Differences Between Pop!_OS and Ubuntu Edit on GitHub

What’s the difference between Pop!_OS and Ubuntu?

Pop!_OS is built from the Ubuntu repositories (meaning you get the same access to software as Ubuntu), but it’s not simply Ubuntu with some changes on top. The easiest way to see and feel the difference is to give both a try, but this doc will also give you a fairly expansive run down.

We build Pop!_OS with a philosophy of sticking to upstream decisions by default, but deviating when it provides a better experience for our customers and users. Our decisions around user experience are informed from over a decade of selling Linux computers and listening to our customers’ feedback.

Learn about our development approach


Pop!_OS 18.04 LTS brings new features and capabilties to the desktop. With the new Pop!_OS installer, System76 can ship laptops and desktops with full disk encryption out-of-the-box. A unique and private encryption key is generated during setup after you receive your computer. We’re also protecting your privacy in Pop!_OS. No data is collected or stored from user installations. Only minimal OS and hardware version data is used to provide firmware and software updates and connectivity verification.

Additional new features and improvements include:

Look & Feel, Session, & Shell

Pop!_OS uses the Pop! session, a custom GNOME-based session with our default settings and extensions included.

Ubuntu 17.10+, on the other hand, includes the Ubuntu session with their own theme and fonts, plus the “Ubuntu dock” which somewhat imitates the old Unity launcher.

Keyboard Shortcuts

We conducted a study of keyboard shortcuts in GNOME and Ubuntu, and derived a set that more consistently exposes some default behaviors like workspace and window management.

See our keyboard shortcuts

Included Apps

Pop!_OS includes a selection of apps intended to be comprehensive but relatively lightweight. We avoid “library” apps and instead opt for “viewers”; for example, we don’t ship a large photo library management app, but we do include an image viewer.

Learn more about our guiding principles

Ubuntu includes a different set of preinstalled apps including GNOME Software, Rhythmbox, Remmina, Thunderbird, Shotwell, an Amazon affiliate search link, and several GNOME games.

Installation and First Use

Pop!_OS 18.04 LTS adds a new Linux installer that is designed to make installations straightforward, reliable, secure and fast. The new installer enables System76 to ship full-disk encrypted computers with a unique and private encryption key for every computer.

Pop!_OS comes in two versions: Intel/AMD and NVIDIA. This allows us to pre-include different settings and the proprietary NVIDIA driver for NVIDIA systems, ensuring the best performance and use of CUDA tools right out of the box.

Every Pop!_OS installation uses an OEM-like install process, leaning on GNOME Initial Setup for both first user and additional user setup. This means there are fewer paths to an installed system which reduces the load for testing as well as the opportunities for bugs.

Ubuntu comes with one version and requires the manual installation of NVIDIA drivers and tools after the fact for NVIDIA systems. Ubuntu also uses the Ubiquity installer for first user setup instead of GNOME Initial Setup.