Transition from Windows to Linux: My Personal Experience

One of the biggest problems with technology, at least in the most developed societies, is how fast it can get outdated. If you buy a computer today, it will most probably be outdated in a year time.

Given this, we have two choices: either keep on buying new hardware in order to keep our computers running smoothly or risking ending up with a computer going slower than a snail. Recently I noticed that I was going for the second option with my laptop, so I decided to ditch the “heavy” Windows 8.1 and change to a lighter Linux distribution.

With the recent Windows XP hassle, I believe that my personal experience can help others who are now deciding which OS to use afterwards, so here it goes.

I got my current laptop on the Summer of 2010, so it is almost 4 years old. It is an Acer Aspire 5740G, with 640GB HDD, Intel Core i5 2.4GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 and 4GM of RAM. To this day it gives me no problems whatsoever, and it is exactly the same in terms of hardware as it was when I bought it.

winlintrans-laptop

If I recall correctly, it came with Windows 7, but I changed the OS a few times, always sticking with Windows. Most recently, I was using Windows 8.1.

Lately, I had been feeling that my laptop was functioning too slowly, with a lot of crashes and freezes. Also, it was overheating a lot, which sometimes caused it to turn off on its own. The reasons were clear: my laptop’s specs were not enough for the amount of work I put on them, or for the content online these days.

So, I had two options: Either buy new hardware (specifically, more RAM) or change to an operating system that requires less resources. Since I was completely tired of a slow computer, I needed an immediate solution, so I opted to perform a full backup of my data and make a completely new install of a different OS, one that was light and fast.

winlintrans-linux

I actually gave some thought to the idea of reverting back to Windows 7 but figured that eventually I would end up with a similar situation. Considering this, moving to a Linux-based distribution was the obvious choice. In the last two weeks I installed four Linux distros, but ended up sticking to elementary OS – let me explain why.

Distro #1: Zorin OS 8.1 Core

Zorin has recently been reviewed here on Make Tech Easier and is actually a great distro for people coming from Windows XP. It can easily be configured to look exactly like Microsoft’s OS and is really lightweight and fast. However, I found the white theme to be too bright, and the dark one had a lot of bugs. In addition, the OS also has some bugs, which made me go for a change.

Distro #2: Linux Mint 16 Petra (Cinnamon)

Linux Mint is said to be one of the most powerful distros around, and that is probably correct. However, I found it to be a little bit heavier than Zorin, leading to slower boot and general processing times, both slower than what I had with Zorin and even Windows 8.1. So, Linux Mint was also a no-go.

Distro #3: Lubuntu 14.04

This one should be it, but it also was not. Lubuntu is said to be the best distro for old laptops, but I also ended up having some troubles using it. However, the problems this time were related to configuration and personal settings which I was not being able to achieve. So, Lubuntu worked fine, but I did not really like this distro.

Distro #4: elementary OS Luna

winlintrans-elementaryos

In the end, I decided to go with a distro I actually had previously installed alongside Windows 8: elementary OS. This distro is under a lot of (justified) hype at the moment, due to its astonishing looks, its functionality and its reliability – things that I confirm 100 percent. Besides Apple’s OS X, I have never seen such a beautiful OS, and the performance really matches the looks.

Sincerely, no. I have to say that I am not an avid gamer, so that probably makes the transition much easier. Still, I though that Photoshop would be really missed, because I used it a lot. It turns out that GIMP is really up to the task, especially if you give it a makeover and bring it closer to Adobe’s product.

Another thing that people usually do not like about elementary OS is the fact that you cannot use the desktop for storing files (unless you mess deeply in the configurations). This is not a problem for me because I am one of those people who likes the desktop as clean as possible – I was like that in Windows, already.

Given that at the moment I am not bound to any software that is exclusive for Windows, I am pretty happy in life with elementary OS. My computer now runs smoothly, overheating is gone and I now have a pretty reliable system at hand. For anyone thinking about a change, especially for people who are scared of keeping Windows XP and do not have the means to buy Windows 7 or 8, my advice is that you embrace Linux – it is amazing and, contrary to what is often said, you CAN live with Linux alone.

30 comments

  1. Congratulations on making the switch from Windows to Linux.

    While the four distros you have tried are the ones most often recommended as the easiest for Windows refugees, they are all Ubnuntu based and prone to the same problems. As you might have discovered, there are literally hundreds of other distros available, divided into 8 basic groups: Debian-based, Red Hat/Fedora-based, Gentoo-based, Ubuntu-based, Slackware-based, Mandrake/Mageia-based, SUSE-based and Independently developed.

