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Is There a Real Alternative to Windows?

Question: Is there a real, complete and reliable equivalent to Windows? Other than that Apple stuff.

That’s a question I received not long ago. Particularly given the publicity around some of the issues with Windows 10 and its updates, I think many frustrated users are wondering if there isn’t something else they could or should be using.

The answer is my most common: it depends.

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  • There are three major alternatives to Windows: Mac OS X, Linux, and Chrome.
  • Whether or not any of them would work for you depends entirely on how you use your computer.
  • Less common alternatives include the mobile devices you may already be using.
  • Any alternative demands time and effort to learn to use it.

Windows alternatives

Windows 10There is no exact replacement for Microsoft Windows. Whether any alternative will work for you depends on how that alternative’s characteristics compare to your needs.

The most commonly considered alternatives include Apple’s OS X on Macs, Linux, and the Google Chrome operating systems. They each have significant pitfalls, depending on what you expect.

OS X runs (legally1) only on Apple hardware, so switching means getting a new computer and learning the nuances of OS X’s interface (just as you learned the nuances of Windows). It also means replacing all the software you use, as OS X does not run Windows applications. You’ll need to get Mac versions of software, like Microsoft Office, for example, or alternative applications that serve the same need, such as LibreOffice or Open Office.

Linux is free and runs on almost any PC, even an old one collecting dust in a closet. There are a confusing number of distributions to choose from, with Ubuntu and Mint being the most popular for Windows expats. Like OS X, Linux does not run Windows applications2, so you’ll be looking for alternatives. Unfortunately, true Linux versions of Windows applications are very rare. You’ll need to find alternative applications that serve the same needs.

Google Chrome OS is available only on “Chromebooks” — laptops specifically designed to run the Chrome OS — so you’ll be getting a new machine to go this route. Once again, Chrome OS does not run Windows software, so you’ll be looking for alternatives. The good news here is that many Chromebooks can also run Android applications, where there often are official versions of Windows applications. These versions are often stripped-down equivalents to those you might find on Windows, but again, depending on your needs, they may be enough.

Depending on…

That phrase “depending on your needs” keeps coming up. Every person has different needs and expectations, and all of the alternatives have different pros and cons when compared to those needs.

If you need the power of a fully powered, popular, operating system with a corporation standing behind it to update and support it, and with numerous familiar applications that can do just about anything, a Mac might be the only real alternative for you.

If you just need to put something else on your existing hardware, and are willing to take the time to look for and learn about alternatives for the applications you’re used to running on Windows, Linux could be a choice. Note that online help for Linux runs that gamut from non-existent to somewhat helpful to downright belligerent at times, so be sure to pack a fair amount of patience. Unfortunately, there’s a reason Linux is still considered an OS for geeks (albeit a good one)3.

If all you do is browse the web and send email, with a few other light tasks occasionally, it’s possible a Chromebook might be right up your alley. There’s a strong argument for it being more secure than the alternatives above. Just don’t expect to do any heavy tasks like photo or video editing.

In all cases, be prepared to learn. In fact, be prepared to spend a lot of time learning, and in turn learning a lot. Each of these operating systems is similar to yet different from Windows. They each have the same concepts — files, menus, apps, browsers, and so on — but the specifics of how you interact with each is different. It will take some time to get used to a different way of doing things.


Interestingly, particularly among the younger crowd, there’s a move to rely solely on mobile devices like your phone (Android or iPhone) or tablet (such as an iPad). I know several folks who’ve switched to devices like these almost exclusively.

Once again, it all depends on how you use your technology and what you want to accomplish with it. Mobile devices are great for many things, but not everything. Depending on your mix of activities, you may find you can go completely mobile only, use a mobile 90% of the time with that old Windows computer in the basement for times when a phone just won’t do, or realize that yes, you really do need a “real” computer to meet your needs.

The devil you know

Finally, I have to add that every alternative could give you a case of exchanging one set of problems for another. I know many people who are Apple- or Google-averse for privacy and control reasons. My experience with Linux is that it’s rare a day goes by without some kind of update to install.

None of the alternatives are frustration-free.

Depending on your reasons for looking, do enough research to make sure you don’t end up with something that frustrates you more than what you’re trying to escape.

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Footnotes & references

1: There is a project called Hackintosh, but as its name implies, it’s more than a tad geeky, and certainly not supported by Apple.

2: You’ll hear references to something called “WINE” to run Windows applications on certain Linux platforms. Again, geeky, and in my experience, the resulting performance of the applications that work leaves much to be desired.

3: Indeed, if I didn’t do what I do for a living, there’s a real possibility I’d be running Debian Linux on my primary machine. If you’re anywhere near being a computer geek or hobbyist, it’s worth playing with.

88 comments on “Is There a Real Alternative to Windows?”

  1. I did an experiment and installed Linux Mint on my work computer. I teach in a colluniversity and we use an online learning platform which works on any browser. I also used Libre Office extensively (It did everything I would have done in MS Office), edited pictures in Gimp which I also use in Windows. I also played and edited media files. I used this for about a year but the deal breaker was OneDrive. I use OneDrive (1 TB per machine free with Office 365) as my NAS to keep all of my computers’ data in sync. I was able to work around this by using Dropbox which gives me 23 GB storage. When that wasn’t enough, I switched back to Window on that machine. As for the learning curve, I’ve found that it’s just about as easy or even easier to go from XP to Mint than XP to Windows 7. That’s not only based on personal experience but the experience of friends who had older computers I installed Mint on.

