If you message me asking me to call this page GNU/Linux instead, I will murder you.
Why you should use Linux
Why you should switch away from Windows
Why you should switch away from Mac
Where to start
Where to go for support
Concerns & solutions
As you may have noticed, this is long. So long that I needed to put a table of contents. The goal of this page is to convert people into Linux users, as I'm sure you've guessed, but I don't want to make you read through this whole essay if you don't want to. You should, at the very least, read the section about the current desktop OS that you are using whether it's Windows or Mac, then decide if you want to learn more afterwards. The core reasons for switching to Linux are the increased privacy from corporations and advertisers, more control and customizability, and the increased performance you may get on lower spec computers. Common concerns when switching away from the main two desktop OSs are also covered at the bottom.
If you are worried that you are not good enough with computers to use Linux, please refer to my post on Linux elitism here. You will be okay. Linux is not as user unfriendly as you may have been led to believe, even if it does have issues here and there. Please contact me if you need support.
Linux will not track you. No data of yours will ever be sent back home to be saved and logged. There are no Linux accounts to sign into that collect and store all your data. There are no ads, and there never will be any. You can trust that when you are using Linux, the applications you open, the things you type, and the things you do are kept to your device. If you don't believe it, it's open source, and you can look at the code here. No tracking also means no advertising. You will not be advertised to by Linux!
On Linux, you control when it updates, how it looks, what kernel it's using, what's running in the background, what bootloader you use, what applications on it, and everything else you can possibly control. Decisions are not made for you the way they are on other operating systems. On top of that, settings will never magically revert to the default.
Linux runs better on low spec hardware. If your laptop from 2010 can't really handle Windows, it'll struggle way less to run Linux. Also, Linux will run relatively smoothly on an HDD if you can't upgrade to an SSD! Linux is a great way to revive old laptops that can't keep up with modern operating systems anymore, and even more conveniently, people are more willing to experiment on old laptops they're not able to use for anything else.
I'll try my best to keep this concise, but the main reason is due to the obscene amount of tracking that Windows does.
This post shows a lot of extremely concerning defaults that Windows 10 has. The top issue is that by default, Windows will send data about anything you type to their servers - basically, a keylogger built into the operating system. Another default setting is one that sends your location data both to Microsoft and to "trusted partners". What? Your browsing data is also sent by default!
I hate to link a Medium post, but I'm going to do it because the information is good. The summary of that post is that Windows will send unknown binaries over to its servers to run them by default.
If the devil's advocate in your brain is screaming at me that these are all toggleable features that can be disabled, I understand - but this is why closed source applications can be an issue. I'm not a die hard open source advocate, but when it comes to something as personal as an operating system, things change. Even if these tracking features are disabled, there is no way to confirm that they actually were due to the closed source nature of Windows. Also, do note that all the tracking features discussed above were defaults. If you don't have time to go through Windows and disable every option that results in your personal data being sent to their servers, tough luck. Defaults matter.
All these tracking "features" are then used to advertise to you. Windows 11 is attempting to turn its start menu into a place for advertisements. There is a guide here on how to disable Windows 10 ads, but really, this guide doubles as a list of where ads are located on Windows. They're in the task bar, start menu, Windows games, file explorer, lock screen, and more.
There are also more annoying and familiar reasons to switch away from Windows. The most familiar to you is likely automatic updates. Every now and then, a Windows computer will simply decide that, against its owners will, it should run a system update and restart the PC. Many, many people have had bad experiences with it. These automatic updates can be disabled or dodged, but it becomes harder and harder every update. The best way to do it right now is to run Powershell scripts, which is insane. You should not have to jump through these hoops to regain control over your computer.
Macs may be annoying, but it's public opinion that at least Macs are more private, and will not try to profit off of your data or send information to their servers. This is a misconception.
As shown in this article, if the fradulent website warning setting is ticked (which it is, by default), Apple devices will send the website address and possibly your IP both to their servers and to Tencent's servers. Tencent is a Chinese conglomerate company - what do they have to do with this? While the screenshots shown are only for iPhones, this does apply to Macs as well.
What comes with tracking? Ads, of course! Apple is now starting to make its way into the advertising business.
