Slow Computer? Windows Headaches? 13 Reasons To Try Linux
When you’re tired of computer problems, and you just want things to work.
I’m rather fond of Linux. The rare occasions when I find a need to go back and use Windows after a decade or so of Linux exclusivity only seem to cause headaches. They remind me why I left Windows behind in the first place.
The story used to be that Windows was the best choice by default, easiest to use, and Linux was only for tech enthusiasts. But those days are long gone. Linux has come so very far, making great leaps and bounds in its progress in the past few years especially.
Windows on the other hand has fallen far from its throne, at least in my view. Microsoft’s decisions in recent years for its Windows operating system have been frustrating users with increasing complexity, feelings of slowness and sluggish system performance, and some questionable privacy and data collection choices have caused them to lose precious user trust and confidence.
Meanwhile Linux has become easy, functional and reliable to use everyday, and with Windows 11 dropping support for countless users’ hardware, there’s never been a better time to give Linux a try. If you’re curious, or just need some convincing, read on to discover some of the advantages that Linux has to offer.
1. Linux Is Free To Use
Linux costs $0. Not $140 like Windows 10 Home, or $200 like Windows 10 Pro, or whatever the Windows 11 equivalent prices will be when Microsoft establishes those. With the exception of a few unique cases like Crossover Linux and Red Hat Enterprise, the overwhelming majority of Linux versions that exist cost nothing to download and use. You don’t have to worry about paying for a new version of your chosen Linux operating system when it comes time to upgrade either. When a new future release of your Linux distribution comes out, it will be free too.
2. Linux Is Much More Secure By Design
Over a decade ago, Katherine Noyes at PCWorld.com wrote an excellent article detailing the hows and whys of this topic. There are a variety of reasons why Linux is more secure than Windows, and while Linux is not invulnerable, users can generally enjoy a computer experience that is free of the hassles that come with keeping Windows machines secure.
This is one aspect where the popularity that Windows enjoys actually hampers it. Because more users have Windows computers than anything else, it is the primary target of the huge majority of malicious attacks. Windows security has become such an issue that it has now become standard practice to expect people to pay subscriptions for a security suite of software just to have a chance of keeping their Windows computer free of viruses.
If you’re a user trying to rely on free antivirus, malware detection, and firewall software in Windows 10 or 11, you’re in for an inefficient and tiresome experience. Often requiring multiple software suites that step on each other’s toes at times, the typical experience includes being plagued with advertisements for upgrading to paid versions, 3rd party marketing adverts to help pay for the free version, and time-consuming manual scanning and updating processes that need to be run multiple times per month. Microsoft provides some basic free protection measures within Windows itself, but their capabilities and effectiveness over the years remain a topic of debate and scrutiny.
Linux has absolutely none of this, because it doesn’t need it. Viruses on Linux are very rare by comparison. The malicious malware that exists for Windows doesn’t do any harm on a Linux computer. Even if something nasty did manage to make its way onto your Linux environment, chances are good it wouldn’t have the necessary permissions required to do any real lasting damage to the system itself.
What this means in practice for the average everyday user is simply this: on Linux, you don’t have to worry about viruses in the first place. You don’t have to pay for a security suite either. You can just use your computer and everything will be fine.
3. System Updates Are Hassle-Free (Seriously!)
Raise your hand if you’re a Windows 10 or 11 user who has had problems with Windows updates in the past 6 months. I’m just imagining a lot of raised hands right now. I know I sure have had inexplicable errors and extreme frustrations just trying to get Windows 10 to update itself correctly with its own basic security patches and similar maintenance procedures, and I know I’m not alone in that.
With Linux I can count on one hand the number of times I have had any real issues come up during the system update process over the past 5 years, and none of them were ever all that detrimental (and that includes the updates to newer versions of the operating system itself.) It’s been an extremely easy and pleasant experience performing system updates on Linux, and a largely automated one at that.
Linux updates also take a lot less time than Windows updates. Where Windows these days can’t even seem to get through a single update pass without randomly having issues, breaking something that was working before, having incredibly slow update times taking upwards of an hour, and even multiple PC restarts in some cases, Linux shines with its simple, quick, and efficient updates.