    Many of my students use only their phones in class and are even able to do their homework and take their online exams on their phones. One colleague doesn’t have a computer, she uses WPS Office on her phone for creating documents and using spreadsheets. I find that crazy but somehow it works. When she needs something printed out, she emails it to me :-(

    • I agree with Mark that going from XP (or Windows 7, in my opinion) to Linux Mint is as easy as or easier than going from XP to Windows 7… likewise, when going from Windows 7 to Windows 10. As is the case with many authors who write about Windows users thinking of trying Linux, the “learning curve” is rightly mentioned. My concern is that some authors overstate both the volume and the level of difficulty of learning to operate a Linux system. For computer users who use their devices to visit websites, send and receive Email, enjoy social media, online shopping, etc., there’s just not that much for those accustomed to Windows to learn about Linux. I suspect that learning the details of what’s “under the hood” of Linux would, indeed, be a load to learn, but I also suspect that most computer users don’t care whether there’s a magic being or a chipmunk “under the hood”. Many, I believe, want only for their computer to work and do what they ask/demand of it. As for frequent Linux updates, most take less than 5 minutes and many less than 2 minutes to complete. I have never had a problem caused by a Linux update. Plus, the need to re-boot after an update is a rare exception rather than the usual.

    • I use Onedrive from Linux, via the web interface. It’s not as convenient as Dropbox, but it works.

      IMHO, the first thing a person moving to Linux needs to know is that Desktop and desktop are completely different places.

      My desktop system runs Xubuntu, my file server runs Mint Mate, my laptop uses Mint Cinnamon. All of them are at least eight years old, and perform quit nicely. I support Windows 10 users, and the updates make me crazy.

    • I have already found the alternative for Windows 10, after 2 years of frustration I scrapped Windows 10 completely and bought a MacBook. My only regret is that I ever used Windows in the first place. Although I did like Windows 7 and would have stayed with it forever if they would keep supporting it. Which they won’t. But mainly I am free from the Windows arrogance of take it or leave it, we know what’s best for you. I left it and won’t be back. Good riddance.

      • I fully agree with your assessment of Windows. What is weird though is that we haven’t seen yet a really good alternative to it. Those few other OS on the marked today, seems they will eventually evolve along the same lines as windows (DOS) have been doing all the time. A complete revolution is needed here, and there clearly IS a marked for such new product. But then again we know not what is boiling under the marked surface. Hopefully we will be positively surprised time ahead. I mean, how difficult can it be these days to produce/code a complete OS?


        • I don’t know if you’re being facetious or not — “how hard can it be?” It’s AMAZINGLY hard. Most people have no clue as to just how difficult it is. Particularly if your target for that OS is to replace Windows.

          • This is NOT a yoke!. Coding has been around for so many years now. Coding for specific functionalities have been mapped so thoroughly. An amusing amount of helping tool are now available for all levels of programming. Its your attitude to the challenges that sets the limit, not the volume and complexity. But you may be somehow right if you still base your effort on existing HW. As one once said “If one want very good SW one should design own HW.


          • so the answer to the question of “Is There a Real Alternative to Windows?” is a simple NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!

          • The answer is: it’s more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. Smile

            For some, Linux or Mac are real alternatives. For others, perhaps such as yourself, it’s a simple no.

  2. I’d switch to Mac in a New York minute if it wasn’t for the overpriced hardware. Beyond that, I haven’t had any real issues with Win 10. Yet. Knock on wood.

    • A New York minute? Isn’t that about 15 years? lqtm. I too had issues going from XP to 7… but when I got a Win10 serial (legally from a demo’d pc) and it was installed for me on a newly cleaned machine it was amazingly easy to find and use most stuff. Which really surprised me because when I’d played around with it in the shops shortly after it launched it drove me nuts. Nothing seem logical then. Perhaps because some stuff was locked down, maybe partly because of sales flunkies looking over my shoulder.

  3. One advantage to most Linux OS’, that I believe can be very helpful, is the ability to download a Live version of the one you might be interested in.
    This way you can run what ever version of Linux you choose without installing it on your computer. Hope this will be helpful if you want to try Linux.

    • Indeed. I’ve tried numerous versions and probably the best has been Linux Lite. Very Windows like in the way it approaches a lot of things. Biggest downside is the megafugly wallpaper that it defaults to. Maybe they’ve changed it, been a while since I’ve had a look and play with a later version.

      A major upside is the relatively few viruses that attack it. Partly because Windows is a bigger user base and inherently less secure historically. One of the reasons Mickeysoft now force update downloads.

        • Mark, that was very firmly tongue in cheek. If you were looking to see if an operating system was going to work for you, would you muck around changing the wallpaper? In my case no.

          For the record, I’m still stuck on Windows. Mainly because of software that I use that doesn’t have a Linux alternative.

