I've not dabbled with Linux for a while, but I need to, I am slightly outraged RedHat Linux is not free... or am I being dumb?

Is there a free version available?

If not what are the best alternatives.

(The client wants RedHat).

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    If the client wants RedHat, why don't you buy it for him? – innaM Jul 30 '09 at 14:46
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    Also, if I might be flippant for a few seconds, if you are so shocked that RedHat dares charge for the additions they have paid licenses for (or created themselves) and for the support contract that RHEL always comes with, can we assume that you won't be charging the client for any work you do either? – David Spillett Jul 30 '09 at 16:10
  • Actually we will buy it, but I just wanted a quick and dirty installation so that I could do some testing :p – in.spite Jul 30 '09 at 17:53
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    Install him old RedHat if you hate him :]. Versions before RHEL was free but all of them age outdated. Latest free RedHat tm version was RedHat 9.0. – Alex Bolotov Jul 30 '09 at 19:58
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    Yes FREE RHEL for Developers: developers.redhat.com/products/rhel/get-started – CampbellGolf Apr 28 '16 at 13:22

CentOS is essentially RedHat Enterprise with the stuff they can't include (i.e. RedHat specific stuff that isn't licensed for free redistribution) removed.

CentOS tends to be closer to RH Enterprise as it is based fairly directly on it, where Fedora tends to be a bit more leading-edge.

Update (2019-Nov) as this is still getting views and the occasional upvote: since this answer was written the market and the status of CentOS within it has changed a bit. RedHat and the people behind CentOS have worked more closely, in fact since 2014 RedHat has actually been providing funding for the project. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CentOS#History, amongst many other references.

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    CentOS is effectively a community rebuild from RedHat .srpms. It's about as close to RedHat as you can get without paying money. – David Mackintosh Jul 30 '09 at 14:04
  • The CentOS updates tend to come out fairly quickly as well so it us usually up to date (or close to it) with RHEL. – palehorse Jul 30 '09 at 14:06
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    Coincidently, this just popped up on slashdot. There appears to be trouble in CentOS-land: see linux.slashdot.org/story/09/07/30/130249/… (specifically linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1320375&cid=28882185) and the open letter on centos.org – David Spillett Jul 30 '09 at 16:07
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    ...but, August 1st: The CentOS Development team had a routine meeting today with Lance Davis in attendance. During the meeting a majority of issues were resolved immediately and a working agreement was reached with deadlines for remaining unresolved issues. There should be no impact to any CentOS users going forward. The CentOS project is now in control of the CentOS.org and CentOS.info domains and owns all trademarks, materials, and artwork in the CentOS distributions. We look forward to working with Lance to quickly complete all the agreed upon issues. -- centos.org – Arjan Aug 9 '09 at 7:37

If you are looking for Red Hat Enterprise Linux . thats not free.

Fedora is a Linux-based operating system that showcases the latest in free and open source software. Fedora is always free for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. (http://fedoraproject.org/)

The Fedora Project is a Red Hat sponsored and community supported open source project. Its goal is the rapid progress of free and open source software and content.

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Several people have pointed out the CentOS is a Free drop-in replacement for RedHat Enterprise Linux.

Just a note about the history and where it stands now: RedHat (The company) used to release RedHat Linux for free and also charged money for it. They eventually added new variations of RedHat Linux including server editions, etc. The free product was discontinued and they were focussing on their Enterprise products, for which no binary download was available. However, they have to release the source, so the CentOS folks stepped up and release a free, re-branded RHEL with any proprietary bits removed.

For the "desktop"/"community" users, RedHat started the Fedora project, which serves as a free desktop Linux (the technology can be used for servers) and a testing ground for future RHEL releases. Fedora isn't as suitable for production use because it's not supported for very long so you have to upgrade the whole distribution frequently. But it is free.

So, to sum up, Fedora and CentOS are both free, neither is RHEL, but CentOS is close.

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I (heard) that CentOS is based on RHEL (that is, Red Hat Enterprise Linux).

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    Yep, CentOS is basically RHEL from my experience – Evan Jul 30 '09 at 14:28

You can install Red Hat and not put in any key. I've done so, and the only adverse effect I can see is that whenever I run yum, I get a notice saying that Red Hat Network support is disabled. I've put in a few other yum repositories, though, so I don't suffer any adverse effects.

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RedHat Enterprise Linux - RedHat Copyrighted logos and materials = CentOS.

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I have installed Red Hat in the past (about 5 years ago now) so they definitely did have a free version at one point. Maybe they discontinued it.

EDIT: from Wikipedia:

Red Hat Linux, assembled by the company Red Hat, was a popular Linux based operating system until its discontinuation in 2004.
Fedora, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat, is the free version best suited for the home environment.

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  • Yes. So if OP really needs a free version of Red Hat, he can surely find a copy of Red Hat 9 (last release, from 2003) somewhere! :-) But in all seriousness, I definitely wouldn't recommend using a distro that old. – Jonik Jul 30 '09 at 17:21

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