Why MX Linux Is the Windows Alternative You’ve Been Waiting For

Ryan Dube 12-10-2018

If you’re looking for a Windows alternative but have shied away from Linux, MX Linux may be the solution you’ve been waiting for.


Linux distributions have always held promise for Windows users to migrate away from an expensive OS. Even Windows 10 has enough quirks and issues that a truly robust and functional Linux alternative could easily entice longtime Windows users to switch.

Let’s take a closer look at MX Linux from the perspective of a longtime Windows user.

Installing MX Linux

MX Linux comes in 32-bit and 64-bit options, so even if you’re looking at installing it on an older machine, you won’t have any problems.

This test installation was done on a 2005 Dell Optiplex GX620.

If you’re unfamiliar with the process of installing a Linux distro, just download the MX Linux ISO and follow our guide for creating a bootable ISO USB or disk Create a Bootable USB From an ISO With These 10 Tools Want to create a bootable USB drive from an ISO file? We've got the ten best bootable USB pendrive creators around. Read More . Installing the USB ISO to complete installation took less than 15 minutes.


The installation options chosen for our testing included:

  • Selecting the full, single-partition installation on a 32-bit machine
  • Installing GRUB bootloader for MX Linux and Windows on the master boot record (MBR)
  • Chosing option to install Samba server for MS networking
  • Enabling Autologin and Save live desktop changes

The MX Linux Bootup Experience

The boot process after initial setup should be quick. On our machine, it took less than 30 seconds. This is roughly a quarter of the time it took for the previous Windows 7 installation that was running on this same machine.

Take advantage of the initial Welcome window that pops up upon initial boot. It includes a Users Manual that will walk you through how to run Windows applications inside a wrapper or any compatibility layer like Wine.

mx linux welcome screen


If you click Tools on the Welcome menu, you’ll see a window that looks not unlike the Windows Control Panel.

mx linux tools

The first thing I did was install Wine so that I could run any Windows apps that I needed. This also confirmed to me that the internet connection worked.

The Windows Experience on MX Linux

When the OS first boots, things may not look quite right. Don’t worry, with just a few tweaks things will be looking very familiar.


Setting Up the Desktop

Just like in Windows, you can change the desktop background settings by right clicking on the desktop.

mx linux desktop settings

If you’re accustomed to Windows, a lot of this will look familiar. Of course, much will also look unusual. (The extras are features you don’t normally have available in Windows.)

For now, click Desktop Settings.


mx linux desktop background

Just like in Windows, you can adjust the appearance of your desktop and menu system using these settings. Pretty straightforward.

Setting Up the Taskbar

By default, the taskbar (known here as the “Panel”) is set along the left, vertical side of the screen.

You can quickly change this by right clicking on the taskbar and selecting Panel > Panel Preferences.

mx linux taskbar menu

Here, you can change whether the taskbar is vertical or horizontal by changing the Mode selection.

If you want to change the location of the taskbar, make sure to deselect Lock panel.

taskbar adjustments

Once it’s unlocked, you can grab and move the taskbar to the edge of the screen you prefer. I’m a bit old school when it comes to the Windows taskbar so I moved it back to the bottom.

The arrangement of taskbar items by default is also the reverse of Windows, with the “Start” menu on the right and the time on the left. You can change this by right clicking each icon and selecting Move.

move taskbar items

Then just drag it to the location where you want the taskbar to go.

Using Your Brand New Linux OS

Once you’re all set up and things are looking about as close to a Windows desktop as you can get, it’s time to start exploring.

When you click on the Start menu you’ll notice that it looks a bit like an advanced version of how the Windows 7 start menu used to look.

mx linux start menu

Applications are easy to find, grouped into important categories like Favorites, Recently Used, Look out, too, for the Settings or System options, as you’ll need these for configuring things.

When you click on Settings and scroll, you’ll see options for your network cards, Bluetooth connections, new hard disks, or any other hardware you’d like to set up or configure.

mx linux settings menu

If the complexity of having to run all sorts of “sudo” commands 40+ Most Used Linux Terminal Commands Whether you're just getting started or simply curious about the Linux terminal, here are the most common commands that will carry you through your entire time on Linux. Read More to do anything useful has been keeping you away from trying Linux, you don’t have to worry about that here.

What’s also wonderful about using MX Linux as a Windows user, is that there’s almost no learning curve.

