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I recently watched Windows 10 guide a user through the setup process for the first time. There are words to describe the experience, but “pleasant” wasn’t one of them.

Shortly after, I installed Linux onto an older laptop that had become available. I hadn’t done so in a few years, and I was surprised at just how smooth the process had become. Compared to what I witnessed with Windows 10, my relationship with my new (old) machine was off to a much more comforting start.

Here are some of the ways Linux was less bothersome to use for the first time.

1) Linux is More Transparent

At some point in the past decade, interface designers attended a meeting and decided that progress bars had to go. In their place would be spinning circles that convey no information other than to wait. No need to stress yourself out watching progress bars fill up. Watch these dots move around in a circle instead. Isn’t it relaxing?

Windows has gone a step further. On some screens, it removes the dots and shows only a flashing screen. Presumably something is going on in the background. But if things are still happening or if something crapped out, there is no way of knowing. All we can do is watch the screen pulse and hope for the best.

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Linux installers still use progress bars. Not only that, they tend to explain which step of the process you’re in. Boot screens typically indicate how far along in the loading process they are.

This, to me, is user friendly. Don’t leave me in the dark.

LinuxEasierSetupWindows-Fedora-KDE-Install

2) Windows Can Feel Pretty Creepy

Computers can be intimidating. Perhaps no one knows this more than Microsoft. An entire industry has formed around teaching people how to use, fix, or replace their existing Windows machines.

In the past, this was simply how things were. Now things have changed. Microsoft faces competition from Apple and Google, both of whom sell computers that are generally more welcoming to newcomers Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) I've adopted, studied every Windows OS, adapted, and eventually learned to love each of them for different reasons. Are you curious to know why as of today, I'm a Chromebook guy? Read More .

With newer versions of Windows, Microsoft has decided to adopt a similar tone, so to speak. During first use, words like “Hi” and “We’re setting things up for you” occupy the entire screen.

Why is my machine talking to me? Who’s “we” and what exactly are they setting up? A number of web services take this tone these days to make their brand adorable. But this is Windows, a desktop operating system many of us use out of a need for Microsoft Office and certain proprietary programs. You know, work stuff. We’re all adults here.

Tell me what’s going on, and please stop talking that way.

3) Linux Doesn’t Pressure You into Creating an Online Account

A few years back Microsoft ran an ad campaign attacking Google’s use of your personal data. Relying on a Google account was a sure way to get Scroogled, the company said.

But while Microsoft would love for you to believe that it cares a great deal about your privacy, it wants your data too. If you do everything the Windows setup process wants you to, you will walk away with a Microsoft account that you can use for email, cloud storage, and interacting with other online services.

This sounds convenient, but only if you want to use those things. Someone who is perfectly happy with using Gmail won’t gain anything from having an Outlook.com account floating around other than the risk of their data being leaked if the site gets hacked (here’s how to delete Microsoft account if you aren’t using it How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login When you access Windows 10 with a Microsoft Account, you can store data in the cloud and sync it across devices. Does this sound concerning? We show you how to switch to a local account. Read More ). The same can be said for anyone who prefers Google Drive or would rather work offline using LibreOffice Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? LibreOffice, a long-time contender of Microsoft Office, just received a makeover and important updates. After being held back by niggling bugs over the years, has LibreOffice finally found the winning formula? Read More .

Some Linux distributions will give you the opportunity to sign into your existing online accounts as you’re setting up your new machine, but most don’t try to push their own services onto you (though Ubuntu, admittedly, has Ubuntu One).

Fortunately Microsoft doesn’t require you create an online account to use your computer. That is nice.

4) Linux Workspaces are Less Cluttered

Windows 10 marks a step back from the drastic redesign that was Windows 8 How To Quickly & Easily Disable The Metro User Interface In Windows 8 How To Quickly & Easily Disable The Metro User Interface In Windows 8 One of the most striking things about Windows 8 – beyond the Metro user interface – is the lack of a traditional Start menu in favour of tiles. However with a desktop view available for... Read More . The start menu has returned, so you no longer have to deal with square tiles covering the screen when you try to launch apps. The company has embraced traditional desktop computing… kinda.

