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Your first Linux distribution can sweeten or sour your future Linux experience. That’s why it’s important to get that debut choice right.

So you have decided to give Linux a shot, despite your misgivings about Linux and the temptation to stick to Windows 8 In 10 Desktop Computers Runs Windows And So Should You 8 In 10 Desktop Computers Runs Windows And So Should You Getting a new computer? One devil urges you to buy a Mac or Chromebook, while the other insists you try Linux. And here's me explaining why you should stick with a Windows device. Read More . A search for a list of Linux distributions on Wikipedia reveals an extensive array of Linux flavors, and those just happen to be some of the notable ones. Now, how do you choose a Linux distro out of all the ones spread across the Web? Here are some tips that can help.

Don’t Skimp On The Research

If you jump into what seems like a good Linux setup only to find it working against you, it’s disappointing when you have to switch to a different option. If this happens a few times in a row, you might be put off Linux forever. It’s much better to arm yourself with sufficient information going in. Read, read, read till you’re sure of making a confident decision.

There are many handy Linux resources right here on MakeUseOf. Begin with Danny’s “Should I Use Linux?” checklist The Ultimate "Should I Use Linux?" Checklist The Ultimate "Should I Use Linux?" Checklist Deciding whether switching to Linux isn't so easy, because Linux isn't perfect and sadly not for everyone -- although we'd like to think that. Is it for you? Read More . See how each Linux distribution is different What's The Difference Between Linux Distributions If They're All Linux? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Linux Distributions If They're All Linux? [MakeUseOf Explains] When a user is first introduced to Linux, they might be told they're using Linux, but they'll quickly learn that it's called something else. Yes, Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, Debian, openSUSE, and so many others... Read More . Then check out the best Linux distros available.

newsletter-linux-distros-2014

If the lack of gaming options or the complexity of usage is what you’re worried about, Joel’s post on misconceptions about Linux 5 Lies Linux-Haters Like To Tell 5 Lies Linux-Haters Like To Tell Linux may have been a scary operating system before, but all of that has changed in recent years. These myths, which are more accurately called lies, are now dead. Read More will put your fears to rest.

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List Your Deal-breakers

  • What are the OS features that you can’t do without?
  • Have you searched for their Linux counterparts? Are they available?
  • What if a feature is slated for arrival in the near future? Are you willing to wait for it?

Ask yourself what it is that you consider a deal breaker in an OS—the thing that will make you abandon your distro search midway and go back to your old, functional OS. Put that into words and begin your search there. Of course, you do have the option to run Linux alongside your current OS, with a dual-boot setup.

virtual-box

Make a list of programs that you consider must-haves. They may or may not be available for Linux. You might find alternatives, or you can opt for a virtual box to emulate them. It’s all up to you. Where are you willing to compromise when it comes to programs and applications? When you’re clear on your criteria for a good OS, your search becomes easier.

My Search For The Right Distro

I use browser-based tools for all of my work. As long as Chrome and Firefox were guaranteed to work fine, I was willing to forgo all of my Windows programs and replace them with Linux alternatives. Among desktop software, I considered Skype and a scanning program nice apps to have. I listed poor aesthetics and complex navigation/workflow as my deal breakers. As I planned to install Linux on my netbook, finding a distro that would consume minimal resources was important for me. I ended up with a list of some lightweight Linux distros 6 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life 6 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life Read More .

chrome-for-linux

Define Your Technical Expertise

Linux setups can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. There’s an option for every kind of user. Ask yourself:

  • What is your level of technical expertise?
  • Do you want something that is super simple and runs out of the box?
  • Are you willing to get your hands dirty if it means that you’ll end up with a better distro?
  • How much time are you willing to spend on customization?

