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Hello Newbies in Tech! Switching From Windows to Linux? Read This First

ajeet profile image Ajeet Yadav Originally published at ajeet.dev ・Updated on ・5 min read

Originally published on my blogging site ajeet.dev


Disclaimer:

  • I am a newbie in tech. I have been using Linux and Windows side by side for quite sometime now. This blog post is based on my personal experience.
  • This post is an extension to my one of the earlier posts. Here is the link

Please share your experiences if you have moved from Windows to Linux


I love Windows. I have used Windows all my life. Once, I thought of trying out a Linux distribution. I installed Ubuntu, but then I uninstalled it very soon. Why did I do this? This blog post will answer this.

Being a newbie in tech, my experience with Linux was not good for the first time. But every distribution gives you some things to love and some to hate. Love and hate are like twin sisters.

From a Windows user's perspective, this post outlines some key issues that absolute beginners in tech face while using Linux for the first time in their lives.

Why do I love Windows ?

I won't go into the details on this. We know it already. Most of the laptops and personal computers comes with pre-installed Windows Operating Systems (OS). So, the first OS we try out is the Windows.

 Welcome Image by Undraw.co

For the beginners, it is exciting.

  • Windows is for everyone (even the developers use it for several reasons)
  • You don't need to learn command lines to perform tasks
  • You can do multiple tasks with ease with a few clicks
  • Windows' User Interface (UI) is well designed and convenient

Let's look at the market share.

 Statista.com - Operating systems market share of desktop PCs 2013-2019

Everything looks well with Windows. Then why do I hate it?

Why do I hate Windows, sometimes ?

I am a total noob when it comes to web development and programming. This
is my personal experience. A few months ago, I thought of learning Clojure programming language for various reasons.

Initially, I started learning Clojure on Windows machine, but honestly the support is not good. I ended up googling several commands specific to Windows OS for even simple tasks in Clojure. Most of the Clojure developers are either using a Linux distro or a MacOS. The questions and queries in the support groups and forums are mostly based on either a Linux distro or aMacOS. That's when I thought of using a Linux distro for the first time. I uninstalled Windows and installed Ubuntu - a popular Linux distro. But after a few days, I switched back to Windows. Why? Keep reading please.

🤔 Downside of using Linux (for the newbies in tech)

Being a Windows user all my life, I would definitely say my experience with Linux, initially, was not smooth at all.

But it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some absolute beginners who are never exposed to a Linux environment might find Linux a bit uncomfortable while using it.

 Windows Users Trying Linux. Pic Credit: https://bit.ly/2qpYluK

Consider a case where you have installed only Linux OS. You have been using Windows since the beginning, and have never used a Linux distro before (similar to my case). Here are a few problems I had faced.

  1. Windows OS is for everyone, Linux is not. There is a steep learning curve for the Windows users who switch to a Linux distro for the first time.
  2. Installing Linux for the first time was actually a pain for me. During my first attempt, I got a screen with several technical errors, so I had to modify some settings in the Windows Boot Menu (in Lenovo i5). Google did help. But it took hours. You need to check your system hardware before considering switching to Linux.
  3. A computer with only a Linux distro installed means newbies might end up Googling several commands to do even simple tasks. You are not familiar even with the Start Menu. The same task could have done with a few clicks of buttons in Windows. I googled several command lines on how to use Ubuntu effectively, noted them down, and started using Ubuntu.
  4. You cannot run Microsoft products (such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint) in Linux. That was a big disappointment to me. I was an Excel-person, and even now I use it every day. Though you can use open source alternatives to Excel, but they are not advanced and mature enough. I used Google Sheet for some hours and it was a frustrating experience, as it was slow.
  5. I am a big fan of Tableau - a data visualisation software. I use it at least twice a week to create charts and running some quick analysis. The problem is Tableau Desktop is not available for Linux, but only for Windows and Mac (as of January 2020).