  4. There is an element of being able to do what you want to rather than what you need to, and so recently having obtained a new (to me) pc a Shuttle XH61v
    which I had never heard of before but was ideal to live behind a monitor (tv) to provide access to on line catch up tv (even prime), I decided to run xenialpup
    a puppy linux version which boots of the cd and once chrome browser was installed it does exactly everything we want it to do, I also have a cd on my main win7pc just in case I fancy a change and yet another pc which only gets booted into xenialpup, my partners laptop also runs xenialpup, which now that she has got used to it is actually faster to boot and smoother to operate than win7, all machines have win 7 on their hard drives and I use it on my main pc due to the software I have obtained over the years which I know might run using wine on the linux distro but prefer to use them on win as I know what to do almost without thinking, So as Leo properly says it depends what you want to do or need to do, but if you are adamant about an alternative then xenialpup with chrome browser gives you most of what you probably need on a day to day basis

  5. There is a alternative to Windows that is windows but its not quite ready for prime time but with some funding it will make it to Beta.

    Its called ReactOS and information can be found at as well as a download link for the latest alpha release.

    • …and which has been in development for what… about 10 years? Certainly seems like it. Never even looked at it… wasn’t prepared to have my, at the time, one and only pc go belly up if the worst came to worst.

    • I’ve been watching ReactOS for years, having done trial installatins along the way. I’ve been impressed with their development, very slow progress in the beginning, and now faster with better funding. I’m hoping it hits the market soon, and that the WinXP themes become a little more modern. I won’t jump ship and go to it immediantely, but I’ve sent them small donations a couple times.

      In the meantime, Linux Mint is my go-to OS. It has never let me down, never had a ‘bad’ update, never had a virus/malware, or had a file extension I couldn’t read, never had an update forced on me, and updates are a breeze, installing on old hardware usually within 2 minutes, at a time of my choosing.

      When M$ crashed my wife’s Win7 machine, she asked me to let her try Mint. She’s never looked back. There was so slight a learning curve–it’s just like Win7. Even when we upgraded her hardware, she specified she only wanted Mint. I’ve offered to install Office 2010 on her machine (using Play-On-Linux– I’ve done it). She declined in favour of LibreOffice.

      Now add in the cost of Mint–$0, it’s a no brainer. I buy the hardware, and only I control it. M$ wants me to buy the hardware so they can dictate who controls it. Same with Apple. No thanks! I enjoy the freedom from $$ dictators.

      • Hi Dave: Thanx for the very helpful assessment of Linux Mint. Have you found any Win apps for which there are no corresponding Linux equivalents ? If so how did you handle ?

  6. I’ve dabbled with Linux over the last 20+ years (Live CDs, dual boot, VMs and dedicated installs with various distos ). One of my bigger problems has been the traditional problem of getting drivers to work with the hardware. Two recent examples: failing to get the touch pad on a Toshiba Satellite to work.
    Failing to automatically re-establish a Wi-Fi or hardwired network connection on restart.
    That being said, hardware compatibility is much less of an issue these days than it used to be.
    So much as I would like to leave MS-Windows behind, there continue to be enough issues that make it difficult to commit, or even recommend it to users with moderate computing requirements.

    However, if one day MS-Windows were simply not available I would get by using a Linux disto and the vast selection of open source software.
    Fundamentally you can probably do more in Linux than you can in Windows, but inevitably you need to master the command line & scripts. Conversely the GUI is more powerful, more coherent and better used in Windows software.

  7. Don’t forget Intel Mac’s can run Windows 10 as well as OSX…and Macs do it well in either a virtual machine or a dual boot.

    • I run Windows 10 in a Parallels virtual machine on my Macs; with dual monitors switching back and forth in seconds, and can even share my apps from either one on the others desktop, if in Mac, the Windows app icon shows on the Mac desktop and vice versa. Click the Windows app icon, and it just shifts screens to the Windows 10 side. Seamless and Windows 10 runs faster and smoother on both my Macbook Pro, and my iMac than it runs on my school system supplied HP laptop.

      PCMatic on a scan rates my Windows 10 install in the fastest 25% of all Windows in the world. And neither of my two Macs are anywhere near the most powerful Macs.

      • To be accurate, I do have a 3rd Mac. 2011 Macbook, bought used from the school system after 4 years use there, it runs the latest Mojave OS from 2019, it will run the Parallels virtual just like my two newer machines , 25% slower, but still completely useable, the case is looking kind of beat up, but using Time Machine backup, I keep software and data current with the two newer machines every couple of weeks in case I might need it. Takes about an hour.

  8. Didn’t see any comments by Chromebook users. I have had one for about a year, and to borrow a phrase, “it just works”. I keep a mini thumb drive plugged in for local storage and have to send print jobs to my windows 8 computer. It does everything I need with ZERO time spent on maintenance.

    • If only, and maybe they do, make a chromebook that could load on a computer, rather than a cut down laptop. I need a real ergonomic keyboard, storage capacity and minimum screen size of 22″ diagonal.

      • Paul, I’ve been using an Acer Chromebox for almost 3 years I think. I use the wireless keyboard and mouse of my choice, and I have a pair of 27″ monitors for a very large desktop display.

        I am a longtime IT support engineer with experience going back to the old DOS days running off floppy disks, Novell file servers, Sun Spark computers, as well as HP-UX, IBM Unix, Linux in many flavors. For my desktop, I can turn off my Chromebox, and when I turn it on, it’s there. Seems like every time I shut down a Windows PC, it needs to install more updates. Or it just installs the updates on its own because I forgot to turn off auto-update.

