openSUSE Leap vs. Tumbleweed: Difference Between Them Explained

openSUSE Leap vs. Tumbleweed. Find out their differences and which one distribution is more suitable for you.

In 2015, the openSUSE project was restructured, creating two versions: Leap, which is a point distribution, and Tumbleweed, which is a rolling distribution.

  • Leap is openSUSE’s regular release with guaranteed stability. It is a regular release in that it does have specific versions (15.2, 15.3, 15.4) released in a regular cadence.
  • Tumbleweed is a rolling release in that the distribution is constantly updating. This ensures that users have permanent access to the most recent Linux software.

Main Differences Between Leap and Tumbleweed

While openSUSE Leap users “jump” from one version to another, openSUSE Tumbleweed users are constantly “rolling” with the only existing version. Therefore, it is always the latest one, with the newest software.

First, let us clarify something important. Tumbleweed and Leap are both stable. Updates function nicely with both Leap and Tumbleweed.

One of the most significant differences between the two distributions is that Leap tends to feature slightly older versions of packages.

Furthermore, Leap prefers LTS versions of packages, which is not surprising considering their purpose. In addition, Leap feels more enterprise than Tumbleweed.

Another key difference is that Tumbleweed and Leap differ significantly in terms of when and where they should be installed.

Because Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution tied very closely to openSUSE development, it should not be installed in a situation where stability is a high priority.

In other words, openSUSE Tumbleweed is not well suited for production systems where downtime would be a significant problem.

The next thing that makes the difference between the two distributions is the day-to-day operation of the system. And more precisely, the frequency and number of updates that come through.

For example, 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.

openSUSE Leap is Rock Solid

openSUSE Leap is released as a frozen set of packages in a repository. Those packages receive updates via another repository, but the primary system remains unchanged. So, a user has a copy of the packages installed on their system.

openSUSE Leap Desktop

Remember, openSUSE Leap is more stable from both and only uses the well-tested SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) base. So the primary goal is reliability and stability. This means enterprises or data centers running crucial applications that need the operating system’s reliability.

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

openSUSE Tumbleweed for Power Users

openSUSE Tumbleweed differs from Leap in that the base system and packages constantly change within the same repository. The user then performs distribution upgrades each time the repository is updated.

openSUSE Tumbleweed Desktop

If you opt for Tumbleweed to install over openSUSE Leap on your system, you don’t have to wait long periodic cycles to get the latest versions.

That means more chances to experience and test new things or applications. However, any rolling release runs the risk of breaking after an update. That is the price you pay for up-to-date, cutting-edge software.

Tumbleweed Snapshots

openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots provide a separate repository for each snapshot of Tumbleweed. Users thus have a remote repository that matches their installed system.

Unlike the single repository approach, where installing a new package may come from a more recent snapshot and not fit into the installed system, new packages are ensured to fit properly with snapshot repositories.

This provides the benefits of bleeding edge software when you need it without the hassle of updating to install new software. In effect, openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots act like many mini-fixed releases, so you can choose when to update.

In other words, openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots is a layer of repository management software and an associated history of official-release snapshots that logically sits above the standard tumbleweed official release repository.

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 entirely reliable.

openSUSE Leap vs. Tumbleweed

Let us summarize all that has been mentioned thus far so that you clearly understand the benefits and drawbacks of both distributions.

Tumbleweed Pros

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

Tumbleweed Cons

  • Changes to the system happen almost daily.
  • Not friendly to proprietary kernel modules (because the kernel is updated frequently).
  • Your system may have issues from time to time.

Leap Pros

  • Pretty close to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE).
  • It remains the same, meaning not changing your workflow for about three years. It changes when a major release is released.
  • Kernel receiving backports but not changing (proprietary modules friendly).
  • Once set up, it is rock solid.

Leap Cons

  • You’ll need to add external repos if you want something to be very up to date.
  • The support for new hardware is coming slowly and with some limits because of relying on feature backporting.
  • Distro upgrades are required once a year.


openSUSE Leap is best suited for novice Linux users and organizations looking for stability and tending to avoid frequent updates. So, if you’re first moving to openSUSE, you should stick with Leap.

It is massively stable, and you won’t have any issues with it updating things and having them break. In other words, users get the most usable Linux distribution and stabilized operating system with openSUSE’s regular release.

Related: What is the Linux Operating System?

At the same time, openSUSE Tumbleweed is preferred by enthusiastic users who want bleeding-edge Linux. Tumbleweed appeals to power users and software developers because they want the most up-to-date software.

Therefore, if you require the latest software stacks and Integrated Development Environments or need a reliable platform closest to bleeding-edge Linux, Tumbleweed is the best choice.

So, Leap or Tumbleweed? Which one do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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