Linux only rarely requires the system to be restarted after updating at all, and when it does need to, it simply tells you so and you can restart at your convenience. None of the scheduling nonsense Windows forces on its users where you can’t restart your system now, but you can within the hours of 8 and 12 on Saturdays, but if you want to restart the computer in 10 minutes you can log off and… you get the idea.
4. Most Linux Distributions Are Clear And Consistent About Support Timelines
With Linux you usually find two distinct types of releases: Point releases, commonly made available for designated periods of time, for example with Long Term Support (LTS) releases, or Rolling releases.
Without getting too technical, basically the difference is point release Linux distributions are intended more for the person who wants stability for longer periods of time in their operating system, and rolling release distributions are more concerned with the cutting edge and having the latest updates at the cost of some degree of system stability.
There’s no wrong way, it’s merely a choice that the Linux world gives each individual user when they are deciding which Linux distribution to try. My personal preference leans towards LTS releases, as they allow for a stable system environment with continued support for a number of years. I’m particularly fond of Linux Mint, and it’s the version of Linux that I feel is the easiest for Windows users to transition to if they are new to Linux. Regardless of which flavor of Linux you choose to try, there will be information presented that lets you know the approach that the individual distribution takes to updates, the length of time it supports each release, and so on.
5. You Keep Your Privacy (And Your Peace Of Mind) Intact With Linux
It’s no secret that Microsoft has built a lot of information tracking and collecting “features” right into the Windows 10 and 11 operating systems. Almost all of them are switched on by default too. If you’re a person who has a concern for your privacy online, or even just feels a little uncomfortable with the knowledge that tracking measures are built into the Windows operating system by default, Linux is a vastly superior option for you to consider in this regard.
With Linux there is no major company controlling things and serving their own agendas behind the scenes. There are no secrets locked up behind closed doors. The whole premise behind Linux is encouraging free and open sharing of the underlying code that powers the operating system, known collectively as open source software, in order to enable more people to build upon the foundation and make something even greater.
Unlike Windows, which is owned and controlled fully by Microsoft and not visible or accessible to the public, with Linux anyone can access and see the underlying source code that makes their computer work the way it does. It is possible for anyone with enough knowledge and experience to suggest modifications to the code, spot problem areas, submit fixes for issues and vulnerabilities, and so on. This worldwide collaboration creates a more secure experience, and if there are any privacy-related concerns or vulnerabilities, people would be able to find out about them and work on patching them relatively quickly.
With Windows on the other hand, the world is only left guessing without being able to see the whole picture of what goes on behind the scenes at Microsoft. The trust factor can really only go so far when there are obvious features built into the underlying system to track users and collect their information, and the security updates and vulnerability fixes tend to take longer to discover and send out.
6. Linux Gives You Far Greater Control Over Your Computer
Linux gives you great control and choices regarding how you want the system to look and behave. In addition to the differences between the vast array of different Linux distributions, which we will cover in the next section, even within the same Linux environment, you have a plethora of control options.
With Windows 11, Microsoft is actually removing functionality that it previously had in Windows 10 for example, by no longer allowing users to reposition the taskbar to a different side of the screen. With Linux you can do that easily right from the system settings. With Linux there is a concept called a Desktop Environment, or “DE” for short, which is separate from the operating system itself, and allows for a vast degree of visual customization, without having to change the actual underlying operating system you are using.
Linux Mint for example offers three different desktop environments with its typical installations: Cinnamon, which is custom designed by the Linux Mint team and is their most popular DE and current focus, MATE, which was the primary choice of DE in earlier versions of Linux Mint and features increased stability with a more traditional look and feel, and Xfce which is geared more towards lightweight performance and is a good choice for older hardware.
The important distinction to make here is that even though all three of these versions of Linux Mint look a little different thanks to their choice of desktop environment, they are all running the same underlying operating system despite the visual and functional differences between the DEs and their features.