        As for storage, I have a pair of 3 TB NAS drives on my local network, and they are fully accessible from the Chromebox, as well as any other systems in my house. I haven’t upgraded my home printer to one that will support Chrome directly, so like Dean, I print through a Windows PC that makes the printer accessible through Chrome.

        I do run some proprietary applications like QuickBooks Pro, my annual tax software, and some investment software that only runs on Windows, but I’ve recently been moving those applications to a virtual machine in the Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS clouds. I can run an Android based app on the Chromebox to access Windows hosts, locally or a cloud based host. With Amazon and Azure, my host systems are backed up, and I can easily move between higher processor power and RAM as needed without having to rebuild a system from scratch. I live in an area with high electric rates, so the cost of the cloud based hosts for my limited applications doesn’t cost much more than the electricity of running a high end system at home 24 hours a day.

        I strongly encourage users who don’t really need more than browser functionality to consider Chrome. It is also easy to boot from a USB stick, so people can try it from their existing PC hardware without having to commit to a new box.

  9. Windows – in its various version – continues to be a successful operating system because it works well for most people virtually all of the time. The questions about alternatives may come from a frustration around an update, but more frequently it sounds like Microsoft is the company people love to hate and to rant about.
    My experience is that much like asutomobile brands, all of the platforms have their issues. The issues just differ between brands. Over the last year, I have had several software problems with my two Apple OS devices – including regularly needing to shut down to install updates and clear problems. That hasn’t happened once with any of my three Win10 devices. My NAS with a Linux based OS – biweekly reboots required. I seldom use my Ubuntu/Linux box for all the reasons Leo mentions.
    My two long term observation on considering an OS change over are:
    (1) Stay with well supported hardware from reliable brands. That fabulous add-on product you got from a Hong Kong vendor 4 years ago – produced by a company that disappeared 5 years ago – will give you problems on any OS – and it is not the OS’s fault.
    (2) Stay with your existing OS if it supports 98% of what you need. The personal cost of a change (in business settings this is the personnel retraining cost) will never be recouped with a ‘better’ OS. You will spend time learning how to deal with that OS’s issues.

    • My NAS has been running for years with no updates. It runs 24/7 for months at a time, except when a power failure shuts it down. I’ve used it for well over 5 years without fail. No malware of viruses. But I use BSD powered NAS4Free. You might want to look into it.

  10. Hi, Leo…

    Long time subscriber/reader here; rare for me to reply to anything, though.

    Your article is excellent. I’m replying here particularly to the Linux portion of your above piece. I have some information that may be of some further assistance to those considering Linux as a replacement for their MS Windows or Apple OS. The info is in the form of a link to my Nocturnal Slacker v1.0 blog (at WordPress). It’s an article I wrote a few years ago to try and help folks making that transition from MS Win to Linux. It’s a bit dated and there are probably some dead links in the article, but it still has some worthwhile information in it.

    Note: my blog is not monetized (I don’t earn $$$ from it) by me. The ads are 100% WordPress. They are not in-your-face about it, but they are trying to make a $. That’s OK, I s’pose. Anyway, all content on my blog is free to read. I also recommend that anyone who actually follows the link below to my article click the links to other informative tidbits within the article; which, by the way, is called The GNU/Linux Adventurer’s Backpack.

    Thanks for all the years of extremely useful information from Ask Leo!


    ~Eric AKA vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

    Admin @ Scot’s Newsletter Forums
    Senior Editor @ The Slackware Documentation Project

      • The Slacker looks like a homage to Slackware Linux and nocturnal probably refers to night-time blogging.

        • Meh… that’s close. Slacker is a nick for Slackware users. The Nocturnal part is descriptive of my sleep habits. For most of my adult life I was quite nocturnal; so much so that it was also my nick in the biker clubs I’ve ridden in over the years. After a short stint in the hospital in 2010, I awakened to the possibility of living a diurnal lifestyle. I discovered mornings without having to stay up all night to see them. I’ve been a “morning” person ever since then.

  11. I second most of what John O’Meara said about Microsoft and Windows. I’ve used computers of one sort of another since the early sixties and I’ve used Microsoft products since their first public offerings. Apple computers didn’t light my fire and neither does Linux. I have had an occasional, small problem with Windows but I have never suffered any problem of consequence. I read all the industry “stuff”, from Information Week down to Windows Secrets on a daily basis and I have seen all the attempts to get me and others to hate Microsoft. One day it was for too few updates and the next for too many updates. I see claims about all the damage done but I have to be the luckiest guy on earth, I was never damaged by the world wide catastrophes that did so much damage to others. I don’t question that some people have had problems but I do question how many of those problem were self imposed by people employing bad habits, sub-standard hardware and poorly designed applications. I guess that if I were going to leave Windows I would opt for Apple but I’ll never do it because I don’t want to give up control of my environment to their designers.

    • I believe that Windows updates can brick (make useless) some computers. You just happen to be one of the lucky 99%+ users who don’t have problems :-). Seriously, Ask Leo! has thousands of readers and compared to that number we get very few complaints about a computer bricked by a Windows backup.

