6 Changes Windows Users Need to Accept When Switching to Linux

Ryan Dube 14-12-2018

Making the jump from Windows to Linux isn’t always a walk in the park for long-time Windows users. That isn’t the say the experience isn’t a great one. It’s just that there are certain things you take for granted in Windows that are quite different in Linux.


Some major differences include the need to become comfortable with the command line, a different approach to handling peripherals, and the need to switch to a new family of applications.

The following are six of the most common things Windows users struggle with when they switch over to using a Linux distribution.

1. Using the Command Line

linux command line

Most Windows users are able to get by very easily without using the Windows command prompt for nearly everything they do. Installing software, adding new devices, and even configuring the Windows OS itself can be accomplished through pointing and clicking.

In many cases, like adding new devices, the experience is plug-and-play, and the user doesn’t even have to do anything.


Meanwhile, in most Linux distros users might need to learn the command line interface (CLI), but doing so is much easier than you might think.

Linux distros also offer a useful package manager that lets you install an impressive assortment of powerful applications. This experience is largely like the Windows experience where you just click on the app you want and it’ll be installed automatically for you.

However, on Windows, if you can’t find the application you need, you have to go to the store (or online) and buy it.

In the case of Linux, you just research the app you need online, find the installation name of the app, and just run a simple “sudo apt install” command to find and install that software (for free).


Other typical uses for the CLI in Linux include:

  • Quickly checking system information and statistics
  • Reconfiguring the system (changing things like display refresh rate)
  • Scheduling system commands or tasks
  • Creating, searching, or manipulating files and folders
  • Network management
  • Installing peripheral drivers and software

Solution: Becoming comfortable with commands available in the Linux CLI isn’t a steep learning curve, and it can greatly enhance your Linux experience.

If you want to dive in and start learning common Linux commands, have a read through these most-used Linux 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 .

2. Configuring Peripherals

configuring linux peripherals


Another area where long-time Windows users often find a stumbling block is when it’s time to install new hardware or configuring printer connections.

This is because at times the Linux approach to setting up drivers enters into the “manual” realm where you’re running CLI commands to troubleshoot and set things up.

In Windows, setting up a printer is extremely simple. It’s usually just a matter of going through a wizard that uses default Windows drivers included with the OS.

The problem in Windows is that when a printer driver fails, you’re left trying to find which Control Panel area shows you the right port or device error to troubleshoot your printer problems.


Solution: In Linux, while the existing printer drivers that come with a distro may not work with your printer, troubleshooting problems is much easier. Several Linux commands allow you to easily connect to the printer and configure communications manually.

Again, learning CLI commands can make your Linux experience much more flexible and easier to troubleshoot than Windows.Run into trouble? Check our guide to setting up a printer in Linux How to Set Up Your Wireless and USB Printer in Linux Under ideal circumstances, printing on Linux will just work. But if you run into problems, several fixes are available, such as CUPS or the manual installation of drivers - assuming your printer is supported by... Read More .

3. Configuring Internal Components

configuring bluetooth adapter

In addition to configuring new peripherals, installing new hardware inside your Linux computer follows the same approach as with printers.

In Windows, when a new graphics or network card doesn’t work, troubleshooting the problem can turn into a nightmare. Finding the right hardware so you can see the error, and then figuring out how to fix it, is almost impossible for a regular user.

Solution: In Linux, things in this area are getting easier, as new Linux distros (or updated ones) come prepackaged with support for many more internal components.

And when things go wrong, Linux provides you with a lot more power to set things right.

For example, to configuring a new network card in Linux, you have the power (with simple CLI commands) to:

  • Add entries to /etc/network/interfaces to configure the card address and netmask.
  • Set up DNS configuration in etc/resolv.conf.
  • Test the interfaces with ip or ifconfig commands.
  • Set up firewall rules to allow traffic.

This all may sound complicated, but the commands are very simple to learn and let you fix problems with your devices a lot faster than hunting and clicking through countless settings in Windows.

