I dislike systemd for numerous reasons. Unfortunately, it has been adopted by most popular Linux distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and others. It is also becoming increasingly difficult, or even impossible, to replace within these distributions (e.g. I've failed to drop systemd on Debian Jessie).

Anyway, I want to try other Linux distributions which do not use systemd by default. What are some prominent examples of such distributions, and their strengths and weaknesses?

Note: If someone we're at a point where there are many of these, feel free to describe their categories or significant representatives.

  • I think this question might be too broad if your only requirement is that it not uses systemd by default. Do you have any other requirements?
    – unor
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 14:17
  • @unor: Oh, I have lots of requirements, but they don't matter, since there are actually few non-systemd distributions, and very very few ones which one could describe as "prominent".
    – einpoklum
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 16:04
  • Okay, then what means prominent for you?
    – unor
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 16:06
  • @unor: Dictionary definition of the word. If someone finds a distribution to be prominent enough to merit an answer here, I'll take their word for it.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 16:12

5 Answers 5


Gentoo uses OpenRC by default.


  • highly customizable
  • no bloatware
  • very up-to-date packages


  • compiling takes time
  • may be hard to install for linux starters
  • Thought I'd add that Funtoo (which is based on Gentoo, but with some ease-of-use improvements) is also an option - though from my various attempts at using it, it seems like it's very behind on packaging right now, since the team isn't very big. The biggest upside is that "USE flags" are almost completely automatic, due to "ego profiles." Less work to optimize your device. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 21:09

Artix Linux is an Arch-based distro where its primary distinguishing feature is that, unlike arch, they don't have systemD at all. I don't really know much about it.

From their website:

Artix Linux is a rolling-release distribution, based on Arch Linux.

It uses OpenRC, runit or s6 as init because PID1 must be simple, secure and stable.

Like the other answer I provided, I actually haven't used it myself, but it is one OS I've been looking at in preparation for swapping out my SystemD laden systems. (Update: it's now my go-to distro)

I've since tried this distro.


  • Gives excellent control over your system.
  • All stable compile-time features are included that I've ever wanted or needed.
  • SystemD sucks, and this doesn't make you use it.
  • Upgrade path from Arch Linux available.
  • Lets you swap which init system you are using.
  • Provides s6, runit, SysVinit, OpenRC, and more.
  • Provides a first-party graphical Calamares installer (unlike, as of time of writing, Gentoo or Funtoo). The installer supports encryption, from my own personal exp.


  • It's not as well documented as Gentoo or Funtoo, so was a bit harder to install.
  • As with arch you'll have to edit a config file to enable community repos.
  • Their community repos have security issues (many AUR managers have a known exploit)
  • Community repos build time code runs as root. AUR managers like YAY ensure that the from-source repos are built under your user - not under root. You'll want to be sure that your specific AUR manager does this (not all of them do).
  • No support for automatic updates. (Third party tools that add this often don't check everything the update guide recommends, or don't support artix)

DistroWatch Query for nearly all relevant linux distributions without systemd by default.

If you do not know about DistroWatch, I would highly recommend in using it as a future resource for searching for distributions based on specific requirements, and general linux news. They also have reviews which may be of use to you.

Although I cannot personally vouch for them, I have heard that people have really enjoyed MX Linux or antiX as comfortable Debian derivatives without systemd.


One such distribution is Devuan, a fork of the Debian project.

Actually, very little has to be forked: Just a few components need to be altered to overcome the fundamental dependency on systemd; and from there it's basically a copy of the packages in Debian's corresponding version. And since Debian has sysvinit-compatible packages, it really feels, and is, Debian after an "appendicitis".

Devuan's initial release was a variant of Debian Jessie, also called Devuan Jessie. From then on the names diverge:

Devuan release Suite Planet nr. Debian release Status (2021-04)
Jessie oldoldstable 10464 Jessie Archived
ASCII oldstable 3568 Stretch Maintained
Beowulf stable 38086 Buster Maintained
Chimaera in development 623 Bullseye Maintained
Ceres unstable 1 Sid Maintained

(Devuan names follow small planetoids)

I've now been using it for 3 years as my desktop distro, and am generally quite pleased.

Note: As far as init systems are concerned, Devuan defaults to sysvinit, but as of the current stable release (Beowulf), supports openrc and runit. More information at this link; thanks, @Lazerbeak12345.

  • Quick question: what init systems does Devuan provide? I take it from your answer it's sysVinit by default, but does it have, say, s6? - Edit: found it. Their website says they support "openrc, runit, sinit, s6, 66-devuan, [and] shepherd" - so basically all inits Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 14:37
  • @Lazerbeak12345: systemd is not, primarily, an init system. It might have started that way, but by now it's much bigger than that. Still, will edit.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 15:21
  • Yes, I'm aware. That's sortof why this question and related ones on softwarerecs interest me right now. Also s6 != systemd Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 20:00
  • s6, in my opinion, is the most well designed init system that addresses the reason why systemd was made, yet still adheres to KISS, and optimizes for speed using tactics found in both runit and openrc, along with a custom, and optional, super-fast programing language the creator of s6 recommends. - not to say I'm not open to using other inits; it's just my favorite. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 20:06

PCLinuxOS defaults to using sysVinit instead of systemD. I don't think they provide any other init systems though... (feel free to edit this answer if I'm wrong)

PCLinuxOS is known for being pretty easy to use and install, though they are based on Linux From Scratch instead of Debian, Fedora, Arch, or Gentoo (most other distros are based on one of those four), and are known for making a lot of things themselves - they have a unique package manager that seems to be a hybrid between apt and rpm, along with many other unique elements.

I don't personally use it, but I might in the future if I get around to swapping out my SystemD laden systems soon.

Note: While this distro is LFS based it should be noted that it doesn't require compiling anything that is in their repos. Just use their rpm-based package manager.

I tried to use this system for awhile, but I found it's a bit clunky. There isn't much in the way of theming, and due to sudo, doas or PAM not having first-party support, graphical X11 apps get ran as root all the time.

  • I've been on Devuan for about 3 years now, and, well, it's just like Debian. So not maximally polished, but very solid. I would recommend it over an LFS-based distribution.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 18:30
  • @einpoklum Interesting. Though I would like to note that I've had bad stability problems with apt - though that might have just been ubuntu's fault. Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 18:31
  • 2
    I have never had any issues with apt. I have in the past gotten myself into trouble by adding apt repositories which were poorly managed and conflicted with my distribution; if you do that, you may end up installing incompatible packages and be in a real bind.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 18:37
  • 1
    Methinks we have strayed off-topic Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 18:43
  • Added note to amend misunderstanding that I only just realized had happened. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 15:56

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