  12. I have used XP (my 1st computer). Then Vista and on to 7 where I resided for a number of years. I became quite adept relative to my peers but strictly GUI with a few rare exceptions. As I was coming on to 80 and Microsoft was about to shove Win 10 down my mobile data throat I started crying for help and Mark Jacobs mentioned Linux Mint. Somehow I did a bit more searching and almost by accident ended up in the PCLinuxOS camp. Like a fool in Paradise I installed Full Monte available at that time. I soon registered on the forum and ultimately the gang put me straight – go simple and custom build. Sure, I had much to learn but that system helped me to no end. I have had replies within minutes on the forum. Furthermore it is a rolling release so no re-installation is necessary. One just updates from the repository weekly as I do or at least monthly. That does your system plus all programs. Maybe every 2nd month I update the kernel similarly. I have virtually everything I had with Windows plus the whole LibreOffice suite. This system constantly comes up in reviews as deserving of more popularity than it gets. Just Google this: pclinuxos getting started

    • I should have mentioned that I still have Win 7 on a separate hard drive. My wife uses it for Adobe Photoshop and printing etc. It keeps chugging along but never on line. The Epson Artisan works better with Windows.

  13. I had Windows 10, but it was so bad that my computer guy switched me back to 7. Now, the new thing with Microsoft is that they are using updates to old systems to totally mess up your computer, thereby trying to force you to use 10. My computer guy had to turn off ALL updates so I could continue to use my computer.

    I am a retired senior on low SS income and also a computer moron. There should be SOME regulation of Microsoft to protect the people.

  14. I am now 75 and on the computer a lot…the old box died and i did a lot of soul-searching before buying another. i decided on a brand new win7 pro pc built for me on ebay. its like an old friend…no learning curve as that is what i had before. everything works and i know how to do everything. i tried linux mint as a dual boot for a month or so and it was just like going back to school…and i dont want to do that. now i run my browsers as portables off a flash drive and sandboxed. they are all quick and smooth. windows updates are turned off and i make weekly image backups to an external drive. i use Pale Moon mostly and Opera with the vpn for money stuff. both work well. both the wife and i are on a lot and both have the same setup and neither of us have any problems at all. so thats just my take on all this. there are always other opinions and everyone thinks they are doing the right thing. what i do is right for me and makes my computing a pleasure. good luck to all and i enjoy the articles. Clas

    • Excellent solution, John. In addition to sandboxing also consider Virtual Box or another virtual machine simulator which allows your computer to simulate a different OS which is separate from your main Windows OS and keeps all harmful actions away from your main system. You didn’t mention it but as a warning let’s make sure that everyone is aware that although Windows XP (and coming soon in less than a year, Windows 7) will continue to function, it is unsafe to run it directly on the internet because of the always developing new internet threats that Microsoft will not support and provide patches/updates for. Apple is no different; the most time-frame of support you can expect from either competitor is about 10 years from the public release date. The common joke among computer repair veterans based on the mandatory upgrade cycle is that “Gates/Jobs must need the money.” However it is more about new technology/software developments and that the stock holders “need the money.”
      Eric (40-year veteran of computer support)

      • Hi Eric: will you be more specific abt config ? If Virtual Box runs ONLY on a Win PC (running Win 10 i assume) Linux will run in the VB. But if “buggy” Win 10 is installed in “native mode” aren’t the same irritants are still present ?? If Win 10 is not the “host” OS what is (Linux) ? Thanx. BB

        • Linux, running in a VM would have a very small chance of being affected by what is happening in Windows. For example, if you used Linux for your online banking, a Windows hack wouldn’t be able to get in and grab data from the Linux inside the VM.

    • Hi John Clas: plz clarify – are you still running Win 7 with OS updates disabled on a new PC ? If so (assuming that Linux is not also running) how do you safely access the internet ? BB

  15. My reaction to Windows 10’s bricking my motherboard when I tried to “upgrade” in 2015 is cold fury.
    I managed to restore Windows 7 by replacing the murdered Foxconn motherboard with an Asus, which was a huge problem because of the low-level drivers the CPU needs to communicate with the motherboard.
    I plan to switch to Linux Mint, but replicating the tools I’ve piled into my W7 machine will be a huge pain in the tush.

  16. If a person is considering installing Linux, they need to understand two techie concepts:

    – how to boot the computer from a DVD or flash drive,
    – how “partitions” work.

    If you understand those two things, you can try Linux.

    But remember: backup, backup, backup. “I decided to try Linux, but now all my stuff is gone….”

  17. Computers are now cheap enough that I can use a separate computer Windows computer for CAD and a Linux computer for web and everything else.
    CAD has me locked into Windows.

  18. GNU/Linux online help can be very helpful. I use NixOS and when I had a question and asked it they were very helpful and not belligerent at all. I also found this great helpful attitude in the nmh (i.e. mail application that I use) mailing list. is another site that is good for friendly helpful GNU/Linux advice.

    However I do tend to struggle with my problems for a many hours before I ask a question. People in the GNU/Linux community will help you for free in their own spare time but they will often expect you to at least do some homework. This is only reasonable since they do not get paid anything for helping you. If your problem is not worth x of your hours to you then it is often not worth x of their hours to them.

    GNU/Linux has great customisability and almost everything on it is both open source and free. None of the other alternatives to GNU/Linux beat GNU/Linux on this.

