How to Move from Windows to Linux

Move From Windows To Linux Featured

After years of using Windows, you’re finally fed up with it and have decided to give Linux a try. Linux, though, is available through many different distributions. Which one should you choose? And will you be able to do everything in Linux that you did in Windows? Read on to find out how you can smoothly move from Windows to Linux!

Note: If you are still on the fence, not sure if you should switch to Linux from Windows, check out the commonly-asked questions and see if they answer your doubts.

Start by Picking a Linux Distribution

There are thousands of Linux distributions out there, and it can be confusing just to read how one is different from the others. To get started, you may want to try Ubuntu, not because it is the easiest to use, but because it is the most popular. Thanks to its millions of users, you can easily find help if you run into issues (which you are bound to do).

If you are looking for a desktop that looks and feel like Windows, you can check out these Linux distributions for Windows users. If you are just getting started with Linux, these Linux distributions are good for beginners.

Worthy Alternatives

Other than Ubuntu, some worthy alternatives you could look into are:

  • Ubuntu “flavors”: for everyone who wants all the support that comes with Ubuntu but doesn’t like its default desktop and apps
  • Mint: for those who like a user-friendly distro that uses the stable Ubuntu as its backbone
  • Manjaro: a rolling release distro which will always keep your operating system up to date.
  • Debian: for those who want even more stability or to avoid any hint of closed-source software

Installing Linux on Your PC

The steps to install Linux are almost universal:

  • Download the ISO file.
  • Create a bootable flash drive.
  • Boot your PC with the flash drive. You have a choice to test the live desktop or follow the instructions to install it on your system.

For the installation, start by selecting the hard disk drive where you want to install your new operating system. You can choose a different partition or device if you wish to keep Windows intact or erase the disk where your current OS resides and replace it with Linux.

Move From Windows To Linux Location

The rest of the options you’ll meet are pretty straightforward and don’t need an explanation. You will be asked to select your preferred language for the OS interface and the keyboard, your geographical position (used for geolocation and time-syncing), and set up your primary user account with an alias and a password.

Start Using Your New Desktop

Depending on the Linux distribution you are using, you will have different desktop environments. Gnome 3 is used by Ubuntu while Linux Mint is using Cinnamon.

Check out our user guides for the various desktop environments:

Set It Up/Customize It/Make It Your Own

Although each desktop environment in Linux comes with its own settings, they are all much better organized and easy to tweak compared to how the same options are organized in Windows. In other words, if you are able to make sense of Windows 10 settings, customizing your Linux desktop environment will be child’s play.

Run the Settings app found in your distribution’s main menu and go through the categories of options, one by one, to:

  • Choose a theme
  • Change the wallpaper
  • Control notifications
  • Select your preferred applications
  • Sync online accounts
  • Set up sharing
  • Configure your hardware
Move From Windows To Linux Settings Background

An App for Everything

A lot of the software you probably used in Windows is also available for Linux. For some of the more prominent commercial applications, though, like Microsoft Office, or the members of Adobe’s suite, you will have to find alternatives. Thankfully, most of them are more than up to the task, so you won’t feel like you’re missing something.

Move From Windows To Linux Darktable

Some of the most popular apps for different tasks are:

  • Browsers: Firefox, Chromium, Chrome, Opera
  • Internet/Networking: Skype, Pidgin, UFW, Remina
  • Antivirus: you don’t need one
  • Productivity/Office: LibreOffice, qOwnNotes
  • Audio/Video: VLC, Audacity, Kdenlive, Handbrake
  • Graphics/Photo Editing: GIMP, Darktable, Gwenview, InkScape, PencilSheep
Move From Windows To Linux Inkscape

Most Linux distributions come with a Software Center or Package Manager where you can easily find software to install.

Move From Windows To Linux Software Center

Linux was never considered a gaming powerhouse, but thanks to Valve’s efforts, it now has access to a significant chunk of Steam’s collection. And projects like Lutris can help you manage all your games.

Move From Windows To Linux Steam

Learn to Love the Terminal

As a newcomer to Linux, you may try to avoid the terminal. Still, like everyone else, in time, you will find it irreplaceable. We suggest you start getting familiar with the basics. Before you realize it, you’ll find it’s become your primary means of interaction with your computer and is much more powerful and versatile than any GUI.

Move From Windows To Linux Terminal

We should warn you, though, that moving from Windows to Linux is addictive in. You may soon find yourself in an endless cycle of distro-hopping, moving from distribution to distribution, trying to find the perfect one as if you were playing Pokémon.

If you have recently moved from Windows to Linux, let us know in the comments below.

Related:

Odysseas Kourafalos Odysseas Kourafalos

OK's real life started at around 10, when he got his first computer - a Commodore 128. Since then, he's been melting keycaps by typing 24/7, trying to spread The Word Of Tech to anyone interested enough to listen. Or, rather, read.

12 comments

  1. I would recommend any new want to be users use the live USB for some time to make sure they are comfortable with Linux. Often new users install right away and then find problems, some major.

  2. You could also try Linux using a virtual machine, or dual-booting a Linux distro with Windows. It will probably take some time to adjust to a ‘new’ way of running your computer.