And that’s just the start. There are a variety of settings you can change even within a single desktop environment, far too many to detail here, that allow for great customization of your computer’s look, feel and even its performance. Security options, updates, backup schedules, power settings, colors, sizes, all manner of functions and behaviors are placed squarely in the control of the computer user. And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s possible to install your own desktop environment that is different than the ones officially released by your Linux distribution if you so wish.
7. The Choice Is Yours: There’s A Flavor Of Linux For Everybody
There are many, many different Linux distributions to choose from. Popular ones include: Ubuntu, Arch, Gentoo, Debian, Elementary, Manjaro, Pop, and SteamOS, just to name a few.
As I’ve already mentioned, I like to recommend Linux Mint to new Linux users migrating from Windows, due to its ease of use, stability, and similarities in its look and feel to Windows. But I’ll briefly highlight some of the other popular choices you may wish to experiment with and explore.
Even though the bulk of this comparison has been related to Windows, if there are any MacOS fans out there who are interested in Linux, you may wish to start with Elementary OS. Its design and the look and feel of it was based around simplicity, and Mac users will probably feel more at home with this particular Linux distribution.
Ubuntu is an extremely popular choice for new and long-time Linux users alike, and it’s one of the major players in the Linux ecosystem at large. Even the popular Linux Mint distribution is what’s known as a derivative, or sometimes called a fork, off of Ubuntu. In short, without Ubuntu’s underlying systems to use as a framework, Linux Mint and other Ubuntu-derivatives would either not exist at all, or function a good bit different than they do now. Ubuntu was the first Linux distribution that I tried many years ago, and while I eventually found my favorite in Linux Mint, it was my first glimpse at a user-friendly Linux experience.
For fans of the Windows command line, not interested in the visual bells and whistles of the modern GUI and more likely to want to modify and control their system at deeper levels, the Arch Linux distribution might be more your cup of tea than most of the others on this list. Arch Linux has its own set of derivatives too, like the popular Manjaro Linux for example.
And this is really just scratching the surface. There’s a flavor of Linux out there for everyone, and thanks to the open nature of the underlying code, even if there isn’t one that suits your tastes and preferences today in the dozens, if not hundreds, of variations that exist, chances are good new ones will come along that take the computing world in surprising new directions never-before seen.
8. Linux Is Fast, Stable And Reliable, Even On Older Hardware
I have a 7 year old laptop. It’s a Lenovo with decent specs for its day, and works perfectly fine for basic computer use. It has 4GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5–3230M 2.6GHz dual core CPU, and I have it set up to dual-boot both Windows 10 Pro and Linux Mint 20 (I’ll mention more on dual booting later.)
Interestingly, since it’s not on Microsoft’s list of supported CPUs for Windows 11, even though it otherwise meets Microsoft’s requirements for running Windows 11 just fine, my laptop is ineligible for the Windows 11 upgrade (now I know what it feels like to be left off the VIP guest list at a fancy party.) This is a huge problem that Microsoft is creating that’s going to alienate a ton of Windows 10 users with perfectly good hardware, especially combined with their 2025 cutoff date for Windows 10 support. But that’s not really the point I want to discuss here, more of a noteworthy aside.
What I want to highlight instead is the time it takes to start the computer. Booting up Windows 10 on this laptop takes around 1 minute and 40 seconds before I see the main Windows desktop screen, and over 3 minutes before the initial startup software and applications are all loaded up and ready to use. It takes over 3 minutes just to start the system fully in other words, and that’s on a fairly bare installation too. I really don’t have much installed on the laptop at all.
Linux Mint 20 on the same exact hardware, just to give you an idea of how much lighter and faster it is, takes roughly 1 minute and 20 seconds to fully load up the desktop and all its starting applications. Same machine, same specs. Less than half the time that Windows takes to start up.
If you didn’t have anything to compare with, and you didn’t know any better, conventional wisdom would suggest that as your computer gets older and more used, it gets slower. But I’m starting to think that’s really more of a Windows thing than a computer thing. Yes aging hardware can slow down your experience, and sure, the more years that you use a computer, the more cluttered and sluggish everything gets as hard drive space fills up and more software and apps are installed. Revitalizing things every once in awhile with a fresh install of your operating system can be a helpful thing to do regardless of your hardware or operating system.
