CachyOS is a new rising star in the Linux world, promising to be user-friendly and highly performant by utilizing modified Linux kernels.
Arch Linux is known for two things: its complicated installation for beginners and the unlimited customization options it provides. So, it is unsurprising that distros like Manjaro and EndeavourOS attempt to minimize the first and make the most of the second.
But, as is often the case in the diverse world of Linux, there is always room for someone with a different point of view. CachyOS is a new kid on the block, comparable to Manjaro and EndeavourOS but focuses on other goals.
What Is CachyOS Linux?
CachyOS is a new Arch-based desktop-oriented Linux distro that aims to provide users with improved performance while being simple. Targeting more advanced Linux users, like Arch, it follows the rolling release model, which means there are no new versions fixed in time, but all software is continuously updated over time.
The installation, which can be challenging for many users who want to try Arch, is done entirely in graphical mode here, using the well-known Calamares installer. In other words, even novice Linux users should have no trouble installing CachyOS.
According to the developers, the installer will autodetect your machine microarchitecture, and if x86-64-v3 is found, it will automatically use the optimized packages, resulting in a 10% performance gain.
Moreover, you can install the OS either offline or online. Like a typical Arch install, the latter will download the most recent packages.
CachyOS’s underlying default file system is XFS, but during the installation, you can also choose between different filesystem options, which are automatically optimized for SSDs if one is detected.
CachyOS’s flagship desktop environment is KDE Plasma, and as expected from a rolling release Linux distro, you always get the most recent and up-to-date version.
Furthermore, various KDE and Plasma tools, such as KScreen, KWin, KWindowSystem, Plasma-Desktop, Plasma-Wayland-Session, Plasma-Workspace, and QT5-Tools, are compiled with a set of flags to improve performance.
On top of that, Plasma has been slightly modified with a color scheme and icon theme to give it that electric dark blue look that reflects the CachyOS developers’ views. Of course, we can argue if this is the best option if we discuss eye comfort.
In addition to the default Plasma, CachyOS provides the entire range of desktop environments that Linux users expect. This includes GNOME, Xfce, LXQt, Openbox, the tiling window managers i3 and bspwm, and the less popular and exotic Wayfire, CuteFish, and others.
The option to install CachyOS without a graphical desktop environment is exciting and deserves admiration. This is helpful if you plan to use the distribution for server needs or want to follow Arch’s way and build your system according to your preferences and needs.
Of course, the users can also install all of these desktop environments once they have the CachyOS system up and running.
Software & Tools
We’ve come to the most exciting part of CachyOS: the available software, mainly its developers’ main focus, especially performance-wise modified Linux kernel variations.
Here is the main idea. Generally, every Intel/AMD CPU supports the x86-64 architecture. However, as technology rapidly evolved and improvements were discovered, new instructions were produced and used to enable better functionality, improved runtime reliability, more stable code, and so on.
CachyOS builds on the stock Linux kernel provided by Arch by modifying and compiling it with some added flags to improve performance, which makes sense, especially if you have a recent-generation CPU.
Furthermore, the developers provide an in-house made Kernel Manager tool that allows you to select and install a specially optimized version of the Linux kernel.
Installing a new kernel is a breeze. First, start the CachyOS Kernel Manager app, select one of the available kernels you wish to install, and press the “Execute” button.
Slightly puzzling, in the default installation, the developers have opted to include several similar graphical tools for installing software on Arch and Arch-based Linux distros, which may cause confusion about which tool the user should use.
However, in addition to the well-known Octopi and Pamac, users get the in-house built CachyOS Package Installer, which supplements the suite of graphical software management tools.
The software is conveniently grouped into categories, making it much easier to find and install the application you need.
Of course, command-line experts can use Pacman to perform all package management tasks. But if you’re unsure how to use it, our comprehensive guide on the subject, “How to Install, Remove, and Update Software on Arch Linux,” will come in handy.
While we’re on the subject of software management, it’s worth noting that users can fully utilize Arch’s AUR repository, as the software there is fully compatible with CachyOS. However, if you’re unsure how to use AUR, check out our article “How to Install AUR Packages in Arch Linux.”
CachyOS has chosen the user-friendly but not so-popular Fish shell as its default. In addition, the inclusion in the base installation of the Micro text editor as well as the Linux Mint’s Timeshift app for OS backup and restoration makes a good impression.
Cachy Browser, a fork of the Firefox-based Librewolf browser, is the default browser. However, it comes preinstalled with several security-related extensions and is compiled with more secure and performance-related flags.
CachyOS is a very young Linux distribution still in its infancy, so we should not judge it too harshly. However, I would like to make a few remarks.
The distribution’s appearance, with its electric blue on the dark blue theme, gives some teen-hackerish feel. In addition, the icons are so identical that it is easy to lose track of whatever app you’re in. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
Furthermore, we have three package managers all doing the same thing. So, they have no advantage other than confusing users. At the same time, the lack of an office suite is evident. So, it may be a good idea to consider including one.
Last but not least – is the browser. Probably the essential app for the majority of users. It is difficult for a desktop-centric distro to attract users by not including the well-known Firefox or, at the very least, Chrome/Chromium by default.
Cachy Browser’s preinstalled extensions make things worse. For example, the Dark Reader add-on. It is beyond my understanding why the CachyOS devs decided that all sites should be forced into a dark theme, regardless of the user’s preferences or if the sites are even intended to be used in that mode.
Nevertheless, the amount of work done on distribution is enormous. These performance improvements show the time and effort spent building CachyOS. However, because it is more of a benchmark topic, the actual performance is unlikely to be noticeable to the average Linux user.
In other words, under the hood, everything seems good, and we can only admire the devs’ efforts. However, the presentation part, the one that faces users, remains a feeling of choices based on fan bias and does not work in favor of the distro.
With a bit more attention to detail, CachyOS has the potential to compete with its larger brethren that have earned the honor of being listed among the best Arch-based Linux distros.