PCLinuxOS is primarily intended for desktop use, while server use plays a lesser role.

The original idea was to upgrade the current Mandrakelinux by adding additional or more recent packages. With Mandrakelinux 9.2, the package collection around PCLinuxOS became so extensive that the developers decided to split PCLinuxOS from Mandrakelinux. Most of the packages, such as the kernel, GCC or KDE, have been compiled and included in a separate repository, independent of the actual Mandriva Linux.

By default, the package manager RPM is used in conjunction with the software manager APT and the graphical package management Synaptic.

NdisWrapper, Flash and Java are pre-installed. Various patent pending multimedia codecs such as e. g. for playing Windows Media, Realmedia and MP3 files are also included as standard. The libdvdcss package is not pre-installed, but is available in the official repository. Most other Linux distributions do not make this software available, as the risk of legal consequences is considered too great.

The mklivecd script allows you to create a "snapshot" of the installation, including all installed software, settings and documents. This is compressed into an ISO CD image. This makes it very easy to create a backup or custom PCLinuxOS-based distribution. Some of the distributions produced are SAM Linux, CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) Linux, Kid-Safe LiveCD, PCLOS MythEdition and Llama Linux.

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