    • dragonmouth, thanks for the comment. Indeed there is a vast array of distros available, based on distinct systems. However, I think that Ubuntu based distros are the best for Linux inexperienced people (like me), because there is a bigger user base, therefore being easier to search for information and solutions for issues.

      • “there is a bigger user base, therefore being easier to search for information and solutions for issues.”
        Because most people head for *buntus just for that reason, the concentration of inexperienced Linux users in that user base is much greater, negating the supposed advantage. /grin/ But, whatever makes you comfortable.

        From personal experience I can tell you that if you were to use any distro in the top 20 of DistroWatch Page Hit Rankings, you would get the same great support.

        • While it is true that inexperienced users lean toward Ubuntu based distros for ease of use, can you blame them? After all, a computer should be easy to use for the majority of people. I will also argue that the level of support that can be found within Ubuntu based distro communities easily balances out the newbieness of it all, and in fact compliments it. Some of the best all around Linux support can be found in the elementary OS community. It’s a great way to be bring people on board with Linux – you do want that, right? It is because of this that Linux has gained traction over the last few years. Would you prefer new Linux users, typically coming from Windows, cut their teeth on Slackware or raw Debian? Linux on the desktop would have as much credibility as it did fifteen-years ago. I myself used to be like you: hardcore Slackware or similar hackerish distro or nothing. What more could anyone want? Now I see how silly all that is. Also, the Pantheon DE that elementary OS uses was written from scratch and took two years to write, it is what makes elementary OS so incredibly fast, and is also one of the things that sets it apart from the competition. I will admit it is a minor annoyance with these easy to use distros when some basic command is not installed, but it sudo apt-get install nslookup (or whatever) that difficult? (hint, the answer is no). elementary OS is a workstation operating system that can appeal to the average user and power user alike. For anything sufficiently complicated I keep a separate, headless, FreeBSD and Debian server around. So basically you dislike Ubuntu based distros because they are they easiest to learn and use by the newbie crowd. I fail to see how that is a problem. Further, I run Bodhi Linux, which despite being Ubuntu based is far from something an everyday user coming from Windows would be able to get the hang of. It’s not as black and white as you make it out to be. Ubuntu based distros were covered here because they really do make the best workstation operating systems for common people over the competition.

  2. A can of compresed air, thermal paste and philips screwdriver would solved your (overheating) problems with that acer

  3. I repair laptops and one of the first things I do even before attempting to fire it up the first time, is to locate the fan vent and spray canned air into it. That takes care of many overheating problems.

  4. @stihy and @Ralphie Boy, you both are probably right. Actually I tried to open the computer once, but failed. In fear of causing any damages, I stopped – and never Googled the right way to do it. Still, I’m glad that I made this change. I’m really satisfied with elementary OS. Though, if any of you knows how to open up this laptop, please do tell me. :)

  5. Although elementary OS doesn’t have an official forum, you can always get help on Google+ page. The community is really friendly and helpful.

    • That is true. Also, there is a subrredit for elementary OS, and their “Answers” page, so no shortage of sources, really.

  6. I’m happy to hear another voice telling folks that it’s possible to live without Windows! I made the final switch myself about a year ago and have been very pleased. Like William above, I’m running Bodhi on my primary laptop. Of all the Ubuntu-based distros I’ve tried (which is most of them) it is by far the best. Enlightenment is a beautiful WM and it’s not heavy despite all the bells and whistles. I have to agree that the *buntus are an ideal place for new users to start, but if they like using Linux then they will probably start trying different ones as they learn more. I started with Ubuntu, but now have Arch on my secondary laptop and have also played with Gentoo.

  7. I went for a dual boot myself to have the best of both worlds. Thus I have Windows 7 32 bit and Ubuntu and choose between them at boot. I love Linux but sometimes still need Windows for various applications, so I feel I have the best of both worlds. Also, if and when I come to update one of the installed OS (for instance I am toying with going for Win 7 64 bit) I know that I have the other available for emergencies. With Ubuntu I can even read the files that I saved with Windows so its pretty convenient.

    Recently I was at an event at a local University and found that no matter what i tried I could not connect to WiFi with Windows, but incredibly Ubuntu immediately logged me on within seconds without any problems at all. Very impressive indeed.

    Personally I have come to think that Windows is vulnerable, bloated, under-performing and outdated and is only worth keeping because of the installed software base. But that situation will not last forever.