4. Windows Software Is Not Available


Even though Linux desktop distros are becoming more popular than ever before, it’s still a Windows world. That means that the vast majority of software out there is written to work on Windows, and there aren’t always versions available for Linux.

A classic example of this are Microsoft Office products like Word or Excel.

Solution: It may not be quite the “Windows world” as one might think. Windows software is costly. With Linux, there are almost always free replacement applications that are as good or better.

One example of this is LibreOffice as a replacement for Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, anyone who has used GIMP knows that the Linux alternatives certainly give Photoshop a run for its money.

gimp for linux

The key, if you’re a long-time Windows user switching to Linux, is to do your research. Windows software isn’t always the best just because there’s a price tag attached. In the Linux world, you’ll quickly discover that open source alternatives are pretty impressive.

But if you’re dead set on using those Windows apps, a powerful Linux tool called 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 is available to make many Windows applications work just fine on a Linux distro. That means Linux gives you everything you need from your Windows experience, plus a whole lot more.

5. “Limited” Gaming Options

linux gaming apps

A long-running assumption for years has been that there are many more popular games available for Windows than for Linux. The fear of this limitation makes Windows-based gamers wary about making the big leap over into the Linux world.

These days, that fear is completely unfounded.

Solution: You can now run Steam on Linux, so just about any game you can buy to play on Windows, you can play on your Linux workstation. If you install PlayOnLinux, you can even install and run games that are designed to run only on Windows.

steam on linux

This fact alone should make most gamers sprint to use Linux immediately.

Why? Because Linux distros consume far less resources than Windows. This leaves more resources available for an exciting, fast-paced gaming experience!

6. Customizing Desktop Themes

linux themes

Customizing your desktop theme in Windows is as simple as opening up Themes in System Settings, and tweaking things like the desktop background, color settings, the mouse cursor, or applying purchased themes from the Windows store.

Many Windows users think that customizing Linux distro themes are more complicated, or impossible.

Solution: Customizing themes on Linux distros is getting much easier. Most distros now incorporate easy GUIs to customize everything you can tweak in Windows.

Even better, you can go beyond those basic settings by learning some simple theme-based CLI commands. These let you manually change the appearance of individual items like icons, fonts, window settings, and much more.

There are actually a lot of things you can customize in many Linux distros that you can’t customize in Windows.

And in most cases, Linux distros come with an existing theme that’s already more aesthetically pleasing than Windows.

Switching to Linux Isn’t Painful

Even just a few years ago, making the transition to Linux distro for daily computer use was not enjoyable. It was tricky persuading hardware to work properly, and connecting to your home network would require endless of patience.

Thankfully, the developers of most popular Linux distros have made tremendous strides in making their OS handle a much larger family of peripherals and system components.

There are now GUIs available for easily configuring network interfaces. And with the growing collection of Linux-based applications that easily rival some of the best that Windows offers—the transition is nowhere as painful as it used to be.

In fact, I would say that exploring a modern Linux distro is an adventure that any long-time Windows user should try at least once. And if you’re thinking of getting started today, check our list of the best Linux distros 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 .

Related topics: Linux, Windows.

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

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. ianosh
    June 26, 2019 at 12:13 am

    "The problem in Windows is that when a printer driver fails, you’re left trying to find which Control Panel area shows you the right port or device error to troubleshoot your printer problems."
    i stopped reading after this. Who's the moron who thinks he/she knows windows?

