Is CentOS 5.0 Worth Every Penny?

Is CentOS 5.0 Worth Every Penny?: CentOS is a Linux distribution based on the ever reliable Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The name stands for Community ENTerprise Operating System and is not in any way related to a coin :-) The main purpose of CentOS is rebuilding the commercial RHEL and makes it available to those who want the reliability of an enterprise class operating system minus the cost.

I have used Fedora and RHEL before but have never tried any of their derivative distros. Then just recently, a new version of CentOS live CD was released so I got curious and wanted to try it out. I downloaded the almost 700MB ISO, and for my 384 kbps broadband connection it took about 7 hours to complete. Again, I utilized the very handy VMWare for testing as with most Linux distros I have tried before, to see how well it performed without physically installing it on my HDD. It also helps save time and resources as I don’t have to burn the ISO to a CD to use it. So now I’m going to share some experiences I had using 5.0 CentOS.

Test Machine Specs:
Board: Intel Corporation D102GGC2
Processor: 3.40 GHz Intel Pentium D
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB ATA with 8GB allocated to VM disk
Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM with 512MB allocated to VM memory
Display: RADEON X300/X550 Series [Display adapter]

The first version of CentOS, CentOS 3 build4-rc0, was released in the end of 2003. CentOS is 100% compatible rebuild of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in full compliance with Red Hat's redistribution requirements. CentOS has made its own name and become popular by ranking number 12 in Distrowatch.

The download site for CentOS can be found here. The live CD cannot be used as an installer, take note of that. It’s made only for testing and as a rescue CD. So I booted CentOS and it detected every major component of the VMWare system. The funny part was when logging in; you can press enter and login as guest, or you can login as root. But what is the root password? Let’s play finders keepers! No, I will just give it to you. It’s: 12qwaszx.

Look and Feel:
The highest set of resolution I can have on my 19 inch screen monitor is only 800x600. CentOS has a GNOME desktop and a very Fedora-like theme which is plain and simple. There are no extra wallpapers except for the few already included by default in Gnome. There’s nothing really fancy to see except for the Desktop Effects icon that will let you activate Compiz with just a few clicks. That is if you have a capable graphics card.

Package Management:
A good lineup of software is included in the live CD. There’s 2.0.4, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim 2.0.0, Scribus 1.3.3, XChat 2.6.6, K3b 0.12.17 and GIMP 2.2.13. As a rescue CD, there is a full set of LVM and RAID command line tools; QTParted; Nmap and NMapFE; graphical traceroute; Samba 3.0.23c with CIFS kernel support to connect to Windows file shares; system log viewer; GUI hardware device manager. The only setback is that the CD has a non writable /usr directory, which means it is not able to have additional software installed on it after boot-up.

It is based on RHEL so there’s no doubt about CentOS's stability. I have tried opening numerous programs without encountering problems. I also successfully ran several Python scripts with it. I really didn’t find CentOS to be that fast but it works and most if not all of the included applications are functional. As a live CD only, I could say that it is solid enough.

So is CentOS 5.0 worth every penny? Not really. A live CD of its size should have been a little more complete. Even the smaller-sized Zenwalk can do much better than CentOS live. If its main purpose is merely for testing or for rescuing a broken system, lots of mini distributions can do the job just the same. CentOS 5.0 live CD edition shouldn’t have been released in the first place because it is not ready yet. For now, I wouldn’t recommend downloading it because it’s just a waste of time. But to those who are really eager to try CentOS, perhaps the DVD installer version will do just fine based on the good things I’ve heard about it in some reviews. Maybe I will download that version also, that is after I have fully recovered from my disappointment with the Live CD. However, I still consider CentOS as one of the best Linux web servers around.

*RELATED POST: In Response to


  1. This is a very informative review. I would like you to take a look at Absolute Linux also if you have time.

  2. The review must have been done after using the CentOS dvd. It contains all the available packages and is full-fledged. Also centos is better known for security and stability combined with long term support.(7 years to be exact). Included is the advantage of xen and the fact that it runs on multiple architectures. I wonder if this review is fair from the Centos point of view.

  3. I find the review fair as the guy is only talking about the Live CD and not the DVD version of CentOS. I have tried the live cd myself and it froze at boot on my P4, 512 MB computer. It sucks really and I thought they release it prematurely.

  4. I don't think it is a fair review as the aim of CentOS is not being used as a livecd, and the aim of the livecd is to be a rescue tool not a full distro.

