5 of the Best Linux Distros for Windows Users in 2019

Best Linux Distros For Windows Featured

Linux is the best-known and most-used open-source operating system. Whether you’re looking for an OS that is tailored for laptops, workstations, desktops, gaming, A/V editing, or servers, you’ll always find a Linux distro for your specific need.

However, if you’re new to Linux or are switching to Linux from Windows, you’ll want an OS that is GUI-focused like Windows. There are many different distributions of Linux out there, with some aiming to replicate the look and feel of Windows. The goal of this is to make transitioning relatively painless. With Linux boasting improved hardware support, long term stability and a wider range of software applications, there is no better time to try it!

In this roundup we’ll introduce you to the best Linux distributions for those switching from a Windows environment.

1. 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 also one that is beautiful and easy to use. But it doesn’t limit you to that interface. If you would love something different but with the same feel, Zorin OS does offer several options to choose from.

Zorin Linux Distro

You can choose a GNOME 3 layout, or go for a Windows XP-like interface if you want to keep it purely Windows. Zorin OS has been built from scratch to provide seamless migration experience for Windows users. In fact, it’s the only distro on our list that includes Wine – a compatibility layer that allows users to install Windows apps on Linux.

2. Robolinux

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 a virtual machine like WINE. If you’re migrating to Linux from Windows and want to bring all of your programs, files and settings with you, there wasn’t an easy option … until now. Cue Robolinux.

linux-distro-windows-robolinux

Robolinux includes Stealth VM, a virtual machine that they claim 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 pre-existing programs and data. While Robolinux is free, the developer is asking for donations for the cloning tool.

3. ChaletOS

A number of Linux distros seek to emulate the look and feel of Windows with varying results, but ChaletOS hits the nail on the head. Featuring a very familiar look that will make Windows users feel right at home, ChaletOS boasts a Start button and desktop icons.

linux-distro-windows-chaletos

The beautiful ChaletOS interface looks and behaves so much like Windows, that at first glance most will assume it actually is Windows. The only issue with ChaletOS is that it does not come bundled with an Office suite. Most Linux distros come with LibreOffice, which offers basic functionality like word processing, spreadsheet and slideshow capabilities. While one can install their Office suite of choice, the decision to omit one is curious.

4. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is one of the most liked distros in the Linux community for its ease of use and an intuitive interface. If you’re switching to Linux from Windows, Linux Mint is a great option.

Linux Mint Distro 1

Linux Mint comes in three official flavors: Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE. Each option has its share of strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a beginner, you should consider either Mate or Cinnamon, as XFCE has a learning curve that’s a bit complex for newbies.

Linux Mint is also more friendly for those switching to Linux from Windows since it offers familiar elements on the desktop. Common shortcuts that you find on Windows, such as a Start button, clickable icons, system tray etc., are also available on Linux Mint. Plus, Linux Mint is very conservative regarding updates, so you’ll never have to worry about forced updates – the kind that plague Windows 10.

5. Solus

Solus is another great Linux distro that is best for beginners and Windows users alike. It features a beautiful user interface that is intuitive to 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 control panel in Windows.

Solus Linux Disto

It also ships with a host of pre-installed apps including Mozilla Firefox; Files, that 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.

Wrapping Up

While there are many powerful Linux distributions, not all are great for beginners, especially those switching from a Windows environment. For example, Elementary OS is a very powerful Linux distro, but its interface, feel, and features are borrowed from macOS. If you’re looking a Linux distro that offers a Windows-like environment, this list will be of much help.

Was this helpful? Feel free to comment and share.

This article was first published in September 2016 and was updated in April 2019.