Microsoft can’t walk away from all of the new Metro-style apps Use Windows 8 In Style With These Amazing Metro (Modern) Apps Use Windows 8 In Style With These Amazing Metro (Modern) Apps Windows 8 hasn’t quite taken off yet, but this shortcoming certainly isn’t due to a lack of apps. After all, there are several years’ worth of traditional Windows desktop apps to fall back on! As... Read More that were developed for Windows 8. Instead, it has crammed all of them into the new Start menu. When a new user clicks on the launcher for the first time, they’re hit with an overwhelming amount of options, some of which are animated.

By comparison, Linux desktops look simple. These days popular distributions make the most commonly used apps easy to find right from the beginning. Linux will generally put Firefox in the top of the app launcher along with a file manager and, typically, an office suite. Even KDE, which has a reputation for being a power user’s desktop, starts off this way.

LinuxEasierSetupWindows-KDE-Kickoff

True, Microsoft also pins a browser and a file manager to the taskbar, but with so many things on screen, don’t be surprised if you get a phone call in a couple of days from a relative who accidentally clicked on something they don’t recognize.

5) Linux Software is Easier to Find

Where do you get applications? On Linux, this is a very easy question to answer. On Ubuntu, you click the app store icon in the dock. In a distribution running GNOME, you do the same. KDE is a little trickier since you may have to dig through the launcher menu before you find out what the package manager is. Still, there’s usually a one-stop-shop for the software you seek The Linux User's Toolkit for Discovering New Apps The Linux User's Toolkit for Discovering New Apps Installing Linux is like checking into an all-inclusive resort. Hardware works perfectly, and you get an impressive selection of pre-installed software. But what if you want to try out some new Linux software? Read More .

LinuxEasierSetupWindows-GNOME-Software

Windows 10 has an app store, but you probably won’t find the software you want in there. For popular software like Firefox and Google Chrome, you’re going to open up a web browser and look for an .exe. This is old knowledge for longtime Windows users, but many newcomers will find this as confusing as countless Windows users before them.

Admittedly, you might not certain software, like Skype, in your Linux distribution’s default repositories. But you won’t have any problem finding an office suite like LibreOffice. How someone ends up buying a digital copy of Microsoft Office from Amazon and waiting on an email to download software in 2016 is beyond me.

6) Linux Doesn’t Give Free Manufacturer Bloatware

Computer manufacturers want consumers to buy their hardware. Rather than simply making good machines, they also flood their devices with software. You could say their hearts are in the right place – Windows is confusing, and it makes sense to bundle in some applications that Microsoft doesn’t include out of the box.

But what good is a security suite that already looks outdated? Why does this webcam application take so long to load? I don’t have a printer yet, so why is this printer setup utility already nagging me?

LinuxEasierSetupWindows-Bloatware

Those of us who know what we’re doing have to spend our initial moments with a new Windows computer uninstalling or disabling all the gunk that we don’t want How to Easily Remove Bloatware from Windows 10 How to Easily Remove Bloatware from Windows 10 Windows 10 comes with several pre-installed apps that take up space on your device and aren't easy to remove. Sounds like bloatware, doesn't it? We show you how to remove these apps. Read More . Those of us who don’t know what we’re doing will find ourselves confused and annoyed by this software as it takes up space and finds bothersome ways to remind us of its presence.

An unfamiliar operating system is a lot for someone to take in for the first time. They don’t need pop-ups adding to the confusion, and you don’t need the headache of trying to help someone deal with a Dell pop-up over the phone that you’ve never encountered before because your computer came from HP.

Maybe it’s Time to Start People Off on Linux

I’m not suggesting we should expect everyone to download ISO images and burn them onto USB sticks. That’s not going to happen. No matter how straightforward a Linux installer may be, the average person won’t be able to get there without their nerdy friend or family member doing that part for them. On their own, using whatever operating system ships by default is the only option.

But you’re reading this site, which means you probably have the technical know-how to set up Linux installation media on your own How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More (this guide is old, but the process remains largely the same). There’s a strong chance you’re the one who has to set up a computer for someone else regardless of whether it’s running Windows, Mac OS X, or something else.

All I’m saying is that we’ve reached a point in time where providing friends and family with a computer running Linux might actually result in less headache for you and them alike (and maybe ever fewer phone calls). With options like System76 and ZaReason, you can even order a computer that already has Linux pre-installed.

