CentOS 6 on the desktop: What I've learned so far

CentOS 6 on the desktop: What I've learned so far

Summary: New discoveries and successes moving forward with CentOS 6 on the desktop.


A few months ago I wrote about my plan to switch from Fedora to CentOS on the desktop. This is turning out to be a great move and I'm finding that CentOS is so widely supported that I'm converting others from Fedora to CentOS as well. 

Recently I replaced an older Pentium 4 computer running Fedora 14 (Gnome 2 based) with CentOS 6.4 on a Dell Inspiron 530 quad processor desktop for some close friends. Needless to say, it's blazing fast compared to the Pentium 4 — even though that computer was capable of running the latest applications, just slower. 

They had been converted from Windows XP about 5 years ago to Fedora 14 so that computer had been running fine since then. But it was time for a speed boost. 

Moving from Fedora 14 to CentOS 6 has been a seamless process since both use Gnome 2 and the user experience is identical. It's as simple as installing CentOS 6 operating system, then moving the user folder (on the /home filesystem) to the new computer and logging in as that user.

As I have pointed out in the past, moving a user folder in Linux is very easy and in most cases all applications will open up and have all of the same settings, files, and everything in place. Those that have used Windows know the pains in moving or copying user profiles, however with GNU/Linux this process is greatly simplified with far less work and problems.

New Discoveries

While building this latest CentOS desktop, I found another repository which expands CentOS on the desktop even further. It's called Nux Dextop — and contains a lot of updated software commonly used on the desktop, for CentOS 6/Red Had Enterprise Linux 6/Scientific Linux. 

For example, it includes GIMP 2.8 which is a big release and update from the previous version, and is one of the only places to get the Clementine media player for CentOS (which I think is one of the best media players available — very stable and clean). Many other desktop applications are also included.

As mentioned previously, I also use these repositories:

Having this platform with the long-term support (10 years) for me is a step in a positive direction for desktop Linux. Not only is the base operating system good for the 10-year period, but I'm also able to find updated applications that keep in line with some of the latest Fedora versions, without having to upgrade the entire operating system at one time. Plus, the recent adoption of CentOS by Red Hat will only make this GNU/Linux distribution even stronger.

The upgrade process with Fedora is fine for some and is an easy way to refresh the entire system at once, but for remote computers that I support it just makes sense to go with an operating system with long-term support so that the base will stay static for many years to come and packages on that base can be updated remotely. I'll definitely be doing more work with CentOS 6, while we wait for the release of CentOS 7 later this year.

Further reading

Topic: Linux

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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  • Mr. Clay, where do you download the CentOS 6 iso,

    and can it be installed to an external hard drive or pen drive, instead of the internal HDD?

    My luck with CentOS 6 was not good, it wouldn't even run whether Core 2 Duo, Xeon, i5 or i7 first gen, or Pentium 4. Kept on wanting a floppy drive A, if I correctly recall. But then, I bought that and other distros through Prizix, so maybe they slipstreamed other things in it.

    I liked Fedora 17, but it's bricked now, the Apper won't even work, nor will Synaptic. Went out of support. 18 is horrific, can't even figure out the interface, too much like Ubuntu's Unity. So am looking for a buddy distro to complement Mint, especially since I use Linux as a wraparound for my XP machines. Need to have at least TWO Linux distros, never only one. Can't make Debian work. So the next alternative had been SuSE, but it won't work well either.

    That leaves CentOS. So if you wouldn't mind amending your article or replying here about where you downloaded that distro's iso, I'm sure a lot of folks will benefit. Thank you for your time.
    • My experince with CentOS is very different.

      The company I work for has been using CentOS since version 6.0, and I have used CentOS 6.0-6.5 on all the processors you mention plus PentiumDs and 32 and 64 bit Atoms, with no problems worth mentioning.

      I don't why your CentOS was wanting a "floppy drive A", as CentOS, and Linux in general, treat floppies as just like any other other disk, i.e. a block device with a name like /dev/sda. If your system was asking for a disk in A: drive, maybe that was the PC's bios querying for a disk to boot from.

      The default Desktop for both Fedora 17 and 18, and 16 and 19, is Gnome 3.0 thru 3.9, so the default desktop on all 4 versions was the same, just naturally updated as Gnome3 moved toward to 3.10, which Fedora 20 has.

      CentOS 6.x uses Gnome 2.28, but has KDE, XFCE, and other Desktops, too.