  19. I switched my Dell Laptops to Linux Ubuntu OS last year and have not had any problems as I had with Windows 10. I use Libre Office which works similar to the old MS Word programs. I still have Windows7 on my old Dell Desktop. I use it now and then to access a program then transfer the info I need to a thumb drive and open it on the Linux OS. As for backups on the Dell Laptops with Linux OS, I use a 2TB external USB storage which backs up all of my computer daily. I also copy important files and folders to it manually, just in case, then with a bit of a workaround I can upload my important files and folders to my online Sync,com storage site.
    I have lost faith in thumb drive storage devices. I have had many go corrupt in a short time.
    I have the Google Chrome compatible with Linux OS loaded which will play videos. Also I can access my Google Web album which stores my pics and videos automatically.
    I also have a Chrome Book tablet which is great for watching movies and sports events without background program interference.
    So I have found workable alternatives to MS Windows 10. Even my LG phone works to access most of the online sites I use without the MS Windows interference and background Malware programs gobbling up the bandwidth and memory.
    My recommendation is to try Linux OS and Chromebook. If it does all that you need it to do, dump MS Windows and get rid of the frustrations.

  20. Just to add an important point to selecting an other operating system like say Windows.
    For years I have used Linux Ubuntu 18.04 (the latest version) and was rather unhappy with it for two reasons:
    1) The providers help section was very bad and somebody like me who is a user and not an enthusiast or fast learner (85 years old) needs easily available and easy to understand help. As this was not available with Linux, it made it a no-no system for ordinary users.
    2) There were no people locally to help. This in fact is the main drawback for Linux.
    Windows on the other hand, though not the best, is used by a lot of local people everywhere that can help. I am now back on Windows 10 and find it very nearly as easy to use as Linux was with plenty of local help.

  21. Linux is phasing out the “old computer gathering dust” option. Most distros no longer support 32 bit machines, and chrome browser 32 bit is outdated.

  22. I was glad to see Carl Kettler’s comments about using Chrome OS because for many people a Chromebook or Chromebox is all that is needed. I set up a Chromebook for my 90+ year old mom who had never used anything more complicated than a TV remote or flip phone, and she managed to successfully use email, which is all that she wanted.

    I also helped a friend move from an archaic Windows laptop to a Chromebook with Google Drive for file storage, and that is working quite well for her. The biggest challenge was printing and scanning, but I figured out how to use an HP LaserJet MFP M130fw for that. I used the HP Print for Chrome extension from the Google Chrome Web Store. I explained how I did this in an entry dated September 27, 2018 in the Support section for the HP Print for Chrome extension.

  23. I also want to comment on the option to use a mobile device such as an Android or Apple phone or tablet in place of a Windows computer. I have successfully paired a Bluetooth keyboard with a mobile device, which can make typing faster and more accurate. I have used a Google Chromecast for screen casting from my mobile device to a screen that has an HDMI port, which many newer PC monitors and TVs have. There are also other ways to do screen casting. I have not tried to pair a Bluetooth mouse with a mobile device, but I believe that can also be done.

    If you use a mobile device that can otherwise do everything that you need to do, then you could possibly have a reasonably functional configuration by using a Bluetooth keyboard plus screen casting and maybe a Bluetooth mouse. If you use an Android mobile device, then adding a Chromebook or Chromebox would be quite compatible and probably more functional.

  24. Microsoft is steadily moving Windows to a leasing model just like Adobe and Office 365. You can see it in the wording. Newer updates announce that Windows is a service. The idea, probably over the next five years is to change the perception of Windows to that of being a service that one leases.

    So just as leased Photoshop has resulted in a number of excellent Photoshop replacements coming onto the market with licenses that have a one time cost.

    Similarly a compatible Windows competitor maybe using some of Linux’s infrastructure is likely to come onto the market.

    I for one would happily pay a one time license fee to get away from MisFit, but until them I am stuck with their uncontrolled only partly tested updates. A recent Win 10 update broke VirtualBox on my machines.

    By the way your article should have mentioned VBox as a way of managing the OS mess.

    • I’ve had a couple of people mention virtual box (and parallels on Mac) as an alternative. I tend not to consider it a practical alternative for most people, since it requires a fair amount of technical comfort. I’ll consider doing a separate article about it sometime in the future, though.

  25. Good article, I run a dual boot system, running Windows 10, with Ubuntu 18.04, I much prefer Ubuntu but as you say there are some programs that only run on windows, frustrating! If your just using your PC for email and browsing, occasion letter writing, you can’t beat a linx system, the free office software is brilliant and compatible with Microsoft office, there’s also some great photo editing software, that are nearly as good as Photoshop all for free, plus numerous other programs to suit your requirements. It is a different system and you will be frustrated should you try it, but plenty of tutorials on YouTube!

  26. Hi Leo. The only “Real” complaint about Windows I have, is I heard Microsoft plans to move to a subscription based product, like many other vendors that I use (Like Quicken) or have used it’s a real reason to look for a alternative. Why should I fork out $100+ for software and then have to repay that amount annually? I’m a home user and it seems a bit much. It seems that that a new, wide sweeping business model has emerged, and it’s corporate greed.

      • Actually Leo, there was some discussion by Microsoft back in the early 2,000’s about making Windows a pay-for program. CD’s would be handed out like AOL CD’s where and you would be required to pay a monthly subscription to keep your Windows booting. This was back in years past, when I was working for Dell Computers and Microsoft. At the time, I was working on Longhorn, codename for Windows Vista. However, research by Microsoft provided an insight to how many users would leave Windows for Linux or Mac if a subscription OS was introduced. Just my 2 cents of input.

