When comparing Gentoo Linux vs Arch Linux, the Slant community recommends Arch Linux for most people. In the question“What are the best Linux distributions for desktops?” Arch Linux is ranked 2nd while Gentoo Linux is ranked 3rd. The most important reason people chose Arch Linux is:
Arch's goal of simplicity means there's usually one preferred way to get things done - through organized and well documented configuration files. This focus, combined with the community's recognition that configuration files can be intimidating, has resulted in excellent documentation that's accessible to newcomers, and very instructive about how Linux actually works. The documentation is often so thorough that, when searching for solutions to problems while using other distributions, such as with video card drivers, oftentimes you'll find the most effective solution in the [Arch Linux wiki](https://wiki.archlinux.org/) or on the forums.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Full control of the software
You build the package from a source you can see and read. You decide which features you want to build in and which aren't needed. You can choose build options, optimisation and whatever else fancy stuff you want modified. With a binary distribution this simply isn't possible.
Pro Portage's emerge is powerful
Portage is a package management system with a huge amount of options and features.
Pro Great for anyone who is serious about learning the intricacies of Linux
It's useful for both beginners and professionals. For the installation, Gentoo offers various types, which are referred to as stages. Basically meaning how in depth you would want to go into the process of installation. For beginners it's useful to choose for a starting distro due to its various stages that can be very time consuming but beneficial as you learn the composition in general of Linux.
Pro Can be officially systemd-free
Gentoo's default init system is OpenRC. Gentoo also officially supports systemd-free Gnome and udev. Users are free to choose any init system they want.
There are many architectures available for Gentoo : i386, x86-64, PowerPC, PowerPC 64, sparc, DEC Alpha, ARM, MIPS, PA-RISC, S390, IA-64, sh, m68k.
Pro Documentation and community are second to none
Provides a whole handbook to refer to during setup and usage.
Pro Fully customizable
The usage of advanced features like USE flags makes it more customizable than any binary distribution.
Pro Can by optimized to any given CPU by using proper compile flags
Since everything is being built on your PC you can fine-tune the code to make use of your CPU. And all it requires is two lines of string variables in a global config.
Pro Gentoo does not impose a standard look-and-feel
Pro A very large collection of software is available
There are more than 19.000 packages available in the official repository. And even more with overlays.
You are free to do whatever you want with it. As a result, its configuration reflects your unique taste and personality.
Pro Live USB
Pro Excellent documentation
Arch's goal of simplicity means there's usually one preferred way to get things done - through organized and well documented configuration files. This focus, combined with the community's recognition that configuration files can be intimidating, has resulted in excellent documentation that's accessible to newcomers, and very instructive about how Linux actually works. The documentation is often so thorough that, when searching for solutions to problems while using other distributions, such as with video card drivers, oftentimes you'll find the most effective solution in the Arch Linux wiki or on the forums.
Pro A package for almost everything
If you need to install something, chances are someone in the Arch community has already made a package for it. This makes it incredibly easy for you to install and maintain all of the non-media content on your computer.
Pro Cutting edge rolling release
Arch Linux follows a rolling release model, which allows users to stay on the most up-to-date versions of the software they are using.
Pro No restrictive handholding, pure control over everything
Arch is mainly aimed at experienced Linux users, there is no hand-holding and not much in a way of UI elements when trying to install or tweak settings.
Pro As slim or copious as you want it
Arch keeps its core repositories slim and free of unnecessary dependencies. At first installation only a bare system is set up. You can easily get the other applications through the package manager. The repositories are nearly as full as those of Ubuntu, while they are often more up to date. That way you don't have to waste time with software you don't need or want.
Pro Excellent package management with the AUR
The AUR is a repository with a very extensive catalogue of build/install scripts that are contributed by users. While these scripts are inherently less secure than conventional packages maintained by a distro's authors, it's still way easier to verify the security of install scripts than it would be to write them yourself. It's very usefull.
Pro Arch Linux Wiki
The Arch Linux Wiki is very useful not just for Arch Linux users, but for anyone who uses Linux.
Pro Fast and simple package management
Pacman has performance advantages over apt-get and yum in both database operations (thanks to being written for speed) and download times (by virtue of using better mirrors than other distributions tend to select by default). There are also fewer default repositories to download from, and all package management is combined into one tool instead of being split into dpkg, apt-get, and apt-cache like on Debian distros.
Pro Simplicity is absolutely the principal objective behind Arch development
The design approach of the development team focuses on elegance, code correctness, minimalism, and simplicity, and expects the user to be willing to make some effort to understand the system's operation.
Pro Support for a large variety of hardware
From latest wacom pads to obscure wireless cards in laptops Arch's hw support has been and continues to be good. It has worked on laptops where other leading distro's like debian/ mint/ ubuntu failed to detect and work with all hardware.
