Difference between Linux Mint and Ubuntu

These are two of the most popular operating systems released by Linux. Check out our guide if you’re looking to find out which one suits you the best.


Linux Mint vs Ubuntu
A custom Mint Cinnamon desktop environment

Developed by Linux using two of its previous operating systems, Ubuntu and Debian, Mint is open source and free to use on systems running on x-86 (Intel) and x-64 (AMD) processors. Easier to install than other Linux releases, Mint was designed to offer many user-friendly features right out of the box. The release included a few proprietary software, open-source, free applications, as well as multimedia support.

Created by Clement Lefebvre, the beta version of Mint (Mint 1.0) was based on Kubuntu, a variant of Ubuntu. What sets Mint apart from other Linux operating systems is that it includes proprietary applications such as third party browser plug-ins, Java support, and media codecs that allow MP3, Adobe Flash, and Blu Ray/DVD playback. Linux is known to support the free and open-source software model, allowing its avid users to modify and customize the operating system.

Many users suggested the ease of installing 3rd party applications and this is probably the reason Mint deviated a bit from Linux’s free and open source ideals. In fact, Mint veered away some more by adding a customizable desktop and main menu, and built-in configuration tools. It is also available with a selection of desktop environments with other desktop environments ready to be installed via Synaptic, APT, and the Mint Software manager.

Although Mint comes with a firewall, developers claim that this operating system is malware-proof. What is also great about Mint is that it has access to about 30,000 pieces of open-source software.

Ubuntu desktop
The Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Unity desktop environment interface

Ubuntu is based on Debian, and is also one of Linux’s popular operating systems. It is used in smartphones, desktop computers, and network servers. Based on free software, Ubuntu is coined from the term ubuntu, a South African philosophy which directly translates to “human-ness”; the developers say the loose translation would be “humanity to others”. The Ubuntu project adheres to principles of open-source software where users are encouraged to utilize the free software, study it, improve upon it, and distribute it the same way they used it from the start – freely.

Default applications that comes with Ubuntu include a variety of software such as Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, Transmission and a handful of lightweight games such as chess and Sudoku. Additional software (e.g., Evolution, Pidgin, GIMP) can be accessed from the Ubuntu Software Center. Ubuntu incorporates the Unity desktop as its default desktop environment. Additional desktop environments can be installed via 3rd PPA’s or personal package archives.

Linux Mint vs Ubuntu

So, what’s the difference between Linux Mint and Ubuntu?

Linux Mint was designed based on Ubuntu, and as a matter of fact, each new version comes out shortly after an Ubuntu upgrade. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is based on Debian. Mint comes with proprietary 3rd party applications, definitely a first for Linux.

The Cinnamon desktop for Mint is Linux’s alternative to GNOME 3. It has a similar Windows or Chromebook feel to it to attract more users to its fold. Ubuntu employs the exclusive GNOME-based Unity desktop environment. Its interface may look and feel similar to Mac OS X users.

Comparison chart

Mint Ubuntu
Design based on Ubuntu and Debian Design based on Debian
Comes with proprietary, third party applications Still follows the free and open-source model
Uses the Cinnamon desktop environment Uses the Unity desktop environment
Interface similar to Windows and Chromebook Interface similar to Mac OS X


Here’s a video that further highlights the differences between the two most popular Linux OS.