  5. I found out that you do not need to download the DVD or all 6 cds to install. You can download the first cd and at the point you hit enter to start the install at the command prompt type linux askmethod which will allow you to choose a install method. You can choose ftp or http and enter the appropriate information to download packages as they are installed. I choose http as the method and used the following site to get the packages:

    For the HTTP site:

    For the packages path (or whatever it is called, I know it is the line after site info)

  6. The limitation on screen resolution is likely a VMware limitation. Speed is also likely slower under VMware. I use VMware, too, but I wouldn't judge an operating system by its performance in a virtual environment, unless I was planning to use it only in that environment.

  7. Thank you all for the comments. Richard you should read my review on NimbleX or try it on VMWare to see how fast it is and how you can easily and succesfully change the screen resolution even in VMWare.

  8. I really do think you should stop doing reviews now. Based on your other articles, its really apparent that you dont know what you are talking about.

    CentOS is an ENTerprise Operating System. This live CD is primarily for Workstation usage. Probably something you have no familiarity with since you mention Zenwalk in the review and NimbleX in the comments (which are aimed at "USER" usage).

    Also, what kind of review is this? Its in VM, only 512MB of RAM is allocated, there is no 3D with VM (yet), what applications did you install and run? What direct comparisons can you garner from ubuntu for example? What about wireless? Etc, Etc.

    You really are a poor tech source. As others have said. Stop reviewing for the love of god.

  9. Did the author of this article try the entire CentOS distribution? I have and found it to be just fine. This review is basically useless.

  10. I completely agree with others' comments: this review is useless and the title is misleading.

    Let's have a look at the the release announcement:

    --------- [begin quote] ---------
    The CentOS Development team is pleased to announce the availability of
    the CentOS 5 i386 Live CD.

    This CD is based on our CentOS-5.0 i386 distribution.

    It can be used as a Workstation, with the following software: 2.0.4

    It can also be used as a rescue CD with the following tools:

    1. Full set of LVM and RAID command line tools
    2. QTParted
    3. Nmap and NMapFE
    4. Graphical Traceroute
    5. samba-3.0.23c with cifs kernel support to connect to Windows file shares
    6. System Log Viewer
    7. GUI Hardware Device Manager
    --------- [end quote] ---------


    --------- [begin quote] ---------
    This CD has a non writable /usr directory, which means it is not able to
    have software installed on it after boot up. The CentOS team is working
    hard to create a Live CD for CentOS 5 that is based on the Fedora Live
    CD Project (that is writable in all directories and even able to be used
    for installs) ... unfortunately we were not able to get this working
    with CentOS 5 for this release. We hope to get that Live CD working by
    the release of CentOS 5.1.

    That means that the purposes of this CD are to see if CentOS will
    boot/work on your hardware, to test some of the features of CentOS as a
    workstation, and to use as a Rescue CD. It does not contain all the
    features of the 7 CD CentOS 5 Distribution on one CD :)

    ---------[end quote]---------

    Clearly, the LiveCD is not designed to illustrate full potential of CentOS 5.

    When I look at the title, I fully expect a review of a fully installed CentOS and the evaluation of its majot components. How does it function as a server? How dos it compared to RHEL? etc.

    Sadly, there is no review of such.

    What a waste of time!

  11. This is the most amusing "review" (and I use the term loosely) I've ever read. I don't even use CentOS, never have, probably never will, but this review is a bloody joke.

    You review a Live CD, talk fairly positively about it, and then say it's not worth it? You tested stability by opening a few programs and running some *python* scripts? WTF? How is that supposed to test anything? Try doing some *real* stress-testing.. firing up OOo and the gimp at the same time and running "hello world" in python is the most useless stress-test on the planet.

    I'd recommend using a unique security-oriented distro such as Annvix, but since it requires more technical prowess than this reviewer has, I'd cringe to see what kind of review would come out of it. Gentoo as well, for that matter.

    Stick to Ubuntu, fan-boy.

  12. Thank you all for your comments on this review. I couldn't add mine until now.
    I have observed that a lot of web hosting servers (and reseller hosting services) out there run CentOS. This appears to be one of the main uses of this wonderful OS. I was therefore surprised that the review did not discuss the really relevant aspects of the distribution. The review was actually totally useless to me too.

  13. The reason for CentOS (from my perspective) is to run commercial applications that require RedHat.

    It works fine for that, becuase it essentially IS RedHat.

  14. I believe that there are plenty of CentOS supporters in here but I respect your opinions and you are free to say whatever you like. First of all, you should carefully read my post entitled “In Response to Beranger” as I clarified some key issues regarding the review. Second, I have used and reviewed plenty of distributions myself, perhaps more than most of you have used, that I believe is enough for me to honestly and fairly judge a specific distro that I have tested. Lastly, I don’t intend to mislead people as my review is only based on my own opinion and solely based on the tests I made. And as I’ve always said and I’ll say it again, “I may have my own favourite distro like most Linux users have, but I strive to be fair each and every time I do a review for the sake of reliability.”