Pro Good overall system quality
QoL of Arch is generally good. You get something more consistent and doable in Arch then you would get with most other OSes.
Pro Huge Repositories
Although Arch Linux only comes with around 10,000 packages, you can use the Arch User Repositories (AUR) which will add over 50,000 more packages.
Pro An opportunity to improve
The process of learning to setup and use Arch will improve your skills with Linux and computers in general.
Pro It is Linux at the core
This distro is barebones enough to make a new distro from.
Pro Helpful community
If searching through the wiki or the forums for any problems turns nothing, any question on the official forums, Arch subreddit or the IRC channel will be answered within minutes. There will probably be no hand-holding however, Arch users prefer to point anyone to a resource that may help them instead of trying to outright solve their problem in a forum thread. This is quite helpful for people who want to really learn how their system works but also for other people who may stumble in that thread considering how most problems don’t have a universal solution.
Pro Helpful for understanding how Linux is installed
Arch does not come with an automatic installation process. The user is expected to walk through the installation steps published on the Arch wiki. This is very useful if, later, something happens to the installation as the user will be more familiar with the foundational steps required to get a full blown Arch installation working.
Pro Highly customizable
Tailor the system to your needs.
Pro Simple by design
Arch Linux is actually incredibly simple. It's really just a partition scheme, package manager, Linux kernel, file system, systemd and the bare minimum of utilities needed to easily set up your hardware.
This makes it super simple to build your desired system using binary packages because there no bloat getting in your way when installing or configuring packages.
Pro No need for external repos
The default and community repo of Arch Linux are so vast, that there is barely any need for additional software sources. And if there is, the additional software can be added to AUR, which results in the need actually growing the Arch repos.
Pro Stripped down to the bone
Since its stripped down, it is fast and you don't have to deal with bloatware.
Learn about Arch, learn about Linux. What works for Arch, works for many other distros too.
Pro Helpful 3rd-party installers
There are extremely helpful 3rd-party installers such as Anarchy Linux (Formerly Arch Anywhere).
Pro Ultimate mid-range OS for Tinkering
If you like to tinker with things and see how they work you don't get much better than arch linux unless you commit to building your own kernel and using flags manually when installing your packages.
Pro Incredible educational value
Arch gives great insight in the inner workings of operating systems, computers and data manipulation.
Pro Incredibly easy to manage
Arch is very simple to maintain, backup and in rare cases repair and recover. For example, the manual to recover your boot manager is already in the install guide!
Pro Low maintenance
To basically keep your Arch setup up and running, it takes very little to barely any maintenance.
Pro On average only 1 manual intervention needed a year now
The comments about issues with upgrades are over-exaggerated.
Those comments assume that : A) They happen often, B) you are using a specific package with an issue, C) that package maintainers can't release a patch to the package that will work around the issue for you, and that D) Manual intervention or system recovery from such issues is hard to fix.
On average once or twice a year a user may have to cut and paste some commands in the terminal to fix an issue, but that's about it. Additionally any system recovery required from such missed interventions is easy, just follow the wiki and make a live USB if your using a desktop or laptop.
Pro Flexible upgrades
Upgrade once a day, once a week, once a month,... three times a day... automate it, upgrade manually, add packages to the ignore list.
Pro Rolling updates
Updating will keep the whole OS up to date (unlike Ubuntu/Debian/etc. where occasionally you will need to perform major version updates).
Pro Highly reliable and stable build
See experts working on the packages and upgrades. Given Arch splits the load among people who care and have the experience, the overall setup is very stable and reliable, even though very broad too.
Pro Great security out of the box
Even a default Arch setup offers great security with the minimum number of open ports and very little information on the system for outsiders.
Pro Great hardware support
Out of the box Arch comes with great hardware support.
Pro Supports various desktop environments and window managers
Doesn't limit you in terms of desktop environments or graphical servers (X, Wayland).
Pro Experts working on the packages
Providers only provide the basic system and do a great job doing so. While with AUR people who actually use the packages, provide and maintain them. They CARE about making them work.
Pro Great for low performance hardware
Arch Linux works quite well with low performance hardware like netbooks.
Pro Highly reliable upgrades
Always works. No matter if you upgrade 7 or 700 packages.
Pro Easier to review the distributions packages
Unlike other some distributions, it's super simple to review the packages you download on the official arch repos or arch user repository.
Pro Vast variety of use and purpose
With its vast repos, Arch offers tons of applications for all kinds of use.
Pro Multilib support is just around the corner
Just uncomment the according entries in the pacman.conf.
Pro Good for ricing for r/unixporn
Con Not beginner-friendly
You have to read a lot of instructions to start, even if you are familiar with Linux. Furthermore, as you have to configure the kernel and init system, expect some boot failures at beginning.
Con Since everything must be compiled it takes a lot longer to update
And if you have to update the kernel or some heavy software like Chromium it can takes hours if not more on weaker hardware.
