With the end of support for Windows 7 by Microsoft and the increase in instances of Windows Update causing more harm than good, many users are looking to switch to Linux. However, the choices available to new Linux users tend to be overwhelming and confusing, which distracts users. This article answers some of the most common questions for Windows users who want to switch to Linux.
1. What is Linux?
Many people know “Linux” as an operating system, but the term “Linux” actually refers to the Linux kernel. The kernel is the heart of an operating system that controls and facilitates interactions between hardware and software components.
When bundled with different desktop and software environments, it becomes an operating system just like Windows or macOS. More precisely, it should be called “Linux distribution” instead of “Linux”.
2. What is a Linux distribution?
Different companies / individuals take the Linux kernel, package it with bootloader, desktop environment and software and turn it into a usable operating system. They distribute it for free to the public. This is known as a Linux distribution (or “distro”). There are many Linux distributions (over 600), with Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch Linux, and Linux Mint among the best known. When you install “Linux” on your computer, you are actually installing one of these Linux distributions.
Not all Linux distributions are intended for desktop use. Some are intended for use in a server environment (CentOS), some are intended for security testing (Kali Linux), and there are also Linux distributions that reside in your USB drive that you can take with it.
3. Is Linux free?
The Linux kernel is free and open source and most Linux distributions are also free and open source. This means that it is free for you to access, use, modify and redistribute as you wish. A good example of this is that Google’s products (Android and Chrome OS) are both based on Linux (kernel), but they have been modified to meet the needs of Google.
4. Is Linux easy to use?
Different Linux distributions have different interfaces and customizations, so there is no quick answer as to how easy Linux is to use. In short, it can be as easy (Linux Mint) or as difficult (Gentoo) as the developers want. Fortunately, most of the popular distributions like Fedora, Ubuntu, and Manjaro are very easy to use on the desktop.
Another thing to note is that Linux is not the same as Windows, so there is bound to be a learning curve when switching from Windows to Linux. Some desktop environments (KDE, Cinnamon) are easier to get used to than others (Gnome), so it depends on the distribution you choose.
5. Can it run my Windows applications?
A lot of software is cross-platform compatible, so you can run it on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Examples of these are Google Chrome, Firefox, Slack, Spotify, Skype, and Zoom.
For proprietary software that does not have a Linux equivalent, there are many Linux alternatives that have the same functionality. Examples are LibreOffice (alternative to Microsoft Office) and GIMP (alternative to Photoshop)
If you need Windows only software, you can also try using WINE to run it on Linux.
6. Which Linux distribution should I use?
With over 600 choices, it’s hard to say exactly which distro you should be using. It depends on many factors, like what hardware you have, how you want it to look, whether you want the latest software or the most tested software, and many other factors. You can check out some of the best Linux distros for beginners. Here are some of my recommendations:
For apprehension: Linux Mint
For users coming from Windows, Linux Mint seems like the obvious choice. It’s based on Ubuntu, which provides great stability with software packages and balances them with a hardware activation stack to give newer computers a chance to work with Linux.
For the experienced user: Fedora Workstation
Fedora workstation is an extremely well-designed operating system that offers outstanding hardware compatibility and performance. If you have some technical background under your belt or are looking to get a little more into Linux, I cannot recommend Fedora highly enough.
For those looking for something a little different: elementaryOS
If you’ve always liked how Macs work, I recommend elementaryOS. It’s a very similar design to macOS, and the system is very light and responsive. The Pantheon desktop and overall design are gorgeous, and it’s hard not to enjoy elementaryOS. Pantheon isn’t as customizable as other desktops, however, so if you like to personalize your desktop, elementaryOS probably isn’t for you.
For those who are ready to dive: EndeavorOS
EndeavorOS is designed to be as hardcore as the upcoming Arch-based distro. EndeavorOS gives you the choices you want and need, but also teaches you those choices and the important features that people love about Arch, like AUR and intense minimalism. If you’re ready to take the plunge and immerse yourself in what desktop Linux is, EndeavorOS is for you.
7. Why should I switch to Linux?
Why not? You get complete control over your operating system, hardware, privacy and it’s free. There is also the safety factor. Linux is inherently more secure than Windows because there is less malware that targets it.
8. How do I get started?
You can try a Linux distro and see if it’s for you. The steps to get started are as follows:
- Find the distro you want to try.
- Download its ISO file.
- Create Live Bootable USB Flash Drive
- Start it and try the live session.
- If you like it, install it on your PC. Otherwise, repeat step 1.
9. Is Linux better than Windows?
It depends if you are asking a Linux or Windows fanboy. For the die-hard Linux fan, the answer is an absolute ‘yes’ for the following reasons:
- Linux starts up and runs quickly.
- Linux, the operating system, and most of its software are free.
- Linux does not restart your PC on its own.
- Linux does not force you to update it (although I recommend that you update your system as soon as it becomes available).
- There is a huge community of people and a huge library of documentation to help you solve your Linux problem.
We know it can be overwhelming and confusing for you to switch from Windows to Linux, so be sure to check out our articles on how to choose a Linux distro, the best Linux distros for Windows users, and the story of. various Linux distributions.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below. We will update this list with more questions and answers.
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