    • “but incredibly Ubuntu immediately logged me on within seconds without any problems at all. Very impressive indeed.”
      Why “incredibly?” Because you’ve heard that Linux has problem with WiFi connections? Have you ever heard of “FUD?” A few people, especially tech writers, bloggers and pundits have a problem with their Linux install and being human, they tend to generalize. Based on their bad experience, they assume that “all” users are having the same problems. So when they write a review or an article, all of a sudden their problem is attributed to Linux in general. Next thing you know you start hearing categorical statements that Linux won’t connect to WiFi, to use Linux you need to be a CLI expert, printer setup in Linux is a roayl PITA, etc., etc., etc.

      Personally, I’ve had more problems with Windows recognizing hardware and/or connecting to networks, than with Linux. But then that’s just me. Maybe I’ve been luckier than others. Every time I use Linux, I am impressed with how easy and trouble free it is.

  8. I was using Windoze that came with my brand new computer, back in 2004. It kept crashing on me. I tryed everything that was in the book that came with the machine. Nothing!

    Then I heard about this new system – Ububtu – and thought I’de give it a try. I haven’t looked back from then on.

    The very few problems, I’ve had with Ubuntu, were brought on by my experimenting. I’m now on
    12.04 and very satisfied with it.

  9. With my work I use on a regular basis everything from DOS to Win8.1. When I go home I use Linux. I too have gotten tired of the Window’s glitz and being to top heavy, I started to play around with Linux and some of its different flavors about 6 yrs ago. I got tired of having to replace perfectly good and functional printers, scanner and various other add-ons every time I up graded the operating system. With Linux that does not seem to be the case. The two I use the most are Manjaro(Openbox) and Ubuntu, with Manjaro being my favorite its fast lite and can handle just about everything I throw at it. I just purchased a new ASUS laptop and I use a dual boot setup till the warranty runs out, Then I’ll dump the Windows’ 8.1 that came with it.
    For those looking to upgrade the operating system, just move over to Linux with the money you save. You can make some nice donations toward some of the software providers for Linux systems and help them out a lot. To get an idea of the incredible software out there just run a search for “Libreoffice” or “Openoffice”, then look at Gimp, Inkscape, Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird, Opera, Midori, Shotwell, Audacity, Openshot, Blender, XBMC, Wine just to name a few.

  10. Laptop overheating with Microsoft Windows is not as simple as cleaning the fan blades. Windows 7/8 cause a ton of ongoing drive and CPU activity related to the Automatic Updates facility. I’ve noticed when a new update to ready – Windows will spin and spin and not go into powerdown until you have fully installed the updates and re-booted. Of course your machine may have been spinning in overheat mode all night if you left it switched on and then come back the next day.

    Notice also with Ubuntu distro’s you can install updates and actually most of the time you do not need to reboot – because nothing in the kernel changed. The power of Linux. My personal preference is Ubuntu as a power user, I’m less concerned with how pretty the GUI looks, and more about stability and rock solid OS capabilities.

    • “Notice also with Ubuntu distro’s you can install updates and actually most of the time you do not need to reboot”
      That is true with most Linux distros, not just the Ubuntu-based ones.

  11. Hi guys I will tell you about my experience. I always was a windows IT guys and End User. I decide experimenting because I was boring of installing windows and all their programs that in the most of cases you have to crack using the available cracks online. Also windows every 6 month maybe before start giving endless trouble, sometimes the antivirus, sometimes the antispyware and all kind of stuff.
    I installed my desktop with Ubuntu 12.04LTS and Voila speed fun and all for free, I didnt miss anything. I Installed both Kingsoft Office similar to the enviroment of Office 2013 and also I had Libre Office, instead of being cracking all time Adobe Photoshopo forget it I have GIMP that is free.

    In my laptop I installed Kubuntu. Also nice but the computer goes slower sometime after being using it. The reason was the effects configuration particularly the Blur effect. I found an interesting post on that and I followed the procedure and I solve the issue. Now is OK

    In both computers my Windows partition was the bigger but when I learned the tricks I wait until thei released the versions 14.04LTS of both and I reintalled both computers and now Windows side is the smallest. I dont use windows but the only reason I keep it is because Im teaching IT in the college, otherway it will dissapear from my hard drive.

    Another recomendation I have for you is that in cases of all computers both Laptops or desktops use Zorin 6.4 LTS (Not the version 7 or 8). Zorin will make your all computer work faster than a new one even with the effects of compiz (How? I dont know!) But It is so. Even with Compiz.