      CentOS 7 will come with at least Gnome 3.10, as that is what the Redhat 7 beta is using. Most common DEs are available for CentOS. Gnome3, KDE, Mate, and Cinnamon, and more, will be in the standard 7 repository, and the rest in the extra repos mentioned in the article.

      Do you really mean "Can't make Debian work {like Windows}, ..."? That's the number one mistake many make: Thinking Linux should be like Windows. That's like thinking an electric motor should be like a gas engine.

      The main differences between CentOS and the other distros are:
      1) No help from CentOS to make grey-area software works. By grey-area, I mean licensed videos/audio codec usage. Doesn't mean they won't work, just don't expect help from CentOS.
      2) All CentOS packages are solid, source-code wise. Redhat, and CentOS by extension, do not include any package that has any circular dependancy issues, or other "not mature" issues.
    • Some resources


      I'd recommend visiting this page and selecting which distro to get:


      Once you click on one of the mirror sites, select which disc(s) to download. DVD1 is the main installation DVD, DVD2 is the supplementary software. I'd recommend getting both. You will also see the Live discs, Minimal install (without a GUI), Net Install (for network-based installs), and even the Torrent file for all of the above.

      It can be installed to an external drive, as long as your computer supports booting to it in the BIOS. I'd recommend a regular (non-flash) drive however.
  • They do have a web site....

    Try looking around the CentOS web site:

  • Linux users common link with XP users

    Anyone else see a common similarity with XP users and some Linux users? Both seem too cheap to use modern hardware, they gravitate to anything "free" and they constantly brag how great it is. I am not sure if many of these users even know what snappy and quick is? I have tried several Linux distro's on more modern albeit low end hardware like a Celeron Sandy Bridge G540 and find them slow or at least slower then Vista or Windows 7. Linux in my experience as even Linus Torvalds has stated has become bloated and not efficient. Have not tried CentOS 6 but it is derived from Red Hat so maybe it has been better polished. A Pentium 4 is ancient in today's hardware and just wonder if people's perception of fast is skewed because they never use any hardware newer then almost a decade old? I for one don't find many operating systems today that do not require modern hardware for the best experience.
    Cent OS 6 was released in 2011 so already its a older distro. Maybe its why it does better?
    I personally found XUbuntu about the best for responsiveness and limited resource needs.
    • It all depends on what DE or programs you use, you could make your system

      fly or lag, I have recently tried puppy Linux on an ancient system a Pentium III with 128 mb ram just fine, but that system did not have a network port for ADSL connection so I let it rest! In my opinion if someone thinks that windows is better it is because that he/she is ignorant about how to work with Linux, I'm not inviting anyone here though, work with whatever works for you, just don't insult us because of your ignorance!
    • Vista?

      My opinion: The fact that you even utter the word "Vista", invalidates everything you say.
      • why?

        I know several people who run Vista on their machines still and very happy with it.

        if you have a machine with proper configuration and hardware that is fully supported(mfg. drivers exist and are not crappy(a long shot I know, but happens) ) Vista runs just fine.
      • that says a lot

        about your "opinion"-just that an opinion. Yours is worth as much as anyone elses' - right?
    • Huh?

      Slower than Vista or Win 7? My exact opposite experience. I have Lubuntu with a gnome desktop running on 2 Celeron netbooks and definitely a whole lot faster than XP or Win 7 Starter (that came with the machines).

      Bloated? My biggest install with all the software I need for office work and multimedia processing is no more than 7.5 Gb which will fit on a usb drive, which I've done and use to boot up on different machines with different CPUs and hardware without having to install any new drivers.
  • Pentium 4 user

    I upgraded my XP Pentium 4 box to Windows 7. It works very well. A single-core processor that runs AeroGlass is fab. Not the fastest box in the world, but it meets my needs. I'm happy as hell.

    Oh, and it interfaces with my printer at all levels: Print, Copy, Scan, Fax. No such luck with Linux.
    • sorry to hear that...

      I on the other hand had a very positive experince with Linux and my printer. maybe because I have HP MFD (print/scan/fax) and OpenSuse have very good support for HP devices, but seting up my printer/scanner
      on openSuse was fast and easy. I had it runnig in 20min and that included the download and setup of HP utiliti from the repo.
      • ALL printers work with Windows

        SOME printers work with Linux. See the difference? I have a Canon printer that has drivers for Windows but not Linux. Yes, HP printers have drivers for Linux, but what's the point of shopping for printers based on OS? It's ridic, in my book.
        • not true!!!

