Manjaro vs Arch Linux: What’s the Difference? Which one is better?

Manjaro or Arch Linux? If Manjaro is based on Arch, why is it different from Arch? Read how Arch and Manjaro differ in this comparison article.

Most beginner-friendly Linux distributions are based on Ubuntu. As Linux users get more experienced, some try the ‘advanced distributions’, mostly in the ‘Arch domain’.

This Arch domain is dominated by two distributions: Arch Linux yourself and Manjaro. There are other Arch-based Linux distributions out there, but none are as popular as these two.

If you’re confused between Arch and Manjaro, this comparison should help you.

Manjaro and Arch Linux: How Different or Similar Are They?

I tried to compare these two distributions on several points. Please keep in mind that I have not focused solely on the differences. I also pointed out where they are similar.

Both are rolling release distributions, but not of the same kind

There are no “releases” every few months or years in Arch and Manjaro like Ubuntu or Fedora. Easily keep your Arch or Manjaro system up to date and you will always have the latest version of the operating system and software packages. You no longer have to worry about upgrading your installed version.

If at any point you are planning to do a fresh install, keep in mind that both Manjaro and Arch update the installation ISO regularly. It’s called ISO refresh and ensures that newly installed systems don’t have to install all of the new system updates that have been made available in the past few months.

But there is a difference between Arch and Manjaro’s rolling release model.

Manjaro maintains its own independent repositories with the exception of the community-managed Arch User Repository (AUR). These repositories also contain software packages not provided by Arch. Popular software packages originally provided by the official Arch repositories are first thoroughly tested (and patched if necessary) before being released for public use in Manjaro’s own stable repositories, usually about two weeks after Arch.

Arch vs Manjaro Repository Comparison

One consequence of adapting to this testing process is that Manjaro will never be quite as modern as Arch. But then it makes Manjaro a little more stable than Arch and less prone to damaging your system.

Package management – Pacman and Pamac

Both Arch and Manjaro ship with a command-line-based package management tool called Pacman, which is coded in C and uses tar to package applications. In other words, you can use the same pacman commands to manage packages in both distributions.

In addition to Pacman, Manjaro has also developed a GUI application called Pamac to easily install software on Manjaro. This makes Manjaro easier to use than Arch.

Pamac
Pamac GUI Package Manager from Manjaro

Note that you can also install Pamac into Arch Linux from AUR, but the tool is an integral part of Manjaro.

Manjaro Hardware Detection Tool (MHWD)

Pamac isn’t the only GUI tool developed by the Manjaro team to help its users. Manjaro also has a special tool to detect hardware and suggest drivers for it.

Hardware detection
GUI tool for Manjaro hardware configuration

This hardware detection tool is so useful that it can be one of the main reasons Manjaro is loved by the community. It’s insanely easy to spot / install / use or switch from one driver to another, and makes hardware compatibility a thing of the past.

Driver support

Manjaro has great support for GPU drivers. As we’ve all known for many years, Linux has problems installing drivers (especially Nvidia).

During the Manjaro installation, there are options to begin installing open source (free) or non-open source (not free) graphics drivers. If you choose “not free”, it will automatically detect your graphics card and install the most suitable driver for it and therefore the GPU will work immediately.

Installing the graphics driver is easier even after installing Manjaro, thanks to the hardware detection tool you saw in the previous section.

And if you have a system with Nvidia Optimus card (hybrid GPU) it will work fine with Manjaro. You are given a lot of ways to get it working.

In Arch Linux, if you can find it, you’ll need to install the appropriate drivers for your computer.

Access to the Arch User Repository (AUR)

Arch User Repository (AUR) is a community-driven repository for users of Arch-based Linux distributions. The AUR was created to organize and share new packages from the community and to speed up the addition of popular packages to the Community repository.

A good number of new packages going into the official repositories start in the AUR. In the AUR, users can contribute their own package builds (PKGBUILD and associated files).

You can use AUR in both Arch and Manjaro.

Desktop environments

Alright! You can use virtually any desktop environment on any Linux distribution. Arch and Manjaro are no exception.

However, a dedicated desktop variant or version makes it easier for users to have a seamless experience with the aforementioned desktop environments.

The standard Arch ISO does not contain a desktop environment. For example, if you want to install KDE on Arch Linux, you must download and install it either during the Arch Linux installation or afterwards.

Manjaro, on the other hand, offers different ISOs for desktop environments such as Xfce, KDE and GNOME. The Manjaro community also manages ISO for MATE, Cinnamon, LXDE, LXQt, OpenBox, and more.

Installation procedure

Arch live boot
Arch live boot

Manjaro is based on Arch Linux and is Arch compatible, however it’s not arch. It’s not even a pre-configured version of Arch with just a graphical installer. Arch doesn’t come with the usual convenience, which is why most people prefer something simpler. Manjaro offers you an easy start, but supports you on your way to becoming an experienced user or power user.

Documentation and support

Both Arch and Manjaro have their own wiki pages and support forums to help out their respective users.

While Manjaro a decent one Wiki for the documentation that Arch Wiki plays in a completely different league. Detailed information on every aspect of Arch Linux can be found on the Arch Wiki.

target group

The main difference is that Arch is aimed at users with a do-it-yourself attitude who are willing to read the documentation and solve their own problems.

On the other hand, Manjaro is aimed at Linux users who are not that experienced or who don’t want to spend time assembling the operating system.

diploma

Some people often say that Manjaro is for those who can’t install Arch. But I think that’s not true. Not everyone wants to configure Arch from scratch or doesn’t have a lot of time.

Manjaro is definitely a beast, but a very different type of beast from Arch. Fast, powerful and always up to date, Manjaro has all the advantages of an Arch operating system, but with a special focus on Stability, ease of use and accessibility for newcomers and experienced users.

Manjaro’s minimalism doesn’t go as far as Arch Linux. With Arch, you start with a blank canvas and manually adjust each setting. When the standard Arch installation is complete, you will have a running Linux instance at the command line. Would you like a graphical desktop environment? Go ahead – there is plenty to choose from. Choose one, install, and configure it. You will learn so much from it, especially if you are new to Linux. You will get an excellent understanding of how the system is related and why things are installed as they are.

Hope you understand Arch and Manjaro better now. You understand how similar yet different they are.

I gave my opinion. Don’t hesitate to share yours in the comment section. Between Arch and Manjaro, which one do you prefer and why.

With additional input from Abhishek Prakash.