It can be intimidating to switch over to a new operating system, especially if you’ve been using Windows or macOS for years. The language in new systems can be totally different from what you’re used to, and Linux may seem particularly complicated to newcomers.
Luckily, Linux has evolved massively over the past few years, and it’s now easier than ever to install and use this open-source operating system. In some cases, you won’t even need to use the terminal window to do it!
If you’re curious about switching over to Linux, here are a few things you should know first to make your transition easier.
5 Things You Should Know Before Switching to Linux
Linux OS Has Several Distinctions
The correct name of what many people refer to as Linux OS is actually GNU/Linux. Most folks simply call it ‘Linux,’ but there’s an essential distinction here.
Many people think Linux is built on the operating system GNU, or GNU’s Not UNIX. GNU encompasses a variety of programs like text editors, code compilers, and other handy console commands. In a nutshell, it’s every program you need on a PC except the talk to the hardware module.
Linux is a kernel that provides drivers through which the OS communicates with system hardware. The kernel can also run hardware that isn’t supported natively in the kernel by using kernel module drivers. Linux is the most popular kernel for GNU OS, but there are other options like GNU/Hurd.
There’s More Than One Version of Linux
This may come as a surprise, but there’s actually more than one version of Linux OS. There are over 277 different distributions or ‘distros,’ which are GNU/Linux packages with other program suites attached.
Some well-known distributions include Debian-based Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu, and Linux Mint. Most distributions include desktop environments and package management systems. A different team creates each one and offers specific support for their system.
Linux is Largely Free
You may encounter two terms when speaking about Linux: free as in beer and free as in speech. Free as in beer means that the system doesn’t cost any money to use—and most Linux distros are free to use without charge.
Free as in speech refers to how you can use Linux components like source code, images, documentation, and tools. If you can download, amend, and redistribute elements, your OS is free as in speech as well. Most distributions allow you to download, augment, and redistribute their tools.
You Can Try Linux Without Wiping Windows
Most popular Linux distros provide a live version of their OS that can launch directly from a USB drive. You can also try out Linux using a virtual machine and Virtualbox, or dual boot Linux and Windows on the same PC.
You can use several tools like Rufus, UnetBootin, Universal USB Installer, and Win32 Disk Imager to create a live Linux USB. Find your preferred distribution, download an ISO image, and use an online guide to write the ISO image to a USB drive. From there, you can easily launch the OS directly from your USB drive once plugged in.
Your Hardware Should Work Just Fine
It’s a common myth that Linux doesn’t support computer hardware like printers, speakers, scanners, keyboards, and other appliances. However, you’ll find that this isn’t the case, as it supports a vast range of hardware.
You can simply search your device’s name alongside ‘Linux’ as a keyword to find answers should you have any trouble getting hardware working. Linux forums on Reddit and Stack Overflow could also provide you with the guidance you need. But in most cases, your hardware will work just fine.
An Excellent OS Alternative
Linux is free, open-source, and easier to use than ever before. If you’re considering a change of operating system, check out Distrowatch to find a Linux distribution that will meet your needs.