          If the manufacturers make the drivers in windows and they nearly always do.. They often don't update drivers for new versions of windows. I have two can in printers and a scanner that work perfectly but only have drivers for XP... Not 64 win 7 or 8... Linux runs them all fine though.. So what you are saying is that if you are happy to throw perfectly good hardware away and buy new every couple of windows versions you will always have then work perfectly. I don't like to throw working perfectly functional hardware out just cos the manufacturer wants me to spend money on new kit.
        • If you pick your printer based on quality, it will work with Linux.

          If you pick your printer based on lowest price, it might work with Linux.

          Most business class printers and MFs ($350+) work with Linux, but most sub $150 printers, and sub $250 MF only work with Windows. Coincidence?
        • Not ALWAYS the case


          Sure, there are certain models of printers that work in Windows and/or GNU/Linux versions but not other versions of each operating system. There are way too many factors. But the short of it is, this happens in BOTH operating systems. Generally though, once a printer is supported in GNU/Linux, it will be good for future versions of the operating system. Whereas in Windows, in future versions support can be dropped (kind of the opposite of GNU/Linux).
    • Ubuntu Linux on 6 single-core PCs

      I have Ubuntu running of 4 Pentium PCs and 2 Athlon PCs - all single-core. Just last week, someone brought in his D*** notebook and started booting up his pre-installed Win 7. We sat for 5 minutes and still nothing to show. I left. All our single-core PCs boot up Ubuntu in 50 seconds for less. Now with version 14.04, this is even faster.

      Where we work, Ubuntu detected the multifunction copier/printer/scanner no problem at all and installed the driver without install disks in under 2 minutes. We are printing and scanning through the network from the Ubuntu PCs with and 4 other Ubuntu notebooks / netbooks with no problems.

      By the way, we installed Ubuntu on one PC and using an image backup (free, open-source) program called qt4-fsarchiver, we restored the one image to all the other machines without having to install new drivers, etc. - all detected and running on first boot-up - no need to install all 10 (different hardware) machines separately. Depending on the machine speed, restore time is from 3 to 6 minutes and with everything we need (Libreoffice, Gimp 2.8, VLC, Inkscape, Blender, Scribus, Firefox, Chrome, Openshot for video editing, Audacity, etc.), it takes up no more than 7.5Gb. Win 7?

      We can also install Ubuntu to a usb or external hard drive like any ordinary local install and use it to boot up on any computer which can boot from usb and have a full desktop installation (with the software I mentioned) to start working.

      I helped a friend put Ubuntu on his usb drive and he told me he uses this every day in preference to his Win 7 install because Win 7 takes too long to boot up while the usb drive is much faster, even after boot-up.
  • it's all depends on your definition of better....

    better for what?

    I am an avid windows user. have been since windows 3.11.
    whent though win 3.11,2000,95,ME,98,XP,Vista and 7
    I am an SQL developer starting from SQL2000 and currenrtly 2010
    I was VB6 dev currently .NET C# dev.
    so windows through and through.

    but for some of my needs I turn to Linux. Yes partially because it's free
    not everyone have a business budget for MS SERVER soft.

    I am currently building a home VM/file server based on Linus (OpenSuse 13.1) and just recently converted an XP 64 bit 6yo laptop to OpenSuse 13.1 as well. Tried Mint/Cinamon too slow and does not support some of the hardware (at least could not find driver for Wifi and video card)
    since I already run OpenSuse on the server I load it on the laptop.
    not without some issues but have it working with WiFi and all.
    and speed is OK. not the fastest horse around but not a dog either.
    better than XP.
    I am pallning to convert my win7 desktop to OpenSuse as well soon.
    and yes the fact that it's free is a big factor.
    things is, I can not move to win8 as the hardware is 6+ yo. but it is still in good condition and working fine. just need a refresh of the system. but if I am doing the refresh/reinstall I might as well try something new. and Linux fits the bill just fine. it has almost everyting I need in terms of software. in fact some apps I use are much better in linux version than windows.

    not sure if I would like CentOS, I really like OpenSuse because can do practically everything from GUI. except for my server where I am trying something not usual setup,playing with BTRFS mostly, and since it does not have all the tools and utilities I want CLI is needed, all esle is GUI.
    I had setup my laptop GUI all the way.
    • Just one thing

      Drivers are handled with kernel not distros so the only reason that mint did not work for you was because it was using an older kernel!
  • moving windows profiles is simple

    The statement in this article that it's difficult to move Windows profiles is total fiction. If you know what you are doing and manage your data properly it is an insignificant task to move a profile to a new computer. It requires only a basic understanding of the file system. Can't imagine how that can be difficult.