If you’re new to Linux or are switching to Linux from Windows, you’ll want an operating system that is GUI-focused like Windows. There are many different distributions of Linux, and some aim to replicate the look and feel of Windows. This helps during the transition from Windows, since you don’t have to fight with an unfamiliar interface. With Linux boasting improved hardware support, long term stability, and a more comprehensive range of software applications, there is no better time to try it!
In this roundup, we introduce you to the best Linux distributions for Windows users looking to switch to Linux.
We have to admit that we like Ubuntu but understand that its default Gnome desktop might look too strange if you’re switching from Windows. Unlike other Linux variants, Ubuntu prioritizes simplicity, and this approach isn’t restricted to its desktop. It percolates through its every bit.
Kubuntu is the same OS as Ubuntu but with a KDE Desktop Environment. It offers a more classic experience, much closer to what you know from Windows. Combine this familiar desktop with one of the most user-friendly OS on the planet, and Kubuntu wins the cake.
2. Linux Mint
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu but differs in that its developers haven’t included – and have even undone – some of Canonical’s choices. You can choose between three official flavors, each built around a different desktop environment: Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE.
Cinnamon is the primary flavor and offers a modern desktop that’s built on classic paradigms. Although it takes advantage of the GPU and presents effects (like transparency and shadows), it also doesn’t detour from what most desktop users would expect. It’s familiar, but looks slick, and is also very user friendly.
MATE offers a more classic desktop experience compared to Cinnamon. Both desktop environments provide similar functionality and come with equivalent software choices. The difference between them is primarily in their structure and design. It’s easier to explain it if we use Windows, again, for reference. MATE feels like a modern and polished Windows XP desktop, straight to the point. Cinnamon is closer to the Windows Vista experience, with a higher priority on visuals.
Robolinux is an interesting distro that is gunning for Windows users in a big way. Most folks are aware that Linux users can run Windows programs in Wine. If you’re migrating to Linux from Windows and want to bring all of your programs, files, and settings with you, Robolinux can help.
Robolinux includes Stealth VM, a virtual machine that it claims can run any Windows program without any lag. In addition, Robolinux has a tool that allows you to clone your entire Windows C drive. This means you can migrate all your preexisting programs and data. While Robolinux is free, the developer is asking for donations for the cloning tool.
Solus is another excellent Linux distro that is best for beginners and Windows users alike. It features a beautiful user interface that is intuitive for beginners and children. It also carries most of the Windows DNA, making it a perfect replacement for Windows. For example, it has a Software Center that allows you to manage all your installed apps and is more or less like the Windows control panel.
It also ships with a host of preinstalled apps, including Mozilla Firefox; Files, which resembles Files Explorer in Windows 10 for managing documents; and GNOME MPV for controlling media playback. Solus is also highly customizable, with every tweak designed to deliver a cohesive computing experience.
5. Zorin OS
If you love Windows 7, Zorin OS will replicate that Windows experience for you. It not only features a desktop interface that looks and feels familiar, but it’s also beautiful and easy to use. However, it doesn’t limit you to that interface. If you would love something different but with the same feel, Zorin OS offers several options to choose from.
You can choose a GNOME 3 layout or go for a Windows XP-like interface if you want to keep it closer to Windows. Zorin OS has been built from scratch to provide a seamless migration experience for Windows users. In fact, it’s the only distro on our list that includes Wine. This compatibility layer allows users to install Windows apps on Linux.
ChaletOS is ideal for Windows users who are new to Linux and want to feel comfortable right away. It keeps the look and feel of Windows 7 and 8. In fact, at first glance, it’s hard to tell this is actually Linux. It’s purpose is to create a simplistic design that makes the transition to Linux as painless as possible for Windows users. There’s even a Start Point feature with videos and tutorials to make switching simpler.
The system is built on Xubuntu, so you’ll notice some similarities between the two distros. ChaletOS is perfect for users who want to breathe life back into an older system as the hardware requirements are fairly minimal. Think of it as a Windows alternative, but without taking up all your PC’s resources.
7. Elementary OS
elementary OS is another minimalist Linux distro for Windows users. In fact, macOS users will find this one familiar as well. For Windows 10/11 users, it’s one of the easier-to-use alternatives. Multi-tasking views, a “do not disturb” feature, and a picture-in-picture mode make it a productivity lover’s dream come true.
This distro is based on Ubuntu and features a custom Pantheon desktop which mimics a macOS, and now Windows 11, desktop. You’ll find only a handful of carefully considered apps centered around the average user and productivity, such as an email client and web browser, though the browser can be glitchy at times. It also features an app store with free and premium options, which may make Microsoft Store users feel right at home.
8. Linux Lite
For Windows users who are tired of new systems that never seem to be compatible with older PCs, Linux Lite is the answer. It requires very few resources, making it perfect for older hardware.
Based on Debian, Linux Lite features the Xfce desktop, which should make Windows 7 users feel instantly at home thanks to a familiar desktop and start menu interface. The intuitive design makes it easier for new Linux users to dive right in. Plus, you probably won’t need to upgrade your PC just to keep using new versions of the distro as they’re released like you might have to do with Windows.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use all the same Windows apps?
Certain apps like Dropbox have Linux versions you can install. In many cases, however, you’ll need to switch to the open source alternatives. For instance, if you use Microsoft Office, Linux typically uses alternatives like LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or FreeOffice. Of course, if you want to stick with what you’re more familiar with, use Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs and Sheets, which are both cloud-based.
Why aren't these distros identical to Windows?
No Linux distro is 100 percent like Windows. You’ll notice differences since Linux is different from Windows at its core. However, these distros offer the most similarities between various versions of Windows, while giving users the benefits of using Linux.
Can I try these before I install them on my PC?
Absolutely. Most Linux distros can run from a USB drive or you can use a virtual machine version. Virtual machines let you run another operating system right from your desktop like you would any other app. Try VirtualBox, a popular and free option that facilitates virtualization. You can even install macOS on VirtualBox.
Can I make my own Linux distro?
Yes! Don’t like the options above and don’t mind a little extra work? Create your own Linux distro. Then, you’ll be able to make it look more like the version of Windows you prefer and pre-install the apps you want.
Image credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay
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