Linux-Inside Here’s how I answered that set of questions:

  • My technical skills are neither too basic nor too evolved. This means that while terms like compiler and cron job are somewhat scary for me, if anything does go wrong, I can fix it by myself with some help from the Internet.
  • I do prefer to have “all the good things” set up by default. But, I’m also willing to spend considerable time and effort on personalization, to get a distro that I’ll be happy with over time. Having said that, I don’t want to go completely DIY and build a Linux system from scratch Arch Linux: Letting You Build Your Linux System From Scratch Arch Linux: Letting You Build Your Linux System From Scratch For Linux power users, it's highly desirable to be able to completely customize your system. Sometimes, that can be best achieved from the start -- by piecing together the components that you'd like to include... Read More .

I narrowed down my options to Elementary OS Luna, Linux Mint, Bodhi Linux, Puppy Linux, MacPup, LXPup. penguin-making

Take A Test Drive

You don’t have to wonder how a certain Linux distribution looks and feels. Once you have finalized a handful of distros, take each of them for a test run. Choose from the various methods available to try Linux risk-free Curious About Linux? 5 Easy & No Risk Ways To Try Linux On Your Windows PC Curious About Linux? 5 Easy & No Risk Ways To Try Linux On Your Windows PC Want to check out Linux, but fear you might wreck your existing Windows installation? Don't. There are plenty of risk-free ways to try Linux, from live CDs to USB keys to virtual machines. Whether you're... Read More .

For your first Linux outing, go with a distro that not just appeals to you, but is also popular. This will make any required troubleshooting easier. Once you become comfortable with the Linux environment, you can experiment with any obscure distro you wish to.

After testing my final options firsthand, I installed Luna. Six months later I’m still happy with the choice.

luna-os-desktop

A Word About Online Reviews

When I gushed about eOS Luna Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Bye bye, Windows. Hello, Linux! Here's what convinced me that eOS Luna is a better bet than Windows 7. Read More , I drew some extreme responses. It was apparent that the Linux experience can swing wildly from fantastic! to meh. Consequently, reviews follow the same pattern. If you’re swayed easily (as I am) by reviews, remember that behind those verdicts are human beings drawing from personal experiences. It’s a good idea to take reviews with a grain of salt and separate the facts from the emotions.

Surprise!

No matter how much you have read about your next distro, brace yourself for a few surprises (shocks?) along the way. The bottom line is that based on your workflow, your computer’s hardware specs, your software choices, etc. your brush with Linux is guaranteed to be unique. But at least if you make an informed decision, your first Linux experience will be positive and welcoming.

What’s holding you back from switching to Linux? Which distro is it going to be for you?

Image credits: DoctorButtsMD via Compfight cc, Adriano Gasparri via Compfight cc, cernaovec via Compfight cc // All images are derivatives

  1. Dave S.
    September 28, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    I switched from OSX El Capitan to Linux Mint 18 (Sarah) and have never looked back. I'm set up to dual boot to between Mint and OSX, which you really do need if you have an iTunes library and want to sync to your iPhone. Other than that, Mint runs everything. rEFInd bootloader allows for quick OS switch at restart.

  2. RealNeil
    January 16, 2015 at 3:11 am

    I have Win-7 and the pre-release Win-10.
    But I also use Zorin Ultimate on one PC. It does work without any issues at all, and the interface is great.
    I think that the right version (or distro) of Linux is the key to being happy with it.

  3. dragonmouth
    January 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    "When I gushed about eOS Luna, I drew some extreme responses. It was apparent that the Linux experience can swing wildly from fantastic! to meh."
    Most of the problems with Linux that newbies report having, are self-inflicted. Instead of doing a default install of their chosen distro, they try to get fancy by playing with the option presented during the install. Once the distro is installed, instead of using it as is to get comfortable, they dive right into Terminal and the command line. When the system starts misbehaving, they blame Linux rather than their less-than-expert fumbling around. After all, they just spent two or three years on a Windows PC. After that, how hard could Linux be?

