Linux Windows User Moving to Linux section
Choosing A Distro section
Linux Test Drive (running a Live session from CD or USB) section
Miscellaneous section





Windows User Moving to Linux



As you plan and then move, make notes. Organize them in a web page or text file or whatever way you wish. Later you will be glad to have records of what commands to do and what choices you made. You may want to re-install, or install a different distro.



The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide
Gary Newell's "How To Choose The Best Linux Distro For Your Needs"
It's FOSS's "Ultimate Guide: Getting Started With Ubuntu"
It's FOSS's "Explained: Which Ubuntu Version Should I Use?"
/u/PBLKGodofGrunts's "Guide: Migrating to Linux in 2019"
Jack Wallen's "How to Install Software on Linux"
/r/linux4noobs
Distro Chooser
Librehunt



Make an inventory of the software and hardware you use on your Windows machine. Write it into a text file; good to have even if you don't move to Linux.

Consider what applications you use most often, and see if Linux versions of those are available. Also look at any truly oddball applications or hardware you use, and figure out how to handle them on Linux.
Bertel King, Jr.'s "The Best Linux Software"

Software I use that's not available for Linux:
[I cut this list way down after I moved to Linux; most things have good alternatives.]


Software I use and what Linux distributions are supported:
[Also cut this back to just the more interesting items, after moving.]


Other software I use that is no problem: browsers, VLC, VeraCrypt, KeePass, uTorrent (although I think I'll switch to qBittorrent), 7-Zip.

Hardware I use:
If you have some pretty unusual hardware, start by checking with the manufacturer, then do internet searches.



From people on reddit 6/2018:
> What are some things you wished you knew before making the switch?

Not all software that you use will be available for Linux, and DO NOT depend on Wine to run windows programs, it may work fine but it may also crash and burn.

A good thumb rule I found to predict whether a program might run on Wine is to see how complex the installer is, if there is no installer whatsoever (a portable program) its quite likely that it will work, but if you first have to install an installer/launcher/downloader of some sort or something complex like that then I would just forget it and not even try unless its on the gold/platinum list on Wine website.

Try to find Free and Open Source (FOSS) alternatives to every. single. program. that you use, because proprietary options are either not going to exist or not going to be offered by your distribution repository and then you are going to have to hunt them down Windows style and lose one of the benefits of Linux (installing and updating everything from the same source).

...

There are tons of places online to find linux apps, but luong-komorebi / Awesome-Linux-Software is my favorite list and I take every chance to talk good about it since I learned so many new ones from it:

...

Get a good backup regime in place.

I use Mint which has Timeshift built in; you can add it to Ubuntu; gives you a Windows system restore type capability.

In addition I use two other backup programs: Borgbackup (deduplicating, v efficient) and BackInTime, for full backups (for redundancy; one to a USB and one to a NAS device).

If you're backed up you can survive any mistake or bad luck. You're not backed up unless your backups are automatic, redundant and (at least one is) off-site.





Choosing A Distro





Computer vendors:

Another consideration: if you usually buy your hardware from a particular vendor (such as Dell or HP), what distributions of Linux do they support ? And can you buy a computer pre-loaded with Linux, or with no OS at all, instead of with Windows ?

If you buy a machine pre-loaded with Windows, does that mean Microsoft knows the motherboard ID and MAC ID and who bought the machine ? Consensus seems to be that MS may know the first two but not the third, unless you actually register Windows to yourself.

I looked at the Dell site: it seems they have a lot of support for Linux Ubuntu, but it's more oriented toward business or server installations. All of their normal machines come with Windows (and thus paying for a Windows license, and maybe sending ownership info to Microsoft). But there is/was a Developer shop of higher-end machines that come with Ubuntu. Maybe when you order a low-end machine, there is some last-minute ordering option to specify "no OS" or Ubuntu ?

Generally there are good drivers for hardware from all vendors. Exceptions may be if you push the bleeding edge, such as high-end graphics for gaming.

Usually people don't try to get Linux pre-loaded; just buy the machine with Windows and wipe it and install Linux.

Linux Preloaded
DistroWatch's "Linux/BSD Compatible Hardware"


NVIDIA graphics, from discussion on reddit 2019:
The main issue is that NVIDIA doesn't open-source their drivers, meaning that you have a choice of either using their binary (proprietary) drivers or the reverse-engineered Nouveau (open-source) drivers. The Nouveau drivers are unacceptably slow for all but the most trivial of tasks, because it's really difficult to reverse-engineer a GPU.