  2. Knighthawk5193
    February 20, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I guess I'll come across as a Linux Fan-boy, but here's my take on it....because a lot of good points were made in the comments

    First off the differences between Windows and Linux are vast in more than just usage of the command line. As someone mentioned in the comments there's the "gpupdate"......."ipconfig release / renew"..........and other commands one might need to know. BUT....on the other hand? a lot of home users won't need to use those commands. They'll most likely call the 1-800 number that is on their receipt to get "Microsoft Certified Tech Support".
    On the opposite side of the fence there are Linux users who just want a computer operating system that "just works" without the hassles of having to create a Microsoft Account, just to chat with their friends and family on Facebook, or to be able to browse their favorite recipe website. And then there are the Linux users who are either full-bore or semi-level hackers that know their way around the Terminal and aren't afraid to delve deep into commands to get things set to their liking. Most of the first type of Linux users?....aren't that interested in gaming on their PC (I games like Farmville....Candy Crush or Fruit Ninja count as "real games"?) and the second type?....well most of them are too busy reading things like "Managing SELinux For Servers" or "The Linux System Administrator's Guide" and don't really have time for games. This isn't to say that there isn't a gaming community on the Linux platform, and with PlayOnLinux and WINE there are more than enough avenues for them to get their gaming fix. I never saw why the whole gaming topic was such a sore point myself. I prefer gaming on consoles anyway. LoL!
    Regarding the applications that exist on both platforms. I agree that there are apps and programs that are not on par with some of the Windows/proprietary offerings, and it really depends on the individual regarding what they are willing to wither live with or without. I read in the comments someone mention GIMP and how its not a replacement for Adobe PhotoShop. They are right, that Adobe Photoshop might be able to "do" more, and it comes with a format that most people who have used it before will find familiar (I've never used it and the one time I sat down at someone's PC, it looked like a complete mish-mash of menus and options!) so once again it all boils down to the individual. The same can be said for LibreOffice, it purports to be a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office....but unless you know how? end up with a program that will create documents, spreadsheets and presentations with the WRONG extension, and they will appear mangled or screwy until you fix the naming.
    So moving past the games and the specialized applications and programs, what is the real impetus / motivation for moving to Windows? well I can say that for my Mum, it was necessary only because she had a laptop running Windows XP, and it was so slow? could LITERALLY turn it on.....light up a cigarette.......smoke it fully.....go put on some coffee.....wait for it to brew.....pour yourself a cup.....add cream & sugar to taste.....light up ANOTHER cigarette.....smoke THAT one fully......and THEN?'d be lucky to get the logo and the sliding set of blue bars along the bottom of the black screen! Plus the "toolbar nightmare" (since when she installed things?...she NEVER checked to make sure OTHER things weren't being installed as well!) lets just say the toolbars for her browser (Internet Explorer) were taking up the entire top half of the laptop screen! Well after much suffering with that beast, it finally gave up the ghost. I mean it wasn't getting past that boot screen because of all the crap on the HDD. So I took as much of her stuff off of it as I could....and blew it away, installed Linux Mint MATE on it when it was version 11 and she's been a happy camper ever since. She's not a gamer, she doesn't need Photoshop....she just needs her laptop to just work. For staying in touch with family overseas and in different states, to check the watch a few YouTube vids on various recipes...and to send / receive emails using Thunderbird. But the issue?....or I should say the biggest relief? I don't have to watch her siphon money to either McAfee or Symantec! (which she was doing with BOTH of them while using Windows!) so that third element?...the secure factor? to me...what makes Linux just a little bit better than Windows. And Yes. Before anyone says it....I NOW there are viruses and adware / malware / ransomware etc that exist for Linux as well, the difference is? I have been running Linux since 2002 / '03 and I have NEVER gotten infected, or hacked, or held for ransom etc! I don't think ANYONE who uses Windows can make that same claim! But in the end? People will almost always gravitate to what they are most familiar with.....or with what makes their computing life easier!

  3. Paul
    February 9, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    The 1990's called and they want their article on Linux OS's back.

  4. JAFD
    January 9, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Have been using ClipMate ('s clipboard extender/information manager) since '96. Currently have about 50K items in clipboard. Looking for Linux equivalent. Suggestions ?

