5 Tips That Make Switching to Linux From Windows Easy

Moe Long 13-01-2017

Linux sounds intimidating, but it’s essentially just another operating system. When you buy a pre-built PC, it arrives with an operating system pre-installed, usually Windows or Mac. But Linux distros such as Ubuntu are just as capable as Windows 7 Things That Ubuntu Does Better Than Windows Is Ubuntu really just for nerds? No! Ubuntu is as easy to use as Windows... and in some ways, Ubuntu is better than Windows 10! Read More .


The process of installing Linux is rather simple. But actually using Linux is a bit different. There are many incentives for migrating from Windows to Linux. For instance, Linux variants often use less RAM or offer a lightweight environment The Best Lean Linux Desktop Environment: LXDE vs. Xfce vs. MATE Tweaking your choice of Linux desktop environment can speed things up a lot. Here we look at three options: LXQt, Xfce, and MATE. Read More .

Overall, there’s simply more choice. If you’re tired of Windows, switching to Linux will be pretty easy if you know these things.

Windows vs. Linux

ubuntu 12.04 install

Let’s start by looking at the differences in Linux and Windows. Windows has nine main variants with various flavors such as Home and 32- vs. 64-bit iterations. Linux is vastly more complicated. Although the Linux Kernel is the backbone of all Linux distros, the open-source nature means anyone can alter the kernel. Thus, there are loads of varying Linux distros available.

Installing an Operating System

Depending on your hardware, installing Linux is often easier than loading Windows. Linux distros usually feature live boot options to try an operating system before installing. As opposed to Windows, Linux distributions typically come with open-source drivers. This alleviates the need to mess with drivers on a fresh install. However, as is often the case with Linux, you may need to perform some post-install tweaking. After loading Ubuntu on an HP m6 x360, I discovered that the wrong Wi-Fi driver loaded. Blacklisting the improper driver was fairly easy, but did require poking around in forums.


Windows, on the other hand, features a relatively minimal install from a user perspective.



System admins are notorious for adoring Linux. Sysadmins also tend to value security. Therefore it’s no surprise that Linux is pretty heavy on the security front Is Linux Really as Secure as You Think It Is? Linux is often touted as the most secure operating system you can get your hands onto, but is this really the case? Let's take a look at different aspects of Linux computer security. Read More . By default, no Linux user accounts have full administrator (root) access. However, Windows does. So on a Linux system, there’s an extra level of protection because of restricting default users to non-root access.

Sounds great, right? Well, there are certainly situations when these security measures might seem a hassle. Early on in my Linux days, I managed to move a folder with root-only access to my Trash bin. Because this folder was owned by root, I had insufficient privileges to delete it. Eventually I managed to purge it from my Trash, but the process involved launching Nautilus and navigating folders.


Windows lends the user much more control — but as they say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You can easily delete the wrong file and muck up your entire computer. Additionally, viruses and malware are usually written for Windows. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use security software on Linux The 6 Best Free Linux Antivirus Programs Think Linux doesn't need antivirus? Think again. These free antivirus tools can ensure your Linux box remains virus-free. Read More . On the contrary, you absolutely should. But fewer viruses for Linux, as well as limited root access, help contain the damage viruses and malware may wreak on Linux.

Installing Apps

Installing new apps and games on Linux is straightforward, if a little different to Windows.

installing linux apps package


Installing apps on Linux differs from Windows as well. With operating systems like Mac and Windows, programs arrive as EXE (Windows) or DMG (Mac) files. DEB files on Linux are close in that they too are package managers. However, you’ll often find yourself installing via the command line, or using a TAR file.



sudo apt-get

The command line is crucial to most Linux distros. Some such as Elementary OS eschew the command line in favor of a gentle learning curve. Using the command line, installs typically work by entering the apt-get install command. This command runs a package management command line program that uses the Advanced Packaging Tool). Using apt-get downloads new packages from the repositories. Depending on what you are installing, you may need to add sudo to install with superuser (administrator) permissions. As further reading, refer to this beginner’s guide to installing software in Ubuntu with APT A Beginner's Guide to Installing Software in Ubuntu with APT If you've used Ubuntu you have probably used the apt command at some point. But did you know there's so much more to it than apt-get install and apt-get upgrade? Read More .

Other Package Managers

On Linux, the TAR.GZ or TGZ file type is really common. If you’re coming from Windows, how to handle a TAR.GZ file might not be that intuitive. Like using apt-get to install, you’ll also need the command line. Here’s an excellent guide for how to compile and install TAR.GZ and TAR.BZ2 files in Linux How to Compile & Install TAR GZ & TAR BZ2 Files in Ubuntu Linux Read More .

You’ll have to follow a few different steps, such as ensuring that your file is writeable. Many sources such as DRM-free games repository GOG GOG Has Landed On Linux: Here Are 5 Of The Best Games You Can Get Right Now GOG has started to support Linux games, with 50 Linux-compatible titles available at launch. For a limited only, GOG's Linux Offerings are 75% off. But not sure what to buy? Read on. Read More provide programs compressed as TAR.GZ files. On Fedora, there’s also RPM, which once stood for Red Hat Package Manager. Now RPM stands for RPM Package manager. See this wonderful guide for a complete overview of package formats explained How to Install Software on Linux: Package Formats Explained You've switched to Linux, and want to install some software. But package managers differ depending on your distro. So which apps can you download and install? It's all in the acronyms. Read More .


Permissions and File Systems

linux file system

On Windows, the default user is an administrator. Linux user accounts though are not. As previously mentioned, this really enhances security. Directories and files feature three main groups:

  1. Owner — Owner permissions apply to the file or directory owner, and have no effect on other user actions.
  2. Group — These permissions remain only applicable to the group assigned to the directory or file.
  3. All Users — All User permissions are applicable to every user.