Have you installed a Linux distribution recently? What first impression did it leave you with? How would you say the experience compared to Windows or Mac? Maybe there are some things you felt Microsoft did better. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credit: Angry man crashing laptop with hammer via ShutterStock

  1. Liz
    July 21, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I use Linux Mint daily and love it! Far better than Windows 8 or 10, Windows 7 is on my other desktop

  2. Sugi
    June 27, 2016 at 2:45 am

    Despite everything, a couple of issues still kill the Linux platform. First is the lack of native software, and second is the Linux community.
    The lack of quality software that many people use on a daily basis is a huge issue on Linux platforms. What drives me away personally is the lack of Adobe's creative suite and Microsoft Office (sorry, the 'alternatives' that exist on Linux simply don't make the cut) This wouldn't be so much of a problem if Linux had a larger user base, but then we'd see a sharp increase in other issues (namely malware.)
    Also, the lack of overall unity and direction you'd expect your operating system to take simply doesn't exist on Linux. The community does what they want, and if anyone disagrees they fork it. There must be hundreds upon hundreds of distros in Linux, each one with their own benefits and disadvantages. Like it or not, Windows has a clear path forwards while maintaining compatibility and features from older versions backwards, under control from a single entity. Yes, I can deal with a nightmarish situation of sorting through the disorganized mess in the community, but the reasons I'd want to do that are not very convincing.
    That isn't to say Linux is a horrible platform, of course. It's flexible, open source nature makes it easily reprogrammed and scaled for different platforms and purposes. And of course, new devices are coming out with Linux operating systems all the time. Probably most importantly, Linux forces Microsoft to step up their game and keep on delivering "better" in order to remain relevant in the PC industry. Altogether, while I personally won't be switching to Linux, I find its contributions to be pretty valuable in general.

  3. Ashaman
    June 8, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I installed the newest linux mint x64 with kde desktop.. its fine and more fast then pervious op, win7 x64 but its still on in the machine (good things for now: you can install linux after you have windows,the new bootlader will see win too :)
    the truth is not to easy to install..i mean esaly installed itself after usually process, and working the system after it, but not perfect for everything the video, and sound
    I find the problem: the default driver nott god for me, but zhe softver center cant find best so after it I was neddet the do it in terminal,but fortunatelly I read some forum in this topic,and they are very usefull.. so after a hole days of trying I finally succesfully configure my video-, sound driver, openGl settings and windows emulator (download the newest source and make install,and config as a descriptions says)
    But after it I very happy and statisfied,because this is the most powerfull sytem what I everhad on this desktop machine :)

  4. Michael Weldon
    April 18, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    I switched from XP to Linux overnight when the former hit EOL.....after using XP for its entire lifespan.

    Sure, there were problems. I started with Ubuntu. It was great to start with; snappy, and very responsive. But after 3 or 4 months of Canonical's continuous, non-stop, never-ending updates (I think fcd's right.....they ARE trying to be the 'Windoze' of the Linux world!), my old Compaq Presario ( a proper Compaq.....not an HP namesake) started getting slower and slower, and the graphics began freezing up every few minutes. I switched to Linux in part to get away from the constant updating.....I thought I'd re-installed it!

    I eventually switched to 'Puppy' Linux. Overnight, the graphical freeze-ups quit. Just like that. I now run 7 Puppy distros on the same machine, from dual drives. And I couldn't be happier.

  5. Cinnamon Toast
    February 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    A nitpick, but UnbuntuOne shut down in 2014.

  6. me
    February 10, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    Windows has gotten so bad and Linux has gotten so good, the two have crossed over each other in usability. More importantly those trajectories don't look like they will be changing much for a good while.

  7. Edward
    February 6, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I tried using Linux (Ubuntu, specifically) during my upgrade from WinXP to Win7. In addition to the unfamiliar GUI, I also had to contend with the change in filesystem and lack of software I trust. There are things which "just work" in MSOffice that are a pain to get working in Libre or Open Office. The same can be said of a great deal of Windows software, it "just works". The only utility-esque program I could use was Firefox; even SeaMonkey didn't work properly on an IBM T42. Every time I went into IRC, I was treated rudely and dismissively.

    I moved that machine back to XP only quickly and moved over to Win7 on my main unit. I wish I could say that I will not use anything ever derived from any project involving even the concept of UNIX (yep, they pissed me off that far - not Linux, UNIX); but that's impossible in today's world if I like computers & the Internet. I don't trust Open Source for my operating system. Too many people have access and can find bugs. For every one person who'll report the bug, two more will figure out how to exploit it.

    I have used Windows 10 on a machine at my office, which was upgraded as an experiment. So far, I want to delete/disable the voice control, remove the Settings program, and essentially set it back to being XP-Like; but I do love that multi-monitor also comes with multi-taskbar by default.