  27. I have been working on and with PC’s since they were invented starting off with DOS. I have gone through every version of DOS and Windows. I have also gone through a lot of Linux distros. Too many to count.
    In my humble opinion, there are few Linux distros that I feel are the best for new Linux users. I would have to put Linux Mint at the top of the list of what’s available today. Wine is easy to install with the software manager or through terminal. You can also install Wine Tricks and Play on Linux to install windows software. Another option is Codeweavers Crossover.
    Updates are at the user’s discretion, not the all seeing dictator Microsoft. The desktop is fully customizable unlike Windows. Migrating from Windows 7 to Linux Mint was a breeze for me.
    However, back in the late 90’s and early to mid 2,000’s, there were a couple that were really breaking ground on Windows alternatives. Xandros was one of them. So Windows like in appearance and functionality that with a few tweaks of the wallpaper and start menu, you couldn’t hardly tell them apart.
    Another great alternative back then was Lindows – which turned to Linspire then Freespire. I see FreeSpire has made a comeback.
    Other Windows like alternatives to Windows in today’s world would be Zorin OS, Ubuntu (with the trinity theme) and Q4OS. Zorin and Q4OS both come with wine, wine tricks and play on linux pre-installed, making it easier to install Windows based software.
    There are over 5,000 different games for Linux users. The amount of software (alternatives to Windows software) is unbelievable.
    To sum it up, if someone is looking to switch from Windows to Linux, I have to say, start with Linux Mint!

      • I feel the same way; it’s like cheating when you don’t have to build your own distro from scratch.
        Now that I’m getting into my twilight years of age, I am more of a programmer and don’t want to deal with headaches of building or custom installing my OS. I just want one that works out of the box. This gives me more time to actually work.
        I just can’t say enough about how easy it is to install Linux Mint and start working right away. On a side note, I get nothing financially for promoting Linux Mint. What I do get, is more people switching over and offering more support for an OS I love.

  28. Macs CAN run Windows applications using either a Windows Virtual machine (VMWare, PArallels, Virtual Box) … or with WINE *(Emulates windows system calls and services). Parrallels method. It integrates the Windows VMs with the MacOS dsktop, so that they appear to be just like any MAc Application. Unfortunately Parallels seems to get worse (less user friendly, more buggy) with each new version

    • Tom:
      I can see Mac’s fitting into the picture as a “Windows alternative”, however, it’s a proprietary OS on a proprietary machine and the cost does not justify the switch. At least, not when there is a Linux alternative out there for half the cost. Since Linux and Mac OS are both Unix based, why pay more?

      Another thing about Mac, is that you can’t put a newer OS on an old Mac machine, and you can’t put on older OS on a newer machine. Well, you can, but it’s very limited in that year span. Windows has the same issue but it’s not as time restrictive as Mac. Linux on the other hand, will work equally well on machines that span decades in time difference, making it the most versatile of the 3 major OS’s.

      Just my two cents worth.

  29. It all depends on what you are using a computer for. I do a lot of amateur photography and photo editing and for me that means either Windows Computers or Macs. For me, GIMP is a joke compared to Lightroom.

    If all somebody does is go on the internet, use social media (I don’t), and email, a Chromebook will do all of that, if you don’t mind being spied on so they know what kind of ads to direct to you. I like my Asus Chromebook. But I don’t care for Google. But if I encounter anything bad on the internet I can just ‘power wash’ the Chromebook. So the Chromebook serves my needs, but so do my iMac and my Dell.

  30. The linux community SUCKS! I’m an IT pro and I gave Linux Ubuntu a try years ago. I had trouble right away and was presented with command prompts and had to troubleshoot some real problems. When I went to the forums I got turned off completely. Every place I went and posted, I was given a 3 or 4 paragraph dissertation of why M$ is horrible and that I’m stupid for having used their products and ultimately never really solving my problem. It took me about month of getting bashed (pun intended) before I threw my hands in the air and swore to never use their products again.

    • “their products” — 1) there is no “they” when it comes to Linux, not at the consumer facing side. The “they” you had problems with would be the Ubuntu folks you reached out to. Absolutely, they (no pun intended) can be brutal. So find a different distribution (Mint comes to mind) or support forum. 2) these aren’t “products” — they’re completely free, and not sold. In part, that’s why the support can be so spotty, people aren’t getting paid to help. If they then have a chip on their shoulder re Microsoft (which is not at all uncommon) they can end up doing more harm than good. But in general, I encourage you to keep looking if you’re really interested in trying Linux.

    • As an avid Linux user and supporter, I am sorry you had so much grief with your first experience on the Linux side. However, as Leo pointed out, not all Linux forums are like that. There are a lot of places where newbies can get help without the inhospitable comments you encountered.

      If you want a seamless transition from the Windows desktop to the Linux desktop without having to compile your OS, then, again, as Leo suggested, try Linux Mint. It’s an easy and comfortable switch with tons of positive support.

      I would never suggest a newbie try building a Linux distro and have to work on the command line right out of the box. You should start with the basics, and just install the OS, then start installing programs as you need them.

      No doubt there is a learning curve for Linux, but on the same hand, everyone had a learning curve to use Windows.