  5. devi
    December 19, 2018 at 11:45 am

    One request...
    Please stop pushing GIMP as "Photoshop replacement". It's not the worst piece of software there is, but since it follows the idea of "reinventing the wheel", it requires to learn different philosophy of working with data and accepting the fact that plenty of same keystrokes, shared by pretty much every other piece of similar software don't work as intended. Which is really both counterintuitive and counterproductive.

    If you look for a nice piece of software, then check Krita and MyPaint. Both are free, very intuitive and while they don't fulfill just every need, in many typical cases they get the job done.

  6. Isaac
    December 16, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    This is a good "Basic" list of the down-sides of switching to Linux.
    You should end it with the Up-sides list. Or you really should make note of these up-sides, when specifying the down-sides... Otherwise, it comes off as biased.

    Yes, some customization has to done manually. Yes, some Windows software is not available for Linux. Yes command-line is sometimes necessary. Yes, limited Game options... However...
    You have the ability to customize EVERYTHING. You have alternative software that is almost identical, and FREE, for just about any Windows application. You do have GUI options for almost everything (if that's your thing).

    The only limitation that I have found, is the Game issue... Some games just aren't available, and Porting them to Linux can be difficult, and not for the simple-user.
    Even with these minor inconveniences, the lack of Cost, the DRASTIC increase in speed, and the privacy that comes with Linux, makes switching well worth the effort.

    • Dragonmouth
      December 20, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      Don't forget about Valve's Proton initiative for gaming on Linux, as well as Lutris.

      • Isaac
        December 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm

        Proton is fantastic! And, while it still doesn't support all Steam games, it has allowed me to add a few. It is still pretty young though, so hopefully they keep at it.
        Not a big fan of Lutris, PlayOnLinux or anything with Wine... I can get it to work, but it's not very simple, and I reload my system to often to go through the hassle every time...

  7. poliltimmy
    December 15, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    This is a funny article. No mention of Windows neccesity for command line at times also.' ipconfig /release, ipconfig /renew' for the the nagging network problems with the yellow warning icon that the trouble shooter says there is no fix for. Nor the boot sector that needs the install disk, that rarely ships with your computer and command lines to fix. 'bootrec /FixMbr bootrec /FixBoot bootrec /ScanOs bootrec /RebuildBcd', any of these sound familiar to you?
    And hardware drivers? Are you saying you don't ever see a Windows driver installation that ends up FUBAR with all the little red X's beside them, just to have the troubleshooter say it can't help and another section telling you it is the best driver and the hardware is functioning properly?
    Not single mention of the obsolete file system that Windows uses that can't seem to stay functioning with out fragmentation slowing your computer 1985 speeds, that Linux is just not infected with.
    How about the Registry editing to get rid of that re-spawning problem that you thought you got rid of?
    Linux also updates all your software, even third party in one fell swoop, without rebooting. Something MS can only dream of.
    I can go on and on but I think you know all this and what I left out. And I am not even in IT. Just your average end user with a long memory, that has moved on to a far superior platform.

    • devi
      December 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Not so fast, partner... ;)
      - Typical home/office Windows user doesn't have to rely on a command line anymore, and thank gods for that. While it's certainly nice to have an option for doing more via the command line, (like employing the power of DISM in case of errors) using it as the default way for packet installation is an idea straight from the Twilight Zone.
      - Same goes for FS, registry - typical user doesn't have to worry his or her head with this stuff and advanced user knows what to do about it and how to bypass limitations, providing they matter that much.
      - Software updates aren't centralized, but every good application usually informs you that there's a new version and provides the link to such an update. There are also update managers that get the job done if needs be.
      - "No reboot" feature isn't as simple as one could think. Firstly, there are various distributions using different repos and packet managers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Also, in case of kernel/vital updates, you still might be asked to reboot your system + there's always the possibility for the update process to fail or break something (hence the need for, say, dpkg/apt-get fix). So, while Linux users don't have to fear "rebooting system, please don't shutdown, 16% complete..." alerts, it's not that there's no risk involved.
      - As for drivers - new hardware pieces usually come with their own drivers, so it's not very troublesome either.