    BTW - BSD/Linux/GNU OSs could win me over by allowing graphical similarity to Windows (i.e. taskbar on bottom of screen, menu containing commands), FAT-like naming (i.e. a computer has a main HDD labelled C:\ with appropriate folder names; the optical drive is D:\, etc, rather than the incomprehensible crap they have now), and a better focus on 100% cross-compatibility aims with both OSX and Windows. You want to be amazing? Beat them at their own game. Allow me to run .exe, .dmg, and .deb files simultaneously and I'll consider looking at your buggy, insecure, constantly forced-to-update OS.

    Windows XP is stable, it works, and I can rely on it - hell, it'll even run most modern software! It was released in 2001. Can the same be said of a Linux version from the same year? When I have an OS on a machine, that's it. It's with the machine from the first time I boot to the last time I shut it down (or have it die on me). The same OS - graphically, functionally, and in version number. That doesn't change if I use the machine for a week, or somewhere beyond a decade.

    • me
      February 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      Edward, I had those same problems. I discovered I was overthinking it. As far as the file system it took me a bit to learn as a beginner I only needed to use and look at my user home directory and it's contents. As far as software I was trying to install from places other than the software center and to further complicate stuff I was doing things that used the command line. Once I started keeping the usage simple and not customizing beyond what options were already available within my Linux Mint Mate install everything worked pretty well. I would never go back to Windows now, it has issues I didn't even realize before.

    • fcd76218
      February 18, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      @Edward:
      You are not a good candidate for Linux. You want use a different O/S (Linux) but you want it to look, feel and work exactly like Windows and run the same programs as Windows. So stick with Windows. You'll be happier. Why put yourself through the trials and tribulations of switching and the pain of having to learn a new O/S?

    • Giorgos
      February 29, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      I disagree with you on a number of points, but the general idea I get from your comment is that you seek in Linux something like Windows (XP), only somehow better and additionally incorporating perfect emulation layers for both Windows and Mac OS.

      May I recommend this article to you?
      http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm (Linux is Not Windows)

      It's a long read, but probably worth your time.

    • Michael Weldon
      July 21, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Windows just 'works'.....and you 'trust' closed-source coding? Boy, are you deluded, my friend. You didn't even give it a fair try.....but then I suspect you're one of the multitude who just want to use their machines, rather than trying to figure out how to make it work. In that respect, you're in good company.....

    • Michael Weldon
      July 21, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Actually, that's not fair to lambast you like that. I, too, still use XP (alongside all my 'Pups'), but find it extremely easy to swap from one to the other.....long familiarity, I guess?

      But I never did understand the logic behind calling the system partition the C:\ drive. Where IS the logic in that? (lol) I've been using Windows ever since 3.1, and in all that time I've never figured it out. It sure as hell isn't 'logical'; not to me, at any rate.

      The best bit I find about Linux is that you can give your partitions/drives NAMES, instead of just a letter. Isn't that more friendly?

      But it's very much a case of what you're used to.....and what works for you. Whoever you are, you're far better sticking with something which, in every respect, fulfils those particulars. And I mean that in a nice way.

  8. jymm
    February 4, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    The problem is someone buying a new computer preloaded with Windows and then telling someone to wipe it out or cut the HD space in half by dual booting. They will be reluctant. Linux needs come preloaded on mass produced low cost machines, just like Windows does to reach your goal of starting someone out on Linux.

    Actually I just wish I could find computers with no OS that are mass produced low cost machines. I have looked at refurbished machines with no OS, but they tend to be over priced, damaged, of unknown working ability and laptops seem to all be missing the charging cords. Mostly not worth the price. Switching people with good but older computers with XP or Vista seems way more realistic.

    • fcd76218
      February 4, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      "Linux needs come preloaded on mass produced low cost machines, ..................................

      Actually I just wish I could find computers with no OS that are mass produced low cost machines."
      You can thank Microsoft for that. Commercial PC builders have to pay M$ each PC they ship, whether it is loaded with Windows or not. System 76 company only ships computers loaded with Linux.

      "I have looked at refurbished machines with no OS, but they tend to be over priced, damaged, of unknown working ability and laptops seem to all be missing the charging cords."
      I have purchased refurbished computers from Newegg and did not have those problems. Maybe I was lucky.

    • jymm
      February 7, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      I will give Newegg a try, sounds good from what you have to say.

