An operating system runs most of the functions on the computer. It is the medium that lies between the user and the interface. It is a software program that is responsible for communicating between the hardware and the software of the computer. Without an operating system, it is fairly impossible to run the regular functions of the computer or whatever electronic device you are using.

Debian vs. Ubuntu

One of the most used operating systems is the Linux system, which was introduced in the mid-90s. What is a Linux system? Well, it is like any other operating system. The most familiar operating systems are Windows, Mac OS, iOS etc. depending on the brand and device one uses. Linux is used by one of the most popular platforms in the world – Android. An important question that is frequently asked is that – every device has an in-built operating system so why should one choose to invest in a Linux based software? The answer is quite simple. To battle threats like viruses, crashes, meltdowns, malware and licensing fees, there is no better warrior than Linux. Over time, Linux has become one of the best and most reliable computer ecosystems to be used. And it comes in different versions that have different applications. Debian and Ubuntu are two versions of Linux. Debian was created first and is dubbed the Universal Operating System. Ubuntu was created based on Debian.

Differences Between Debian and Ubuntu in a Tabular Form

Types of releases Debian has a tiered release model that is solely dependent on stability.   Ubuntu has an LTS or a Long-term Support release system.
Releases Debian has 3 release systems: Stable, Testing and Unstable. Ubuntu, as already mentioned, has regular LTS releases.
Installer The installer in Debian, while it provides more options, is very complex and confusing. The installer in Ubuntu is said to be streamlined and is thus, more user-friendly.
Firmware Debian lacks needed firmware. Thus, while installing a software, the firmware must be manually installed. Ubuntu possesses sufficient firmware and automatically installs and configures the drivers.
Software freshness The software promoted by Debian is not always fresh as they do not aim for the latest version. Ubuntu due to its LTS releases, has more recent versions that are popular.
PPAs (Personal Package Archive) Debian do not possess PPAs. Ubuntu has PPAs which make the task of downloaded a cakewalk.
Desktop environment Debian installs GNOME desktop environment by default but it provides other options as well at the time of installation. Ubuntu also installs GNOME desktop environment by default. But it does not offer options.
Corporate Backing Debian is a community-based project. Everyone involved in its production is in essence, a volunteer. Ubuntu has a corporate backing. It is backed by the corporation – Canonical.
Supported platforms Debian supports multiple platforms like 32-bit and 64-bit architecture. In addition, it supports 64-bit ARM, ARM EABI, ARMv7 and many more. Ubuntu supports only 64-bit x86 and ARM platforms.
Gaming It takes longer and more effort for gaming on Debian Gaming is easier on Ubuntu since it supports propriety devices.

What is Debian?

Debian was created by Ian Murdock in 1993 and is a Linux distribution. This means that is a kind of operating system. It can be downloaded free of charge over the internet or can be purchased for a small fee on a CD or a flash drive. It is an open-source software which means that anyone can access and enhance the software. Almost a thousand active programmers collectively developed Debian via the Debian Project.

Since its conception, Debian has continued to be a community-based venture, letting all the volunteers work on it. When it comes to its releases, Debian is primarily focused on stability. There are 3 types of releases from Debian. They are:

  1. Debian Stable – In this, the level of stability is extremely high. Currently, though, the software is rather outdated but the stability remains rock solid.
  2. Debian Testing – This branch works on stability and is very fluid. Most users prefer using the testing branch to the stable one.
  3. Debian Unstable – Also named Sid (the kid from the children’s movie Toy Story, who is famous for breaking toys), Debian Unstable is where most of the testing is done. It is generally avoided and not recommended for use.

Since Debian is focused on stability it does not go out of its way to put out the latest versions. The installer for Debian is old school and requires a tremendous amount of patience and time. The process itself is confusing because of the multitude of options. This process is especially exhausting since Debian lacks a lot of firmware. Now, firmware is software that provides a set of instructions for the proper functioning of the hardware. In its absence, it gets quite tiring to install repositories which are essentially storage spaces. Also, since Debian has open-source software, it does not include proprietary drivers.

As a default practice, Debian installs the GNOME desktop environment, which is a type of user interface. But at the time of installation, Debian offers the user options to choose the preferred interface. Another advantage of Debian is that it offers support to multiple platforms or processors. It supports the 32-bit architecture, the 64-bit architecture, the 64-bit ARM (arm64), ARM EABI (armel), ARMv7 (EABI hard-float ABI, armhf) and many more. This is the reason Debian is also known as the Universal Operating System.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu was created based on Debian. Mark Shuttleworth created Ubuntu in 2004 and it is derived from Debian i.e. its infrastructure, uses and architecture are all based on those of Debian. But that does not necessarily mean they are the same.

