openSUSE Leap vs Tumbleweed, Difference Between Them Explained

Difference Between openSUSE Leap and Tumbleweed Explained

The openSUSE project offers two distributions: Tumbleweed, which is a rolling distribution and Leap, which is a point distribution. Leap vs Tumbleweed is a frequently discussed topic among openSUSE supporters. Let’s find out what are the differences between them and which one is more suitable for you.

In 2015, the openSUSE project restructured, creating two versions: Leap and Tumbleweed.

  • Leap is openSUSE’s regular-release with guaranteed stability. It is a regular release, in that it does have specific versions (15.0, 15.1, 15.2) released in a regular cadence.
  • Tumbleweed is a rolling release, in that the distribution is constantly updating. Users always have access to the newest Linux packages.

Main differences between Leap and Tumbleweed

While openSUSE Leap users “jump” from one version to another, openSUSE Tumbleweed users are constantly “rolling” in the only version that exists. It is always the latest one, with the latest software.

Leap has been rock solid, and so has Tumbleweed. Updates work great with Leap as they have with Tumbleweed. The most significant difference is that Leap does tend to have just a touch older version of packages. Leap also seems to favor LTS versions of packages that, given its purpose, it’s not unexpected.

Probably the most significant difference between both comes down to Leap feeling more enterprise than Tumbleweed.

The major difference between Tumbleweed and Leap is in the consideration of when and where they should be installed. Because Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution and is tied very closely to openSUSE development, it generally should not be installed in a situation where stability is a high priority. That obviously means it is not well suited for production systems where downtime would be a significant problem.

Another differences between Tumbleweed and Leap is in the day-to-day operation of the system. The frequency and number of updates that come through. It is not unusual for Tumbleweed to announce new updates are available every day. On the other hand, Leap’s updates come through much less frequently.

Leap it’s rock solid

openSUSE Leap it is more stable and only uses the well-tested base of SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE). The primary target is stable systems. This means for enterprises or data centers running crucial applications that need the reliability of the operating system. Therefore they can go for OpenSUSE Leap.

The release cycle of openSUSE Leap versions is around one year and get extended support for up to 2 years before finally achieve End-of-Life.

Tumbleweed for power users

If you opt openSUSE Tumbleweed to install over openSUSE Leap on your system then you don’t have wait for long periodic cycles to get the latest versions. That means more chance to experience and test new things or applications. But any rolling release runs the risk of breaking after an update. That is the price you pay for up to date, cutting edge software.

However, with that said, openSUSE does an outstanding job with quality control before releasing a new snapshot. Therefore, it can be confidently said that Tumbleweed can be classified as a completely reliable.

openSUSE Leap vs Tumbleweed, Pros and Cons

Tumbleweed Pros

  • The very latest of everything QA tested and coherently served to your system.
  • Rolling model: no version upgrade, no End-of-Life.
  • Feature recently added: you can slow down the updating by sticking on a snapshot.
  • Live ISO available for KDE, Gnome, XFCE (it’s the rescue ISO).

Tumbleweed Cons

  • Something is changing everyday.
  • Not friendly to proprietary kernel modules (because the kernel is updated frequently).
  • Rough edges come along from time to time.

Leap Cons

  • It remains the same, meaning not changing your workflow for about 3 years. It changes when a major release is released.
  • Kernel receiving backports but not changing (proprietary modules friendly).
  • Once set up it’s rock solid.
  • Pretty close to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE). On Gnome you can even choose the SLE Classic look.

Leap Cons

  • You’ll need to add external repos if you want something to be very up to date.
  • The support to new hardware is coming at a slow pace and with some limit because relaying on feature backporting.
  • Distro upgrades required once in a year.


openSUSE Leap is best suited for novice users and organizations, who tend to avoid frequent updates. If you’re first moving to OpenSUSE you should stick with Leap. It’s massively stable and you won’t have any issues with it updating things and having them break. New and experienced Linux users get the most usable Linux distribution and stabilized operating system with openSUSE’s regular release.

openSUSE Tumbleweed is preferred by enthusiastic users who want bleeding edge Linux. It appeals to Power Users and Software Developers. They want the most up to date software and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you require the latest software stacks and Integrated Development Environment or need a stable platform closest to bleeding edge Linux, Tumbleweed is the best choice for you.

So, Leap or Tumbleweed? Which one do you prefer?

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