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A decade ago, no one could have guessed just how much you could do with a Raspberry Pi! Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for the humble Pi to take on much of the functionality of a regular PC or laptop.

Having the right operating system really unlocks the utility of the Pi 4, and if you desire a change from the official Raspbian OS, challenge yourself by getting an alternate OS up and running on your Pi. 

But, can you run Linux Mint on Raspberry Pi?

In this article, we’ll explore if it’s possible to run Linux Mint on Raspberry Pi and share other great OS recommendations for Raspberry Pi computing. 

What is Linux Mint?

Linux Mint is a Debian-based Linux distribution that is known for its extensive bundle of applications and its straightforward, plug-and-play performance for multimedia. It was created by Clément Lefèbvre and is 100% open-source and free, with ongoing maintenance by the Linux Mint community. 

Linux Mint is a Crowd Pleaser

This Linux distribution is popular because of its community-driven, well-supported, high utility. This is down to the wide range of third-party proprietary software it comes with or supports, which include: 

  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Firefox
  • LibreOffice
  • Thunderbird
  • VLC Media Player
  • HexChat
  • Pidgin

Linux Mint can also run much of the MS Office Suite and is actually one of the best Linux distributions for this purpose. The Wine open-source compatibility layer allows you to run Windows apps on Linux. You can also find a range of software applications that have been specifically developed for Mint via GitHub. 

Mint works with a range of Linux desktop environments that make it even easier to use. The default Cinnamon desktop is a great pairing as it is highly intuitive with a conventional feel. 

Can You Run Linux Mint on Raspberry Pi?

This very user-friendly Linux OS should be a perfect match for the Raspberry Pi, but, sadly, the two have some significant incompatibilities.

There isn’t a version of Linux Mint that is suitable for the Raspberry Pi. 

Linux Mint is Only Available for the X64 Architecture

The Linux Mint OS is designed to run on a 64-bit CPU using the X64 instruction set architecture (ISA) used in conventional computing. The ISA outlines how the operating system will control the CPU and is literally the interface between the computer hardware and software OS. 

The Raspberry Pi processor is an arm processor. Advanced RISC Machines (arm) processors are much less sophisticated. They have a reduced instruction set computer (RISC) instruction set architecture that simplifies instructions given to the computer to execute tasks. 

This means that there is no way that you get directly run Linux Mint on your Raspberry Pi. It is far too complex. 

Raspberry Pi OS is Based on the Debian Linux Distro

The Raspberry Pi OS (formally Raspbian OS) is Linux-based, and like Linux Mint, is based on the Debian Linux distribution. However, it is optimized for the ARM CPUs of most Raspberry Pi single-board computers.

This quirky OS started out as an unofficial Debian port to the Raspberry Pi that was released in 2012. The Raspberry Pi Foundation developed it further and released it as the open-source Raspbian OS in 2013.

The Raspberry Pi OS Has Some Great Features 

If you are looking for a practical OS with an intuitive user interface, it is worth taking a second look at the Raspberry Pi OS as it has the appearance and functionality of a regular desktop environment.

The PIXEL desktop environment of Raspberry Pi is based on the open-source LDXE desktop, with a presentation you’d expect on Windows or macOS. 

Raspberry Pi OS provides you with a pre-installed file browser, PCManFM, that accesses all parts of the system quickly. For online browsing, use the Chromium web browser. The OS facilitates easy package installation and management via APT. 

For learning and developer activity, the Raspberry Pi OS also has several Integrated Development Environments (IDE), including Greenfoot and Thonny. 

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi has tons of great features, even though you can’t technically run Linux Mint on it!

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Still Want to Install Linux Mint?

Though you cannot run Linux Mint directly on Raspberry Pi, there may be a workaround.

You could either compile all the Linux Mint software individually from source, which is a bit of a challenge, or look for a similar Linux distro that is compatible with your Pi and add the best bits of Linux Mint for a similar experience. 

Use Ubuntu as a Bridge Between Mint and Pi

The answer to enjoying the Linux Mint experience on a Raspberry Pi may lie with the Ubuntu OS. It is the closest distribution to Linux Mint as it has great features in its own right.

Unlike Linux Mint, Ubuntu can be installed on Raspberry Pi as it is ARM compatible. Ubuntu makes a great workaround for getting Mint functionality as it has most applications in the Linux repository, meaning you can install everything you need to get Mint (including the Cinnamon desktop environment) on your Pi!

