Back to articles list Articles Cookbook
13 minutes read

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

The world is divided into Linux lovers and people who have never tried it before. Still working on Windows or macOS? Do you want to learn SQL? Do you know a large proportion of IT professionals use Linux? It's not a coincidence. But which Linux distribution should you choose for learning SQL? Here's my factsheet to help answer that question.


Linux Distribution: What Is It?

What is a Linux distribution? Simply put, it is a system based on the Linux kernel developed in 1991 by the Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds. The guy, as he admits, just wrote something to give people an alternative to Windows and macOS. And that's what happened.

Let me just mention that Linus got a job offer at Apple from Steve Jobs himself and turned it down! He is a modest guy who helped break the market dominance of large corporations.

Ok, but let's go back to Linux distributions. What makes them different from others? First of all, almost all of them are open source. The availability of software to be used by everyone freely is one of the fundamental principles of Linux development.

In each specific Linux distribution, we get the system kernel and a package of tools, services, and programs, from startup scripts to browsers and office packages. In theory, you could take the Linux kernel, add a shell to it yourself, and install the necessary elements for everyday work. This, however, would be very time-consuming, so distributions that give you a ready-made working environment are a better option.

Only, which Linux distribution should you choose? There are literally thousands of them, each offering something different, depending on the user's needs. In this article, I narrow down my considerations to the distributions I recommend to people who are learning SQL and want to continue working with databases.

Keep in mind, however, that I do not mean highly specialized systems supporting database servers or professional data centers. I have chosen 5 Linux distributions you can safely install on your home laptop or choose as the basis for working in your organization. This is important for avoiding any misunderstandings. These are operating systems for learning SQL as well as for normal office work or home use.

Why Use Linux for SQL?

I have had Windows-based computers for as long as I can remember. For me to work comfortably, the PC or laptop had to have Windows installed. Why? Because I got used to the Microsoft system. Do you remember Windows 95? Windows Me, yes, it was a revolution. Then, my beloved Windows XP was created.

Today, one of my laptops is still running Windows 10, and there's nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some things about Windows 11 do not make me feel so positive ... Well, we'll see what they come up with, but it's good to have some alternatives.

I also have a Linux computer that serves me well. Sometimes, some things are even easier for me to do in Linux – for example, I'm writing this article on it right now. So, there is nothing to be afraid of. It's just a matter of getting used to it.

Let's look at the numbers. One of the most important IT market research reports, the annual Stack Overflow Survey, indicates Linux is the second most popular operating system in the world, right after Windows and ahead of macOS. Of course, Linux is understood here as a whole group, not a specific distribution; in the study, they called it “Linux-based OS.”

Here is how the respondents answered the question: "What is the primary operating system in which you work?"

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

If we add that Android, known from most smartphones and TV sets available on the market, is also based on Linux, we can safely say Linux has been the most popular in the world for some time. Convinced yet?

Now, time to choose a specific distribution for learning SQL.

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

1. Ubuntu

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

It is impossible to talk about Linux without mentioning Ubuntu. For many people, they are practically one and the same. Ubuntu has been the most popular Linux distro for years, and it cannot be missing from my list.

The world got to meet Ubuntu in 2004 when a group of British developers led by Mark Shuttleworth created the first edition. At first, it was just supposed to be a regular release of a Debian-based OS.

The feedback from users exceeded the expectations of the creators. Ubuntu was great then and still is today.

At the time of this writing, Ubuntu 21 is the latest release available. You can download it from here. There are also Ubuntu versions for Server, Cloud, and IoT.

Why would you choose Ubuntu? It's a great system, especially for people who have used Windows before. It is intuitive and easy to use, suitable for most everyday applications.

If you're going to choose it as the primary OS for your business, consider the LTS (Long Time Support) versions. They offer up to 5 years of support for security fixes and hardware compatibility.

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

If you are going to learn SQL, you only need a browser. Yes, you just need a browser to learn SQL! You don't need to install or set anything up. Ubuntu comes with Firefox pre-installed, but there isn’t anything that prevents you from using Chrome or Opera, either.

