Explained: What to Expect if you Ditch Windows and Go Linux

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Kathy aka VJ' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

In regard to John Lister's article 'Windows 10 install surprising users' - how about an article about switching to Linux instead of Windows 10, including a how to, cost, warnings, software compatibility, etc. I've just about had it with Microsoft and it's aggressive tactics, trying to get me to install Windows 10 with its 'gotcha' updates. As such, I am thinking it's time to get myself out from under the Microsoft umbrella. I am expert with MS Office and would hate to switch, but if it won't run under Linux, I may have to stick with Windows. "

My response:

There are plenty of free eBooks on switching from Microsoft Windows to Linux already, so there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel by writing a huge how-to article. With that said, I can give you a brief summary on what you might expect if you do switch from Windows to Linux.

What to Expect if you Ditch Windows and Go to Linux

First of all, Windows and Linux are like apples and oranges. Yes, they may look similar on the outside as far as "shape" goes, but the inner-workings are completely different - especially when it comes to troubleshooting errors with programs and setting file permissions. I say this because much of the troubleshooting is done on the command line, which means most of the information available on the web will be in reference to Unix commands on the command line.

So, if you ever encounter an error, or you can't figure out how to do something - even if it's with the Graphical User Interface ("GUI", or "desktop") - you'll often hit pages on the web where people are likely to be discussing things strictly about the command line, as the command line is often preferred over a desktop interface. As an example - just yesterday I had to make changes to a log file on my Linux server which required sorting techniques; as such you can expect to see discussions similar to this. Of course, not everyone will need to sort log files - but you can bet that "how to" discussions are going to be on a similar level.

With regard to software selection - I can tell you that the software selection for Linux is only a very small fraction of the programs available for Windows, so please keep that in mind. As for MS Office, it won't run under Linux unless you install a Windows emulator, first. But if you do install an emulator, then you should (in theory) be able to run a good portion of Windows programs on Linux. Also note that you will need a decent CPU and have a good amount of RAM to do that, otherwise the emulation will run slow because it is in fact being emulated, which means there is more overhead to make everything work.

Linux is Still an Excellent Alternative to Windows

With all of that said: if you are looking for a very well-rounded AND - most importantly - up-to-date operating system out of the box, complete with a browser, email client, word processor, etc, then you can certainly find that in various Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu Linux. They are called "distributions" because the inner workings (kernel, etc) which make up Linux are open source, and various organizations will 'roll their own' packages together to make what they think is a desirable or complete operation system. Thus, there are many different "flavors" of Linux available for free, or simply put, "Linux distributions."

One such place to review up to date Linux distributions on the web is distrowatch.com. I personally prefer CentOS because it is free and 100% compatible with commercial-based Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which is often used in high-level organizations. The difference is that CentOS is free, whereas RHEL is not.

Free Linux eBooks: for Windows Users Migrating to Linux

If you'd like to get your feet wet with Linux and learn more, by all means please download these fabulous ebooks (below) which are already readily available through Tradepub. These books are specifically about Ubuntu, which many users think is one of the best and most complete Linux Distributions available, especially if you are coming from a Windows environment:

  • Migrating From Windows 7 To Ubuntu: The Ultimate Guide

    Description: despite what all the Linux haters say, choosing Ubuntu is logical and migrating from Windows 7 to Ubuntu is a breeze. This article summarizes the process and provides solutions to some of the most common beginner hiccups.

  • Ubuntu: An Absolute Beginners Guide

    Description: Ubuntu is a free, open-source computer operating system with 20 million users worldwide. This 30 page guide was written for beginners and will tell you everything you need to know about the Ubuntu experience. You will learn how to install and setup Ubuntu on your computer, find technical support in your community, understand the Ubuntu philosophy, navigate the Unity desktop interface and use Ubuntu compatible software programs.

  • 22 Useful Tweaks To Make Ubuntu Feel Like Home

    Description: Ubuntu is a good Linux distribution to start out with, but there are some tweaks you might want to perform to get it to work and behave the way you want it to. This is especially true if you're new to Ubuntu or Linux. In this guide, we'll show you some great tweaks that can go a long way to achieving desktop zen.