    Linux is not hard if approached as any new project should be, slowly and deliberately. When you were learning French, you did not start by reading Voltaire or Hugo in their native language. You started with simple sentences such as "See Spot. See Spot run. Spot is a dog." or the French equivalent. Linux is the same. Start by using the applications that were installed by default. Once you are comfortable with those, find the GUI Package Manager and install a new application. When you are totally comfortable with any GUI application on your system, open up Terminal and under your userid start using command such as "uname", "ls", "cat" and other simple, non-destructive ones. ( BTW, "cat" in Linuxdoes not perform the same function as "cat" in Windows.) When you can safely use non-destructive commands, only then do you start to "sudo ap-get install XYZ package".

  4. Harish Dhadhal
    November 20, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Most fears are genuine. Fears of unknown, nothing more. To overcome , you have to give a safe try. And ... the result- a rewarding success.

  5. jymm
    October 21, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I started Linux with Xandros. That was the old days before package managers and made me give up Linux for some time. I then tried PC Linux Gnome, which I liked, but personally found lacking. SolusOS was next and I loved it, but as in much of the Linux world, new distros disappear as fast as they appear. I did learn to love Debian based distros though. Once I got over the fear of Russian and Chinese distros I settled on Point Linux. Best distro I have ever used, including Windows XP and 7. The lack of activity on the forum tells you how good it is. People just don't have problems.

    I do agree the base software you use will change little across distros, though some will not support certain software, which can be the deal breaker. Different windows managers, desktops and package managers, along with individual or rolling releases make the difference. I know I will end up using Debian someday, but still have a bit to figure out about installing all the non-free software I need, as Debian is totally open source, which still gives me a few problems.

  6. dragonmouth
    October 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    @Dave:
    "I am a new user of Linux with no experience, what should I do from here?"
    If you are as new to Linux as you state, why are you trying to use "sudo" and "dpkg" commands in Terminal? Improper use of options for those commands can really screw up your system. I would suggest that you start from scratch. Reformat your hard drive and make sure the Ethernet cable is plugged in before you start the install. Then do a default install of your chosen distro. During the install take all the default choices by hitting "Next" on every screen. Once you reboot, you should have a working system. To update your system with the latest versions, use the GUI software (Software Manager or Update Manager) provided with the distro. This may not be as geeky as using command line but at least Update Manager will not make any mistakes. When you have a well running system and you have gotten comfortable with Linux, you can start playing with command line.

  7. Dave
    October 2, 2014 at 8:06 am

    @kwacka
    Did not realize there was a chance of Money back :D

    I will look into it, and re-read the "how to get started with linux" again.

    Maybe it is time for another try. either that or upgrade to win 8 (shudder)

    • lott11
      October 2, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      To Dave
      Try Ultimate Edition it comes with mate all the application that you would ever pick plus auto update.
      I have use in a Ases E Dell 5830,6892 Toshiba 3 different models Intel Celeron Coppermine & core dual, Sandy Bridge, AMD turion, and this are all laptops.
      On PC's from 586 with 1 GB ram UE will run on 512 Mg, but slow so use lite edition.
      I use to use Edubuntu & Trisquel but some of the kids wanted more so I used UE
      The teachers added other application to complement there teaching.
      I donate my time to help schools that have little to no budgets for equipment.
      I have been doing this for the last 27 years,
      What I have seen is people are more likely use Linux, if windows no longer support there systems.

  8. Dave
    October 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

    I know that OS choice gets the blood boiling, but there is a reason why windows is installed on the majority of end user computers, and the only real alternatives seems to be Mac

    I appreciate that if I invest a lot of hours on tirelessly actively seeking out help I may get a linux distro to do what my Win PC does out-of-the-package, but why should I ?

    Installing a program is relatively painless IF (big if) it is in the Ubuntu store, (Click and it will install) but if not...wow.. Sudo can do what now ?