If you’ve ever tried different Linux distros over the years, then you know that often the window controls are slightly different. That’s really irritating when you’ve adapted for years to the way Microsoft sets up windows controls.

mx linux windows controls

MX Linux’s designers have made the effort to mimic the window controls familiar from Windows. Better still, the native File Manager itself is configured to look almost exactly like you’re used to seeing in Windows.

In the left navigation menu you’ve got the root file system, and below it your home (what you might consider your User directory in Windows), as well as the Trash bin and the network browser.

Your Home directory is also configured as you’d expect in Windows, with the Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music folders.

One slight difference to get used to is the single-click opening of folders, but that’s an easy adjustment to make.

Digging Deeper Into MX Linux

Once you’ve adjusted to this new (but familiar) environment, you’re ready to start digging in.

You’re going to be surprised at the power that’s available at your fingertips, without spending a dime or subscribing to any monthly service plans.

It’s time to install the suite of software you’d like to use on your new OS. Click the Start menu, and search for MX Package Installer.

mx linux package installer

Scroll down through the MX Package Installer and expand each folder to search for applications you’re used to using.

You’ll find lots of categories that include a long list of applications that’ll look very familiar to you.

mx installer

As a starter package, I recommend installing the applications you’re used to using on Windows. This will help make your new OS as familiar and feature-filled as possible.

  • Audacity: Audio editing
  • Chrome or Firefox: Web browsing
  • Filezilla: FTP client
  • GIMP Full: Advanced image editing
  • Kodi or Plex: Media server
  • Skype: Video messaging
  • KeepassX: Password manager
  • Dropbox: File sync for your Dropbox account
  • Adobe Reader: Reading PDF files
  • HP Printing: Managing printing to HP printers
  • Shutter: Taking screenshots

By default, MX Linux comes with LibreOffice preinstalled, so you don’t have to worry about installing any Office apps. You also get FeatherPad as a great Notepad replacement 6 Great Notepad++ Alternatives for Linux Notepad++ is one of the best text editors out there, but is unfortunately not available for Linux. Fortunately, we've found six strong alternatives you can use instead. Read More .

Additionally, if you like having a stylish dock, make sure to review our guide of the most powerful Linux docks 5 Power Docks For Your Linux Machine Perhaps you've switched to Linux from macOS; or perhaps you just like the idea of a dock. Whichever it is, these five desktop docks for Linux will help you to improve your productivity. Read More to install.

Enjoy Your “New” PC With MX Linux

There is nothing quite like breathing new life into a desktop or laptop that’s been sitting in the closet or basement, collecting dust.

Linux has always had the potential to do this. But MX Linux takes it a step further and brings a brand new OS about as close to a Windows environment as you could ask for, at zero cost.

complete mx linux desktop

In fact, if you’re looking at buying a new computer, you could save a small fortune by buying one without any OS installed. Simply install MX Linux to get a lightning-fast computer without the learning curve of taking on an entirely new OS.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try out a few others from our list of the best Linux distros of 2018 The Best Linux Distros of 2018 The best and most suitable Linux operating system for you depends on your specific needs and hardware. Here are our recommendations for best Linux distros. Read More . I guarantee that you’ll be right back here, downloading your own ISO of MX Linux.

Related topics: MX Linux, Open Source.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Maverick
    April 14, 2019 at 2:58 am

    Yes, MX Linux is an excellent distro. Windows specially Windows 10 is bloated and slow in old hardware, you will need a solid computer in order to run it. New Linux distros are sleek and remind the simplicity of Windows XP or 7.
    Before I was a fan of Ubuntu. But after they changed Gnome, I decided to try another distro. I used Xubuntu but it would make my computer to run so hot (probably bad recognition of GPU driver). My next distro was Mint. It is so light and have a nice UI (Cinnamon). But as my computer is old, I tend to use Xfce versions that's why I chose Mint XFCE. It was great and it made make run blazingly fast but I remarked that it use so much space because I run Mint in dual with Windows 8.1 and I only allowed 13Gb of ext4 partition. After the installation of Mint, free disk space was only 1.5Gb. Recently I discovered MX Linux since they say that's it is a lightweight distro. After the installation, it even run faster than Mint and I have now 7Gb of free space disk. The system is so simple to use and you have all latest softwares . That's why there is a plethora of distros, you have the liberty to choose what fits you the best and each distro is different in some aspects

  2. David Stark
    October 18, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    And once again the armies of Windows and Linux loyalists ride forth to do battle on the field of opions. sigh

    I am a Windows user who occasionally finds that a hobby-related app is only available for Linux. What I wish to find is something like Wine in reverse, where I can run a Linux app in a compatibility box. No assembling, compiling, dependency-hunting or bug-squashing. Just install and run the program, just like Windows, under Windows.

