Switching to Linux OS isn’t as scary as you think – here’s why

For longtime Windows and macOS users, the thought of switching to Linux is terrifying. But if Linux is just as good (and frankly much more secure), why not switch?

Linux operating systems are often the first choice for the tech savvy or computer enthusiast, hence it is considered almost exclusive to this niche. People might think, “If tech-savvy nerds care about Linux, it probably isn’t for me.” But that’s just not true.

There’s always a learning curve when you switch smartphone brands, but ultimately you know the new phone like the back of your hand. It’s the same concept with an operating system on a laptop. There is an adjustment period, but Linux operating systems are actually quite intuitive.

The user interface is easy to learn and understand

With Windows or macOS, there is a main operating system with several iterations. For example, Windows11 is the latest iteration, but there’s also windows 10, Windows 8, etc. These are all variations of the same primary Windows operating system. The same concept can be applied to the many variations of macOS.

Lenovo X13s Gen 1 with Windows 11 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Linux, on the other hand, is not a single operating system. Rather, Linux is a kernel that has spawned multiple distributions (called “distributions” in the community) that serve unique purposes. There are specialized distros for gaming as well as privacy-centric distros that prioritize security.

There are also simpler distros for users who want a user interface that looks like what they’ve used in the past. If you’re familiar with Apple’s computers, there’s a distribution that mimics the look and feel of macOS. If you prefer Windows, there are many intuitive Linux options that are similar to the Microsoft operating system.

The reason there are so many distributions to choose from is the same reason operating systems derived from Linux are more secure: Linux is open source. Open source simply means it’s free for anyone to use, submit changes, and if you’re tech-savvy enough, even create a new distribution.

While there are hundreds of Linux distributions to choose from, here are some that are the most commonly used and fairly easy to learn:

  • LinuxMint
  • Ubuntu
  • Pop!_OS (used by System76 in their laptops)
  • Elementary OS (similar to macOS)
  • Peppermint operating system
  • Zorin OS
  • ChromeOS

There are so many distros out there that look similar enough to Windows OS or macOS that it’s not hard to get used to a Linux-based operating system – and believe it or not, they’re a breeze to install too.

You can install Linux yourself—or buy a laptop with Linux preinstalled

Installing a Linux distribution used to be a task and a half. With some modern distributions, it is still quite difficult to install and maintain the operating system. But for beginner distros (like the ones listed above), the initial installation is similar to installing a new program on your computer.

First you need to figure out which Linux distribution you want to install. Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll need to upload the distro to a USB flash drive (2GB minimum) and convert it to a bootable USB stick. Next, all you have to do is plug in the bootable USB drive, reboot your laptop, follow the on-screen instructions, and test your new Linux-based operating system!

Lenovo ThinkPad T16 Gen 1 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When you start your computer with the USB drive plugged in, what you see will vary depending on which distribution you were using. You may automatically see the live mode of that operating system or be prompted to choose between viewing live mode, installing the new operating system, or keeping your old operating system through custom options.

Simply put, Live mode allows you to view and test an operating system before actually overwriting your current operating system. Nothing you do in live mode is saved, and since it runs off a USB drive and not your internal SSD or hard drive, it’s slower than what you’ll experience with the distro actually installed.

Before officially launching any Linux distribution installation, make sure you back up everything on your computer or laptop. Overwriting your old operating system will erase everything on your storage drive, so be sure you have a copy of everything important saved elsewhere.

Once your new Linux distribution is downloaded and ready to go, installing browsers and applications is just as easy as it is on Windows OS or macOS. Also, many games on Steam are now compatible with Linux-based operating systems.

If the installation process still seems too big to you, there are laptops that come pre-installed with a Linux operating system. System76, a company that makes laptops and desktops, ships its products with Pop!_OS or Ubuntu already installed. Even Lenovoa big name in the laptop industry, offers customers an Ubuntu build for theirs ThinkPad laptops.

Keeping the system up to date is a breeze

Each Linux distribution has its own way of updating the system, but most updates come from the terminal or from where you issue commands to the operating system. Since each distribution has its own instructions, I won’t go into details here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (Credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

While using the terminal gives you a better understanding of how the operating system works and more control over your system, you don’t have to touch the terminal for updates if you don’t want to. There is an app you can download called Software Updater that will do everything for you in the background. Software Updater may not be available on your particular distribution, but there should be something similar that allows for easy updates.

If you’re moving from Windows to a Linux-based operating system, you’ll be shocked that updates aren’t haphazardly forced upon you. You can choose when or if you update your system, even if you have an app that tells you when new updates are available. Awesome right?

If a full distro seems too intimidating, start with Chrome OS

As I mentioned above, Chrome OS is technically a Linux-based operating system. While not a full-fledged distro like Ubuntu or Linux Mint, Chrome OS is a gentle entry into the pool of what Linux has to offer.

A Chrome book Using Chrome OS is much more secure than a laptop running Windows or macOS. Also, you can download Linux apps and get acquainted with a small part of what it would be like to run a full distro.

While it’s easy to stay familiar with what you know (Windows or macOS), moving to a Linux-based operating system is worth it in several ways. It’s totally free, gives you more security and privacy, and lets you customize your laptop.

About Willie Ash

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