  • Old Computer, New Life: Restoring Old Hardware With Ubuntu

    Description: Marketing departments want us to believe that PCs, laptops and netbooks become obsolete after a couple of years, but it's not true. The computer industry has evolved over the years more rapidly than any industry in contemporary history. Year after year engineers have worked valiantly to bring us, the end users, faster and more capable hardware without sacrificing reliability. Programmers and application developers have been equally quick to develop new software that puts to use the new hardware specifications. However, while striving to sell more and more products, marketing departments want us to believe that PCs, laptops and netbooks become obsolete after a couple of years, and not replacing them makes us luddites. It's not true. Except for high-end gaming, a mid-level system bought in 2006 will provide enough functionality to get work done and have fun in 2011. Word processing, Internet surfing, watching movies shouldn't make your old system think twice, granted it is configured correctly, up-to-date and has an operating system that's efficient and performance oriented.

  • Many More Ubuntu and Linux eBooks

    There are many more eBooks on Ubuntu from Tradepub via their search engine. You can also search for topics on Linux as well.

A note regarding the eBooks: Registration

Please note that these guides are free, but registration is required; after that, you can download more eBooks, videos and guides using the link below without registering again. Important: if you have problems or questions regarding the registration form, please read this article.

Additional Support: From Dennis - If you Need Help with Linux

If you need help getting started with Linux - whether it's choosing a Linux distribution, configuring Linux, or even troubleshooting error messages with Linux, I can help. I can connect to your computer via remote desktop support and answer any questions you may have. Simply shoot me an email via the contact page and we'll set up a time to meet and discuss your issues 1-on-1.

I hope that helps.

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david.e.buehler_6628's picture

Dennis, are you getting a lot of complaints about screen size / magnification / resolution under Windows 10? I was forced into an upgrade about a week ago. My screen resolution and aspect ratio were both bad. I Googled a solution that worked as advertised for about 5 days and then it reverted back to the messed up display (which also looks fuzzy and pixelated). But boot up time is way faster with the fuzzy resolution. So I will continue to work on it but I wanted to give you a heads up in case a lot of other folks are contacting you (it seems to be a common problem). I am puzzled at the longer boot up time associated with the fix and I am hoping I did not download a malware payload.

jimlake2_6661's picture

This has happened whenever I've done a clean install of Windows 10. A default, generic Microsoft Display Adapter driver is used for the graphics adapter. The problem can be resolved once you identify the computer's graphics adapter and download the correct driver from the manufacturer.

Dennis Faas's picture

Please refer to these articles:

If you have an ATI card and you make registry changes at per my article, do not use ATI video card drivers or you will lose the settings.

Cantis's picture

I think that current general Windows users will need more information on Linux. Now, to be fair Linux is a very good OS, and has a great deal going for it... but, the average user must understand a few things...

1) You are on your 'own'... now I don't mean abandoned but, you will be expected by the general Linux community to be willing and able to look for solutions, hunt and read any books, blogs, articles and resources you need and understand that the 'desktop' that you are used to is only a thin skin on top of the real operating system. You must be ready to open a command line and enter commands, find and download, unpack and manually install your own patches, updates etc. the level of 'user-ness' has an inherently higher expectation. This is not wrong, but it is true. Yes there are automatic software updates but that is for 'normal case' situations not troubleshooting. Do you need to do some of this in Windows, yes of course, but the difference is that the Linux community expects you do do this (and even enjoy it!) vs. the windows community where most users don't know what a command prompt is and don't care.

2) There are dozens of variations of everything, different linux distros, different versions of software for different distros etc. Windows 10 is indeed 'heavy handed' forcing one consistent version on all users without choice... but frankly that bluntness is in response to the fact that many many windows users NEVER updated their systems leaving them open to attack, now, you have no choice. Windows service patches and updates WILL be installed and you WILL be compatible (well mostly), no choice. If point 1 concerns you then you need to understand that all of that flexibility and openness promised by Linux doesn't actually help you 'just do some word processing'. You will be expected to 'own' your system and 'manage it' there is no 'big Microsoft'. That is seen by many (most) in the Linux world as a great thing, if you are more 'User' than a system 'Owner' I'd actually recommend staying OUT of the Linux space.