    • Ryan Dube
      October 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      David, Does a Linux VM on Windows not do the trick?

      • David Stark
        October 20, 2018 at 8:08 am

        It might. I am thinking about trying it with Oracle VM.

  3. Fibogacci
    October 15, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I use MX Linux from September 2017.

    That time I broke my Windows 7 on my laptop totally. I installed antiX (you can say brother of MX Linux). After a week I found that there is MX Linux. I installed it (version 16.1 based on Debian 8 Wheezy).

    And from that moment I only use MX Linux for work and entertainment (as well as anitX on some my machines). Real work, graphic, writing, video and audio editing and many, many other things (no time and place for listing here).

    I have no Windows on my production machine.

    I can't express with words that extraordinary experience which is for me using MX Linux and antiX. I could write an essay some day.

    That's the way the computer should be use. Computer is no more just a tool now. It's something greater.

    Now I'm using MX Linux 17.1 and antiX 17.1 (both based on Debian 9 Stretch).

    My mother (75 years old) is using MX Linux 16.1 on her old laptop - no problem with that.

    I really hope the word will be spread and that MX and antiX will last happily for many, many years and decades.

    All the best to developers and users! ;)

    From Poland with love

  4. Anonymous Someone
    October 15, 2018 at 7:36 am

    MX Linux would be a great distro if you can successfully install it. I've had no success in installing MX Linux. It's the only Distro that will not install no matter what I do for some reason. Just keep getting errors and the boot loader never installs it seems.

  5. 01101001b
    October 14, 2018 at 12:27 am

    I don't get it. Why that persistence to try to sell Linux (whatever distro) to Wind*ws users? It's an unneeded waste of time and effort. Linux doesn't need them and Wind*ws users don't need Linux.

    Why overload a distro with whining, close-minded jerks with unrealistic demands? Am I exaggerating? Sadly, I'm not. Here, one opinion reads "a Linux that can use all of the Windows drivers to support all of your hardware and run all your programs". Pleeease.

    Here's another one: "The continued splintering and the creation of new distros is just making Linux in general less and less viable. [...] Devs should rally around one mainstream, well-established, well-supported version [...] like Ubuntu".

    Ubuntu??? My gosh. How much foolishness! What next? Everyone eating the same meal, wearing the same clothes, painting our houses the same colour? Because variety is "bad" and equals "less viable"???

    There's a distro for each taste. Thank God for that. I'm a Linux user but I'd *never* use Ubuntu, for instance.

    It's ok for me people use Wind*ws. No complain about that. No criticism either. I used Wind*ws for years. When Vista appeared, Wind*ws started to go south. When XP was left unsupported, it was time for me to move on in a different direction. I eventually did and I couldn't be more satisfied with my linux system today.

    If Wind*ws fills people's needs, why try to change them? WHY?

    Linux fills the gap when Wind*ws falls short for somebody. Otherwise, no need.

    Every distro has its own gems and flaws. And some resemblance too. But to introduce a distro as able to do the same things as Wind*ws... what's the point to migrate to a "copy" when you can have the original?

    The point of changing Wind*ws for Linux is because one looks for something different in some aspect. Otherwise one sticks to Wind*ws :-)

    • Ryan Dube
      October 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      I appreciate your detailed response and questions!

      To be honest, the intent wasn't to represent it as the "best replacement for Windows". Although I completely understand what you're saying about the volume of articles out there that attempt to do that.

      The intent of this article is to present Windows users who've always wanted to switch over to Linux with an option for a distro that has the lowest learning curve and the fewest annoyances..

      As I mentioned in this article, I came from that crowd. Over the years the more annoyed I got with Microsoft's model the more.I wanted to switch to a Linux distro.

      I tested about two dozen over time. There were too many things that irritated me, having been "trained" on Windows for so long and developing muscle memory for simple tasks.

      This is why MX Linux excited me. I tested it and discovered those muscle memory issues didn't cause any problems. Almost everything I felt I needed was available, and available where I intuitively expected it to be. No other distro has offered that.

      So it's not the "best replacement for Windows". It's the easiest distro to become accustomed to if you're a long time Windows user who've always wanted a Linux OS that will deal seamless to start using.

      I know most.Linux users feel passionately about aspects of Linux. And I'm sorry if detailing why MX Linux is so easy to switch to bothers you. But this comes from personal experience, lots of frustration with past attempts to try Linix, and no other ulterior motive but to help.people avoid all the frustration and pain I had to go through before finding MX Linux.

