Exhaustive and up to date lists of distributions are available from distrowatch.com and lwn.net
Here is a shortlist of our preferred distributions:

  • ubuntu logoUbuntu: Distribution targetted at new users, with a focus on ease of use.
  • redhat logoRedHat: One of the most widely used distributions, mainly used on corporate servers. Does not have a direct free download, instead they support Fedora, but you can also get a free clone called CentOS.
  • debian logoDebian: The most "free" / ethical distribution, see the debian social contract
  • suse logoSuse: Very good hardware detection and input support
  • mandrake logoMandrake: User friendly desktop, used to be the best distribution for first time Linux users and desktops.
  • slackware logoSlackware: Lightweight, no complicated tools or configuration, simple installation, ideal for servers when you want to know exactly what is going on.
  • gentoo logoGentoo: Meta distribution where all the software is built from source using automated tools. Useful for making sure that the exact source code and build environment are controlled and readily available.
  • yellowdog logoYellowDog: for Power Mac
  • turbolinux logoTurboLinux: was once the leader in Asia
  • knoppix logoKnoppix: Live Linux CD, with gigabytes of software ready to use without installation, great hardware detection