Commonly Asked Questions and Answers For Windows Users Looking to Switch to Linux

Linux Q&a Feature

With Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 and increasing instances of Windows Update causing more harm than good, many users are looking to make the switch to Linux. However, the choices available to new Linux users have a tendency to overwhelm and confuse, which turns users away. This article answers some of the most common questions for Windows Users looking to switch to Linux.

1. What Is Linux?

Many people know “Linux” as an operating system, but the term “Linux” is actually referring to the Linux kernel. The kernel is the core of an operating system that controls and facilitates interactions between hardware and software components.

When packaged with different desktop environments and software, it becomes an operating system, just like Windows or macOS. More accurately, it should be called a “Linux distribution” instead of “Linux.”

2. What Is a Linux Distribution?

Different companies/individuals take the Linux kernel, package it with a bootloader, desktop environment, and software and turn it into a usable operating system. They distribute it to the public for free. This is known as Linux Distribution (or “distro”). There are plenty of Linux distributions out there (more than 600), with Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch Linux, and Linux Mint some of the more commonly known. When you are installing “Linux” on your computer, you are actually installing one of these Linux distributions.

Not all Linux distributions are meant for desktop use. Some are meant for using in a server environment (CentOS), some are for security testing (Kali Linux), and there are also Linux distributions that reside in your USB drive that you can bring around with it.

3. Is Linux Free?

The Linux kernel is free and open source and most of the Linux distributions are free and open source too. What this means is it’s cost-free for you to access, use, modify, and redistribute to your heart’s content. A great example of this is that Google’s products (Android and Chrome OS) are both based on Linux (kernel), but they’ve been modified to suit Google’s needs. 

4. Is Linux Easy to Use?

Different Linux distributions have different interfaces and customization, so there is no quick answer on whether Linux is easy to use. In short, it can be as easy (Linux Mint) or as hard (Gentoo) as the developers want it. Luckily, most of the popular distros 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 you switch from Windows to Linux. Some desktop environments (KDE, Cinnamon) are easier to get used to than others (Gnome), so it depends on which distro you choose. 

5. Can It Run My Windows Applications?

A lot of software are cross-platform compatible, so you can run them in Windows, macOS and Linux. Examples of these are Google Chrome, Firefox, Slack, Spotify, Skype and Zoom.

For those proprietary software that don’t have a Linux counterpart, there are plenty of Linux alternatives that have the same functionality. Examples are LibreOffice (Microsoft Office alternative) and GIMP ( Photoshop alternative)

Linux Qa Flatpak Folder
Common apps from Windows installed on my Linux system via Flatpak

If there is a particular Windows-only software that you need, you can also try using WINE to run it in Linux.

6. Which Linux Distro Should I Use? 

With over 600 choices, it’s hard to say exactly which distro you should use. It depends on a lot of factors, like what hardware you have available, what you want it to look like, whether you want the newest software or the most tested software, and many other factors. You can check out some of the best Linux distros for beginners. The following are a couple of my recommendations:

For the Apprehensive: 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 that with a hardware enablement stack to give newer computers a fighting chance at working with Linux.

Linuq Qa Mint Neofetch
Linux Mint has a simple, easy to use interface that will suit Windows Users

For the Power User: Fedora Workstation

Fedora Workstation is an extremely well-polished OS that provides great hardware compatibility and performance. If you have some tech experience under your belt or are looking to get a little more settled into Linux, I can’t recommend Fedora enough.

Linux Qa Fedora Neofetch
Fedora Workstation uses GNOME Shell, one of the classic Linux Desktop Environments. It’s minimal, and easy to use.

For Those Looking for Something Different: elementaryOS

If you have always liked the way Macs work, I’d recommend elementaryOS. It’s a very similar design to macOS, and the system is very lightweight and responsive. The Pantheon desktop and overall design are beautiful, and it’s hard to not enjoy using elementaryOS. However, Pantheon is not as customizable as other desktops, so If you like to customize your desktop, elementaryOS is probably not for you. 

Linux Qa Elementary Neofetch
elementaryOS is a beautiful and user friendly distro. It leaves a lasting impression.

For Those Ready to Dive In: EndeavourOS

EndeavourOS is designed to be just as hardcore as the next Arch-based distro. EndeavourOS gives you the choices you want and need but also teaches you about those choices and important features that people love about Arch, like the AUR and intense minimalism. If you’re ready to take the plunge and immerse yourself in what desktop Linux is all about, EndeavourOS is for you.