Interested in Linux? Spin up a VM and load in a Distro and play while you sill have your Windows box... If you have no idea what a VM is and how to 'Spin one up' then stop now, you aren't ready.


ecash's picture

Linux is great..
But has abit of a learning curve and is MORE hands on..

Linux, has many Free programs to do almost, if not MORE then windows.. With open source when someone needs/wants something built, they can get it..or make it themselves.
Programs to do Office work and art, and most things is abundant.. Programming languages are all over the place.
Before 2000' Linux was the best place to create games, and then PORT to windows, but MS stopped HELPING with it.

There are TONS of games for Linux, but Win compatibility, gets abit rough. check out the other options before you RUN to windows. With windows program and game support you have to also consider TWEAKING programs, and adjusting things to work, and that you are not REALLY working under windows..

And as said before, there are Many versions and TYPES of linux. Some are so much LIKE windows that they are as SLOW as windows, and do many things.. Some will do things very quickly, but you may need to Adjust/add a few things to DO what you wish..

I have 1 thing I dislike about Linux..and sometimes with windows.. OPTIONS to Adjust things like your windows, and resolutions, and configurations, are NOT all together..and the NAMES may not mean much in Linux, until you OPEn them and see what they do. iT WOULD BE NICE TO RENAME most OF THEM TO DESCRIBE THEIR use.. And in Linux, it would be nice to combine SOME programs to manage WHAT they are doing..

Good luck.

blueboxer2's picture

Think Linux might be your answer? Want a tryout? Look up any Linux description and choose a distribution that sounds appealing to you. At worst, Google will tell you where you can download it as a "live" CD. Go download the ISO disc image and burn it to a CD. Stick it into your CD slot and it should show options for a temporary or regular install - choose temporary. It will then install a full working copy of the distribution of your choice, plus usually a ton of free software, in spare space on your hard disc. Once you hit the entry screen, find the program menu, run whatever looks interesting, and play with it till you've made up your mind. Don't save anything as it will be lost when you exit.

If you like it well enough, you can make a new partition and install it permanently, with or without a dual boot with Windows, or make it callable from within Windows. Anyway you can try it briefly or long-term, or install it permanently, fix iit in place or toss it, all very easily. So why not?

kitekrazy's picture

Linux will never make it to prime time with the average person on the street. If you work in audio or video it would be a waste of time. The only alternative is Mac. How many times has MS pissed people of the still use Windows?
I've messed with Linux before. Linux users have terrible websites. Online help is like a needle in a haystack. 3rd party hardware vendors doesn't always offer Linux drivers. I found more things that didn't work than did using a Linux OS. I guess it's OK if you only use email and surf the web but other than that for me it's useless.

matt_2058's picture

I was thinking about trying Linux just to know what the options look like. I'm definitely not going to jeopardize my so far problem-free Windows 10 and 8.1.

I'm thinking about installing it on an extra drive. That way there is no way one OS will interfere with the other or for me to mess up what I have. And when I'm done, swap the drives and all is well.

grump3_2709's picture

Having rejected Vista, struggled to adapt to W7's GUI & hated W8 we remained on XP until its support demise.
We then went to an Ubuntu derivative, Linux Mint which also supplies some proprietary software & drivers missing from Ubuntu & haven't looked back.

We now have Mint installed on all our PCs in a dual boot set-up with W10 for the odd occasion we still might want to access some Windows only items with the advantage that Mint can access all of W10's files.
One can download the Mint ISO file to a USB stick or DVD & run it live in memory for testing without harming your existing system.

Comparing the 2 we find Mint much faster, easier to navigate & more responsive than W10 & updates are quickly achieved without those annoying Windows re-boots.
Mint's Software Manager provides simple graphical access to a huge library of optional utilities & applications free of hijackware add-ons.

When it first came to using the terminal we soon found that a quick Google search usually revealed a helpful response from which we simply copy/pasted the supplied commands into the terminal & all is well.
Well worth a look.