The Best Linux Distros for First Time Switchers from Windows and Mac

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Linux has an intimidating image, making it seem like it would be difficult to start using it. But the switch from Windows and Mac is actually pretty easy, if you can ease yourself into it.

If you’re a Windows user, you have probably slowly evolved from Windows 95 to XP to Windows 7 and now you are getting ready for Windows 10. This gradual progression has helped you deal with changes in how Windows is now, and is a major reason that you may think you should stick to Windows. However, if you’re switching to Linux, do yourself a favour and make it gradual, rather than a dramatic shift.

Linux doesn’t have a single look and feel, as there are several operating systems based on Linux; these are called distributions (distro). The jury is out on which is the best Linux distro, but that’s just a technical comparison. The best distro for you is what matters, and when you are switching, that is usually the distro most akin to which OS you are coming from.

The Best Distro to Switch to from Windows XP


If you are still on Windows XP, it’s probably best to switch to Linux since Microsoft no longer supports updates for XP. And Linux Mint is probably the best way to go. Some reckon it’s the Ubuntu killer!

Linux Mint is one of the most popular distros around, and for good reason. In many ways, it looks and feels like XP, with the old-style Windows taskbar and Start Menu. The big benefit is that it is one of the most stable distros and has a large community of developers and supporters, plus it is in active development (so you are assured of critical updates).

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The familiar desktop environment, the fact that your minimise-maximize-close buttons are in the same place as Windows, and several other such small tweaks make Mint an easy shift for first-time Linux users coming from XP.

The Best Distro to Switch to from Windows Vista


Vista had most of the same elements as XP—the taskbar, the start menu, the file explorer and more generally remained the same, except for cosmetic upgrades. You could safely use Linux Mint if you’re upgrading from Vista, but you might also want to try Kubuntu.

It is based on Ubuntu, one of the most popular distros. However, the desktop environment uses KDE, which looks and operates differently from Debian or Unity (used by Ubuntu). In fact, you can easily try the gorgeous KDE 5 desktop. Jargon aside, what you need to know is this: Kubuntu is the closest you’ll come to Vista in terms of look and feel, especially if you apply one of the darker themes.

The Best Distro to Switch to from Windows 7


If you’re a Windows 7 user looking to make the jump to Linux, don’t even think twice about it and get yourself Zorin OS. Why? It was made specifically to make switching easy for Windows 7 users.

It faithfully recreates the look of Windows 7, from the new taskbar to the system tray, from the start button to the file explorer. Heck, if they had thrown in jump lists, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two.

The big seller for Zorin OS is the preloaded software. Linux is often touted as lighter and faster than Windows, and Zorin proves that in spades. If your machine runs Windows 7, install Zorin OS on it and pick the “Lite and Fast” software package during installation. Thank me later.

The Best Distro to Switch to from Windows 8 or Touchscreen Laptops


Microsoft made Windows 8 so that it could be used with laptops that have a touchscreen or 2-in-1 hybrid devices. If you’re using one such device, then you want a Linux distro that will work with touchscreen input. Look no further than Ubuntu.

Of all the Linux distros, Ubuntu is the most flawless for touchscreen usage, thanks to its large icons and well-spaced buttons—you won’t be tapping things mistakenly. This is mainly because of the Unity interface, made to be used with both tablets and in a desktop environment. Plus, Ubuntu’s on-screen keyboard is far better than what you get on other distros (although it’s still not as good as  Windows 8, let alone iOS or Android).

Plus, you don’t need to get rid of Windows immediately, you can easily dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu.

The Best Distro to Switch to from OS X

If the appeal of OS X is its minimalistic, aesthetic look, then Elementary OS is what you need to switch to. It’s “inspired” by OS X, much like how Vanilla Ice was “inspired” by Queen’s Under Pressure.

But let’s not get into the blame game. Elementary OS is incredibly beautiful, and the developers actually built several apps made specifically to be used with the OS (unlike other Linux distros which package existing software). The Maya calendar app (which syncs with Google Calendar) is gorgeous enough to rival any calendar you may use, and I badly wish Noise was a more popular music player.

Are You Ready To Switch?

Apart from the above options, there are also four promising Linux distros coming in 2015. The big question is, are you ready to switch to Linux? What’s keeping you rooted in Windows or Mac?

Image Credits: jesadaphorn / Shutterstock, Wikipedia

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