  3. The easiest way to try Linux is dedicate an unused or unneeded laptop or desktop to experimentation. Linux is not hard to understand but all the distros are different from Windows, some drastically, some very little. They don’t all perform the same, not even within the same branch and you will notice this as you explore.

    For example, if your test machine has a Nvidia graphics card, the Control Panel in Windows doesn’t appear the same in Linux. In fact it doesn’t appear at all in any of the dozens of distros I’ve tried; there’s a proxy for it with a few of the settings, that’s about it. Mint’s support is poor, Ubuntu’s better but still a long way from Windows.

    Fonts appear differently among distros; not as easy to display clear fonts as one would expect.

    Overall, Linux is fine for everyday use, many of the things not done as well as in Windows are more than made up for in other areas. Networking is far better in Linux; faster data flow and immediate connections. Distros don’t insult user’s intelligence with the incessant nagging, spying, kindergarten interface Windows adopted in Win 8 or the disastrous update system.

    Not sure why the installation processes are emphasized so much. Installations for distros a newbie would likely try are simple, faster and easier than Windows for the most part.

    As a first try, I’d recommend Mint with the Cinnamon desktop, it’s close to Windows, quick to pick up. Next, the other Mint desktops; they’ll highlight the Linux differences typical of different distros.

    Manjaro is elegant looking with the KDE Plasma desktop, very customizable. Rolling releases, occasionally one will flake causing problems. Many KDE packages (apps, programs) start with the letter “k” so are easy to recognize.

    I’d very definitely not recommend Debian for newbies. It’s rather “techie” and the package manager is inscrutable to the uninitiated. Overload for day to day ordinary users.

    After months of experimentation, our test laptop, a 2010 Dell laptop with Intel i5 and 8GB RAM is running minimal (choose during installation) Ubuntu with a modified desktop that works like Windows (Can’t stand gnome). This old machine hasn’t had any issue running any distro we’ve tried. We also have a newer desktop with Ubuntu/Plasma, that’s our favorite.

  4. You should also join the forum for your OS. Linux users in general will be happy to help you solve newbie problems. Just be polite and respectful. The forum is also another reason to avoid Debian, which has a lot of advanced users and can be brutal if you make a mistake. I have found Zorin the most helpful forum, though I don’t like the direction Zorin has taken lately. Next I have found Ubuntu Mate the second most helpful forum. As a matter of fact the Ubuntu Mate forum gets many non-Ubuntu users coming to it for help because of how helpful and patient the forum users are for problems.
    If you like the traditional desktop use Mate, Cinnamon, KDE or Xfce. If you like the more modern approach Gnome3 is for you, and even Unity is still around.

  5. Try the distribution of someone already running. It could be a neighbor, friend, relative, co-worker, etc. That way one you run into an issue, they can help you.

    Once you are comfortable using it, they you can try others.

  6. my only comment is, we need more printer/scanner drivers for the different equipment. I will have to look on some more sites to see if there is a list of printer/scanner companies that have Linux drivers for their equipment. I have almost zero success with the generic Linux drivers. Other than that, I have used many different distros and right now I use Fedora 32. The only time I ever use windoz is when I have to print something. I have been able to print things on HP LaserJets, but that’s all.

    1. Or look printers that support Linux before you buy. I have found HP and Brother the best supporters of Linux. I used HP for years because of their Linux support, but change to Brother a few years ago because of all the problems I had with HP printers not related to drivers or support. The issues where with the printers themselves.

  7. I have been using various distros of Linux for a few years now after progressing through windows variants to end up exasperated with Win 10. I like setting my machine the way I like it but Win 10 often has other ideas, so … I have ended up staying with Mint 20 (Xfce). This last upgrade has necessitated a few changes as an app or two doesn’t like Mint 20 despite running well on all v18 and 19s. One of my bugbears is printing. Each Linux version is different and ‘should’ be easy to set the printer up. ‘Should’ is the operative word and can drive you insane. After a while I settled the problem with a failsafe app called TurboPrint. It is not free but cheap enough and reliable enough to allay everyone’s worries.
    It takes some time to find the right app for each job, but that is what I enjoy, the discovery of Linux apps and choosing the right one for me. There really are NO best apps, there is only the best for you!

  8. “Antivirus: you don’t need one”

    For your computer, true enough. However, if you have to deal with family/friends that still use Windows, and transfer files you’ve downloaded to their computers, you probably should install an antivirus anyway, just to be sure you aren’t transferring a virus to them as well.

  9. If you have just switched from Windows to Linux or a re contemplating such a switch, you should read the following article that explains that Linux is not Windows:
    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm

  10. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the excellent “DistroWatch” website, which is a good starting place for figuring out which distro you want to choose. The website address is https://distrowatch.com/

  11. I have been debating switching over ever since I downloaded the “free Win10” upgrade years ago and haven’t been able to use my computer since. The constant blue, “whoops something went wrong” screen has been killing me. In fact, it’s sad to say that this machine was almost brand new when all of this started happening. I just shoved it aside because everyone who looked at it said they couldn’t figure out what was causing it and I didn’t have money to take it in to a place to actually fix it.
    So since the tablet I was using instead of a computer finally died, I thought well, I might as well just try it.
    I am currently running if off a USB drive right now so I can get the hang of it before committing to it full time.
    So far so good.
    It was very easy to get it up and running and I am hoping this will just be what I needed.
    Thanks!

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