Then there are the permission types:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Execute

Even file structure differs Linux vs. Windows: 8 Key Operating System Differences, Explained Not sure whether to choose Linux or Windows? Here's how both operating systems differ, and why switching isn't as hard as you think. Read More in Linux than on Windows. Whereas Windows features different drives, commonly C: and D:, Linux includes simply a main file tree. All of your drives are within that tree. Similarly, unlike Windows, Linux lacks a registry. Essentially, the Windows registry is a central database of computer settings. The Windows registry houses user passwords and app information. Linux eschews the registry. Instead, programs store their individual settings.

Are Windows and Linux Apps Compatible?

Windows software dominates the market. However native Linux programs are increasingly prominent. Noteworthy Linux apps include Slack 9 Windows and Console Games Now Available on Linux "The Year of the Linux Desktop" yet to arrive, but until it does, you can play these popular PC and console games natively on your Linux OS -- no emulation or virtualization required! Read More , Steam, and several games 9 Windows and Console Games Now Available on Linux "The Year of the Linux Desktop" yet to arrive, but until it does, you can play these popular PC and console games natively on your Linux OS -- no emulation or virtualization required! Read More including Alien: Isolation. But if you’re coming from Windows, you’ve likely got lots of Windows programs. Unfortunately, most of those probably aren’t cross-platform compatible.


linux wine

Before you chuck those Windows programs in the rubbish bin, you try Wine. No, I’m not telling you to crack open a bottle of red and drink yourself into consolation at lack of compatibility with your favorite Windows software. This compatibility layer software app lets many Windows programs run on Linux distros.

Wine lacks support for some software, and some programs are admittedly buggy. There’s a solid app database of compatibility. Additionally, apps like PlayOnLinux PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux Read More provide a superb front-end for installing games and other programs. You can learn how to run Windows apps and games with Wine How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux? One answer is to use Wine, but while it can be very useful, it probably should only be your last resort. Here's why. Read More  with very little effort.

A Window of Opportunity for Linux

If you’re debating a switch from Windows to Linux, now is the perfect time. There’s growing support for Linux, and an expanding list of distros and updates. By switching, you can help make 2017 the year of the Linux desktop Why We Never Had "The Year of the Linux Desktop" Linux users have been praying for the "Year of the Linux desktop". But if we're ever going to see Linux gain serious traction, there is much that Linux developers need to improve. Read More .

Windows users seeking a streamlined Linux experience may consider Elementary OS 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 . Elementary OS features a low learning curve and avoids a reliance on the terminal. Similarly, these distros including Zorin and Ubuntu make superb Windows and Mac replacements The Best Linux Distros for First Time Switchers From Windows and Mac 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. Read More . Ultimately, making the jump from Windows to Linux sounds more intimidating than it is. Plus, using Linux yields with a bevy of benefits like making you a better student 5 Reasons Linux Can Help You Become a Better Student You might be thinking about purchasing some new software for heading back to school, but have you thought about trying a new operating system? Linux might be perfect for you — here's why. Read More . Switching from Windows to Linux doesn’t even necessarily mean abandoning Windows: dual booting 7 Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Dual Boot Linux Often, making the choice of installing Linux over Windows can be tricky to justify. But why not opt for both? Here are five reasons to dual boot and two reasons you shouldn't. Read More gives you the best of both worlds.

What is your advice for users switching from Windows to Linux? What do you wish you knew during the transition?

Related topics: Linux, Windows.

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  1. Pete
    January 13, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Have you even used Ubuntu?? Almost everything is 1 click to install via the software center, db files only require you to click on them and hey can be installed.. You can obtain deb files of almost any software.. There's also snap packages & app images which just run without needing to install anything.

    • Kristijan
      January 14, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      Linux is simple and great, but people usually come to it expecting a Windows clone and if they're too set in their ways they're gonna have a bad time. If you just accept that it does things differently and spend some time learning how, there should be no problems. Most users don't realize that they went through a learning period with Windows, as well. That's why Win8 was such a shock, it required some adjusting and rethinking the desktop.

    • jymm
      May 14, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Personally I don't care for the software center. The first thing I do is install Synpatic. It is still an easy way to install software.

  2. Pete
    January 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Is there a very good reason why you failed to mention the software center? Almost every linux distro has one and it's one click to install anything you like.. You also don't need the terminal to install deb files, you just click on them and they open up in the software center for a 1 click install.

    • James Howde
      January 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Probably because the article is trying to woo people across from Windows.

      If you're a windows user then the software center you'll be familiar with is the MicroSoft Store and is very likely one of the things about windows you're trying to get away from!

      • Becky
        January 15, 2017 at 6:32 am

        But, unlike Windows, The Software Center is how most programs are installed in Linux Distros.
        Plus, to my knowledge, it's not as intrusive as the Windows Store. You go in, find what you want, and if they have it, you download it and you're done... MAYBE a restart is needed for the program to show. (Krita is guilty of this)
        You're not getting 101 other apps shoved at you, like you do with the Windows Store. And you don't need to do separate updates, like you do with the Windows Store... whether you install from the Software Center, the Terminal or a DEB file, ALL software updates are done through the Update Manager, which is VERY convenient.

      • Doc
        January 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        The MS Store only exists for Windows 8/8.1/10, and a majority of users are still on Windows 7 (despite Microsoft's best - and reviled - efforts). Most Windows software is still installed from an EXE (setup), MSI (Microsoft Installer), or a ZIP file.

        • Rann Xeroxx
          January 16, 2017 at 7:30 pm

          Windows 10 has overtaken the install base of active uses.