      To sum it up: your arguments, while certainly real don't matter that much AD 2018 and aren't enough to announce Linux' superiority. The real answer lies elsewhere in sectors that don't "exist" for a typical user (networking, security, programing etc...)

  8. Ioan
    December 15, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Nice reading but I think you are a bit biased.
    Not all linux distributions have update packages. Maybe most populars have but not all.
    Steam on Linux does not, I repeat does not play as you state “ just about any game you buy” in linux. Unfortunately we are far from that. Sure the situation has gotten better but it is not what you say.
    Also just because linux has better resource management that does not mean that it can game better.
    And please people stop comparing MS Office with Libre. for everyday casual use , yes nobody needs MS Office I agree and Libre would be more than enough. but that is only one side of the coin. For business that’s a different story.
    For all my love to all linux and opensource projects out there, I think a bit of standardization would fix a lot of things. Of course that is opposite to the values of the community, and that is just my opinion.

  9. Bj
    December 15, 2018 at 4:06 am

    The most painful thing with linux is installing proprietary GPU drivers. I do machine learning and a working GPU is essential but trying to install nvidia drivers is a headache in the making. But it just works in windows why??? Why can't I just install the latest GPU driver and not have to worry that it isn't open source. I really don't care. I just want my 1080 to work.

    • Dragonmouth
      December 20, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      Depends on the distro you're using, and "because Nvidia" basically.

  10. Bobby Russ
    December 15, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Every printer I have used with Ubuntu (Linux) has worked like a charm straight out of the box. Haven't had to worry about installing anything as it saw the printer and then loaded it up for me.

    The same can't be said for Windows. I can't count how many times I've had to hunt down drivers for the printer to work. Then, you have to be careful to download the non-bloatware versions which includes programs you really don't need.

    As an example, my current HP wireless printer, I had to go into the settings to add a printer while Ubuntu instantly recognized it and had it available without me having to add. On the windows side, I then had to wait for windows to recognize the drivers and install it. Ubuntu side... a matter of seconds. Windows side... a matter of minutes.

    Let's also not get started on updates. Windows updates hours of time between downloading the files, "getting things ready", and updating both while you can do stuff and then in the red screen while it says "Don't turn off your computer". Ubuntu quick download time and upgrade. Hours versus minutes.

    • Norm M.
      December 15, 2018 at 3:18 am

      I agree with your comments and I've installed just about every Linux distro there is. I barely ever use the terminal and CLI. Adding a printer in Linux Mint couldn't be easier. HP printers are also well supported.

      System updates in Linux never interrupts workflow. Windows seems to do everything in its power to stop you from getting anything done. I haven't used Windows regularly in over a decade and will never go back to Microsoft's insanity they call an operating system.

  11. James
    December 14, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Also, with Windows, you have the option of having no password for your account. On Linux, you must have a password. You can configure it to log in with no account, but you'll still need to know your password for installing updates and apps.

    • Dragonmouth
      December 20, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      On Linux systems and BSD systems (including MacOS) you have these passwords as a mandatory thing for security reasons. Windoze does not enforce this and it's one of the reasons why it's hacked so much considering physical security is just as important as cyber security.

  12. Jeff
    December 14, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    The free versions of office products aren't anywhere close to as good. The only reason I'm still dual booting as opposed to going full on Linux is because LibreOffice Calc can't hold a candle to Excel.

    • Bobby Russ
      December 15, 2018 at 1:53 am

      Personally, there hasn't been anything that excel can do that I can't get LibreOffice Calc to do. For most people's purposes, I don't think that Excel is any better. Is it more familiar? To some. Then again, Google Sheets is becoming more familiar to some now.

      I used Excel for years and continue to do so in corporate environments where LibreOffice isn't an option. The biggest difference that I've seen between the two is where things are put and less stability with Excel. Nothing is more annoying than it crashing out or freezing.