To learn SQL, if you’re at the very beginning, I suggest the SQL Basics course. If you decide to create your own projects and you need a specific DBMS, installing the tool is not much trouble either. Here are short guides:

If you have read our other articles, you already know I am a PostgreSQL fan. It has enormous possibilities and a gigantic community that constantly develops the project. It's open source just like Linux, so I highly recommend it! Of course, the final choice of a particular database depends on many other factors.

If you trust me and want to bet on PostgreSQL, I recommend our flagship track, SQL from A to Z in PostgreSQL.

Ubuntu recommended system requirements:

  • 2 GHz dual-core processor or better.
  • 4 GB system memory.
  • 25 GB of free hard drive space.
  • Internet access is helpful.
  • Either a DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media.

Overall, Ubuntu is a great choice. You will be happy using it as your primary OS for everyday tasks as well as learning SQL.

2. openSUSE

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

This is another well-recognized Linux-based product. It originated in Germany, where the company SUSE started working on the operating system in the 1990s. The real boom came after the project was acquired by Novell in 2003 and later by Attachmate in 2010.

This is another well-recognized Linux-based product. It originated in Germany, where the company SUSE started working on the operating system in the 1990s. The real boom came after the project was acquired by Novell in 2003 and later by Attachmate in 2010. openSUSE is a complete desktop system with all the necessary tools and many customization options.

Who is it for? It is a good choice for both "ordinary people" and professional programmers and developers alike. Why? Mainly due to its stability and ease of use.

It is available in two versions:

  • openSUSE Leap, a stable version that gives access to over 1000 proven applications and tools. At the time of this writing, the 15th is the most recent release available.
  • openSUSE Tumbleweed, a continuous release to deliver the latest software.

If you are completely green in the subject, go for the Leap version. It is the basis of the great SUSE Linux Enterprise, complete business solutions.

openSUSE recommended system requirements:

  • Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or higher or any AMD64.
  • 2 GB system memory.
  • 15+ GB of free hard drive space.
  • Internet access is helpful.
  • Either a DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media.

Why would you choose this Linux distro for learning SQL? Because it is a very good alternative to commercial solutions. Just like Ubuntu allows you to install MS SQL Server, openSUSE allows you to do the same. You can read how here. If you prefer PostgreSQL, take a look here.

openSUSE is a solid player in the Linux world. It has everything you need and will meet your expectations. It has a large community that develops it, guided by the principle of free access to software and focused on the open-source concept and IT democratization. Will you support this movement?

3. CentOS

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

Unlike the first two on the list, CentOS was not commissioned by a specific company. This is a community project originally intended to support and crowd out Red Hat from the market. Even its name alludes to it – it's short for Community ENTerprise Operating System.

The project was so good that, instead of fighting it, Red Hat managers decided to buy it and develop it under their wings.

At the end of 2020, the last stable version of the system was released. Since then, only patches and updates (CentOS Stream) have been released. However, the end of releases doesn't mean it's not worth considering CentOS. It is still a great system that is useful in many applications, including learning SQL.

Here are the installation tips for MS SQL Server and PostgreSQL. The second one on this Linux distribution is available by default. You can use the PostgreSQL Yum Repository, which integrates with your OS and patch management and provides automatic updates for all supported versions of a product. Not bad!

Why would you use CentOS? Because it gives you all the capabilities of Red Hat without the need for licensing fees for business applications. That is why CentOS is often chosen as a system for servers and data centers. It is also sufficient for home use. Choose the Stream version to have full support.

Do you want to grow as a database administrator? I recommend the Creating Database Structure track. Inside, you find five interactive SQL courses where you learn about the types of data, methods of creating databases, working with indexes and views, and much more.

CentOS recommended system requirements:

  • Pentium 1.5 GHz or higher.
  • 2 GB system memory.
  • 10+ GB of free hard drive space.
  • Internet access.
  • Either a DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media.