Now, the binary drivers do work, for a fact, and it's not that difficult to get them running. Most of the difficulties people face come from the fact that your distro usually comes with a kernel that can run any of the major GPU drivers, but the kernel needs to be told not to load the wrong drivers, and the binary driver needs to be a version that's compatible with the kernel you are running. What I do is just build a kernel which specifically will not support Nouveau in the first place, which solves the issue nicely for me, but most distros will have some sort of setup whereby installing the right driver package should take care of the rest of it.

...

[Simply blacklist the nouveau module ? ] Depends on the distro as to exactly how you go about doing it - on some, there's no need to manually blacklist at all, but kernel updates can cause some interesting and inconsistent problems. Coupled with that, there's the issue that blacklisting Nouveau won't achieve anything unless you have the correct binary driver installed.

I run Gentoo, which uses custom kernels as standard, so for me it's far easier to just not build the module in the first place.

...

I used to have a NVIDIA graphics card and my experience with it is a bit of a mixed bag, gaming performance was fine. What I disliked most was that often when a major new kernel was released, the kernel module would not compile against it and I had to either search the NVIDIA dev forums for a patch or wait for NVIDIA to release a new driver, or just keep using the older kernel. Also I had crazy glitching and choppiness going on with KDE, I tried so many solutions and none of them solved it.

...

on a user level NVIDIA prop drivers have always worked for me

...

I am using the proprietary drivers for years and have no problems with them either.

...

I suspect some of what you are reading is laptop-related. Apparently there are energy-saving tricks with NVIDIA laptop chips to turn off the 3d graphics to save energy. This proprietary switchover may be causing some problems.

NVIDIA desktop chips are rock-solid for a long time. They support multiple monitors, 4k, gaming, sound and work just fine. There is a problem with dpms support on monitors connected via displayport, but its not a big deal.
10/2019 Someone said: AMD graphics work easily in all distros. Nvidia often requires fixes/tweaking, but once you've done those a few times, they're not too hard to do. AMD's new products are closing the performance gap with Nvidia, so maybe soon AMD will be the clear best choice.



Family and friends:

If you are planning to bring your family and friends to Linux after you use it for a while, what distribution would be best for them ? You might be comfortable with the command-line, but maybe they aren't.

For less-advanced computer users, the choice seems to be Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

From people on reddit 4/2018:

The Ubuntu flavors, especially Ubuntu MATE and right after that Kubuntu, are better than both Mint and mainline Ubuntu IMO. Mint has easier driver and proprietary software installs and great Windows-like configs for every DE, plus their themes are better and more toned down, but Ubuntu is fresher, more secure and has more options.

...

Mint is Ubuntu with a lot of work put towards making it very user-friendly.

On 99% of desktop and laptop computers Linux Mint should "Just Work".

Everything else will require you to install and/or configure additional software to enable DVD playback, music file playback, and under some distros even basic things like your Wi-Fi.

"Linux Noob" + "Computer Noob" = Linux Mint 100% of the time. Anything else will poison your Linux experience with the frustration of features and devices not working post-install.

...

I prefer Mint. I gave my mom Linux Mint and she never had a trouble with them. Even my friend thought I was using Windows when in reality I use Mint. They are easy to use and user-friendly.

...

Ubuntu, Mint, or Elementary OS.

I think the biggest factor for people who want to avoid the terminal is to have a 'app store' like the Ubuntu software store and be really easy to use. Linux Mint has its own app store. You can't install software onto Mint through Ubuntu's app store, but you will be able to install the same programs via Mint's app store. The app stores really are just graphical front ends for the apt package manager.

On Ubuntu, use Budgie or Pantheon desktop instead of Unity.

...

Linux Mint cinnamon desktop environment best resembles the Windows desktop environment. So if you really like this and don't need to change that, you should pick Mint. Furthermore Mint will offer you some more guidance for beginners. Better update manager, software manager, ppa manager, and driver manager. They also keep putting new stuff in their releases making certain things easier for newcomers. Like the current latest version will also integrate your online accounts better, so that you can navigate your google drive folder in your local file manager for example. And this is all by default, so you don't have to mess around yourself to make something like that work.

Downside is that with Mint you will be using old software. It is based on Ubuntu, and Ubuntu is again based on Debian. On top of that Mint only bases its releases on the Long Term Support variant of Ubuntu. So your OS will lag behind the others quite quickly. This is intentional however, because there will be very little chance your system will ever encounter a problem you have to solve yourself with the command line.

...

I love Mint as well, but face it - that looks like Windows XP, which some people have never even seen. [Instead] Give Zorin OS a shot. It's very similar to Windows 10 in feel and overall use and absolutely nails the standard UI that almost everyone is accustomed to.