Another point of concern is a major appeal of the Apple platform. People expect a consistent experience on all their Apple devices, and want all their data to sync from device to device. This has a major drawback - if you are locked out of your account, you are fucked, to put it lightly! Here is a story of someone who was locked out of their account. They lost their music and TV purchased from Apple, the ability to update applications, and likely couldn't access iMessages either across all their Apple devices, not just their Mac. An OS should not be able to lock you out of so many important services at once.
A Linux distro is basically a collection of software that comprises a Linux OS. If you want to try Linux, you'll need to download one of the below distros, burn it to a USB, and then install that onto your computer. The explanations below are definitely simplified, but it's a good place to start. Don't be afraid to do your own research! There are far more distros of Linux. Maybe you'll find some super hipster one that you grow attached to.
The holy grail of user friendly Linux distros. It runs great on lower spec hardware, it's easy to use, there's little set up to do, and I'm fairly sure Steam comes preinstalled. You don't really need to use the terminal to install most things either! You can download it here.
Are you a gamer? Try Pop! You can download and look into it here. PopOS is pretty good with having drivers installed out the box, and it has an easy to use application store that has plenty of commonly used applications.
KDE Neon is Window's prettier older sister. No I'm serious. It looks great, and functions really similarly to Windows too, so you won't be struggling to get used to it very much. Most keybinds are near identical to Windows, and every single one can be customized. You can look into it more and download it here.
There are so many more. Manjaro (not recommended for new people (actually not recommended by anyone)), Lubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, my god, just look at this list. If you start really liking Linux as you use it, you might end up switching to something totally different.
Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro by far, and is likely the first thing you think of when hearing about Linux. However, Ubuntu is developed by a company called Canonical, which seems to be puling a wide range of shady things lately. It's not nearly as bad as Windows or Mac, but still, I wouldn't really recommend it. If you want something that looks similar to Ubuntu, use PopOS instead!
- Search any questions or error messages you have. Chances are that you are not the first or the last person to have that issue, and you can go through and find the information to fix your problems most the time.
- A lot of distros have their own forums where you can ask for help. For example, Linux Mint has a forum here.
- Have a fedi account? Ask there - you might start a hellthread, but at least you might get your answer somewhere along the way.
- You can ask on Reddit. I don't really recommend it, but you'll probably get the fastest reply there.
- Please note that you should probably not blindly enter commands that people suggest into the terminal, especially if they require elevated permissions (sudo)! Make sure you know exactly what the command is doing first.
Lots of Steam games are working on Linux due to Steam's Proton play. You can typically expect performance that's near identical, if not exactly identical, to Windows. You can always use WINE if needed as well. Unfortunately, games with certain anticheats, like League, won't work, though I will editorialize and say that Linux not being able to run League is an objectively good thing and you should find better ways to spend your time.
You'll only need to relearn a bunch of things if you're a masochistic power user. There's plenty of distros that offer you a polished and simple experience with little set up, which have been mentioned above. Take your pick!
They're not as bad as they look, I promise. You'll just end up running the same commands with different inputs. Terminal use can also be mostly avoided with the more user-friendly distros. Several of the ones above (Mint, Pop, KDE Neon) have completely normal GUI based application shops that do not require going anywhere near a terminal.
This one is a pain to deal with, and it makes sense if it ends up being the reason you don't switch to Linux. There are solutions though! Try these before calling it quits:
- Use WINE depending on the software. WINE is a compatibility layer that lets you run Windows applications on Linux, but you'll have to check and make sure that WINE works well with the software that you need.
- Use a virtual machine on Linux. Install the OS you need on that, and use the applications you need from there.
- Dual boot. Install Linux and Windows/Mac alongside each other and choose one when turning on your computer. This way, you'll only really have to boot into Windows/Mac for the applications that you need.
- Find a Linux supported alternative if at all possible.
Linux is not a perfect, S tier work of programming, but I genuinely believe it's the best we have right now, and everyone deserves to use an operating system that doesn't try to profit off of them. If you have an old laptop, I cannot recommend enough that you experiment on it. Failing that, try Linux by dual booting or in a virtual machine. If you switch, the adjustment period will be rough, but it'll hopefully be worth it. Please ask if you have any questions about anything, and thank you for reading this!