CachyOS isn't for beginners but it's great for those looking to get into Arch Linux

This fast Arch-based Linux distribution aims to serve users of all types. Minus one small shortcoming, it hits that mark.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
woman working on laptop
Getty Images/Marko Geber

Only a few short years ago, Arch Linux lived in that nebulous zone between the likes of Ubuntu Linux and Gentoo. In other words, it wasn't considered one of the most user-friendly Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu), nor was it the most challenging (such as Gentoo). Like Gentoo, the challenging part with Arch Linux was the installation. It certainly wasn't impossible, but it was a mystery for the masses.

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After a few years, Arch-based distributions started appearing, making it considerably easier to install and use Arch Linux without having to use the command line for simple tasks like installing applications. Now, there are a plethora of Arch-based distributions, all of which go out of their way to simplify everything.

One new spin is called CachyOS. According to the official website, "CachyOS is designed to deliver lightning-fast speeds and stability, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable computing experience every time you use it. Whether you're a seasoned Linux user or just starting out, CachyOS is the ideal choice for those looking for a powerful, customizable, and blazingly fast operating system."

CachyOS gets part of its speed by defaulting to the XFS file system. This is a curious choice for a desktop file system, I'd argue, mostly because XFS is a journaling file system designed to support very large files and ensure the file system's integrity in the case of system crashes. XFS has been around since the early '90s and has been employed by large servers and storage arrays. 

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And, compared to other Linux distributions (all running as virtual machines), CachyOS doesn't feel much faster than Ubuntu 23.04, Fedora 38, Kubuntu, Universal Blue, or Pop!_OS

However, CachyOS is no slouch. To anyone not used to comparing operating systems side-by-side, this Arch-based distribution runs just fine. In fact, certain aspects of CachyOS do show some impressive speed (more on this in a bit). And given sufficient RAM and CPU speed, CachyOS performs very well. And with the journaling file system, you can rest assured that power outages or accidental shutdowns won't wreck the OS or your files. Anyone who's ever lost data due to a random shutdown understands the importance of this type of assurance.

Aside from the file system, what does CachyOS bring to the table?

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Let's find out.

KDE Plasma

I tested the KDE Plasma version of CachyOS. Any OS that claims to be user-friendly would do well to offer KDE Plasma, mostly because it's instantly familiar to anyone who uses it. For the most part, CachyOS doesn't monkey around with the desktop environment. Besides sticking to a dark theme throughout the desktop, it's pretty much straight-up KDE Plasma. There are no special widgets or customizations added. The one thing you will notice is the CachyOS Hello app, which offers plenty of information for new users and quick access to things like software, app installations, tweaks, and help.

The CachyOS Hello App.

The CachyOS Hello App is a nice touch.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

For example, the Apps/Tweaks feature of the Hello App offers tweaks such as Bluetooth enabled, systemd-oomd enabled, Apparmor enabled, and DNSCrypt enabled. Few new users would even know what most of those tweaks are for. 

The CachOS Package Installer.

Installing apps on CachyOS is as simple as searching for what you want, selecting it, and clicking Install.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

There is also a Fixes section here, where you can run a system update, reinstall all packages, refresh keyrings, remove db lock, clear package cache, remove orphans, and rank mirrors.

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Clearly, this section of the Hello App isn't geared toward new users. However, it does indicate that CachyOS is there to grow with you, as you learn more about the Linux OS. Make no mistake, using Linux doesn't require knowing what profile-sync-daemon does and why/if you should enable it. But should you have such a need, it's there for you.

Pre-installed applications

This is another area where CachyOS could learn from more seasoned user-friendly distributions. Out of the box, you won't find the likes of LibreOffice, GIMP, or Thunderbird. In fact, even the web browser is called Cachy Browser (which I believe is a fork of Firefox with added security measures and performance enhancements). 

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Another issue arises when you go to install applications. The CachOS Package installer is fairly straightforward to use, but to launch it you have to go to Desktop Menu > System > CachyOS Package Installer. This launcher should be front and center - either on the panel or directly accessible from the main menu or (at least) from within Favorites. 

One nice thing about the CachyOS Package Installer: It's surprisingly fast. More to the point, installing apps on CachyOS is considerably faster than most Linux distributions I've used. Installing LibreOffice took about 10 seconds to complete. And that installed the full complement of tools, including LibreOffice Base (which is the open-source equivalent to MS Access).

Would I recommend CachyOS to new users?

In a word…no. 

But that's not in the form of "OMG, avoid this Linux distribution like the plague!" Rather, it's akin to "There are distributions that are much easier for learning the ins and outs of Linux." However, if you've already been exposed to Linux and are looking to jump on board the Arch Linux train, CachyOS is a great option. 

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With a standard KDE Desktop interface, super fast app installation, and room to grow, this Arch-based Linux distribution might be a great option for those who are serious about learning more about Linux than is offered by those distributions targeted primarily for new users.

If you're interested, download an ISO of CachyOS and install it on a spare computer or create a virtual machine to see what's what. You'll find spins for KDE Plasma, GNOME, and Xfce.

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