Switching from Windows to Linux

I’ve seen plenty of articles on which is the easiest distro to use for people moving from Windows, but very little in the way of a practical, step by step, guide to actually making the switch. The few articles I have seen addressing it were woefully inadequate in their coverage of what preparations were needed before even installing any software, and the implementation choices available - full replacement vs. dual boot vs. virtualisation. The starting point for most people considering the change will be a functioning Windows system on which they are somewhat dependent, and they will want to be sure that the procedure they use to complete the switch is a safe one (i.e. it doesn’t leave them with a dead machine and/or lost data).


I spent many years going back and forth between Windows and Linux until finally making the jump to completely Linux. I even made my new employer buy me a Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu pre-installed rather than a Mac. My advice is to try out as many distros as possible but do it practically. Download VirtualBox and then load the distros into VirtualBox. Go full-screen with them and even take 7-day or 30-day Windows-free periods. Put the distros to the test.

As for the best distros for beginners? I’m partial to Ubuntu because it is well-funded and maintained with LTS (Long Term Support) releases that are supported for five years. They have a 6-month release schedule for new releases with a release in April and one in October. Thus the release numbers being 17.10 (10 for October) and 18.04 (4 for April). Ubuntu isn’t “Windows-like” per se but has lots of cool features and is very customizable like any other Linux distro. If you are looking for something a little more “Windows-like” you will want to try Linux Mint. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and is well-maintained and updated. If you are looking for more of a Mac experience then try out Elementary Linux. Elementary Linux is dedicated to a beautiful user interface and a limited eco-system. You can run any Linux capable app on Elementary but their store is geared towards keeping the interface solid.

Other great distros to try are Solus with the Budgie desktop and KDE Neon. Both offer different desktop experiences. You can check out much more at https://www.distrowatch.com. I did notice that Manjaro is listed as the top distro for the past 6 months but I wouldn’t call any Arch Linux based distros beginner friendly. Arch Linux based distros are great and definitely worth a try after you get your feet wet with other distros.

I hope this helps. Let me know how your experience goes.


It is my opinion too.
My opinion is only you can decide which distro is the best for you to work
You could start by trying Debian-based distros
Keep WIN and start testing Linux distros and when you choose a distro for you, you can switch to your new OS.
You can keep testing other distros even to see what’s new - you can use a USB pen for that

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That’s a good suggestion @Winston

I’ll make a note of it and will write a tutorial on it.


Hi there,
In my opinion, for beginners it’s very important to feel secure - there is no better way than having a test machine - second laptop/PC or Pi 3 +++ :wink:
Virtualization can be just too difficult for many people…
Just my simple thought…

----Live long and prosper----


I am with you on that mate. Virtualboxes are good for testing but to take a distro to its limits will require a computer installation. I prefer to dual boot and use Linux along with Windows so that if i don’t like the Distro, i can remove it and have windows to create another bootable Linux USB to begin the testing process all over again.

One of the ways i have setup my laptop is make 3 partitions of my 500gb SSD,

  1. 100gb for windows. (mainly for my photoshopping apps that i actually paid for)
  2. 100gb for Linux (Main OS for quite some time now)
  3. 300gb as a storage partition that can be shared between Windows and Linux (Depending on Linux OS mainly)

This in my opinion works well so that you can test different Linux distros and not be worried about any data loss


Thanks - I look forward to reading it.
I would suggest breaking it down into several pieces: the first would be concerned with preparation for the switch, the second could cover the fallback plan (in case things didn’t go well), and the third the actual implementation.
The preparation stage would cover doing a software inventory, securing data, deciding on a broad implementation strategy (e.g. dual boot), mapping out the partitioning scheme for that strategy, identifying the resources that would be needed throughout the implementation (e.g external hard drives to facilitate data backup and movement), and deciding upon a distro.
The fallback plan would basically concern itself with ensuring that there was a means to restore the machine to its present state, or to reimplement Windows, in the event that the transition wasn’t a success. It may even necessitate purchasing a Windows installation disk - readily available and inexpensive on eBay - which could be useful in an emergency (or if you’re thinking of running a Windows virtual machine inside your new Linux system).
The implementation stage is fairly self explanatory, but the detail will depend on the strategy decided upon in stage one.

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The best advice before you start anything is to do a complete back up for safety. That way if anything does go wrong you can restore your files. You can also do restore point, before doing anything which means you can take it back the state it was in before you did anything. I think you can still re-install windows should the need arise. What I did was just copy my files across to an external HHD rather than a back up. I also did a few live before doing the leap across. I found it useful to duel boot. Personally I found that by doing this I had more time to explore and make mistakes in Linux without it ruining my windows set-up. However I quickly found out that for me linux did everything I wanted from windows and so in the end purchased another drive and changed it over and did a complete install of Linux. 2 advantages, it gives me the safety net of windows if I need it ever, and I have a spare drive in case one fails.

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Winston, if the machine has previously been running a legitimate Windows and it can run Windows 10, you can do a fresh installation by downloading Microsoft’s Media Creation package onto a USB key. You don’t need to know the licence number, presumably because the information has been burned into the Bios.

I’ve used this several times, most recently on a disused machine with W8 (point zero) for which the normal free update path is no longer available. Sometimes you need to erase the main partition (or use another hard disk) to get the computer to boot on USB.