🛠️ A Solution ? Yes, more than One 😍

Use Windows and Linux side by side. Two ways we can use both the OS side by side are:

  1. Install Ubuntu on Windows 10 using Virtualbox - This is the most common approach. Google and you will find several free resources on this topic.
    • Disadvantage: The biggest problem with this approach is the performance of the Linux machines inside Windows. Virtual Machines take a lot of resources and you will have a disconnected experience when using VMs with Windows. If you have good amount of RAM, video graphics and a good processor, you can optimize the Linux machine. However, that might be costly, time taking and overwhelming fornewbies. So, what now.
  2. Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)- WSL is a powerful tool introduced by Microsoft in 2016 to get a full Linux environment inside of Windows. You do not need to use VirtualBox anymore. WSL is fast, and you can use Windows and Linux side by side. I have been using this for some time now. I have not felt disconnected experience yet. I am quite satisfied. If you would like to try out WSL, here is a comprehensive guide to Install Windows Subsystem for Linux.
    • Disadvantage: This feature is still in its early stage of development. WSL might not be ready yet for gaming purposes. Tooling for Java development is not good for now. It may be a hit and miss experience for the hardcore developers but for the newbies, this tool is good to go.

💡 What Next ?

If you are a newbie in tech, I recommend you should learn Linux and use it as your full-time development environment. In my previous blog post, Linux Vs Windows - Why Linux Is Better For Programming & Web Dev, I compared the features of Linux and Windows OS. It has a tons of free resources to get you started with a Linux distro Ubuntu.
Once you are convinced to use a Linux distro, do read this step by step guide to Install Windows Subsystem for Linux.


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Credits 🙏:

Cover image taken from Undraw.co

Emojis taken from Emojipedia

Discussion (14)

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joseluisrnp profile image
José Luis Recio

Hi Ajeet, yes swap to Linux without experience in it is hard sometimes, but if your look around your post, Windows maybe is part of the problem.

You buy a laptop and in general it begin with Windows, most people begin with a PC with Windows and we adapt to it.
When you swap to Linux you try to use Windows in Linux and it's not the right way.

If all laptop begin with Linux would it be the opposite?
If we learn with OpenOffice would it hard swap to Excel?

In short unconsciously we spend a long time with Windows and we are confident with it, we know how it work.

Greetings and great post, write from my laptop with Windows 10 😅

P.D: Use a dualboot with Windows and Linux can be another solution

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Jose,

Thank you for your comment and feedback :) Here is my response:

If all laptop begin with Linux would it be the opposite?

I think, Windows is for everyone, not just for the techies. That's why we love this OS. In my view, there should be a learning curve for any technology. You learn a a lot during this entire process.
Imagine laptops/PCs without Windows. For this to work, everyone should have to have some programming knowledge at any level even before purchasing a machine. That would, I think, be a discouragement for many. Who will purchase a pre-insatlled linux machine ? Mostly people with tech knowledge. What about non-techies ? That's why Windows exists. What do you think ? :)

If we learn with OpenOffice would it hard swap to Excel?

If you learn OpenOffice, my experience tells me you will hardly find any job that requires OpenOffice knowledge. Open Office has a lot of limitations in terms of formulae. Several basics to advance features that we use at our workplaces are missing in OpenOffice. So, you would be wasting time on learning this software.
I am a hardcore Excel user. I have worked on excel files of size more than 1 GB in the past. Try OpenOffice with this file size, it will start crying. So, I would not recommend.

Use a dualboot with Windows and Linux can be another solution

I have tried dual boot in the past. I end of messing with my dell laptop. It requires knowledge to properly install dual boot. Install correctly and you are good to go. My view is you can run only one OS at a time, which is somewhere like installing a single OS on a machine. I would rather prefer installing a linux only on my laptop. Moreover, it cuts down the total available hard disc space. But again, it depends on the individual. For me, WSL works very well. And I would recommend the beginners to start either with Virtual box or WSL. What is your opinion ? :)

Thanks again Jose.

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amorpheuz profile image
Yash Dave • Edited

I have tried and performed dual-booting multiple times by now but the main problem I faced was some update or security scan(maybe?), either Windows or Manjaro(my go-to Linux) always ended up breaking my Linux's boot partition or the GRUB. I would boot my laptop on a random day to either see Manjaro being unable to find /boot/efi or some volumes disappearing from my Windows machine.

It was this cycle of re-formatting and re-installing Linux (along with my development dependencies) every time it broke (as none of the forums solutions I found were successful) that made me give up on Dual-boot rather than how to install it.

