The all-new user-friendly and performance-optimized Arch Linux derivative


Arch Linux has become popular among Linux experts due to its customization and use of latest software, but it also has a reputation for being difficult to install.

CachyOS is an Arch-based distro that aims for both performance and usability. Is CachyOS for you? Let’s find out.

What is CachyOS?

Based on Arch, CachyOS comes with a few key changes. Most notable is that it actually installs a default desktop environment. The default choice is KDE Plasma, but others are available.

CachyOS also tries to adapt its performance to your machine. There are several alternate kernels available suitable for specific hardware.

Install CachyOS on a PC

CachyOS Installer

Installing CachyOS is similar to installing any other Linux distribution. You download the ISO and extract it to your bootable media, then boot your machine with it in the drive or USB port. You will be greeted with a live environment and from there you get a welcome screen and the option to start the installer.

A key difference from its parent distribution is that CachyOS actually has an installer instead of requiring you to type commands at the command line. A CLI is also available for those who need it.

You will configure your partition scheme and select your region and language, among other things. The partition screen seems a bit difficult to use compared to other systems because their terminology seems a bit different from other distributions.

You can choose between offline or online installation. The latter will download the latest packages, similar to a classic Arch installation. This option did not work when tested on a virtual machine.

The offline installer uses only the software provided with the installation image.

CachyOS desktop environment

CachyOS seems to want to offer a lot of choices for a default desktop. KDE Plasma is the most prominent choice, but CachyOS supports a number of popular Linux desktop environments, all with a custom dark theme. You can get an installer with Cutefish, i3, GNOME, Openbox, Wayfire, LXQT, bspwm, Kofuku, and XFCE.

While CachyOS bills itself as a user-friendly alternative to a stock Arch installation, having all of these choices available at once can feel overwhelming for new users. It might have been better to choose an environment to focus on, since more experienced Linux users will just install their favorites through the package manager.

CachyOS KDE Desktop

The default KDE environment looks attractive and responds quickly, even in a low spec virtual machine.

cache browser

CachyOS includes a custom version of Firefox called Cachy Browser. Other apps included include Micro Text Editor, Qt Assistant, Qt Designer, Qt Linguist, and QT QDBusViewer. It makes sense when you know that KDE is built on top of the Qt toolkit.

Despite the browser and those Qt dev tools, there isn’t much beyond the standard KDE system. LibreOffice is not even installed like on most other desktop Linux distributions. If you want to use it on CachyOS, you’ll need to install it through the package manager, unless you’re using Google Docs or Sheets through the browser.

Package management in CachyOS

CachyOS Package Manager

Package management seems straightforward. If you’re already familiar with Arch and Pacman, you can simply update everything at once with the familiar pacman command:

sudo pacman -Syu

With CachyOS’ attempt at usability, there’s also a graphical way to update packages. As CachyOS is quite similar to its parent distribution, Arch Linux, you might find yourself running it more often than on other systems, as Arch is a streaming distribution and packages are released as soon as they are ready.

The GUI utility simply displays the offered packages that you can update. You can check or uncheck certain packages. Most of the time, you’ll want to update whatever is available, but sometimes bugs pop up, so you might want to wait for a certain package. It can also be intimidating for new users.

CachyOS aims to balance usability and transparency. When the update runs, it displays a text window like a terminal, running the pacman command. It will also tell you when you want to reboot, usually after installing things like the kernel.

As with its parent Arch, since it updates so quickly, you might find yourself rebooting a lot. If availability is important to you, you better be served with another distro.

How does CachyOS work?

Although CachyOS makes claims about software optimization, it can be difficult to tell the difference from other distros. The type of hardware and desktop environment you install and use will likely determine the actual performance of CachyOS.

A faster machine running a lightweight desktop like LXQt will probably fly, while a lower spec machine with a more demanding desktop like GNOME or KDE will be slower.

CachyOS or regular Arch? The moment of truth

CachyOS, despite all its promises, still seems incomplete. The lack of an office suite, while not a dealbreaker, will limit its appeal even though it’s easy to install separately. The installer still looks obscure to non-technical users. Even his website still seems incomplete, with a link to a model.

For those who want a more established community, there are other choices. Manjaro is another attempt to make Arch more user-friendly.

For those with a more technical bent who want to do their homework before installing, the original Arch distribution might be better suited. Although the installation is more complex, it is done only once and you can customize Arch to your needs. Arch also has a very good wiki which makes it easier to understand the more technical aspects of the distribution.

CachyOS is a young distro, so there will be some inevitable growing pains. If it can attract a community of users like other Arch-based distros, CachyOS could win. This will require a lot of attention to detail from the developers to create a more polished experience.

It will be interesting to see how this distro evolves in the future. With its parent launch pace, it won’t take long.

An Arch Linux-based newcomer to watch

CachyOS is another attempt to take Arch Linux and make it accessible to less technical users. CachyOS may be the new kid on the block, but there are already a few distros like Manjaro and EndeavourOS that aim to make Arch more accessible.

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