Linux Qa Endeavouros Neofetch

7. Why Should I Switch to Linux?

Why not? You get complete control over your OS, your hardware, your privacy, and it is free. There’s also the factor of security. Linux is inherently more secure than Windows because there are fewer malware targeting it.

8. How Can I Get Started? 

You can try a Linux distribution and see if it is for you. The steps to get started are as follows:

  1. Find the distro you want to try out.
  2. Download its ISO file.
  3. Create a bootable live USB
  4. Boot it up and try out the live session.
  5. If you like it, then install it in your PC. If not, then repeat step 1.

9. Is Linux Better than Windows?

This depends on whether you are asking a Linux or Windows fanboy. For the Linux die-hard fan, the answer is an absolute “yes” for the following reasons:

  • Linux boots up and runs fast.
  • Linux, the OS and most of its software, are free.
  • Linux doesn’t restart your PC by itself.
  • Linux doesn’t force its update on you (though I would recommend you to update your system as soon as it is available).
  • There is a huge community of people and huge library of documentation to help you solve your Linux problem.

Wrapping Up

We know it can be overwhelming and confusing for you to switch from Windows to Linux, so make sure you check out our articles on how to choose a Linux distro, best Linux distros for Windows users, and the history of various Linux distros.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. We will update this list with more questions and answers.

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11 comments

  1. I switched to Linux from Windows Vista, so it’s been awhile. I have a friend who knows computers and he suggested I have a Vista/Linux Mint dual boot. That way Windows is always there and I could use Mint as much or as little as I liked. The more I used Mint the less I liked Windows, and after about 6 months I left Windows altogether and got a Mint/Manjaro dual boot setup. I’m very happy with my decision. It was a painless transition for someone who just wants to drive the thing rather than spending my time figuring out how it works. In other words, if I can do it anyone can.

    1. Same for me but it was Windows 8 that drove me to Linux. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the only time I used Windows was to update Windows itself, and the anti-virus and malware programs. When I figured that out, I realized what a waste of time dual booting Windows was and went Linux only.

  2. I have Linux Lite running on an old (W7) laptop for browsing with Firefox and card games, but my main PC is still W10; and the main reason? – it is such a performance to install programs in Linux. Repros’, tarballs, bash, sudo and God knows what all – With Windows, just download the .exe (stick it where I want) and run it to install; simple!

    1. You are needlessly overcomplicating things. Just use the GUI Package Manager with the default repos that came with your distro. The Package Manager will download not only the program you want but also any other related programs, will install them in the proper library (ies) and will clean up any downloaded files. AND it will not force a reboot after the install is finished.

      The vast majority of Linux distros can be used successfully and effectively without ever resorting to command line (bash, sudo, tarballs and God knows what all).

      1. OK great stuff.
        Now tell me how you’d install “Great Cow Basic”. (See http://gcbasic.sourceforge.net/Typesetter/index.php/Download)

        1. I wouldn’t. I’d install a Basic compiler that is available in the repos.

          You did not mention that you were trying to install an esoteric piece of software. Very few people use 8-bit Basic anymore. I’m sure there are many Windows programs that cannot be installed without similar problems.

          1. It is not “esoteric” if you are designing minimal embedded systems using small PIC micro-controllers. Before you decry that, let’s just say I had about 100 small PICs all talking to one another to automatically control every part of my model railway; plus many other small projects such as gas detector, infra red remote control receiver: execise timer: garden watering: swimming pool solarheating controller and garden lights timer – so 8 bits ain’t quite dead for those who know how to design with limited resourses.
            Your “I wouldn’t. I’d install a Basic compiler that is available in the repos. ” Now that’s very Apple like – use what we give you not what you want. And that for me is where it starts and ends; if I want something that is not in the repos then bring on the hoops and prepare to jump through them.

  3. For DaveS: It’s no problem installing or uninstalling programs on Mint or Manjaro. I open the Package Manager gui, find whatever I want to add or remove, click on Install or Remove, type in my password and it’s done. There are other ways to do it but this way is easy and fast and my iffy typing skills don’t come into play at all. Also, since the install comes from the official repositories, you don’t need to worry about sketchy installs that give you a bit extra without your knowledge.

    1. OK great stuff.
      Now tell me how you’d install “Great Cow Basic”. (See http://gcbasic.sourceforge.net/Typesetter/index.php/Download)

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