But really? I think a lot of the problem has to do with the Windows operating system itself, not the underlying hardware. That 7 year old laptop responds just fine when I’m using the Linux side. It works perfectly well for basic tasks and still performs admirably at a comfortable pace. It doesn’t feel overly sluggish or frustrating to use unless I’m dealing with the Windows side of it. And that’s with Linux Mint Cinnamon edition installed. I bet if I tried say, the Xfce version of Linux Mint, it would probably run even faster on my old machine, let alone if I picked a distribution like Lubuntu or Zorin OS Lite, which are specifically designed to be light on resources and easier for older computers to use.
The takeaway here? Even on older, slower hardware, Linux runs really well, and doesn’t feel sluggish at all. It can breathe new life into old hardware, keep computers out of landfills, and generally just raises some questions on the quality and merits of the operating system most computers are using. I’ve had Linux Mint on my computers for close to a decade now, and I’ve not once felt that they started getting slow with age. I can’t say the same for my Windows installations however.
9. You Can Do Virtually Anything With Linux That You Can With Windows
About the only area that I can think of where Linux still lags behind Windows is on support and compatibility with Apple products, and that’s a deliberate choice that Apple has made in keeping their cards close to their chest, so to speak. While it may not work for everyone, I wrote an article detailing my own experiences with getting iTunes working at a basic level in Linux Mint, and even though that implementation still leaves a lot to be desired, it’s a sign of progress as things continue to move forward.
Outside of that, I can’t think of much else where Linux hasn’t been able to offer a fairly comparable alternative to Windows features or software, if not outright support the same functionality and applications (or even have an improved implementation compared to Windows in some cases.)
In other words, if there’s something you want to use your computer for, chances are really, really good Linux can do whatever your Windows computer can. Into drawing digital art? There’s a set of drivers for Wacom tablets, and support for many popular Huion models as well. Video editing or streaming more your thing? Linux has software to cover that too. Writing? Check. Reading e-books? Sure! Playing games, watching movies, productivity tasks, office suites, CAD, photo editing, web design, software programming… anything and everything you can think of, Linux has a way to do it.
Many of the popular software and apps you know from Windows have a Linux version as well: VLC for video and media playback, Spotify for your favorite music, Steam for all your gaming needs, Dropbox, Minecraft, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Earth, FileZilla, Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird… just to name a few.
10. Linux Encourages Free, Open Source Software For Everyone
Where Linux diverges quite a bit from Windows, and really starts to shine in my opinion, is in its embracing of open source software. In the cases where there isn’t a Linux version of a popular software, chances are good there’s a competent and sophisticated open source alternative that you may not have heard of, but nevertheless will meet your needs.
Adobe Photoshop users will find their Linux open source equivalent in the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP for short. Video editing aficionados will want to check out Kdenlive if they’re familiar with Adobe Premiere, Vegas Pro, or the like. Digital artists attached at the hip to software like Paint Tool SAI might want to check out Krita as a viable alternative, and there’s Pinta for Paint.NET fans too. Folks missing their Microsoft Office suite will find a very capable replacement in the free LibreOffice suite, which some Linux distributions even install by default. Chrome users have Chromium, which is essentially the same web browser except without the Google branding.
Open source software as a principle fascinates me because not only is it made available for free and offers competitive features and functionality to the big names in proprietary software, but its underlying intention is to be made available for everyone in the world to contribute to and enjoy sharing. Having something be completely accessible to very nearly anyone and everyone to use and enjoy is fantastic I think, and I just really appreciate the idea of people coming together to create something wonderful and then sharing it generously with others for the benefit and enjoyment of many.
11. Linux Can Run Many Windows-Exclusive Software Applications
For those times when there isn’t a native Linux version of your favorite Windows software, and an open source alternative just won’t do, Linux has at least two more options that can be tried, but they’re not necessarily the easiest things ever for the novice Linux user or the basic computer user to undertake. Nevertheless, they exist, and offer varying degrees of success depending on a number of factors, including hardware specifications, and the software you are trying to use.