    What do I mean by Linux always beeing a risk ?
    Let me illustrate with an experience. I installed Ubuntu on a laptop and it seemed to work...seemed to work. My harddisk was a problem. Sometimes it just dissapeared. Which meant hours searching boards of users with same problem, and snarky linux nerds berating newbies. (please understand.- I am not calling anyone nerds just saying how it looks like from the outside)

    If I had had a problem like this on win (IF...because I have never experienced anything like this) help is A) easy to find, and B) friendly.

    I still dont know how to buy a linux laptop. other than bying a win laptop. hoping it works with a linux distro, and then just knowing that if I have problems I cannot solve....I lost that money... But hey, atleast I already paid for WIN, so I may be able to re-install win.

    See my point ? Akshata's comments is also pretty good at showing my point. Have you ever heard of anyone having problem with a windows PC like this ? Never. It just works. sure there are problems, but never

    "I have to type sudo apt-get modprobe b43 in the terminal to load the necessary driver. Apparently I can bypass this and connect directly if I uninstall the other driver that is not in use, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet."

    Windows is for everyone
    MAC is for everyone who is not a gamer.

    Linux is not for users. Linux is for super users and the initial learning curve is steep and filled with newbie hostile "help"

    I have tried several times to switch to Linux. Why ? Honestly I dont know.
    Maybe it is because Linux users are cool
    maybe it is because WIN meets 90% of my needs, and the last 10% are calling

    In any case, I think it is easier to stay on win. Learn Python, then Java and then after years as a developer- try again

    • Dave
      October 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Hello Akshata,
      I'm going to try some of the options you describe but my other problem is when I try to update software, drivers and so on while connected to hardwire it will disconnect on me. Now I can receive emails and surf the web but not update or any wireless. Then I have to reboot system over again. I really don't understand the terminal that well to use to enter code. I've tried about everything so far but will continue some how with drivers from the sites you mention. This is so frustrating I thought this would be a smooth transition from XP boy was I wrong --now going on a week so far and no results. Thanks..

    • ed
      October 2, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      Dave,
      You make good points.
      I am ideologically drawn to Linux, but practicality has me sticking to Windows on my main computer. Hassle free with printers, video cards, and networking. Tons of good quality software instead of half-baked applications with no R&D money behind them to ensure quality and consistency.

      I really want Linux to succeed as a desktop OS, but a lack of robustness, polish, fit and finish keep my main system running with Windows.

  9. Harsh Gajjar
    October 2, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I am CG artist, and i have experienced performance difference between windows and linux. linux are way faster when it comes to computations or rendering raw images.
    I hope large scale industries start using linux systems so there could be more developers, and normal softwares can be available with linux systems too.
    Anyway,
    Linux are great with performance, but normal people who uses computer for basic stuffs get scared by the name of it. people are not aware that its just OS,
    they thinks about it as a complex thing.
    I would prefer Linux Mint KDE or netrunner OS (frontier) all those users who are using linux for the first time, cause KDE is similar to windows in some looks and operational way, there are many graphical options available to tweak your system. KDE 4 and onwards are using low system resources this days.

    Thank you. nice article btw.

    • Akshata
      October 8, 2014 at 3:01 am

      Thank you, Harsh. It's good to hear from the perspective of someone who uses Linux for resource-intensive work like CG rendering.

  10. lott11
    October 2, 2014 at 6:21 am

    To: Dave
    The reason for Ultimate Edition is out of the Box all drivers are supported.
    If you install UE it will install new drivers, and at first boot the will be a drivers update notification.
    If there multiple drivers for video or WIFI it will list them one will be open source the other from the manufacture.
    It your choice, also if you go system/administrator/system setting/network it also give option for windows drivers.
    My Dell 5380 has Broadcom Wireless 1370 WLAN-Mini-PCI and UE is one of the few that works out of the box.
    Installed or live ISO. I use UE 3.4 LTS & 4.2 lite and it works for both live DVD mode no tinkering.