Backward compatibility:

My family and friends still will be on Windows. What happens when I hand them a flash drive used on my Linux system ? I guess I'll have to be careful to format everything removable as NTFS ? I'll have to install the ntfs-3g package for NTFS.
How-To Geek's "What File System Should I Use for My USB Drive?"
Ubuntu's "Mounting Windows Partitions"
Dedoimedo's "GParted partitioning software - Full tutorial"

If I encrypt an external drive on Linux (dm-crypt, LUKS; Ask Ubuntu's "How to encrypt external devices?"), there is a way to use it on Windows (LibreCrypt; t-d-k's "LibreCrypt").



Back to basics: why switch ?

To choose a distro, maybe step back a little: why do you want to change to Linux in the first place ? Windows not working for you in some way ? Don't like the privacy implications of the connection to Microsoft and telemetry ? Older computer that is bogging down under Windows 10 ? Want to learn more about software internals ? Some other reason ? Maybe that would help determine what distro you should go to.

My reasons for going to Linux:
Roughly in priority order:
  1. More privacy from Microsoft.
  2. More control over the system (too many things happening automatically in Windows, and too much bloatware).
  3. Curiosity / learning (want to learn about Linux, get back into programming).
  4. More security (full-disk encryption). [I know I can do this on Windows too.]
  5. Better performance [although more RAM and an SSD would do this on Windows].
  6. More security (smaller software, and less of a virus target).
  7. Maybe fewer bugs (after heavy use Windows Explorer keeps dying and restarting).
But: I'm also tech-support for my wife and her family, and she deserves better security/privacy/performance too, so I need to bring her along to the same OS at some point.

My priorities in choosing a distro:
Roughly in priority order:
  1. Has to work easily and reliably, right out of the box.
  2. Has to have equivalents of all the same major software as Windows.
  3. Has to look/work mostly like Windows or Mac or mainstream Linux distros; I don't want a tiling manager or CLI-only system.
  4. Has to have a big community for support/answers.
  5. I don't want to spend my time tweaking Linux or hopping among distros or DEs or themes, I want to do my personal stuff in browsers, torrenting, image-editing, video-playing, Java, etc.
  6. I don't care about RAM use; RAM is cheap.
  7. Performance has to be okay, but if I want more performance, I'll buy more RAM and switch to an SSD.
  8. Has to be able to do most things in GUI, not CLI (although I am pretty familiar with the Unix CLI of 30 years ago; I was a programmer on Unix).

Gary Newell's "12 Reasons Why Linux Is Better Than Windows 10"



Beware: there are plenty of problems in the Linux software and ecosystem, and some of them bite some people pretty hard. See Some cautionary experiences with Linux section of my "Linux Problems" page.



Special factors for some people:




Minor issues:

If you have a lot of foldernames and filenames with spaces in them, it will be awkward to do any Linux command-line operations on them. Maybe fix those before leaving Windows. Or just don't use the command-line in Linux to manipulate them.

BIOS updates from manufacturers may come only as EXE files. To use one, maybe install FreeDOS on a flash drive and boot from that. Or your BIOS may have a command for updating itself. Or see:
Dell's "Updating the Dell BIOS in Linux and Ubuntu Environments"
nixCraft's "How to install/update Intel microcode firmware on Linux"
And from discussions on reddit:
"With Dell, you can even put the .exe file directly onto an USB stick (I think it has to be FAT32 though), and the flash it from the BIOS." and "Plug in flash drive, F12 to bring up a BIOS boot menu and there should be an option for a BIOS upgrade there. I know this works on Dell's business machines, not so sure about their consumer models." and "Try renaming the .EXE to .ZIP and unzipping it." and: use MediCat, a bootable Windows troubleshooting environment on USB or DVD.



Linux Newbie Guide's "Chapter 3: Choosing a Linux Distribution"
RenewablePCs' "Which Linux distros are the best?"

From someone on reddit 6/2017:
"Fedora is bleeding edge. if you want stability, then go with an LTS distro like Ubuntu 16.04 or CentOS 7."

"Ubuntu has two types of releases, "standard" and "LTS". Releases come every 6 months, in April and October. The Ubuntu version number is in the format YY.MM, i.e. "18.04" was released in April of 2018. ... 16.04 and 18.04 are "LTS" releases, while others such as 16.10 are "standard". LTS releases get 5 years of support in terms of security updates and bug fixes. Standard releases only receive 9 months of updates."

"Mint follows the LTS release of Ubuntu that a new one comes every two years. Basically means that Mint 20 will come in 2020 and until then you get inbetween point releases on the 19 base."

From someone on reddit 4/2018:
"For some reason, all the [distro] reviews on YouTube concentrate on which applications and utilities come installed out of the box. No idea why this is, because it couldn't be easier to open the software center and install whatever you please."