    • Aron
      October 18, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      "Why overload a distro with whining, close-minded jerks with unrealistic demands? Am I exaggerating?"
      "Ubuntu??? My gosh. How much foolishness! What next?"
      Calm down, Mr Congeniality. You're being a little bit too friendly :)

      "It's ok for me people use Wind*ws. No complain about that. No criticism either."
      You're lying... why would you censor the word 'wind*ws' then?

      "Every distro has its own gems and flaws. You should struggle through at least half a dozen, then *maybe* make your mind up!"
      Computer user: "I would rather be shot through the neck with an arrow."

      The reason people want it to be 'like windows', is that their favorite programs are supported on windows, and not on linux. And that is because of FRAGMENTATION.
      I can't imagine how dumb this commenter has to be, to not understand this simple thing; how horrible it is for developers and users alike to have to deal with 4672354 slightly different, slightly incompatible varieties of the same thing.

    • cassius
      December 27, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      The intention was not to make MX Linux look like Windows. If it does it is pure coincidence. I am close to the development team and I know this for a fact.

  6. Rob
    October 13, 2018 at 4:10 pm


    The best Linux-based alternative to Windows is a Linux that can use all of the Windows drivers to support all of your hardware and run all your programs. Such a Linux does not yet exist.

    So never mind the endless superficial discussions as whether this window manager or that window manager is better, or this distro or that distro is better.

    Compatibility is the enemy of competition and the bottom line is that an alternative to Windows that is to be taken seriously, has to run all your programs and has to support all your hardware. Tall order yes, but a waste of time if not.

    Promisingly, there are some other approaches worth exploring: ReactOS is a free open source operating system, built from the ground up specifically to run Windows programs and support Windows drivers. It's still in alpha so not comprehensive in its support nor perhaps stability, but looks very promising - take a look at

    Regarding support for drivers specifically on Linux, if your motherboard and processor both support Virtualisation Directed I/O (IOMMU) then in theory you could run ReactOS inside a guest VM (via VirtualBox, or VMware etc) and use PCI Passthrough or VFIO so that the guest VM can access the host machine's hardware as if it were its own and then you can install the Windows drivers in ReactOS on the VM and be able to use your hardware in this way.

    Various Linux distros do support natively many kinds of hardware, particularly the popular items but there are older hardware and esoteric hardware that is not supported. So the above concept is worth looking into. Indeed I am looking into this, on and off myself for some older hardware.

    • Ryan Dube
      October 13, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      I have to be honest I tried ReactOS and didn't like it. As a long time Windows user it didn't provide the same familiar feel as far as the little details go, as M. Linux does. Not was it as seamless and no-hassle with all of my hardware.

    • devi
      October 15, 2018 at 9:53 am

      > an alternative to Windows that is to be taken seriously, has to run all your programs and has to support all your hardware. Tall order yes, but a waste of time if not.

      Wrong. In specific circumstances, even Windows can't replace Windows. Been seeing machines that ran very specific compilation (say Windows 7 sans SP1) and were the only ones that worked well with some application of hardware that were no longer supported, but still very useful, still required for a technological line to work.

      The point therefore isn't and never will be to "support everything", because frankly there's no such operating system. The point is for the potential alternative to work well "right here", in a local environment, which varies from a case to case and might indeed accept the idea of switching to different applications and/or hardware if the OS requires that.

  7. Mike Pavletich
    October 13, 2018 at 11:52 am

    MX provides a proper tool to move the panel and it does it much better than the clumsy method prescribed here because it backs up the panel settings before you move it and when moving it to the bottom of the screen, in essence, it rotates it down clockwise from the menu icon so the layout remains fully intact. The reviewer is partially pitching to Windows users, but make no mistake about it, MX Linux is not trying to make the file manager look like the Windows version, they just very carefully chose a theme that looked good and had no anomalies.
    As to the uninformed, MX has elements no other Linux distros has, so instead of saying it is like all the others, check into it for yourselves before commenting and revealing your ignorance.
    If you think you have a fast distro, MX Linux could very well change your mind on what you consider fast and could potentially make your old distro look like a slug. To those who say it's just another new distro, check out the devs, they were active many years before Ubuntu purchased their way to stardom. MX Linux is making waves on it's own merits and without financial backing, it hasn't sold out to Microsoft as has Ubuntu, or shall I say Ewwbuntu and it will never knowingly bundle spyware.

    • Ryan Dube
      October 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks for providing such a polite and helpful comment.