  11. lott11
    October 2, 2014 at 5:44 am

    To Rob Gillespie
    You hit it right on the nail,!
    Most people will not ask what do they use there PC'S for, or how many people are using it.
    The most important question! what are the spec's of there PC, that will narrow down the selection.
    And the most important thing are there kids, what are the ages.
    Do they need a learning distribution, that would also covers the adults needs as well.
    To: Nikolaj Knudsen
    you slipped and bumped your arm, your mom takes you to hospital.
    The ER doctor look at you, he tell you to take 2 aspirin and get some rest.
    Now your mom take you to the family doctor, he has seen you since you where in diapers.
    And notices that this happen a little to often, he calls for additional exams to determine why this happens.
    The telling is in the details.
    There is a Linux for every person, according to your take and abilities almost tailored to you.
    Do not get me wrong I and not making fun of you, but it is just a metaphor.
    Windows is MC Donald & MAC is burger king, Linux is white castle.
    Did you know that IBM created a simple command to kill or scape any processes.
    Windows made it the world most popular, you know it, the peace seeing + your index finger you # 1.
    To the point.
    If most people took the same amount time to learn how Linux works, as they do with there cell phones.
    we would not be belittling anyone’s abilities.
    Look if your relay want to try a good distribution go here http://ultimateedition.info
    This Ubuntu done right, well it comes with everything that you could ever need.
    It comes burning software audio & video players & editors, photo, burning, games, wine, office suite.
    Well most things that may have to install other wise, they have a lite version, gamers, KDE, Gnome, and LTS & a few others.
    Point is this is not the only one, if you like audio there dynebolic, Musix, Studio 64, artistx, Ubuntu Studio and on.
    Educational Quino, guadalinex, Molinux, OpenEdu, Edubuntu, so on an on.
    Like a few other have quoted do your research go to the forums go to distrowatch, linux.org,
    To Dave: try ultimate edition lite, well from what i gather you where looking something simple.
    Zorin is somewhat lite, but KDE is not that lite and bring limited to one application per subject.
    It limits on your options.
    OK this is going to a 101 partition.
    this means root partition, this is to install your OS leave some room to install more software.
    If the OS requires 2GB double your space, example EU 4.2 requires 8.6 GB I make 16 GB space.
    The reason expansion for other software that you may install, by default this partition is only for administrators use only.
    SWAP partition is 1.5 time your memory, it's use for temp memory, example 2 GB ram make it 3GB.
    usr this is your local files, like my documents, music, pictures, downloads, and all other users.
    This partition is limited by how much space you need or have to store your files.
    This are minimum partition you should have for most Linux.
    To: Akshata
    try UE / Ultimate Edition all the ISO are live.
    I know backgrounds are not best looking but just change it., just right click mouse pick theme, fonts & size, backgrounds, and theme are customizable.
    And thank you
    PS: if my grandmother at 86 can learn to use Linux, and kids ages 4 up and playing on the net in 10 min.
    this are kids that never use PC's, why do most Windows users have excuses.

    • Akshata
      October 8, 2014 at 2:54 am

      Thanks for the tip! I'll experiment with UE on my old PC and see how that goes.

  12. Dave
    October 1, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Yep, your right it's left a sour taste in my mouth but I'm still hanging in there with the Zorin. I've been struggling with a connection for some time now and drivers. I am not so sure if I picked the right Linux system or not I thought Zorin would be a good fit. I installed it on my XP together. I have installed Zorin OS beside my XP but cannot find a wireless connection. While I can connect using the wired interface, the connection is dropped whenever I go into Software Updates. It will only come back after I reboot.

    My machine has a Broadcom Wireless 1370 WLAN-Mini-PCI Card and Zorin has installed the alternate driver: Broadcom 802.11 Linux STA Wireless Driver.

    I am a new user of Linux with no experience, what should I do from here?