From someone on reddit 4/2018:
"... noob-friendliness actually comes from the Windows-like looks, GNOME for example resembles more of a MacOS feel, Linux Mint is usually recommended because it resembles Win7, which is more easy to navigate and understand coming from Windows as a simple and average user (like my dad for example) ... I personally doesn't really care for that. I am using Manjaro KDE which is quite Windows-like ..."

From someone on reddit 7/2018:

... Ubuntu has a 6-month cycle, so everything gets updated once every 6 months. Mint uses an LTS base, so everything gets updated once every 2 years ...

> I'm a n00b who was intending to install Mint, but maybe this is
> important enough to make me install Ubuntu instead. And I guess
> derivatives such as Kubuntu would lag, so I'm best off with the
> base Ubuntu ? I don't really care about UI sizzle, so the choice
> of DE isn't very important to me. Does this make sense ? Does Mint
> have other advantages that outweigh the outdated software ?

Kubuntu is 6-month cycle because it's the same base as plain Ubuntu. Same thing with Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and the rest. It's only a 2-year cycle if it's marked as LTS.

The advantage with LTS stuff is that you don't need to touch it for ages which can be convenient for some people. An LTS release will also be more stable than a 6-month release.

Mint itself also has a pretty expertly-crafted default user experience which makes it great for new users or users that want stuff to just work ootb, so that might sway you ...

...

[from someone else:]

Most people don't recommend non-LTS Ubuntu; it has a reputation of not being very stable. Also, when you have to upgrade your entire system every 6 months you're quite likely to run into trouble once in a while, so especially for noobs it can turn frustrating.

Therefore I would recommend to stick to Ubuntu LTS or Mint, and in this case the release cycle is the same for both. Also, derivatives such as Kubuntu (and even Mint) typically use the Ubuntu repositories directly, meaning they don't lag even a bit behind.

Another thing that's important to understand is that only feature updates are delayed until the next release, but security updates are of course released immediately. So the software may be a bit outdated, but in general it shouldn't be unsafe.

[from someone else:]

Due to Ubuntu's design philosophy, all user programs (except for Firefox and Thunderbird) stay at the [major ?] version-number they were when Ubuntu-LTS first released. This is to ensure system stability, so updates to newer user programs don't break anything.
[Now that I've installed Linux Mint, I find that there are updates available just about every day. So fixes or upgrades are coming out continuously. A couple are date-stamped, and took 2-3 months to get from Ubuntu to Mint.]

[In 5/2019, the new point-release of Firefox to fix the add-on signing problem took less than 3 days to get from Mozilla release to my Mint's Update Manager.]

The number of alternatives can be confusing:
It's FOSS's "Explained: Which Ubuntu Version Should I Use?"
It's FOSS's "How To Install And Remove Software In Ubuntu"



Distrowatch's "Search Distributions"
From someone on reddit 4/2018:

"Fixed" and "Fixed LTS" are fairly similar - the difference is how long they're officially supported (given security and maintenance updates). Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 are Long-Term Support releases, which means they're officially supported for five years after release. (LTR and LTS are, as far as I know, interchangeable terms for the same thing.) 17.04 and 17.10 are Regular releases, and only officially supported for nine months after release. Most desktop users can stick with the LTSes and upgrade straight from one to the other - 16.04 to 18.04, for example - without much fuss. Someone who needs slightly more up-to-date software can stick with regular releases, with more frequent system updates but shorter support cycles. They're both "Fixed" to distinguish them from "Rolling" release distributions, which don't have numbered releases, because you can effectively perform a full system update to upgrade everything to the latest version. This makes Rolling releases great for people who need cutting-edge software and don't mind the risk of having to perform unexpected maintenance.

Most Debian-derived distributions, like Linux Mint, Ubuntu, etc., aren't based on the "Stable" branch of Debian - instead they draw from the more up-to-date Testing or Unstable branches, where newer software versions are available. Debian Stable is largely meant for servers, older hardware, and other situations where it's desirable for software to stay as well-tested and unchanging as possible - it's overkill for most home users, so most of the Debian derivatives opt for newer software.



Summary of some thoughts from the The Complete Privacy & Security Podcast guys as newbies trying out a couple of Linux alternatives in early 2018:

Try to buy a new machine before you absolutely have to get rid of the old machine, and then try out multiple different versions of Linux on the new machine until you find what you like. Then move all your stuff from old machine to new machine.

Their inclination is to choose Debian, partly because a lot of top security guys use it (although I suspect those guys are compiling it from source themselves).

...

[Interview with a Linux guy:]

Ubuntu and Linux Mint have lots of GUI that shields the user from having to use the command-line. So they're the easiest transition for a Windows or Mac user.

Distributions such as Alpine or Arch will be very command-line-intensive, and installing software will require gathering lots of libraries and such.