Con Customized package installation can take a long time and cause installation failures
The Gentoo package management system allows you to configure what compilation flags packages should support - i.e. specific processor flag support (SSE, SSE2, etc.), -O1, -O2, -O3 optimization, etc.
If you accept one of the default flags, Gentoo downloads binaries from the server. However, if you decide to optimise, it can and will download all source packages and start compiling allthe programs and libraries on your system. If your chosen flags don't work with a particular library, installation will fail.
Con Has no live images with graphical interface
Full installation is hand-made with a CLI (Command-Line Interface)
Con Somewhat outdated solutions
While being outdated per se is virtually impossible for a rolling-release distro with a large community, a large portion of said community sticks to outdated solutions. For example, Gentoo's primary init system is OpenRC, which is cumbersome and awkward to use and provides little control over the system. While you can just choose systemd, it will require some tinkering. Other examples include stubbornly declaring an initramfs a last resort and an "oh my god 1337 H4XX0RZ surely have nothing better to do than trying for a month to exploit some vulnerability to steal my pony art, I have to fortify so hard my performance and ease of use will suffer" 90s security mentality.
Because of just how much freedom Gentoo provides you with, this usually isn't a big deal though.
Con No default installer
Installation must be done manually by following instructions in the handbook.
Con Not for the faint of heart
You need to be very carefully with updates.
Con Manual install process
The installation requires a lot of manual intervention/decisions.
Con Works only on AMD64
It is the only official supported instruction set of CPUs.
Con Instability can be an issue
Sometimes you can have a surprise, but in most cases it can be fixed quickly.
Con Fragile packages
Updating an Arch system is always a gamble. The problem could be as simple as a package having a bug causing a program to crash on start or it may be something bigger like the WiFi or Bluetooth no longer working. There is also the slight chance the system may not even boot at all after a large update.
If the user does not plan to read the forums weekly/daily or update fairly often, things can go wrong very fast.
Con Requires some background with Linux and the command-line to setup
Going in with zero Linux knowledge is not really recommended when wanting to install Arch, though it can be a good learning experience for those that are dedicated to trial and error as well as reading many faqs.
Con No Graphical Installer
although some derivatives such as Manjaro and ArcoLinux exist
Con Not really for desktop
More like for posting screenshots on Reddit.
Con Occasional upstream package bugs
Most package maintainers look for issues that the packages might have ispecifically for arch. Which means if a package has a bug that applies to all Linux distros regardless of the flavor, the maintainer may not be able to: A) catch it before pushing a update or B) have to wait for the packages developers to fix it.
This is a minor issue because most issues are often patched before the end of the day if many users rely on it, or if its a less used package there will be specific troubleshooting instructions on the arch site.
Con Lost its way
It aimed to be KISS but it has lost its way and is getting more and more complex, for example, it uses systemd which is anything but KISS. It also has now some kind of package post configuration included.
Con Rolling release requires bandwidth
Arch uses a rolling release model for updates. Unlike, for example Ubuntu where a new version is released every six months, packages are updated when they are ready. The advantage is a very up to date system and that the work of upgrading can be spread over a longer span of time to a point where it is hardly noticeably effort. However it can be difficult for people without a high bandwidth connection, or with limits on how many GB can be downloaded imposed by their internet service providers. A GB a month of downloads is quite possible.
This can be somewhat offset by Arch being lightweight, besides the relatively small core, the user selects what is installed (and has to be updated).
Con Documentation only makes sense if you know how to adjust it
While the documentation is a very valuable reference for experts, the recipes often don't actually work on your own computer. Some articles are outdated, incomplete, contradictory or duplicated. Only if you are expert enough to know which steps to skip, to adjust or which other documentation parts to plug in, you can make it work.
Con Too many package upgrades that require manual intervention
Every year or so there is a update to ArchLinux that will break your system unless you first read the front page of archlinux.org. This happened with SystemD and with a few other updates that require you to do prior steps befor pacman -Syu.
Uses systems which makes it incompatible to the UNIX-world.
Con pacman is a slow package manager
Compared to other distribution packages the extracting of a pacman package archives is taking ages.
Con Not so great overall
Apart from the ArchBuildSystem/AUR, which brings you very quickly newer package versions, there is not really much where Arch Linux shines.
- You get better package managers with other systems.
- The most Linux distributions are far more stable than Arch.
- You learn more about Linux by using LFS or a source based distribution.
- You can customize the system much more in LFS or Gentoo.
Con Problems with driver/kernel/gpu consistency
Arch has no proper desktop support, you must craft your system together. Things may work for the first but generally it takes days to configure a stable and working system. This is NOT ideal for a desktop user.
Con Package manager is so naive
For example, it doesn't allow you to purge (remove package and its configuration files).