9 comments

  1. Windows users will probably like Zorin. I used if for years, until it got to “Windows like” for me.

  2. Hi Guys

    a new Zorin 15 beta is released for your information and comments
    https://zoringroup.com/blog/2019/03/20/and-the-next-version-of-zorin-os-is/
    the ISO can be downloaded from the blog

    cheers Will

  3. Hi peeps,

    I’m very surprised that you have not also included FerenOS and MakuluLindoz – the first, like Mint is a hybrid of Debian and Ubuntu, Makulu is a fork of pure Debian. Your description of Zorin OS desktops is now out-of-date in terms of looks – there is a new one that is designed to cater for tablets/touch screen and is probably the first GNU/Linux OS to have a mouse pointer sizer in Settings under Universal Access. My biggest gripe in respect of Ubuntu 18.04/ZorinOS 15 (Beta) is the need for a new graphics card – sadly it appears that the old adage for some distributions of ‘breathing life into your old machine’ has been thrown out of the window(s?) with the bath water and the baby. ZorinOS also has a new android application which means you can control your presentations, whether in Impress or Browser using the volume control of your mobile and mirrored on your screen so if doing a browser presentation say you can look at your phone without having to look back at the interactive board.

  4. Linux Newbie, thinking of switching from Win 7 to Linux. Tried to go to Win 10, but ran into a bad driver (somewhere, can’t find it) and the conversion aborted. So, after three tries, I’m off to different pastures. I’ve been an IT guy for over 50 years and have been using Windows since 3.1, so I am adept.

    My main question before switching to one of the Linux distros: is Linux generally it faster than Windows?

    Thanks for your help and expertise.

    1. “is Linux generally it faster than Windows?”
      I know you are expecting a YES or NO answer but considering their is basically only Windows Pro and Windows Home and there are hundreds of Linux distros, many distros will be faster and many will be slower. If you do not “need” Linux with Windows look and fell, there are many distros that will be faster.

      Having said that, unless you go to a really bare bones distro, the speed difference will not be awe-inspiring. Besides, while a response time of .01 second as opposed to .1 second may be noticeable, how much time will that save you during a session or even during a day? As far as Internet speeds go, that mostly a function of the connection, not of the O/S.

      1. Thanks for your well-reasoned comment. I made the switch (to Ubuntu, for starters), and am finding all you said to be true. I AM pleasantly surprised at how fast Ubuntu is compared to Windows with only 4gb of ram. My PC was running so slowly under Win 7 that I was prepared to upgrade it to 8gb. No longer necessary. Bottom line, there’s very little I miss about Windows — I’m a convert and I wish I had done it long ago.

  5. ChaletOS is DORMANT on Distrowatch (no new release since 2016). Would recommend trying ZorinOS 15 Beta on USB stick but wait until out of Beta before installing to SSD/HDD. Linux Mint is next best, although I personally use and recommend either PeppermintOS 9 or MX18.2.

  6. Hello,

    An interesting article for someone who is curious and interested in switching to a Linux distro such as myself. Having been in IT for 45+ years from the old IBM mainframe days to now, Windows has been my platform especially at the server end.

    While I have been looking I am hoping someone wouldn’t mind encapsulating the following questions please – would be much appreciated.

    a)
    currently running Windows Server 2016 and IIS8 which a bunch of Classic ASP, .Net apps, proprietary DLL’s, MSSQL 2016 and so on.
    Is this an environment that could be switched across to a Linux Server type environment but still run all the MS stuff ?

    b)
    Not wanting to move to Windows 10 in the development environment, but wanting to make sure anything that is developed will run on Windows 7 and 10, could it be possible to use one of the aforementioned distros (which one?) on a development laptop / local pc / but still then run Visual Studio for .Net development, Android Studio, VB6, Microsoft Office etc etc ?

    Happy to do reading if you wanted to point me to a few links .. :)

    If they are lame questions my apologies, I just do not have much knowledge of Linux at all.

    Cheers

    1. a) I am not completely sure about this, but with wine and mono, you might be able to get ASP, .Net apps to work. MSSQL has support for Ubuntu and a few other distro, so this is not an issue.

      b) Visual Studio and Android Studio are available for Linux. VB6 maybe not. Microsoft Office no, but there are tons of alternatives office suites (https://www.maketecheasier.com/microsoft-office-alternatives/) you can use. In the worst case, you can install Wine, or run a Windows virtual machine in Linux.

      Hope this helps.

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