  12. Congrats! You’re now living in a brave GNU world! I have lived the Linux life for over a decade already. With Linux (I’m using Ubuntu 14.04), I have enjoyed the best of two worlds — CLI and GUI :P

  13. I had been using Linux since my WinME box gave up on me over a decade ago. There weren’t many choices then, I tried RedHat but ended up stuck with Mandriva for many years. 4 years ago when I bought a laptop, I chose one without Windows license with a lower price and it is now running Mint 16 without any major hiccups. Meanwhile, I also have Ubuntu 13 installed in one of my external HDD and Puppy on one thumbdrive that I used every now and then to rescue the windows machines in my office.

  14. Diogo, welcome to the Linux community.
    One of the things that I suspect you’ve already discovered is the willingness of practically everyone to help, whether it’s software related or hardware issues. I’ve tried many different Linux distros and wound up relying heavily on Puppy Linux as my everyday application. It’s lightweight (around 100 Mb) and lightning FAST. The entire application loads into RAM. (My box has 2 Gb, which is plenty.) You can burn the entire distro to one CD, or USB pen drive, or SD card, and boot ANY computer with the CD, regardless of the OS that it’s using. (You may have to change the boot sequence in the BIOS on old computers) No damage is done to the resident OS by doing this, thereby alleviating any fears of messing up someone else’s computer. It leaves no footprint (your choice) when you are through with your session on a borrowed computer. Barry Kauler (the Puppy Linux owner) did a wonderful job with this OS. A search for “Puppy Linux” will give you a bunch of results, with murga-linux being one of my favorites. There’s a ton of help available in help files and online forums.
    As far as hardware, printers and scanners seem to be the hardest to install on any Linux distro. Usually, a search of the manufacturer’s website will turn up drivers for Linux OS’s. (This is due to M$ “lock in” in most cases.) Brother and Hewlett Packard seem to be the leaders in Linux support, with HP being the easiest.
    As far as searching for software, my choice was Puppy Ver. 5.2.8, which is Debian based. Over 30,000 apps available in the repository, with a little one-click script called “Debbi” available on the puppy forum for easy installation.
    Again, welcome to the Linux community.

  15. “The entire application loads into RAM. (My box has 2 Gb, which is plenty.) You can burn the entire distro to one CD, or USB pen drive, or SD card, and boot ANY computer with the CD, regardless of the OS that it’s using. ”
    Lack of “footprint” is both a plus and a minus. For casual and anonymous browsing, it’s a plus. However, it is a negative if you want to create documents, unless you create the USB with persistence.

  16. Congrats Diogo, on the successful transition :)
    just a couple of words to some of the statements, which are not confirmed in my experience. First is about the performance of Windows. Win 8 is bout 15% faster (or using 15% less processor and memory) on the same hardware with the same additional software running. Win 8.1 is even faster. Next is the apps you’re using. I suspect you had a lot of bloatware on your system. There is simply not so much for Linux, but uneducated users could do miracles ;)
    Enjoy your freedom :)

    • “There is simply not so much for Linux”
      Maybe there is no “bloatware” constantly running on a Linux system but some distros (ex. Ubuntu) will not let the user uninstall unwanted packages. Once the distro is installed, there no longer is a need for 100 different language packs, or drivers for dozens of video cards and printers. Then there are frivolous apps such as “cowsay” and “fortune” that Canonical insists must not be uninstalled. All those unneeded packages amount to 200,300 meg or more and while they may not be considered bloatware, they do take up disk space.

  17. I used to do the dual boot and the VirtualBox installations, but I got away from that and now have Xubuntu as the main OS on two laptops. The reason is not so easy to explain because I don’t really know how the school network works. With one laptop, I had a Windows 7 Home edition with Xubuntu in VBox, so naturally I favored using Windows at work. Apparently, and this is only my guess, the network thought I was a hacker and had me declare if my laptop was for home use or company use. Because I was using it at home as well, I clicked home. After this happened a few times, my Windows 7 was suddenly invalidated. As for the other laptop, I had upgraded it to Windows 8 Pro thinking that should solve the problem, and it did…..until I was dumb enough to take the offer to upgrade again to 8.1. That was a nightmare! Why does Microsoft screw their clientele over like that?! I tried downgraded, but no–sorry, I had to buy a new product key. And the funny thing is I use both Xubuntu laptops at work, and the network couldn’t care less. Go figure…

    • ” And the funny thing is I use both Xubuntu laptops at work, and the network couldn’t care less. Go figure…”
      Different network policies have been instituted by the two sysadmins.

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