      • Bj
        December 15, 2018 at 4:00 am

        Try doing scientific data analysis with libreoffice it just doesn't do the same things. The analytics toolkit for excel is hard to beat. I can setup an ANOVA analysis and not worry that the program will crash in excel can't say the same thing for libreoffice.

    • devi
      December 18, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Try WPS Office for Linux. From the perspective of a typical user, it's superior in every sense to Libre.

  13. Ronnie Redd
    December 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    3. Networking: As of Ubuntu (and any flavors derived from it), netplan is the way networking is handled. I hear there will be a little more issues with new users and the yaml file editing. Remember whitespace matters!

    • Alex Borrell
      January 4, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      For desktop users NetworkManager handles networking. Netplan is bypassed.

  14. SMoss
    December 14, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Most people use their computer for Solitaire and the Internet. When I fixed old PC's, I asked what they use it for. Then I installed Xubuntu > turned into a Windows look alike and automated everything else. I even downloaded windows icons and renamed them. They loved how fast their XP went.

  15. gazoo
    December 14, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I thought the six changes were (1) no more spyware, (2) no more backdoors, (3) no more updates that delete your data, (4) no more toggles switches that don't work and continue to harvest your personal information, (5) no more updates that undo settings and reinstall garbage, (6) no more ads.

    I limited myself to just six.

    When I made the switch to Linux, it was plug-n-play (on a compatible machine increasing filled with anti-consumer products). I didn't even have to access the command line but I did (and I do) because it's awesome.

    • Norm M.
      December 15, 2018 at 3:25 am

      Excellent list! Yes, there's so much going for Linux it's ridiculous and should be embarrassing to Microsoft.

      I would also like to add that Linux never gets slower as time goes on (unlike Windows). I'd also recommend MX-Linux for older and under-powered systems. It's incredibly well designed and simple for new users and powerful for experience users.

  16. Paul Cornett
    December 14, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    your 1. premise is flawed. It is absolutely not required at all to go to the command line. My 72 year old dad that has been running linux desktop for last 12+ years has not even seen the command line. This needs to die a horrible death.

    • Arman
      December 14, 2018 at 11:32 pm

      Agreed. Maybe it's the hardware I chose, the window manager I use, or (most likely) the author has no idea what he's saying, but I haven't seen any old those problems. You don't need the command line for installing a printer, a graphics card, or managing files and directories. I find managing themes easier in Linux. And a package manager is basically Steam for everything - and again, no commands line! I spend hours finding drivers for windows (Bluetooth, anyone?) where Linux just... works.

    • unhappy win user
      December 17, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      every time I consider switching to linux, something I need to do or install still requires the command line. On Windows my printer/scanner just works, on Linux I have to google to find out I need to follow a maze of terminal commands. I wish it weren't so, but it is so.

      • Dragonmouth
        December 20, 2018 at 7:28 pm

        Unhappy Win User,
        Blame the manufactures rather than Linux. If companies would develop for cross platform instead of limiting themselves to Windows (with a tiny sliver for Mac if at all), then why blame a system that has no control over what companies choose to (not) support? That's also why compatibility guides exist online. It's on the user to research their stuff rather than blindly diving in to something they know zero about. At the end of the day, the issues lie in one of two buckets: user ignorance/error and/or OEM laziness.

      • Jim
        January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

        I would say you are doing something wrong then. I use Ubuntu Mate and rarely use the terminal. Even then I do it for expediency, (mostly updating and upgrading) as there is a GUI for that too. I have no desire to lean a bunch of commands.

    • Alex Borrell
      January 4, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Linux without cli is half linux. Maybe that is all you need.

      • Jim
        July 1, 2019 at 9:52 am

        Yes, it is all I need. Yet I am the user they say won't use Linux. Mostly I do web browsing, check e-mail, manipulate graphic images (photos), create a few documents and envelopes and edit music. I am not and never will be a power user, and will never again use Windows. Yet if you want Linux to be more widely accepted, you need more people like me, not more power users.