    • KT
      October 2, 2014 at 1:53 am

      I just installed Zorin on my wife's desktop and I noticed that if you click the network icon (near the bottom right of the screen) it has several choices, but it always defaults to the one it started with. Try clicking on it and changing the default connection. You may need to restart a couple times, but it will probably work.
      Option 2 is to go into the software manager and type in the search box "wireless driver" and try any one of those that pops up. Normally, there are a lot of comments on the ones that work well.
      Hope that helps.

    • Akshata
      October 2, 2014 at 2:11 am

      Hi Dave,
      I ran across the same problem after I installed Linux on an old Lenovo laptop. Since I'm new to Linux myself I cannot say with certainty what will work for you, but I can share with you what I know. Here's what worked for me, but please do your own research before you try to fix the problem using the same approach.
      First, I deactivated the Broadcom 802.11 Linux STA Wireless Driver from System Settings>Hardware>Additional Drivers.
      1. Next I tried the Ndiswrapper method, but I probably got something wrong because it did not work for me.
      2. Then I found official documentation for wireless cards on Ubuntu and it turned out that the Broadcom wireless card I used (BCM4311) was a supported model, so I followed the instructions that corresponded to it. But I inadvertently ended up installing multiple drivers for the card, so every time I want to connect to the wireless network, I have to type sudo apt-get modprobe b43 in the terminal to load the necessary driver. Apparently I can bypass this and connect directly if I uninstall the other driver that is not in use, but I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

      I hope that gives you a starting point to narrow down the right solution for your wireless card.

    • ed
      October 2, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Zorin is Ubuntu-based. I've had issues with Ubuntu not recognizing various hardware including printers, video cards and wifi cards.

      Though I use Ubuntu, I've used PCLinuxOS in the past and though it is not as nice looking as Zorin, unless maybe you try the KDE version, it has almost always found all my hardware on various systems.

      I would give PCLinuxOS a try.

    • dragonmouth
      January 13, 2015 at 5:56 pm

      "so every time I want to connect to the wireless network, I have to type sudo apt-get modprobe b43 in the terminal to load the necessary driver. Apparently I can bypass this and connect directly if I uninstall the other driver that is not in use, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet."
      In an article aimed at prospective and new Linux users, you should not admit to having to use "sudo apt-get modprobe" command. It only reenforces the idea that one cannot use Linux unless one is fluent in command language. If only to simplify your life, I hope that by now you have uninstalled the unneeded driver(s).

  13. Nikolaj Knudsen
    October 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    I have been determined to leave Windows behind 4 times. 4 times I have installed Ubuntu (dual boot). 4 times I have uninstalled it again. It simply doesn't work good eneough for me. It's slow and complicated. An example: Having installed it I searched for: "Important things to do after installing Ubuntu" There were a gazilion pages about that. All different, and a couple of days after I had installed Ubuntu, I had no idea of what I had installed or what. It just doesn't make any sense and it looks awful too.

    My conclusion: Linux is still for nerds and unacessible for normal PC users.

    • kwacka
      October 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      I find your comment difficult to believe.

      You didn't know what you had installed to your computer? On Ubuntu, go to the Software manager and it will list them everything for you.

      If it looks awful, change the desktop manager - there's many out there. If you want you can make it look like a clone of Windows 7 (or 8).

      Finally, how did you install it? If it was to Wubi, it will run slowly. If it was to its own partition(s) it will almost certainly run faster than Windows.

  14. Dave
    October 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I am generally put off by Linux lack of user friendliness. Installing a program? Should always be easy right? And hardware problems?

    But the biggest put off for me is that you Always run a risk with linux. No laptop is built for linux, they may only work with it. If i have to pay for windows anyway, i will probably run it.

    • dragonmouth
      October 1, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      "Installing a program? Should always be easy right?"
      You tell the package manager what you want installed and it installs it for you. What could be easier?! And you DO NOT need to restart your computer.

      "you Always run a risk with linux"
      What risk is that?