    • Vaalhond
      October 17, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Spot on. As a distro hopper and Linux tinkerer I have finally settled on MX. Runs well on 4 x laptops and a desktop. Excellent hardware compatibility, quick and easy setup, fast, intuitive, stable and very customizable. Happy as can be.

  8. rijnsma
    October 13, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I agree fully after 12 years Linux and some Window trials.
    I never experienced such fresh breath of air, although I had some very nice Linux distro's. I highly recommend MX after a month of testing.

  9. Deave Cuvox
    October 13, 2018 at 6:28 am

    Seems like a pretty solid Linux distro, but literally no different than any of the others. It addresses none of the main factors keeping consumers on Windows; application compatibility, support, and ease of use. Honestly, the continued splintering and the creation of new distros is just making Linux in general less and less viable. Every new "Windows killer" distro in reality does nothing but fracture the community further. Devs should rally around one mainstream, well-established, well-supported version with good support and a firm software library - maybe something like Ubuntu - and stick to it, if Linux as a whole will have any chance to take a crack at the consumer PC market again.

    • David
      October 15, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, THIS right here C.O.M.P.A.T.A.B.I.L.I.T.Y. is what Linux needs most. So many people would take a chance to get over the steep learning curve to using Linux well if it actually ran most of the programs/hardware windows could that the average user or gamer would AND run it well. Hell make the adobe suite products compatible alone and see what happens. Completely agree with the fact that there are just too may distros out right now and while its great that there is some variety for task specific distros, we SHOULD just rally on making one distro as amazing as possible and give THAT ONE distro the ability alter the appearance or functionality of the desktop environment FROM WITHIN THAT DISTRO ALONE so that all the software and hardware compatibility improvements will be useful to most users.

  10. Joseph Longoria
    October 12, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    No mention of etcher for bootable USB?

  11. Joseph
    October 12, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    No etcher for bootable USB stick? C'mon man

  12. Lior
    October 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    This article is so dumb. Its basically a very regular linux distro like many others, with xfce user desktop, it literally exaclty the same as xubuntu or anarchy or anything that come with xfce as the default.

    • Ryan Dube
      October 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      No it's not. I've tried all of those and the little annoyances I describe exist in those other distros. They may not bother you, so you don't see them.

  13. Pat
    October 12, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    "if you’re looking at buying a new computer, you could save a small fortune by buying one without any OS installed."

    Care to elaborate?

  14. James Kaufman
    October 12, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    This article basically says NOTHING about how MX Linux can seamlessly REPLACE Windows for the typical user. What about running Windows apps? For those of us who are forced to stay on Windows due to Adobe Creative Suite not being available on Linux, this new Linux distro is useless.

    • Jim
      October 12, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      “It includes a Users Manual that will walk you through how to run Windows applications inside a wrapper or any compatibility layer like Wine.”

      Better than nothing, I guess.

    • Joseph Longoria
      October 12, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Really, doesn't even mention libre office. The one thing windows users would need

      • Gordon Cooper
        October 12, 2018 at 9:24 pm

        I quote from this review "By default, MX Linux comes with LibreOffice preinstalled, so you don’t have to worry about installing any Office apps. "

      • Ryan Dube
        October 14, 2018 at 4:19 pm

        Yeah, it does come pre-installed.

    • Timmy Time
      October 12, 2018 at 11:33 pm

      If you "NEED" Adobe products, you need Windows or MacOS. No choice. Whinge to Adobe for making their stuff so broken it won't run under WINE.

      My preference for video editing is Final Cut... But I'm not going to force myself to use MacOS all day to edit a video or 2 each year. In fact I usually put up with "lesser" editors to make the rest of the process easier.

      • Jim
        October 13, 2018 at 12:29 am

        If there was a DECENT Linux alternative to Adobe Illustrator or InDesign, I'd jump on it, but everything that is available doesn't even come close. People mention packages such as Scribus, which I've tried to use. It's terrible.

  15. Robert S.
    October 12, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    I would also recommend to readers that they look at Zorin OS if low learning curve is what they are looking for from windows. I installed Zorin for my grandfather and it breathed new life into a laptop he was ready to throw out. It even became one of his commonly used computers again, even though he purchased a new laptop.

    The free version is perfectly fine freestanding, letting you emulate windows xp, windows 7, and Ubuntu. If you pay a small amount (like 15-25 dollars) it will also let you emulate windows 2000 or an Apple OS (like Snow-leopard I am not a Mac guy but I saw the dock for it.)