Distributions that are "rolling release" are updating often to stay on the bleeding edge, and things break often. A novice user is better off with a "stable release" distribution.

Recommended for a novice user: Fedora or OpenSuse.

SELinux is a secure executive, and Fedora is based on it. But tweaking the security settings takes work, and a lot of people end up disabling it to get various applications to run. But Fedora will have fewer of the less-used applications, or user will have to build them from source. Fedora is used a lot in enterprises.

Ubuntu is the best-known distribution, has a company backing it, usually is what comes pre-loaded on a Dell laptop or such, lots of packages available. And has a "FireJail" product that lets you run an application in a sandbox. And security-profiles called "AppArmor".

Any Debian-based distribution can use FireJail and AppArmor.

For a casual user, getting the security settings right in Macintosh is easier than getting them right in Ubuntu (where they're done via command-line). Macintosh is a bigger target of hackers, but in Linux it's easier to get a false sense of security ("I'm running Linux so I must be safe").

The various Ubuntu distributions mostly differ by UI.



From /u/tdammers on reddit 10/2019:

Reasons why people might use a Debian-derivative rather than Debian proper:



From Rick Rouse's "3 reasons to install Linux on your 'Internet-Only' PC":
"Choosing Linux Mint with the Cinnamon Desktop will give you a very Microsoft-Windows-like user interface and user experience."
[You can install Cinnamon on Ubuntu, although I think it's not officially supported.]
Gary Newell's "5 Reasons to Use Linux Mint and Not Ubuntu"
Easy Linux tips project's "Linux Mint: how to select the right flavour for you"



From /u/Physics-is-Phun on reddit 4/2018:

I think difficulty breaks down like this (and anyone who thinks differently, please tell me why I should think differently, too):

Tier I: (beginner at computing) no Linux experience, very little system administration experience (not a lot of setting up your own user accounts, messing around in program files/"startup" service, etc and modifying what your computer does), does not know what a command prompt is: I'd recommend Ubuntu, Mint, Puppy, etc.

Tier II: (intermediate) some experience messing about with the operating system, wanting to learn more about just how computing as a concept works, pretty comfortable in the command line (especially writing simple scripts to optimize their own experience), etc: I'd recommend things like Fedora/CentOS, Debian, etc

Tier III: (advanced) "GUI? We don't need no stinkin' GUI!" lots of experience messing about in the operating system, knows how to read documentation and mostly can solve problems independent of directly asking other users (except for pretty weird and specific problems), comfortable enough to practically live in the terminal: Arch, Gentoo, Slackware, etc

Tier IV: (God mode/ludicrous) are essentially a kernel developer, or could be a volunteer as one; writes code for a living, tons of experience troubleshooting their own troubles and possibly writing their own fixes, etc: Linux From Scratch (you're basically just given the kernel and you put the rest together yourself - it's as close to the Arch kind of philosophy as you can get, except even Arch gives you some basic tools so you can get the install working more easily, from what I understand).

Honorable mention: there's specific distros that are designed around particular special interests. SteamOS, for example, is built around Steam. Qubes, Whonix, and Tails are built around privacy/security/anonymity. Kali is built around penetration testing (use this one in a way you're not supposed to, and you could be breaking the law, though I guess that could be said about any OS, but this one has tools designed to break cyberdefenses).



From /u/OzarkShepherd on reddit 4/2018:

The Debian developers are serious about open-source, which means that all manufacturer drivers that aren't open-source are disabled by default. ... All proprietary or non-free drivers have to be manually enabled in the sources list, and then manually installed.

Debian stable branch also may use older software, depending on how recent the stable was released. So the kernel that is in the stable release might or might not work with newer hardware like the Ryzen cpu. With newer hardware you would benefit from a newer kernel released after the hardware came out. Ubuntu is bigger in popularity even though it is based on Debian because it comes with more drivers (or firmware in Linux) so more hardware will work from the start as long as you check the mp3/proprietary firmware box during installation. So unless you don't mind spending more time chasing down hardware problems then Ubuntu will be faster and easier to set up.

If you are concerned about bloat in Ubuntu, and the Gnome and Kubuntu versions do come out with a lot of bloat to be more user-friendly to more people, you could try Xubuntu, KDE Neon, Lubuntu or of course you can dive right into Arch.

For gaming, the Linux version of Steam is developed with Ubuntu in mind. So anything Ubuntu, or based on Ubuntu like SteamOS or Linux Mint, will be easier to get games to work on. For example Civ VI works immediately after installation on Ubuntu, but takes some work on getting the right dependencies on Arch. It can be done in most cases on Debian or Arch, but it takes more work.