I’d propose that to be frank with newcomers, we make it clear on this thread or elsewhere which software functions are not available on Linux, and which might disappoint. Here are three which are presently bothering me:

Many of us have campaigned about the lack of an equivalent to VBA macro programming in LibreOffice that is suitable for occasional users. The LO team give, perhaps, the impression that coding should be the province of experienced professionals. As a result, LO calc can’t be used by, for example, teachers who know about coding and want to produce straightforward educational materiel that requires only a little more than the built-in formulae. An added disincentive may be that many educational establishments have contracts that render MS Office free to students.

According to many posts on the web, the user interface of the consumer version of Adobe Photoshop remains unrivalled. Gimp has most of the functionality, but people including me still don’t seem able to get used to it.

A free / inexpensive and extremely useful website creation application called ToWeb runs under Wine, but (on a Mac) I found that too clunky to be practical. With software like this, it really is essential to have direct access to the native file structure that holds all your image and other source files.


I didn’t switch completely to Linux, and never seem to do that jump.
But I use Linux every day, I have 2 servers up, one runs in the cloud, one in my house - both are powered by Ubuntu server.
I use Mint on my laptop, but almost all the time Windows on my dekstop.
So I switch over between Windows and Linux couple times a day :slight_smile:
What made my life a lot easyer to find the crossplatform applications, which behave the exactly the same under Linux and Windows.
Also, under windows configured a shortcut for ctrl-alt-T, which launches Putty.
My advice is first get used to use the crossplatform applications instead of the Windows specific programs.
Then the switch-over will be painless.


Dual booting is a pain and for beginners a non-starter. VirtualBox is not difficult and beginners are not shooting for the limits. Simply a test drive.

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I feel like i went about it differently then. I found dual booting much easier than VB’s but to each their own. I guess that the guides i found online were explained much better for dual boots than VB’s for me. Also, learning how the booting thing works for Linux is what got me hooked into Linux in the first place.

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Yes, my thinking as well. Run it on bare metal, sometimes it works different via virtualization. use a spare pc that you can practice on.

the biggest problem is the fear for the new things to learn ,
so I opened a hotspot through Wire (voip) on every new install.
and support it through the hotspot .
especially for the older user a big success .

My “Journey to Linux” was slightly different. The book “Ubuntu Linux for Dummies” came out around the same time that a friend was throwing out a machine whose colour did not match her decor (!) I got between her and the skip and took the box home. It was no flying machine, but no wreck either.

The advantage of this approach was that I could do whatever I wanted to the buckshee box without in any way damaging the “mainframe”, which ran Windows XP. The issues surrounding dual booting simply did not occur. The disadvantage was that the extra machine took up physical space which for some people would be a deal breaker.

The book allowed me to gain a toehold in Linux, which is all you need. In those days, and coming from a Windows background, using Linux was like stepping through the looking glass. Most of the time everything was pretty similar but every now and then you’d turn a corner and be completely flummoxed. Mostly these occasions concerned the complete absence of security software and the integration of computer with on-line resources which would be impossible in the Windows world. No idea whether that is still the case.

The buckshee machine took an absolute hammering because once I could “fly” without the book I played and explored and deliberately took her to the edge to see what was possible. I broke things, crashed things, red-lined things and had to reinstall innumerable times; but of course that’s how you learn. Some of the things that happened were hilarious. One day, over a pint, I’ll tell you of my first trips on-line with Linux, and the first time I used the command line to install something.

Once I had it sussed the buckshee machine settled down to life as a sophisticated CD player. However, it was a time of frequent security outrages which would take the Windows box completely out of action. I could always get on-line with my trusty Linux box in the corner, and sometimes had to use it for days on end, when nobody else could.

Next time I upgraded my “mainframe” I formatted the old one with Linux and sat the two boxes side-by-side. Presently they became networked and as time passed I found myself using Linux more and more.

Finally the day came when I went to see my buddy who built the new machines.

“… And you’ll be wanting Windows 10 with that?” he asked.

“No” I said, and he smiled quietly to himself.

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A nice account of your journey, aspects of which sound familiar. There are still a few things I find I need Windows for (some games, spreadsheets with VBA macros, DVD authoring software which supports 25Gb disks), but I’m hoping to have found Linux solutions by the time I build my next machine.

I have to say that the failure to provide a proper OS installation disk with a new PC is one of my bugbears: either I am buying the OS that comes with the machine, in which case give me an installation disk, or I’m not, in which case drop the price of the machine and supply it with nothing but the BIOS. I’ve reconfigured every PC I’ve ever owned from the ground up - i.e. deleted the original partitions, reformatted the drives, created new partitions, reloaded the OS and reinstalled the application software - and this would be all but impossible without having the OS disk. I’m not familiar with Microsoft Media Creation, but my guess is that it doesn’t give you the same level of control you would have with the OS installation disk.

I had an elderly friend that really wasn’t comfortable beyond XP or win7 under duress, win10 was impossible for him although he was a wiz with dos. I put Zorin on a machine for him with the windows feel desktops and wine desktop icons and he was set to go up till his passing. Zorin can look like XP, or win7 without much of a hassle. I have not played with it for a few releases, but was very pleased with its flexibility for my friend.

Zorin is a good choice. I recently looked at 12.4 in the basic edition not the ultimate edition which you have to pay for. It is quite under rated in my opinion. Having said that I do like Mint better but then if I had come across it first I might have a different view.