I am currently using WSL2 on Windows Slow Insider Ring. It has been a great and stable experience for me until now too! I don't like using VirtualBox too since it has a terrible experience on even a powerful machine if the machine has Windows 10 Home Edition (which I believe most beginners will). Not familiar with the Java development side, but my experience with JavaScript, Ruby, and C has been mighty fine.

Ah! and I have a similar reason for not going fully Linux too. I can't live without my MS Office. 😅

Thread Thread
ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Yash,

Thank you for sharing your experience :)

I have tried and performed dual-booting multiple times by now but the main problem I faced was some update or security scan(maybe?)

I would like to add here. Once my company gave me dell xps 15 9570 ( 32 gb ram and i9 8th gen) with dual boot Ubuntu + Windows10 Home Edition. After 2 or 3 attempts , I installed Ubuntu+Windows dual boot. One day, windows asked me to update the bios, I updated it. And Boom ! It crashed. I tried several troubleshooting methods,wasted almost whole day. None of them worked. Went to Dell centre, they told me some update in Windows made the system crashed :( ... So, I usually don't recommend dual boot to my friends who are still learning some web dev.

And Yes, WSL2 is life saver :)

Thank you Yash for the comment :)

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ghost profile image
Ghost

OMG a 1GB Excel file? is necessary to point out how awful is that?, That file shouldn't exist is you value any of it's data or if you plan to extract any useful or reliable information, I've seen monstrosities of a < 300MB, after 10min checking it out I found about 10 errors, that where there who knows how many weeks?, months?, years? ago. Good luck auditing a spreadsheet of even 10MB.

I think that is a good reflection of Windows overall, bites more that can chew, gives a false impression of competence, Windows makes backups but are very unreliable, until Win7 it was useless, (I don't know how is nowadays); so you thought you had a backup, but you hadn't, and you realize that just after you lost your data; it has helps and manuals, but are equally useless and that has been that way since Win 3.1; it comes with a browser whose only mission is to get another browser; a text editor that is worst that any other; a media player, well... useless; the GUI is user friendly, Win8 friendly?, I don't even know how many hours I wasted showing people how to move from XP to Vista/7, and now I don't expect to find anything quickly, even when I used Windows from 3.1 to Win7. The Windows installer is appalling, is like a Linux installer from the 90'; Can't see partitions other than their own, doesn't support other filesystems, is very limited in which partition you can boot, doesn't even have configurable bootloader.

I think that compare the 2 OSs user "friendliness" is unfair; Windows users don't deal with the mess; how many of them install their own Windows?, deal with antivirus SW and install drivers, basic SW and alike? usually they have someone to do those tasks for them. Their installation get increasingly laggy as Win install always do in time and when it is unbearable they ask their closest "free handyman" to deal with the problem or they buy another PC.

Is not that an airplane is easier to use than a car, is just that with the plane other is doing the hard part for you.

The difference is how difficult is for the handyman, in my case I installed Linux to all my close family since I don't want to deal with Windows anymore, I got tired of it. With Windows I had the dreaded call every month to fix something and a yearly reinstall when everything started to fall apart. Nowadays nothing, no monthly fix call, no yearly reinstall, no antivirus, it just works as Windows users like to say.

And after 10+ years using the same WM in Linux, I've seen many improvements but what I learned a decade ago still works now, no WinXP/Vista/8 UI messy changes. I bet all of those transitions took time and everyone did it because is Windows and that's what you do; but when they try Linux, after 30s of not knowing how to do something they claim that Linux is hard, and not user friendly, and not because you have access to the engine of your car you need to be a mechanic after all.

And Linux also carry some old obsolete claims repeated through the ages, Linux is just for hackers, you have to be a SW engineer only to install it, I've even heard about how ugly and old looking Linux is, really? have they seen stock PopOS!, Gnome or Elementary this days?

About Libreoffice Calc not been on pair of Excel, I sadly agree. And also if you have macros to work with, you won't be using them in Calc either. If you need some SW locked in Windows, then you're out of luck (unless you can emulate, VM or some other workaround)

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Robert,

Thank you for your feedback on my post.

OMG a 1GB Excel file?

I have handled excel file size of around 2GB. I used to work at a start-up then. So, we relied on excel only during initial days.
I always keep a backup of the original file :) There are several checks you can make in excel file to make it faster, for example, disable automatic calculation once you apple formula. This way, when you edit anything, the sheet will only refresh once you hit f9. Similarly, I don't use vlookups in large sheet.. So, many optimizations are there. And of course, your laptop should be powerful enough to handle the file. But I agree there is a limitation to the file size, that's why we purchased Tableau after a couple of years for data analysis stuffs.