From /u/mdaffin on reddit 4/2018:

I always recommend people start on Ubuntu (or one of its flavours) - it is by far the most-popular and best-supported distro out there and generally, you will be able to find someone that has already had and resolved any problem you will face with it. It also supports most of the main desktop environments so you can quickly install a switch between them to find the one you like the most. [Someone else says: have only one DE installed at any one time; don't install multiple.]
From someone on reddit 6/2018:
You can put dozens of DE's in the same OS install but it's stupid to do so because you end up with duplicated software cluttering up your menus. One DE might use Thunar as the FILE MANAGER and another Nemo, another SpaceFM, or Caja or PCManFM, Konqueroe, Nautilis, Dolphin or Krusader etc ... they all do the same thing and you need only 1.



An idea of what Mint adds/changes relative to the Ubuntu it is based on:
Abhishek Prakash's "5 Reasons Why Linux Mint is Better Than Ubuntu"



From /u/AiwendilH on reddit 10/2018:

> There are heavy desktop environments like Gnome and KDE.
>
> And there are lightweight alternatives like XFCE, LXDE and LXQT.
>
> So what are the extra features offered by Gnome/KDE/Cinnamon apart
> from eye candies and accelerated 3D animation effects using the GPU,
> that make users choose them?

Heavy-/lightweight categorization is not so easy, for example in memory usage Plasma and xfce only differ in about 50 MB ... less of difference than xfce and lxde. There aren't many "tests" beyond memory consumption, hardly anything on power consumption or CPU usage. So first off, best ignore voices trying to categorize DEs that simply ... it's more guesswork than anything substantial.

Then DEs have to be separated into their "shell" and their framework. What you ask about is probably the shell, how a DE looks to a user, what tools are available, how it acts, how it can be controlled.

The framework part is not something you as user really can have an influence on. You have no choice in the matter what DE frameworks an application uses, that's a decision application developers do. Framework libraries contain stuff usually not visible for users but important for applications like gnome's dconf system or KDE's kconfig as framework for saving application config data. No matter what DE shell you have installed ... the framework libraries of other DEs will still work. Meaning ... if you use gnome but also krita you will need some KDE framework libraries as those are how krita saves its config, loads images, displays some gui elements ...

So as user your only choice is selecting an appropriate Desktop shell for your workflow. And here are huge differences between the DEs and why some people select one of the other. Things like:

From someone on reddit 11/2018:
[For "lightweight":] Focus on the Desktop Environment, not the distro. I would suggest a distro with LXDE (like Lubuntu 18.04) or LXQt (like Lubuntu 18.10).

Aditya Tiwari's "11 Best Linux Desktop Environments And Their Comparison | 2018 Edition"
RenewablePCs' "Desktop Environments for Linux"



How to move from Windows to Linux, and how to choose your first distro:
[I'm a Linux n00b who has no business pronouncing about this stuff, but here goes:]

  1. Take inventory:
    • What software are you using on Windows ?
    • What unusual hardware are you using with Windows ?
    • Is your computer slow and old and limited ?
    • Do you want to bring family and friends to Linux later ?
    • What do you want to do on Linux (browsing, gaming, word-processing, programming, etc) ?
    • Do you care about a pretty UI ?
    • Do you care how Windows-like the system will be ?
    • Why do you want to move to Linux ? More privacy, more control, programming, curiosity, Windows is crashing, what ?

  2. Flowchart for choosing your first distro:
    • If you want to do gaming: you might be better off staying on Windows. Check to see if any of your favorite games have Linux versions.
    • If you want something that looks like Windows and is very easy to install, choose Mint or Ubuntu.
    • If you want something that has lots of people supporting and using it, choose Mint or Ubuntu or Debian, maybe Fedora.
    • If you want something that has paid company support, choose Red Hat ?
    • If your computer is slow and limited, choose Xubuntu or Lubuntu or LXLE or Elementary ?
    • If you want to dive in and learn the guts of Linux, choose Arch or Debian. Maybe ease into Arch by using Manjaro first ?
    • If you want to be on the cutting edge of new Linux features and fixes, choose Fedora or Debian.

  3. Make a Live Session of your chosen distro on a USB stick and boot from it, and see how you like it. If you have some critical hardware or software you can't live without, see if it works on that distro.

[I'm sure plenty of people will scream that I didn't mention their favorite distro. Can't mention everything, and trying to stick with pretty mainstream stuff.]

See also Looking at Other Distros section of my "Using Linux" page.











Test Drive (running a Live session from CD or USB)



This section assumes you're running Windows, and creating a USB that will run a Live session of Linux.

A Live session (running off a USB flash drive, or external hard disk) can be "persistent" or not. "Persistent" means any changes you make (new files created, settings changed, etc) are preserved across reboots. Of course if you're booting from a read-only medium (CD or DVD), you can't have persistence.