  31. I understand what Leo is saying but I also understand what Gabe is saying. I thought about trying to switch to some Linux operating system for my needs. It can work, if a person has just basic needs for a computer.

    But if a person has more complex needs for a computer, like photo editing, there has to be software and hardware support. I still remember being told by a Linux guy that if I could not find support for photo printers I needed to write my own drivers.

    Most servers today are probably some version of Linux (and running virtual operating systems) and a Linux Computer certainly can fill basic needs for a consumer. But for me I will continue to use Macs and Windows computers. It is not the operating system, it is what you can do with the computer. And my needs are filled by either Macs or Windows computers.

  32. I see all these “tech” people having problems with windows… in phuque is an old foggie like me supposed to deal with all this chit?

    • What you’re not seeing is all the thousands of people — both tech and non tech — for whom things are just working. They have no reason to report their success here. Windows, et al, is working and working well for most, by far.

      • I can give some anecdotal evidence, bordering on real evidence to back this up. I have several dozen friends who know I can fix Window problems. Many of them have asked me for computer help over the years. Not one of the has ever asked me for help where the problem turned out to be a problem caused by a bug in Windows. The vast majority have been how to questions and a couple of problems resolved by clearing the printer queue.

  33. my son’s laptop is running win 7 but as we all know support is being stopped by MS and his laptop won’t run win 10(cpu not supported)So I need a user friendly OS to install on his machine that is easy to setup/maintain and use.Use is basic…browsing,emails,social media etc.Have seen people saying about running OS from memory stick etc I tried Ubuntu some years ago but couldn’t make any sense of it(and no one seemed willing to help so binned idea) Seen mention of ChromeOS but being new to this (forced)idea don’t know which way to go so need advice from those more experienced.

  34. I just can’t imagine the average person switching to Linux.
    The first time they have to go to the Terminal mode would
    end it all. I can hear it now. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME…

    I tried Linux with a Raspberry Pi. In many cases its not a simple
    click and the program installs. If they every can get Linux to run
    like Windows I would take it seriously. Linux is great if your making
    a project to work with a Raspberry Pi and that’s all it does the same
    thing over and over again. It will do this without ever having a problem.
    Other that simple surfing or using the free Libre Office it has a long
    way to go to get to that point and click install and not have to go
    to the terminal mode to add all those extra things that were not
    included in the original software you just downloaded and installed.
    It just to much of a challenge for the average person to deal with.

    • I’ve installed Linux mint on a few senior friends’ computers and since all they use it for are the basic operations of web surfing, listening to music, viewing video, and word processing, they barely noticed the difference from Windows and never once had to use the console. As a semi-advanced user, I rarely use the console anymore, and that is mainly to install programs not found in the install app.

      • On my Ubuntu machine, I have a Bookmark to my OneDrive account on my browsers. I can access and edit any MS Office files on the server using MS Office Online. I’m surprised how good it is. It has all of the features most people need. It’s all done online and not synced to the Ubuntu machine but if I need to, I can download it to the machine, edit it in Libre Office and upload it if I need to.

    • Yea rasberry pi runs on a completely different archetecture than windows mac and normal linux being built on arm not 64bit (x86 64) so not really a compareable experience i work in cyber securituly but do computer repair and config for people who cant afford it in regular channels, i personally use arch linux but have used ubuntu redhat fedora debian, i Learned more in 2 months using linux than 15 years on windows i find my system crashes more using windows (updates) i have files on my computer that windows trys to say i dont have the right to delete, freedom was the reason i made the switch, the freedom to do what i want with my property even if its a bad idea and my tank my system, thats my choice. Every client i have switched to linux havnt looked back as for support, you get better documentation in linux and yes your expected to put in an attempt(after reading the documentation) to resolvd it yourself before some communities will offer help but support from microsoft for non business these days is terrible and the technicians are just competent once/if you can get a hold of one. Not to mention the hardware resources that windows ‘reserves’ for its own uses if your paying the kind of money you are for your computer you should own it and be able to use it as you see fit. And the argument about phones,… Android is Linux (mostly) chromeos also built on linix amazon kindle – apple osx was built off of freebsd an offshoot of unix while not linux fairly similar under the hood, 100 %the top supercomputers in the world use linux you use linux almost every day and successfully windows is moving towards linux to stem the loss of customers these last few years offering features like wsl (windows subsystem for linux) while windows bas held the market as more and more developers switch platforms linix will continue to improvs while microsoft continues ies to go up in price

  35. I am somewhat tech savvy but, not a geek. I am also 73. I want a simple light windows to run Chrome (online use) and windows offline (light, 3rd party casual games and minimal storage). I don’t want Cortana, Skype, 3D, and all the other stuff MS adds. Just a light, simple Windows. I hate the interuptions by updates (yes, I set the times) and updates that crash the machine. The h— with a schedule – DO IT RIGHT! I cannot go backwards (see manufacturer note) as mine was cobbled together from spare parts, and Linux gives me headaches by refusing to co-operate (I miss Jollicloud). I have 2 machines with the same problems – both Windows laptops (Gateway & Dell Inspirion). I am retired on SS so I use the free downloads – Security, cleaner, apps, games. W10 is too loaded with useless stuff – give me a basic version and stop mucking up the updates!


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