Five reasons you should ditch Windows and switch to Linux

So you know a little bit about Linux, but you’re still on the fence. You’ve used Windows your entire life, and you’re worried you might have no idea what you’re doing if you switch to Linux.

This post is designed to ease some of those fears and provide you with specific reasons why you should switch to Linux from Windows.

#1: It’s free.

A new copy of Windows will easily cost you over $100, and that’s if you find a deal on it. And if you have an older computer that’s running slowly already, upgrading to the latest version of Windows will only compound the problem.

Linux, on the other hand, is completely free. The only thing you need is access to the Internet and a CD burner. Even if you’re uncertain about Linux, you don’t have to worry about sinking lots of money into it only to find that you don’t like it.

In addition to being free in the sense of price, Linux is also free in the sense of freedom. Linux is open-source software, which means that anyone can make changes to it without being saddled by complicated legal restrictions. Computer programmer-types can actually dig into the innards of the operating system, make changes, and then repackage it and deliver it to the public in what are called distributions. This has led to the creation of a thriving online community of Linux developers, many of whom do so just for fun.

Even if you’re not a software developer—and I’m assuming many of you aren’t—free software can still be great. For instance, if you want to give Linux to a friend, you can simply burn them a CD or give them one you already have. If you do that with Windows, you’re a software pirate. With Linux, however, that’s just how things work.

#2: It’s easy.

A screenshot of Ubuntu 11.10. Ubuntu is a popular, easy-to-use distribution that is great for beginners.

You might think that switching to an entirely new operating system would be difficult, but it really isn’t. It just takes a little getting used to. Some flavors of Linux change things up quiet a bit, but many others look very similar to Windows, so much so that you might not notice much of a difference. All-in-all, if you’re not completely against trying something new, you’ll find that Linux is easy enough to get the hang of.

Even if you’re not a computer expert, you shouldn’t be scared away from Linux. In the past, Linux had the reputation of being for geeks. While that may have been true in the olden days, it’s not any more. There are all kinds of different Linux distributions that are geared for beginners. If you can use Windows, then you can certainly learn to use distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint without a problem.

#3: It’s secure. (READ: You don’t need anti-virus software.)

If you’ve used Windows, you know all about anti-virus software. Everyone tells you that you need to have it to be safe, and you do. You can spend an arm and a leg for a subscription service like Norton or McAfee, or you can opt for a free alternative like AVG or Avast!. Either way, though, you’ve got to scan your computer regularly and download updates and all that jazz. What’s more, the anti-virus program runs every time you turn on your computer, which can really slow things down, especially if you’re using an older computer.

Linux, on the other hand, is virtually immune to malware. There are a couple reasons for this. First, the people who create viruses and worms and trojans simply don’t bother to create them for Linux. Windows, with its millions upon millions of users, presents a much more attractive target for malware makers than Linux, which has a fraction of the users. There have been instances of Linux malware in the past, but they’ve been quickly identified and defended against.

Another reason why Linux is safer than Windows is that, in order to make any critical changes to your computer under Linux, you must provide your password. As long as you’re cautious, you’re almost guaranteed to never get a virus. Plus, your computer will run faster without having to deal with an anti-virus program running constantly in the background. If you’ve got an older computer, this can make all the difference.

#4: It’s great for older computers.

Linux can be an ideal tool for making older computers usable again. Lubuntu is a lightweight variant of Ubuntu designed to run well on less powerful hardware.

I can speak to this one from experience. My parents had an old Dell desktop running Windows XP that was absolutely crawling. The thing took several minutes to turn on, and when it finally did boot up, it was excruciatingly slow. The computer would freeze up for seemingly no reason, and even doing simple things like surfing the Internet became a chore. I reinstalled Windows a couple of times, and that helped for a little bit, but the computer always went back to running like a snail in no time. It appeared as though we would have to break down and buy a new one.

However, I had heard something about Linux, so I decided to give it a shot, thinking I had nothing to lose. I ended up experimenting with several different distributions, all of which made the computer run much faster than it had under Windows. I eventually settled on a distribution called Lubuntu, which was a lightweight variant of Ubuntu designed specifically for less powerful computers.

Under Lubuntu, the old Dell has gotten a second lease on life. It boots up in just over twenty seconds, opens programs quickly, and does everything my parents need it to with a hop in its step. In this situation, installing Linux quite literally saved my parents from spending hundreds of dollars on a new computer.

As a general rule, Linux runs faster on less powerful hardware than Windows does. Even the “heavier” Linux distributions will perform better than the latest version of Windows, and there are lots of lightweight distributions that are specifically designed to run on lower-end hardware, such as Lubuntu. All this means that Linux is an ideal choice for breathing new life into an old computer. Instead of buying a new one, you can install Linux and extend an older computer’s life for quite a while.

#5: You don’t even have to get rid of Windows.

You might think switching to Linux is an all-or-nothing matter, but it’s not. It’s very simple to just install Linux side-by-side with an already existing Windows installation. Nothing is deleted, no files are lost, but instead of having just one operating system (OS) on your computer, you have two, and you can choose between them each time you turn your computer on. This is called dual-booting, and it’s actually not that difficult to do. I’m no computer genius by any stretch, but I’ve actually had five different OSes on my computer at the same time, so I think you can handle two just fine. The biggest advantage of dual-booting for you is that you can always just switch back to Windows if you find you don’t like Linux.

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Posted on February 11, 2012, in Discover Linux and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Five reasons you should ditch Windows and switch to Linux.

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