[Maybe unless you make some tricky mods,] This isn't going to load proprietary gpu drivers, so will be no good for testing games in many cases, and the experience overall will be slower.



From /u/Im-Mr-Bulldops on reddit 5/2017:

Pick a newbie/popular distro like Mint or Ubuntu (or one of the derivatives [Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, etc]) and install it to a flash drive to test it out. They're designed to be easy to use and come with plenty of community support for any and all problems you might have.

Start by making a live USB:
After you figure out which distro you wanna use, look up a guide on how to install it on your hard drive. They're all very straightforward and they should come with pictures so you can easily see exactly what you need to do. Since you're just starting, I would suggest trying a dualboot. That way you've still got Windows if you need it (eg: for a Windows only app).



Chris Hoffman's "How to Create a Live Ubuntu USB Drive With Persistent Storage"
Gary Newell's "How To Create A UEFI Bootable Linux Mint USB Drive"
Gary Newell's "How To Create A UEFI Bootable Ubuntu USB Drive Using Windows" (but says it will work for BIOS systems too; also explains how to make the Live USB system persistent)

Bob Cromwell's "Getting Started With Linux"



My experience 4/2018:
  1. Bought a 16 GB flash drive.

  2. I'm running Windows 10 64-bit, on a 5-year-old Dell Inspiron laptop.

  3. Downloaded Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia Cinnamon 64-bit from Download Linux Mint. Used a torrent client to do it. 1.8 GB.

  4. Didn't bother to verify signatures of the image.

  5. Downloaded Etcher and installed it.

  6. Plugged USB drive into computer. It's FAT32, empty, 14.4 GB free.

  7. Ran Etcher, selected ISO file, it found my USB drive automatically. Flashing image to drive took about 10 minutes. At the end, the drive was unmounted, I assume because it's no longer FAT32. Unplugged the USB drive.

  8. I want to make the Linux live session "persistent" (remember settings, install applications), so I downloaded PDL Casper-RW Creator, ran it and plugged in the USB drive again. But it says I have zero free space on the USB drive, so it fails. Doing a Windows "Properties" on the USB drive (which does appear to be mounted now) shows FAT filesystem, total capacity 2.25 MB, free space 22 KB ! One top-level folder named "efi". Sent a message to the company asking for help.

  9. Left USB drive plugged into computer, and shut down Windows. Powered on and held/pressed F12 key, and got BIOS "Choose boot device" menu. Chose USB device, got a Mint bootloader screen that said "booting automatically in 10 seconds". Counted down, then booted to Mint desktop in less than 30 seconds. No login needed.

    Everything looks good, internet connection is working (I have wired Ethernet), Firefox available and working. UI is very much like Windows 10, very familiar. Not able to see how much space is used and free on the USB flash drive, either via "Properties" or "GParted".

  10. Selected Shutdown in Mint. It said "unplug the Linux boot device", I unplugged the USB drive, and the laptop powered off in less than 15 seconds.

  11. Powered on, didn't touch anything, and Windows booted as usual.

  12. Found Chris Hoffman's "How to Create a Live Ubuntu USB Drive With Persistent Storage". So, downloaded Linux Live USB Creator (LiLi), installed it, ran it.

    Selected USB drive and ISO file, and it took a couple of minutes to check the ISO file, and gave error "this file is not in compatibility list". Tried to slide Persistence slider all the way to the right, but it's showing zero free space.

    Went into Disk Management, and looks like my USB drive has 3 partitions: 1.76 GB unallocated (where the ISO file went), 2 MB EFI system, 12.65 GB unallocated. Nothing I try gets rid of the 2 MB partition in the middle, which is screwing up everything.

    Downloaded EaseUS "Partition Master" and installed it (declining offer to install McAfee). Managed to delete the partitions on USB, and create one big partition FAT32. Made it a logical partition, and maybe that was a mistake. Now USB drive doesn't show up at all in list of disks.

    In fact, ALL of my external USB drives do not show up as a drive when I plug them in. Tried another flash drive and an MP3 player. All don't show up. Hosed.

    Eventually found that they ARE appearing in Device Manager under Mass Storage Devices. So I figured something in the USB virtual drivers is messed up, tried deleting them (and they re-appear). Still not working. Shut down a couple of times, powered on again, tried lots of different software, nothing.

    Finally, did a restart (which rebuilds the Window system image) instead of a shutdown, and that fixed it. USB devices work again. And the 16 GB drive seems okay now.

