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Check How you can Switch From Windows to Linux
If you are fed up with Windows 10 or don’t want to upgrade to Windows 11, you can install Linux instead. Here’s how to make the switch to an open source operating system and install applications.
Microsoft is getting closer and closer to replacing Windows 10 with the sleek Windows 11, but if you’re fed up with built-in ads, constant updates, data collection, software crashes, and increasing hardware requirements, we don’t blame you. The good news is that you have options.
If you’ve been thinking about making the leap to a different operating system, now is the perfect time. But you’re not stuck with the Windows-macOS binary, and you don’t have to settle for the browser-based Chrome OS. Instead, you can turn to the world of Linux.
Choose your distribution
Unlike Windows and macOS, there is no single version of Linux. Instead, Linux is packaged in many different distributions, or “distributions,” each with its own interface and set of features. One can use a Mac-like interface with a dock and an “app store”, while others may use a more minimalist interface and require the installation of applications from the command line.
Exploring the Linux distribution pool is a fun part of the hobby, but for your first install, you probably want something popular and beginner-friendly, so it’s easy to get help when you need it. This is why I recommend starting with Linux Mint.
There are many distributions that aim to mimic Windows in design and functionality, such as Zorin OS, but they are smaller and you won’t have as large a community to tap into as you learn to get around. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is arguably the most popular distro on desktop PCs, but it doesn’t look much like Windows these days.
Linux Mint is a perfect middle ground option – it’s designed for beginners, offers a familiar desktop environment, and is based on Ubuntu, so you can make use of the huge Ubuntu / Mint community when you need help.
You can check out other distros instead, but I’ll be using Mint for the purposes of this guide, and I highly recommend doing that as well. It’s not my personal distro of choice, but it’s great for new Windows migrants, and it’s easier to explore other distros once you’ve defined the basics on a beginner system.
Create your installation drive
Head over to the Mint download page and choose the 64-bit “Cinnamon” version. Cinnamon is the desktop environment that I recommend for old Windows users, although MATE is also quite similar to Windows, although it is a little less modern. XFCE is ideal for older or low-power PCs, thanks to its light use of resources. Mint’s download page provides a number of links depending on where you live. If you use BitTorrent, I recommend that you grab the torrent file, which will download much faster.
The installer will come as an ISO or disk image file. To install it on your system, you will need to burn the file to a DVD or USB flash drive. The last thing we will do it using a tool called Rufus. Install Rufus, open it, and insert a 2GB or larger flash drive. (If you have a fast USB 3.0 or 3.1 drive, so much the better.) You should see it appear in the Device drop-down menu at the top of Rufus’s main window.
Next, click the Select button next to Disk or ISO image and choose the Linux Mint ISO you just downloaded. Press the Start button, and if you are prompted to download new versions of Syslinux, click Yes. Note that this will erase your flash drive, so make sure nothing important is there before proceeding. When done, you will see a success message and your flash drive will be named LINUX MINT.
Now is the time to back up your data and restart your computer. Fasten your seat belts because it’s time to install Linux.
Install Linux on your PC
As your computer restarts, you should see a message telling you to press a certain key to access the boot menu (usually something like F12). Otherwise, you will see a key to enter settings (often Delete). Press one of those keys and look for the option to boot from the inserted USB drive. (If you go into the full setup menu, you’ll be in a boot setup menu somewhere, and you’ll have to exit the menu to reboot again when you’re done.)
You will then be greeted by GRUB, the Linux Mint start menu, where you can choose to boot into Linux Mint. If you come across any errors, you may need to google for a solution. I had to enable the nomodeset option for my graphics card, for example. Others may have to modify or disable Secure Boot in BIOS.
This installer is what we call a Live CD, where you can poke around and use the Linux Mint desktop before installing it. This will give you a chance to see if this particular layout appeals to you without actually touching your system drive. Once you’re satisfied, double-click the Install Linux Mint icon and follow the wizard.
Make sure to check the box next to Install third-party software as it contains useful drivers and codecs that you surely want. From here, you can clean your hard drive completely, erasing all traces of Windows and using Linux as your only operating system. (Make sure you’ve backed up your data before doing this.)
Alternatively, you can split your drive into two partitions and dual boot Linux along with Windows. This will allow you to reboot into one or the other whenever you want. At the very least, it’s reassuring to know that you have that safety net during the transition before removing Windows entirely.
Choose the relevant option from the Installation Type menu and click Install Now. The process may take a little time, but when it is done, you will receive a success message. Click the Restart Now button to start Linux Mint and begin to familiarize yourself with your new operating system.
Get familiar with Linux and install some apps
When you reboot, you will be placed on the Linux Mint desktop once again, only this time, it is installed on your PC. The basics are quite familiar – click the button in the lower left corner to view applications, manage windows from the lower taskbar, etc. However, there are some things in Linux that work differently than in Windows, with applications being the largest.
On Linux, it is less common to download applications from the web. Instead, each distribution has its own repository, something like a free app store, with a directory of popular apps. You can install an application from the repositories in one of two ways: from a graphical software manager (again, which looks like an app store) or from the command line.
To open the Linux Mint Software Manager, click the menu button in the lower left corner and head to Administration> Software Manager (or just start typing “software manager”, as you would in Windows). From here, you can download many free open source applications.
Some are Linux versions of their Windows counterparts, such as Steam and Spotify, while others are open source alternatives to common applications (Banshee is an iTunes-like music player, Gimp is a Photoshop-like image editor). You can browse here or search for apps using the bar at the top.
How to install and uninstall applications
If you know what you are looking for, it is generally faster to install applications from the command line. And while it may seem intimidating at first, Linux relies on the command line for various tasks, so it may be convenient for you to be comfortable with it. To install an application, say the open source VLC media player, open a Terminal window and run:
Sudo apt update
sudo apt install vlc
Let’s analyze that: “sudo” tells the system to run the command as root (or, as it might be called in Windows, as administrator), “apt” is the name of the Linux Mint package manager, and “update” secures the list of available applications is up-to-date.
The second command, which includes “install vlc”, is self explanatory. You must run “sudo apt update” before installing any application, and you can replace “vlc” with the name of any application you want to install. If you’re not sure what the repository calls it, you can run:
sudo apt cache search vlc
To uninstall an application, just run:
sudo apt remove vlc
This will remove the app, but not its configuration files, so if you decide to reinstall it later, your settings will still be there.
If you also want to remove the configuration files, you can run:
sudo apt purge vlc
How to update apps
You will also want to periodically update those applications, to have the latest versions. You can do this, again, in two ways: from the graphical tool or from the command line.
For the graphical tool, click the shield icon in the lower right corner to open the Update Manager application. You can then click the Install Updates button to update all your software.
Alternatively, you can open a Terminal and run two commands:
sudo apt update
sudo apt update
Again, the “update” command checks for new versions of your software, and the “update” command actually updates all of your applications. You’ll want to run these two together, just like you do to install new apps.
Those are the most important things to know right now, but take some time to browse through Mint’s interface and its settings to see what it has to offer. The welcome window that appears at the beginning can be of great help; Its Getting Started area will show you how to choose different desktop layouts, install the desired media codecs, and install the necessary drivers for your hardware.
You’ll learn the basics pretty quickly, but the Mint and Ubuntu forums are always there to help you if you get stuck. Just be sure to search, as someone before you most likely had the same question.
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Final words: How you can Switch From Windows to Linux
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