Windows makes backups but are very unreliable, until Win7 it was useless, (I don't know how is nowadays);

Windows has improved, very much actually. Backups work in Windows 8+ , but I don't know about Windows7. Their support groups and forums are very helpful. The admins respond. Overall the support has improved actually.

it comes with a browser whose only mission is to get another browser; a text editor that is worst that any other; a media player, well... useless;

Please try Edge browser once. I found it faster than Firefox. And VS code text editor ( by Microsoft) is Love .... But yes, its media player is a big No for me.

Agree with your point that sometimes Windows updates are uglier, cannot deny with that. But I am sticking with it for the time being because I have been using Windows for years, and my mind is addicted to windows :)

Overall I think, using any OS is based on user's choice and need. I can do web dev on windows but I will have to struggle when it comes to fixing codes. I can work on linux too but being a non-techie, I would have to learn some command lines first. I can do that easily, but I choose Windows because I don't have to learn command line to install a software in Windows. So, it is based on use case and need.
Windows is a boon for the people who come from a non-tech background. They can work on excel, watch movies, browse .. and that too with a few click.. Not by typing ..

Someday, I might uninstall Windows from my laptop once I get comfortable with programming/web dev.

Thank you so much Robert for sharing your experience with us :)

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baukereg profile image
Bauke Regnerus • Edited

I switched to Ubuntu a few year ago and my experiences are the opposite of yours. I found it extremely easy. Some feedback on some of your drawbacks:

  • The technical errors might have to do with the lack of drivers for your hardware. I've run Ubuntu on an Asus Zenbook and (currently) a Dell XPS and never ever had any technical difficulties. The installation process is easy and not much different from Windows.

  • Using the terminal is indeed a learning curve, but once adapted it's so much more straight forward than using GUI's. I have a text file with a whole set of commands to install all software I need. With a fresh installation I just need to copy/paste it to the terminal and everything is taken care of.

  • As an alternative for Microsoft products, LibreOffice is completely free and does a great job. Google Drive is another alternative.

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Bauke,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

The technical errors might have to do with the lack of drivers for your hardware

Some beginners might find it hard to check the hardware eligibility. Once i tried to install Ubuntu on Lenovo laptop. During the installation,it asked me to select partition. But i the interface did not show me the partition that i created for Ubuntu. After googling, I found that it was due to some NTFS issue, something like that. But yes, one can install Ubuntu with ease if the machine meets all the requirements.

Using the terminal is indeed a learning curve, but once adapted it's so much more straight forward than using GUI's.

Agree 💯

As an alternative for Microsoft products, LibreOffice is completely free and does a great job. Google Drive is another alternative.

I cannot recommend bothh the Free products to the users who want to do the data analysis stuffs. They are simply not made for the hardcore Excel users. But yes, simple tasks can be done. Since i do a lot of data analysis in Excel, I am using Windows and Ubuntu (using WSL) side by side.

Thanks again for the comment 😊

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jorgecc profile image
Jorge Castro

I know your feeling. I tried to compile a PHP extension in Windows and the support was "limited" at best.

I tried to switch to Linux but sheesh, it was pointless.

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

💯. Jorge

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manuelojeda profile image
Manuel Ojeda

In my case i'm in a struggle in keep using Windows or finally migrate completly to Linux. I have been using WSL around 1 year ago and I feel confident using the command bash.

Why i'm staying at Windows? Easy, Steam 😅 (I'm a gamer developer)

In the case of you can't use Windows products in Linux is somekind of misleading thing, you can install Wine and use a lot of .Net software in there. THat's how Ubuntu has a lot of support of Steam.

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Manuel,

Agree with you. Wine is also a good choice to run Windows apps on Linux. I never tried it as I wanted a Linux distro Inside Windows, it looks promising.

Thank you for your valuable inputs 🙂

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ajeet profile image
Ajeet Yadav Author

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for your comment. I have been using Windows since I purchased my first computer. So, that's my comfort zone.

But agree with you, I too prefer to use Linux to windows when it comes to programming.

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