While CentOS is not my first choice, it is still a great Linux distro that is very suitable for SQL learners and others who work with databases and servers. Give it a go – download the installation, and try it out.

4. Oracle Linux

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

If you already know a little bit about SQL, the name Oracle should ring a bell. It is a global IT giant that has played and continues to play a major role in the development of databases. Are you interested in how it all started? Check out the article, “51 Years of Relational Databases.”

But let's go back to the operating system.

Oracle Linux is the successor to Oracle Enterprise Linux like CentOS is based on the Red Hat distribution as described earlier. It is available for free, but it is also available commercially. You pay only if you are interested in technical support, available through the Oracle Linux Support program.

Oracle Linux is used by developers to develop their flagship project, the Oracle Database. If that doesn't suggest SQL suitability, I don't know what does! Oracle also provides users with extensive documentation and a huge amount of training materials and webinars.

Oracle Linux recommended system requirements:

  • 32 or 64-bit x86 architecture CPU.
  • 1 GB system memory, up to 64GB.
  • 1 GB of free hard drive space.
  • Internet access.

The distribution includes PostgreSQL. To install MS SQL Server, follow the same steps as for any other Red Hat (CentOS) based product.

Why would you choose Oracle if the basis for thinking about open-source systems is independence from large corporations? Because it is a very well-functioning and constantly improved system.

The creators themselves use the slogan "A better alternative to CentOS," and it is so. It is simply solid software that can become the basis of your business for free. It is also a great Linux distro for learning SQL. Try it yourself!

5. Debian

Top 5 Linux Distributions for SQL

If Linux were a kingdom, I have left a strong contender for the throne at the end of my list. Debian is a free distribution based on the GNU license. The project is being developed by a crowd of fans from all over the world.

What distinguishes it from other distributions?

First of all, stability. There are no constant updates and fixes here. Debian rarely changes, and in return, subsequent versions are much more polished and stable.

The current version is called Bullseye; it is only the 11th version since the project began in 1994. The “publication” of the next version, Bookworm, is scheduled for 2023.

If you have read this article carefully, you may wonder why you would choose Debian over Ubuntu. After all, Ubuntu is based on Debian and has a much larger community.

Well, it's a matter of taste.

Many people are drawn to Debian because it is not and will not be backed by any corporation. The software is based on a democratic system for selecting a project leader, appropriate work organization manifestos, and other guarantees of reliability, accessibility for all, and keeping itself open source. For some users, this is important.

If you are looking for a stable system for your home computer, Debian Desktop is a great choice. You will not be disappointed with its usability and software palette. Debian also has many specialized versions. Among them, for example, are Debian Med, Debian Edu, and Debian Accessibility, the latter adapted to the needs of people with disabilities.

Also noteworthy is the DebianGis project, whose intention is to develop Debian into the best distribution for Geographical Information System (GIS) applications and users.

Do you want to work with GIS data? You need PostGIS, the spatial extension of the PostgreSQL database. You can learn it in this great course at This is one of the few fully interactive courses on the topic on the market. Install the system of your choice, open a browser, and start learning!

Debian recommended system requirements:

  • 1 GHz CPU.
  • Minimum 1 GB system memory.
  • 10 GB of free hard drive space.
  • Internet access.

Why choose Debian as your Linux distribution? First of all, because it is almost legendary in its stability. Second, unlike some other distributions, it does not require huge system resources, so it works as an OS even in older and less powerful computers. If you want to use PostgreSQL, here are some installation tips.

Which Linux Distribution Is Right for You?

So, now you know why you want Linux for SQL and which Linux distributions are the best in my opinion for learning and working with SQL. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Probably reading this article are users of Mint, Fedora, or Arch Linux, wondering why I didn't include them in my list.

There are two reasons. I chose the ones I think are the best for SQL, and I didn't want to overload you with information. Why describe 100 Linux distributions for SQL, when these 5 are enough for almost any situation?

Do you agree? Do you think something is missing here? Let me know in the comments. I would love to learn something new about the Linux world myself.

But no matter what OS you choose, start learning SQL now!