The two options I am thinking of are namely Wine, which allows Linux to install and run a fair number of native Windows software applications, and virtual machines such as VirtualBox, which let you install and run the actual Windows operating system itself inside of a sandbox environment in Linux as though it were an app. The former is easier to set up, and is probably my recommended approach at first, but if that approach fails to run the specific Windows software you need, you may have to resort to running it inside of a virtual machine like VirtualBox. (Or dual booting Linux alongside Windows would work too.)
I discussed using Wine to run Windows software in my article: How to Play RPG Maker Games on Linux using Wine so you can refer to that if you’re curious, but both the process of using Wine and especially of setting up a virtual machine installation of the Windows operating system go into far too much detail to include in this article.
Suffice to say, even if you need a very specific, Windows-only piece of software, there’s at least a decent chance that Linux could run it in a pinch. If it’s something popular, it’s likely there is a lot of user support from the community out there of other Linux users trying to get the same software running on their computers as you are.
12. Linux Can Play Games Just As Well As Windows
Up until about 5 years ago, or honestly maybe even more recently than that, the number one advantage that Windows users held for a really long time over Linux was in the video game space. Linux support for gaming just wasn’t anywhere close for a really long time.
Without doing a deep dive into the history of this, the short of it is, that’s no longer the case, thanks in large part to contributions from Valve and the Linux community in developing SteamOS, Proton, and really pushing forward with support for gaming on Linux in a major way. There’s even a handy website called ProtonDB that is essentially a giant database users can search and contribute their own experiences to, which helps to tell at a glance if your favorite video game will work on Linux currently, and to what degree.
Not to be outdone, great strides were also made in other gaming-focused Linux software such as PlayOnLinux and Lutris as well, enabling more Linux game players to enjoy a wider variety of games than has been possible before.
I’m surely understating things when I say the advancement of gaming on the Linux platform as a whole in recent years has increased to an unprecedented degree. It’s to the point where it is now not only reasonable to find more games that are being actively developed and released with native Linux versions, but even to expect the big name Windows exclusives to run just as well, and sometimes even better, on hardware running Linux. Thanks to the many contributions and advancements throughout the community, compatibility continues to grow and improve steadily day by day.
The gap between Windows and Linux for gaming used to be an impossibly wide gorge, but now the landscape has changed drastically for the better, and avid gaming fans no longer have to cling to Windows to enjoy their games. For many it was the last thing holding them to Windows that they couldn’t give up. Nowadays it is safe to say that folks can cut the cord, so to speak, on the Windows experience, and feel free to explore the Linux landscape without leaving their enjoyment behind.
13. You Can Use Linux And Windows On The Same Computer
Even if all of the above seems like it sounds good in theory, you might not quite be ready or willing to kick Windows to the curb completely. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You can still experiment with Linux using a process known as dual booting if you’d like to have the best of both.
Dual booting is basically having two operating systems on a single computer. You get to keep your current Windows installation intact, and you install Linux on a separate partition of your hard drive. In other words, think of the space on your hard drive as though it were a pizza or a pie, and imagine cutting a slice out of said pie. One piece of the pie is the Windows operating system that you already have, and another separate piece of pie is dedicated to your new Linux installation. When you start up your computer, it simply gives you a list and asks you which operating system you would like to use.
In this way, you are free to experiment and learn your way around Linux all you like until you feel comfortable with it. Try different distributions and features. Play with the software and settings until you feel like you know your way around, and for those times when you still want or need to use Windows, you’ve still got it right there like you always have had.
As an added bonus, when you have dual boot set up with multiple operating systems on a single computer, if you ever run into computer issues that have some kind of adverse effect on one operating system, such as a virus or problems using certain software, you can usually still access and use the other OS as you would normally. Having a backup option like this might help you troubleshoot issues, or perform some tasks that you need to have done in a timely manner, or what have you.
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