  15. After upgrading to CentOS 5.0 on my wife's machine, several things no longer worked, including sound and DVD playing. After reverting back to CentOS 4.5 everything worked again.

    I'd recommend waiting until 5.1 or 5.2, after they've worked out the bugs.

    That said, I highly recommend version 4.5 for its stability and usefulness. It's what I use on my production machine.

  16. Hi, I run a Blog called!
    I read your review on CentOS 5, it was well written,
    would you be interested at all in reviewing Fedora 8
    and openSUSE 10.3? I need other writers/reviews/Linux Users/Developers to review all the distributions out there and then I can publish the best ones. My hope is to have a National Magazine published in USA a la the UK's Linux Format. Please contact me at if you like to help out!

    Mark McLaughlin -

  17. reviewers, that is... Sorry, I wrote it very fast, ha ha!


  18. Strange review. It should have been titled, "Is a cursory look at the CentOS LIVE CD worth every penny?"

  19. It's a shame that with a title like this, the article attracts clicks from users who expect to read some usefull review. Not only did I find your "review" useless and misleading, but I felt obligated to post a comment, asking you to at least change the title to better represent the article content.

  20. Strange, I seem to have missed the Oracle, Mysql, and Posgres tests. I also missed the apache, tomcat, and jboss tests. Perhaps there supposed to be a link to a page 2 where you tested the enterprise features or an enterprise OS?

    Why would anyone have beryl on RHEL? Heck.. Why would you put X on RHEL?


  21. Cent0S LiveCD is a misleading distro. It has a desktop effect installed by default that has no use but to attract people from downloading it. If CentOS LiveCD is only meant as a rescue CD or as a server then why would they include Compiz or even X by default. WTF!


    The above URL has a copy of the same post and appears to be claiming ownership.

    The below URL has information on how to file a DMCA take-down notice if you object to such use. The fact that the author is not attributed is enough cause to get it taken down.

  23. Thanks so much for the info etbe.

  24. the review for people doing on a CD. he said it is not working well. maybe the dvd version is better. but the point is, that, they should just remove the cd, instead of wasting peoples time, and frustrating people, who then have to investigate the DVD. why are they making people do all this work?

  25. What a strange review. I hadn't used CentOS until I started my current job (I've used RHEL and SLES) and I find CentOS to be fantastic. It's reliable, easy to install and maintain and just plain works well, just like any other Enterprise OS. If all you want is a Pokemon distro then I guess CentOS might be too fully-featured for you.

    I'll add my note surprise to all the others about your testing methodology. You say "I have used and reviewed plenty of distributions myself, perhaps more than most of you have used, that I believe is enough for me to honestly and fairly judge a specific distro that I have tested". I think it's fair to say that if all your tests are conducted in the same way as this one they're all equally worthless. You really haven't bothered to think about how you go about this task and to give reviews based on these "tests" (that you expect to be taken seriously) is amazing.

  26. I too will have to echo some of the negative comments. The overview was positive and out of nowhere you conclude that CentOS is no good. No tests, no objective data, nothing to explain the sudden determination that the OS is no good. I am just trying CentOS out now and find that it's pretty neat (being primarily a Windows user), but I just can't understand calling this a review. It... it just isn't.

  27. Ehhh, I wouldn't call this a review.

    CentOS is a server / enterprise OS. I've never seen a box that does anything important in a datacenter boot from a liveCD to do it's job. LiveCDs are great tools, but they are for recovery / troubleshooting.

    The author complains about the liveCD being 700MB, and not having enough features, but again, this is a rescue environment. It's also not CentOS's fault that the author's internet connection is slow.

    What kind of metrics were used to determine that 'CentOS was not that fast'? Running a few commands/scripts in a liveCD environment on a VM, which only has CPU cycles allocated to it by the host OS. So resource allocation already plays a part in the equation, then add the fact that none of the commands / scripts were timed and compared with results on similar hardware and a different distro, but just run. It was just "slow", according to a guy that thinks a vmware boot of a liveCD is a valid way to test or review a server OS. That doesn't carry any weight with me.

    I made an airplane out of paper, and it was really fast! I don't know how fast exactly, but it was fast enough to fly when I threw it. It is for this reason that I recommend my paper airplane over the Boeing 747, which seems slow to me. Whenever I see a 747 fly by, it moves really slow, but my paper airplane was really quick!

  28. Useless review.

    I have used Centos as a desktop distro, forced to use Ubuntu at the mo.

    My experience is that for number crunching that I do Cnet is 20-30% faster than Hardy.

  29. >> After upgrading to CentOS 5.0 on my wife's machine, several things no longer worked...

    Who, on the earth, installs CentOS for his wife?

  30. centOs is aight but not even in ubuntu's league.