    Ran LiLi again. USB drive shows up as one partition of 14.4 GB free. Was able to put Persistence slider all the way to the max, 4090 MB. Turned off all options in step 4: "Hide created files", "Format the key", "Enable launching in Windows". Started flashing. It took about 10 minutes, then another 15 to do the persistence file. LiLi opens a web page to tell you what to do next; I closed that and quit out of LiLi.

    USB drive is left mounted in Windows, and it's FAT32 and showing a dozen or so files and folders on it. I used the tray icon to eject it cleanly.

    After all that, tried to boot from the USB drive and got nothing, black screen. Maybe LiLi produces a drive that only works with UEFI ? Or it just doesn't work with Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia yet ? Sent a message to the LiLi people.

  13. Downloaded Universal USB Installer (Windows only) and ran it. USB drive still shows as one partition of 14.4 GB, so no need to mess with that. Slid Persistence slider to max, 4089 MB. Writing took about 25 minutes. USB drive still mounted in Windows when done.

    Linux booted fine this time, although it took longer than the non-persistent system, about 10+60 seconds. Created a text file in Documents to test the persistence. Noticed that I have my Android phone cabled to the laptop, and Linux sees it and can access files on it. Shut down (which also took 60+ seconds), booted again, stepped away for a minute, and came back to find a black screen, hung boot I guess. Powered off, booted again, it came up fine, text file is there so the persistence works. Internet works, Firefox works. Shut down, removed USB drive, booted to Windows, all fine.

  14. more ...

Lessons learned: use Universal-USB-Installer (Windows only), and if necessary EaseUS "Partition Master"



My experience 8/2018:
  1. Using Dell Inspiron N5010 laptop running Windows 10, with wired Ethernet.

  2. Downloaded Linux Mint 19 Tara Cinnamon 64-bit ISO from Download Linux Mint. Used a torrent client to do it. 1.8 GB.

  3. Didn't bother to verify signatures of the image.

  4. Read the Release Notes at Release Notes for Linux Mint 19 Cinnamon; they have some important info. For me, mainly something about Synaptic touchpad driver (my laptop has Synaptic), and log in to Live session as mint/nopassword. And "Benchmarks have demonstrated that, in most cases, home directory encryption is slower than full disk encryption."

  5. Also read the Ubuntu 18.04 Release Notes at Ubuntu Wiki's release notes for Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (Bionic Beaver).

  6. Plugged USB drive into USB port. Appeared in Windows as drive E:.

  7. Downloaded Universal USB Installer (Windows only) and ran it. Selected "Linux Mint", selected the ISO I downloaded, selected drive E:. USB drive still shows as one FAT32 partition of 14.4 GB, so no need to mess with that. Slid Persistence slider to max, 4089 MB. Clicked Create button. Writing took about 20 minutes. USB drive still mounted in Windows when done.

  8. Left USB drive plugged into computer, and shut down Windows. Powered on and held/pressed F12 key, and got BIOS "Choose boot device" menu. Chose USB device, got a Mint bootloader screen that said "booting automatically in 10 seconds". Counted down, then booted to Mint desktop in less than a minute. No login needed.

    Everything looks good, internet connection is working (I have wired Ethernet), Firefox available and working. Created a text file in Documents to test the persistence. No need to install Synaptic touchpad driver, but I did it anyway. Logged out, had to log back in as mint/nopassword.

  9. Selected Shutdown in Mint, and the laptop powered off in less than a minute.

  10. Unplugged the USB drive, powered on, didn't touch anything, and Windows booted as usual.

  11. Tried to get my encrypted WD My Passport external hard drive working in Linux. Plug it in, it shows up in list of devices, can see files on the unencrypted partition of it, but WD provides no Linux utility, so nothing more to try there.

    Went online and found KenMacD's "wdpassport-utils", but I can't figure out how to install it. Requires Python, and I verified that Python 2.7 is installed. Maybe I just copy-and-paste the text from GitHub ? But no info about the directory structure needed.

    Went on reddit and got some help. Back into Linux, got the code from GitHub onto my disk, fixed a package name that had a wrong character in it, got the drive unlocked and mounted ! Was able to read and write it. Back to Windows and the drive is fine, file I created under Linux is valid under Windows.

    GUI utility in that package failed. Figured out some changes needed. Back into Linux and tried them. No go. Asked on reddit, found out package to install. Did so and got the GUI utility working.

  12. Noticed that Linux automatically found and mounted the Windows OS partition ! Direct access to all of my files in Windows. But I think they're read-only.

  13. Played an MP3 file off the Windows partition and it worked. Viewing a JPG from there works. Wired ethernet works, Wi-Fi works.




Test that Linux works okay on your hardware. If you can play a video from YouTube and hear the audio, you've tested 99% of the hardware and software. Also try: accessing USB drives, printing, sound recorder.











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