      "No laptop is built for linux"
      Computers are built to be O/S agnostic, or at least they were until Microsoft forced the motherboard manufacturers to use UEFI to lock out any operatic systems not approved by M$.
      BTW - Linux runs on more architectures than Windows.

    • kwacka
      October 1, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Installing a program is no problem, usually easier than Windows. Most distributions of linux have a GUI for application management, just search & click. hardware problems are (in the main) a thing of the distant past. In the past 3 years the only problems I've had are with Canon photo printers. Canon are one of the few that don't make drivers available for Linux users.

      No, you don't run a risk with Linux. If you're thinking of getting a laptop, check the forums for whichever distribution you're interested in, or Google/DuckDuckGo for the laptop and add the word Linux. If you already own a laptop use a live CD/USB stick, put a 'live' version of Linux on it, boot from the disk/stick and you can check all the that everythings OK before installing.

      There's always dual booting Windows/Linux so you can choose which you want to run

      Finally, don't pay for Windows. Before you take the computer out of the shop tell them to remove it, and get them to sign the receipt. Microsoft will complain and drag their feet, but eventually you'll get a refund from them.

  15. Mike Busby
    October 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I have used many Linux distros and, for the most part, ran with Linux Mint, a great distro to use if you're migrating from Windows. I has a comfortable feel to it and runs everyday prgrams that most users would want.

    However, a few months ago, I discovered Centrych, an Ubuntu-based OS. I decided to take a look at the XFCE version that also looks, in many ways, like the KDE desktop. It works, for me, like a dream, and I have had no problems with use or finding my way around the desktop or installing other software, e.g. Netflix desktop, Tor Browser. It's lightweight and runs fast and is worth a look at if you're thinking of divorcing yourself from Windows.

    I have been running Linux since I turned my back on Windows 7 and have never looked back.

    • Akshata
      October 2, 2014 at 1:27 am

      Centrych is one I have never heard of. One more easy-to-use distro for our readers to try. Thanks for the tip, Mike.

  16. Rob Gillespie
    September 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    I'm puzzled as to why commentators do not first of all ask potential OS switchers what applications they want to use. Can they work with Linux based alternatives? The majority of users want to use an office suite, browse the internet and communicate with email and chat etc. There are very good Linux equivalents for all of these tasks and the other more specific needs such as music, drawing, publishing and so on. Therefore the real issue for most people is are they prepared to select and learn a somewhat different application program to what they have been using on Windows or Mac. Most of the options will suit most people but there is a learning curve. Some features, particularly with specialist programs may not be available and will reduce the likelyhood of making a switch. The actual choice of Linux distribution will for most people will come down to the "look and feel" of any particular choice and that ends up being a "suck it and see" type of exercise. I had been a Window user since 3.1 and a DOS user before. I have been using Linux in various forms for something like 15 years now and can do all I want without recourse to Windows, except when I have to help out a friend with Win problems!!
    To me the first step in making the switch is identify the applications you want to use, select any Linux version that seems to be popular and give it a serious try, remembering that there will be differences!!
    Oh, one other thing which is certainly not as serious as it used to be, check that the Linux version will support the hardware you are using :P
    A good place to go for choice help is Distrowatch. Just google it.

    • likefunbutnot
      September 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm

      Just about the only time a lack of Linux hardware compatibility will be a factor is devices that need Atheros 802.11 drivers. Other than that, more or less anything a user might have will work right out of the box or with an extremely straightforward configuration.

  17. dragonmouth
    September 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    "Make a list of programs that you consider must-haves. "
    List the programs by their function (office suite, image editor, browser, etc.) rather than by their proprietary name (MS Office, Photoshop, IE, etc.) because you will not find those proprietary programs on Linux. You can run them in an emulator such as Wine but then why bother to switch to Linux if you are still going to run Windows software.

    The following sites list Linux equivalents to popular Windows software:
    http://www.linuxrsp.ru/win-lin-soft/table-eng.html
    http://www.linuxalt.com/
    http://osalt.com/web-development

  18. ed
    September 30, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    After toying around with a dozen or so distros, I'm pretty settled in the Ububtu-based camp, though PCLinuxOS is a very good distro too.