Watch This Comprehensive Tutorial to “Fake It Till You Make It” with Linux Mint on Raspberry Pi 4

Using Ubuntu as a bridge makes creating this “Linux Mint” OS easier than you think! Until they get around to creating an ARM version of Linux Mint, this is probably the best solution for you to try: 

This tutorial has what you need to get started!

Other Operating Systems You Could Run on Linux

Once you have gotten to grips with Ubuntu and Linux Mint, why not check out some of the other great Linux distros and non-Linux operating systems you can run on your Raspberry Pi?

Below are some Raspberry Pi-compatible options you might want to take a look at.

Snappy Ubuntu Core

Snappy Ubuntu Core is a much faster version of the popular Ubuntu OS. Canonical, the masterminds behind Ubuntu, developed it for the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is ideal for developing Snappy Apps that can be shared on the Snapp Store. 

Ubuntu MATE

This version of the UbuntuOS uses the MATE desktop environment, rather than the GNOME 3 desktop environment that is the default for Ubuntu. It is straightforward for beginners to get to grips with and provide stable and consistent performance on Raspberry Pi. 

CentOS

CentOS stands for Community ENTerprise Operating System (CentOS) is an open-source Linux distribution that is ideal for Linux developers. CentOS has an ARM version and you can use it on the Raspberry Pi for a variety of projects. 

FreeBSD

The FreeBSD OS is another extremely popular Linux distribution that you can readily run on your Raspberry Pi. With FreeBSD, you can use a wide range of software and it downloads easily from the internet using the command line. 

Windows 10 IoT Core

You can even get the tiniest versions of Windows, the Windows 10 IoT Core, working on your Raspberry Pi, as it leverages the Windows 10 common core architecture to create all sorts of smart devices that can run on the Pi’s board. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s crazy that you can get PC performance out of a roughly 3.4 by 2.2-inch PCB. But, the Raspberry Pi has achieved the impossible, and now garners as much attention for its computing as its educational benefits.

The Pi 4 is a great match for Linux distributions, and if you can overcome the hurdle of the ARM processors, you can benefit from all the functionality that Linux Mint and other popular distros provide.

Can You Run Linux Mint on Raspberry Pi? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can Raspberry Pi run Linux games?

Yes, you can definitely run Linux Games on your Raspberry Pi, but you may have to adjust your expectations as it does not have the processing power and memory resources of a regular PC. Examples of fun Linux games you can run natively on your Pi include Pingus and SuperTux Kart.

What’s the best OS for Raspberry Pi 4?

The Raspberry Pi OS was released on September 22nd, 2022, and is the official OS for Raspberry Pi. It is based on Debian version 11 (bullseye) and Linux Kernel version 5.15. It is available with GUI and lite versions.

Can I use a Raspberry Pi 4 as a full-time PC?

Using the Raspberry Pi 4 as a desktop would make it one of the cheapest PCs around! If you are not a heavyweight PC user who runs many programs simultaneously, a Pi might serve you well as it is powerful enough to complete typical PC tasks.

Install the operating system of your choice and download the software applications you would like to use. You can even house your Raspberry Pi in a smart enclosure like KKSB Raspberry Pi 4 Case | CNC Machined Aluminum Raspberry Pi Enclosure with Built-in Heatsink or laptop housing by purchasing a ELECROW Raspberry Pi Laptop, Crowpi2 Raspberry Pi 4 Programming Learning Kit with Sensors - Basic Kit (RPI Not Included)- Gray.

What are the hardware specifications of a Raspberry Pi 4?

Here are the headline specs of the Raspberry Pi 4: 

Processor: Broadcom BCM2711 Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz

Memory: Up to 8GB of LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM

Wireless communication standards: Wi-Fi 5 ( IEEE 802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.0, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Gigabit Ethernet

Ports: 

  • Two micro-HDMI ports 
  • One 2-lane MIPI DSI display port
  • One 2-lane MIPI CSI camera port
  • Card slot for Micro-SD card (load OS here)
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • Two USB 3.0 ports 

40-pin GPIO header 

Audio and composite video port (4-pole)

Power:

  • 5V DC over  USB-C
  • 5V DC over GPIO header
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Can you run MS Word on a Raspberry Pi?

No. MS Word is not ARM compatible. Like Linux Mint, it is X64 (or X86).

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