Despite being derived, Ubuntu is a rather traditional model. It has long-term support (LTS) releases which mean that it regularly updates and releases newer versions periodically (roughly every 2 years) and support is offered for a period of 5 years. A non-LTS release is also available every 6 months or so that offers support for a period of 9 months only but newer versions are often available. Once the version reaches its limit it is advised to upgrade to the latest version available. Since they have LTS, the software at Ubuntu is almost always fresh while also focusing on stability like Debian.

Ubuntu is fairly easy to download. It was one of the reasons Ubuntu was created since Debian had a lot of problems with usability. Currently, the installer is streamlined and thus, extremely user-friendly. Ubuntu also has Personal Package Archives (PPAs). These are repositories specifically designed for the users of Ubuntu. With these, there arises no need to install third-party repositories. It also enables easy downloading and installing of new software.

As can be seen, the chief concern in Ubuntu is usability. Therefore, Ubuntu does not focus on software licenses. They include most of the details in the default repository that enables the user to easily access the needed software. It also includes necessary firmware which allows Ubuntu to install the drivers that are required to make certain that the hardware effectively communicates with the computer. These features in addition to the increased hardware compatibility with proprietary drivers, make Ubuntu a better facilitator for games and thus, the gamers.

Unlike Debian, Ubuntu does not support multiple processors or platforms. It is only available on the platforms – 64-bit x86 and ARM platforms. It also does not provide options for other user interfaces, other than GNOME which is its default desktop environment.

Another differentiating factor of Ubuntu is that it has corporate backing. As in, it is backed by the Canonical Corporation. But that does not mean that it is entirely a corporate project. There is a community as well but the final decisions are all approved by Canonical.

There is no clear conclusion as to which operating system is better. Each has its pros and cons. The benefit thoroughly depends on the hardware, software of the device and the user’s preferences.

Differences Between Debian and Ubuntu in Points

Following are the main differences between Debian and Ubuntu:

  1. The main difference between both these operating systems is the kind of release. Debian has a stability-based release while Ubuntu has a long-term support (LTS) release.
  2. Speaking more about releases, Debian has 3 types of releases – stable, testing and unstable. Ubuntu, on the other hand, has a regular and more reliable sort of LTS release.
  3. The installer in Debian is very complex and requires time and effort. The installer on Ubuntu is fairly easy to operate and user-friendly.
  4. Debian lacks enough firmware and thus, the repository has to be manually installed. Ubuntu has the necessary firmware required to automatically install and configure the drivers.
  5. The software promoted by Debian is not always the latest version as they focus more on stability. Ubuntu, though, comes out with the latest versions periodically due to the LTS releases.
  6. Debian does not possess Personal Package Archives (PPAs) but Ubuntu does. PPAs make downloading software much easier.
  7. Both Debian and Ubuntu have GNOME as their default desktop environment but Debian offers other options at the time of installation. Ubuntu does not offer this privilege.
  8. Corporate Backing – Debian is a community-based software whereas Ubuntu has corporate backing from Canonical.
  9. Debian has been called the ‘universal operating system’ as it supports multiple platforms like 32-bit architecture, 64-bit architecture, 64-bit ARM, ARM EABI, ARMv7 and many more. Ubuntu only supports 64-bit x86 and ARM platforms.
  10. The experience of gaming is better on Ubuntu when compared to Debian since Ubuntu provides support for propriety devices.


Both Debian and Ubuntu are operating systems that were distributed by the parent operating system – Linux. Debian is the older operating system that is also known as the ‘Universal Operating System’ as it supports multiple processors. It is also community-based and has an open-server software that permits the developers to be volunteers. Debian, though, proves a hassle for installation and is not very up to date. In comparison, Ubuntu is more user-friendly and permits proprietary drivers, which enable more options for the user. While it is community-based as well, Ubuntu has a corporate backing from the corporation – Canonical. Even though Ubuntu was made with Debian as the base, the installation of Ubuntu is quite the opposite of Debian. It is one of the reasons it was made – to make the process easy and user-friendly. The user is the prime focus of Ubuntu while stability is that of Debian. Both operating systems have their ups and downs and advantages and disadvantages but the user is the only one who can determine which operating system works best for them.

An operating system, as we have seen, is the crux of any electronic device that we presently use. Be it a computer, a laptop, a tablet or even your phone, without an effective operating system, they are all just fancy pieces of metal that serve no other purpose other than being an uncomfortable hard pillow. Where is the fun in that? Especially when you lack sleep. Thus, operating systems must be evaluated and their features must be thoroughly vetted and the best one depending on the device and personal needs must be chosen. You may lack sleep which could affect your efficiency, but don’t let that stop you from choosing the right operating system for the efficiency of your device.


  1. https://www.linux.com/what-is-linux/
  2. https://itsfoss.com/debian-vs-ubuntu/
  3. https://linuxconfig.org/debian-vs-ubuntu
  4. https://www.techtarget.com/searchdatacenter/definition/Debian

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"Difference Between Debian and Ubuntu." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-debian-and-ubuntu-259>.

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