    I base my choices on use-case.

    For my HTPC I wanted a fairly light desktop. So I went with Xubuntu. XFCE is also the only DE that allowed me to compensate for my HDTV's inability to turn off overscan. With XFCE, I could move the panels so they were in the viewable area of my TV and not hiding in the overscan area. I could set desktop margins as well, so no window or icons would venture into the overscan area.

    For my chromebook, I wanted something similar to the minimalism and distraction-free nature of Chrome OS, so I went with Ubuntu Gnome to keep the desktop nice and empty and minimalistic.

    On the main PC, I'm still on Windows 7 just because (in my opinion and use case) it just has really been a hassle-free experience, easy to troubleshoot on the rare occasion something isn't quite right, tons of software choices, and I just love portable apps. All my hardware works and was a breeze to set up, and there is very little Googling when I need to figure something out. Playing around with the Linux terminal and spending countless hours searching for solutions to Linux issues is fine on secondary systems because it serves as a learning experience (which I enjoy learning), but my main PC needs to just work. For me Win 7 just works without much hassle. My other Linux systems now just work, but it took effort to get them that way and it's all documented, so rebuilding would be much easier a second time around. I will say this, I do love the simple sudo apt-get update/upgrade process of Linux.

  19. Rick S
    September 30, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Some time ago I realized I did most of my stuff with a Chrome browser and a handful of local apps that could be done using webapps. So I bought a Chromebox. But there are still a few things it can't do, or can't do well - at least yet. So I use Linux too, plus I just like playing with it and figuring things out.

    I tried Ubuntu, Mint, and Elementary and liked them all to varying degrees but I wanted to simulate the Chrome OS experience with a fast and lightweight, mostly web-based system that I could build on, adding only what I needed or wanted to play with.

    I am finding that Peppermint OS meets that need for me. Out of the box, it doesn't have a whole lot more than capabilities than Chrome OS, but it has access to the full Ubuntu repository so I can add almost anything I might need. For the most part, that amounts to Peazip for opening, creating, and adding to encrypted zip files, Picasa for large photo editing sessions that are tedious with Chrome OS, some mapping and hike planning stuff with Google Earth, and a few tools like GParted, K3B, and Netubootin for messing around with iso files, dvds, partitions and the like. It's a great distro if you are mostly web based and like light, fast, and simple.

    I have also messed around with several varieties of Puppy Linux, which can seem a little funky but fun. Recently, I tried LXPup Precise and so far I like it better than any of the other puppy distros I have tried.

  20. likefunbutnot
    September 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    For the most part, Linux is Linux. The experience of using applications is going to be similar across any distribution you'd care to name, especially if you're not a techie in the first place. One thing I would suggest is giving a few different Window Managers or Desktops a try. Some people love or hate Unity or KDE or Enlightenment, and that's the most public face of any Linux distribution. Users who know what they're doing can change those components freely, but it's something of an undertaking for a newbie.

    The other big, non-technical issue with Linux distributions is their system for package installation and management. Linux distributions generally have some variation on the App Store model, but not all application repositories are created equal.

    In both cases, these are things that can be seen from a LiveCD "test drive."

    If you have friends using Linux, using the distro that your friends use is a pretty good idea since they'll probably be more familiar with your needs and may have already solved the problems you will most likely encounter.

    I'm responsible for some Fedora and OpenSuSE systems, but I'm probably interacting with them through a shell prompt or a web dashboard, so a lot of this advice doesn't exactly apply for my personal needs anyway.

    • Akshata
      October 1, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      That's true. This won't apply if you have prior experience with Linux. I think first-time Linux users just want something that works without too much effort. All the desktop and app store dissatisfaction comes later and by then the users are usually ready to try their next Linux distro or experiment with the existing one :)

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