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Minimalists feel that removing life’s clutter creates space for what matters. This is true in the digital world too. Our data may not fill up the area around us, but it can consume our minds.
I’ve been pairing down at home, on my phone, and on my computer. When it comes to that last one, I’ve found that being a Linux users comes with a few advantages. These are some of the ways the freedom of open source software has helped me simplify my digital life. They can help you, too.
1. You Can Remove Any Part of Your System
The first part of buying a new Windows machine is removing all the pre-installed crud that you don’t want. While you can remove third-party printer software and bulky photo editing apps, you can’t touch much of Microsoft’s own offerings. You can disable some Windows services, but many core parts are off limits.
Linux removes those limitations. After installing a distribution, you’re free to remove any of the default programs. Though, depending on your distro, you may have to dip into the command line. Don’t let that scare you — it’s really not that hard.
Many distros don’t come with much software at all. They instead provide a clean slate for you to fill with whatever apps you desire.
If you don’t have a printer or a webcam, you don’t need the background services that power this hardware. Linux lets you dive deep into your system to remove whatever bits you don’t want.
2. Build a System That Only Has What You Need
Instead of starting with a working system and removing the parts you don’t like, try building your ideal machine from scratch.
This option requires getting your hands dirty, but a motivated first-timer can install a barebones distro like Arch Linux and follow online guides to create a system bit by bit. A side benefit is that, by the end, you will have a much better understanding of how Linux works.
3. No Ads or Pop-Ups
Open source software is largely free of commercial influence. You won’t see banners advertising other software or pop-ups trying to sell you stuff. Nor will you have to uncheck boxes when installing apps.
The lack of ads removes extra extra clutter from your workspace, and it liberates you from unwanted distractions. You also get to use software that’s designed explicitly to help you complete a task, rather than to make money off you.
Not only does this remove distractions, but it also helps keep your computer safe from attack. You can also be less concerned about tracking.
4. Choose a Minimalist Interface
Windows 8 was a big departure from prior versions. Windows 10 dialed that back, but things still aren’t quite the same. In contrast, most Linux distros let you choose your own desktop interface no matter which version you’re running.
Want a small panel? Prefer a dock with icons along the side of the screen? Would you work better if the desktop were entirely blank? Linux lets you set up your workspace however you need to get stuff done.
I use Elementary OS, a polished and minimalist distro that helps me stay on task. You may find you prefer the simplicity of GNOME. KDE can use up as much or as little of the screen as desired. Xmonad takes up basically no space at all.
5. Everything Is Free
You won’t find Linux software on store shelves, which means less physical clutter for you to bring home (granted, you’re probably not getting most of your software on Windows or macOS this way anymore). You don’t have to remember or retain any product codes either.
6. Low System Requirements
Compared to Windows, a Linux OS takes up relatively little space. You can install Linux on a machine that used to run Windows and find that you can store much more of your own data — though since you’re going for minimalism, you probably don’t want to. No matter, storage space isn’t the only system requirement that’s lower with Linux. You don’t need as much RAM, as powerful a graphics card, or as fast a CPU.
These lower system requirements mean you can install Linux on older hardware, and you won’t have to replace your current computer nearly as sooner. Not having to upgrade to a new PC saves money and helps fight planned obsolescence and reduce environmental waste.
7. Little System Maintenance
With Linux, you don’t have to spend much time keeping your computer up and running. There’s no need for virus scanners, and your machine will likely continue to run quickly over time.
Updates are free and simple to install. A few button presses is all it takes to bring the latest versions down from the web and onto your PC. Some distros make moving to the next version a simple process, and others don’t require you to ever make the leap to a new release.
Do You Need to Declutter Your Machine?
How much mental bandwidth does your PC consume? Do you spend more time fixing your computer than using it? Are all of the distractions keeping you from focusing? Maybe it’s time to try Linux!
Digital minimalists, share your tips! Even if you’re not a Linux user, your advice is still helpful. I’ll be waiting for your ideas and suggestions below!