      I know about System76 and ZaReason, but they tend to have higher end more expensive machines. I also think System76 only installs Ubuntu. ZaReason will install Fedora and Debian also, but I think that is about it. That means you will have to do all the configuration yourself if not using Ubuntu, defeating some of the reason of buying Linux pre-installed. I think Dell also is still doing Ubuntu. You can buy a low end Windoze machine from Office Depot for $200. ZaReason starts at about $650 and System76 about $450. Dell has a Linux Laptop for $279 and a Desktop from $549. I know they are better machines, but a lot of people will choose the cheap model of Windoze.

  9. varun
    February 4, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Was a windows user for the last 10+ years. 3 months back installed Linux Mint using dual boot method. Since then, I never logged into the windows OS.

    But I must confess that there are initial troubles - and some of these have been because of I being foreign to linux world.
    But the main set of troubles have been because of the passiveness with which I was using windows. Using Linux for the first time is like shifting from eating outside daily to cooking your own food. There are burns, and couple of bad food to eat at the beginning. But once you know the method, there is nothing like cooking your own meal.

    • fcd76218
      February 4, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Learning anything new has its painful moments.

      Learning Windows after using Linux for a long time is no picnic.

  10. fcd76218
    February 4, 2016 at 1:35 am

    "Have you installed a Linux distribution recently?"
    I installed PCLinuxOS this afternoon. From start to finish it took about 20 minutes. It would have been faster if I had chosen automatic partitioning and all default options. After the install was done, it ejected my DVD and told me to hit ENTER to reboot the system. During the reboot Iwas asked to provide the root password, set up any users and my time zone. After 30 seconds I was presented with a logon screen and after logging in I was ready to go.

  11. jijm
    February 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Thats because no one uses Linux. If it became popular, it would have the same problems. Ubuntu and Amazon is a great example of this.

    • fcd76218
      February 4, 2016 at 1:23 am

      "If it became popular, it would have the same problems."
      No, it would not because it is not being developed by Microsoft.

      "Ubuntu and Amazon is a great example of this."
      Ubuntu is Window-ized Linux. Mark Shuttleworth is a great admirer of Bill Gates. It is his goal in life to make Canonical into Linux-world's version of Microsoft and to make Ubuntu look and feel like Windows.

      In spite of what many bloggers and "experts" insist, Ubuntu is not the One and Only Linux distribution. If you object to the collaboration between Canonical and Amazon there are over 200 Linux distributions that are in no way related to Ubuntu. Quite a few of them are as easy to install and use as Ubuntu.

  12. begar
    February 3, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    I am using Linux Mint for 1 year no and never looked back to windows.
    Its ultra fast, stable, has any app you would like, its safe (no viruses) and it is FREE.

    All i had to do was to build a desktop, choosing linux supported parts and peripherals. So 100% of my hardware is linux compatible. And of course, i have choosen a laptop, which is 100% linux compatible, for those circumstances, i need a laptop.

    In my opinion, there only two reasons for someone to use Windows:

    1. He has a specific device, which is not supported by linux (no drivers).
    2. A specific application, which is needed, but runs only on Windows.

    As for windows 10, i tested it for about a month and come to the conclusion that it is a good OS with many pros, but has some cons, which i can tolerate.

    * Sorry for my bad english.

  13. Read and Share
    February 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    All the welcoming amounts to naught if after a fresh install and attempting to install an app directly from the repository, I get a fail - multiple times.

  14. Chuck
    February 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    I've been using Ubuntu for a few years and must agree. Now using an older Dell laptop (i5, 8gB RAM) that dual boots Ubuntu 15.10 x64 and Windows 10. Ubuntu, using the stock Unity interface, is snappy and full featured. Printers and USB scanner were easy to setup. Bluetooth works well. Networking GUI is easy to find and use. LibreOffice is OK, but formatting isn't consistent, and no direct access to OneDrive.
    On the other hand, Windows 10 is sluggish and cryptic. The big blocky, real-estate intensive apps seem more like something designed for a pre-schooler - I am NOT blind! Not much feedback with any process: periodic updates are a mystery, and task manager kludgey. It appears that to use Cortana I must log in to the device using my MS online ID. I don't want to type the 18-character strong password every time the screen locks (maybe there is a way, but don't want to spend that much time hunting).
    Every time I use Windows 10 I wonder why I ever upgraded from Windows 7.

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