The best Linux distros for Windows users can help you switch from Windows to Linux systems easily and successfully.
It can be an inundating experience, especially for people coming from proprietary operating systems like Windows. Linux distributions, thanks to their open source nature, offer a lot more access than their closed source cousins, which makes the transition particularly difficult for many users.
This is where these specialized distros, designed for Windows users, come into the picture. Their objective is to allow users to experience the goodness of Linux while minimizing the learning curve that’s associated when switching to a different operating system. They all take various steps to ensure that the transition is as effortless as possible.
We’ve tested numerous Linux distros to find the best ones for Windows users. We looked at how user-friendly they were, the hardware requirements, the ease of installation, and the overall out-of-box experience. We also considered the distro’s learning curve and the desktop environment, among other aspects.
The Dell XPS 13 7390 is one of the best Linux laptops currently available. The laptop also has a number of customizations you can opt for including additional RAM, larger storage capacity and even a 4K InfinityEdge touchscreen. The Ubuntu edition is a beautiful machine as it comes with a platinum silver finish with a black carbon fiber palm rest.
2. Udemy | $12.99 for new users
Udemy is an online learning platform for those looking to develop their professional skills. If you're new to Linux, Jason Cannon's Linux for Beginners course is an excellent way to familarize yourself with the operating system and command line.
The best Linux distros for Windows users in 2022 in full
Deepin Linux is a Debian-based distro that’s known for its aesthetically pleasing custom desktop environment called DDE. Together with several home-brewed apps, the distro is designed to ease new users into the Linux desktop.
Deepin uses a first-boot configurator app to help you tweak the look and feel of your installation by changing icons, enabling window effects and more. These are classified into two broad categories and you can use either depending on the number of available resources on your computer.
On lower-end machines, you can run the installation in Efficient mode to make the best use of the limited resources, while on newer ones you can use the Fashion mode to turn up the bling. The amount of customizations in DDE are quite diverse and extend from the main desktop area to the notification management.
There’s a Deepin custom app for conducting the majority of common desktop tasks, such as watching films, listening to music, viewing images, taking backups, recording screencasts, and about a dozen more.
The other custom Deepin app that deserves a special mention is the App Store. It makes it fairly easy to discover and install news apps, which will be appreciated by new users not familiar to the Linux app ecosystem. Also, listed besides the usual categories of apps is the Uninstall section that can help you get rid of any installed apps using a more familiar parlance.
An Ubuntu distro, elementary OS has made a name for itself for crafting a very usable and aesthetically pleasing desktop distro. Everything from its pre-installed apps to its home brewed desktop is designed to give a comforting experience to users new to Linux.
Its custom-built Pantheon desktop, is a pleasing aesthetic take on the classical desktop metaphor. One of its distinguishing features is the picture-in-picture mode that enables you to select an area of a window or the desktop, and then pops it out. This pop-out is movable, resizable, always-on-top, and can move across workspaces
The distro comes with a carefully pruned collection of pre-installed apps that’s been assembled to make the desktop experience more consistent and appealing to new Linux users. In fact, many of its most-used pre-installed apps have functional names like Mail, Music, Photos and Videos, which makes them easier to discover.
The distro also has an onboarding app to help new users set up their installation. elementary OS also uses its own custom package manager to give users the opportunity to flesh out their installation without being inundated with options. It takes a similar approach to system settings with its custom app that exposes the bare essentials instead of throwing an endless stream of toggles and switches.
The best thing about Solus is that unlike many of its peers, it isn’t based on another distro. This gives its developers the maneuverability to mold all aspects of the distro as per their vision, including the user experience.
The highlight of the distro is its custom desktop called Budgie. It’ll appeal to users migrating from Windows as it maintains the classical desktop metaphor while offering several conveniences of the modern Linux desktops.
Budgie’s most noticeable feature is the unified notification and control center sidebar called Raven, which also gives you quick access to the calendar and media player controls.
Besides the marquee Budgie-based edition, there’s one with Gnome (that includes several Gnome extensions), another with MATE (with the modernized Brisk menu), and Plasma (for experienced users). All editions ship with the usual bouquet of apps you’d typically need on a desktop OS.
Another major highlight of the distro is the Software Center. The app is very user friendly and intuitive to operate, making it one of the best Linux distros for Windows users.
The project also has a sensible policy for software updates that will help you slowly get used to the Linux way of things. The distro follows a rolling release model that will receive updates throughout its existence. That said, Solus’ developers push updates to the stable repository only after they’ve gone through some testing. This ensures you don’t brick your installation with unstable software, while still not being too far away from the bleeding edge.
At first glance, Zorin OS comes off as just another Ubuntu-based distro. However, what makes it unique is the home-brewed Zorin Appearance app that tweaks the desktop environment to make it resemble Windows in both form and function.
Pitched as a distro for first-time Linux users, Zorin is designed to appeal to users coming from popular proprietary operating systems, namely Windows and macOS.
Zorin is available in four different versions: the Core, Lite, and Education editions are free, while the Ultimate flavour costs $39. The Core edition is the standard edition that includes all the apps you’d find in a normal desktop Linux distribution, while the Lite edition is designed for older machines. The paid Ultimate version comes with support and a few extra features, such as the option of using interfaces that mimic macOS and is chock-full of all kinds of apps and games.
The distro is complimented by a useful selection of documentation that’s again written for users migrating from proprietary desktops and aren’t used to the Linux way of doing things. All things considered, we’d advise you to use the Core edition to take Zorin for a spin, and then switch to the Ultimate edition to experience the full potential of the distro.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular flavors of Linux and is strongly recommended for Linux newbies, as it's extremely accessible. That's why we've already featured two variations of Ubuntu in this guide, but it's worth considering the main Ubuntu release itself.
New versions of Ubuntu are released every six months, and every other year the developer Canonical releases an LTS (long term support) version of Ubuntu. These guarantee five years of security and general maintenance updates, so you can carry on using your machine without the hassle of running a full upgrade every few months. Standard releases are supported for one year only.
The current LTS version of Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop environment, which may be less unfamiliar to Windows and macOS users.
Ubuntu has also become increasingly integral with cloud computing services, making it not just a good distro for easing beginners into Linux, but also one for those looking to develop their long-term business IT skills.
Read our full Ubuntu review here.
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How to choose the best Linux distros for Windows users for you?
With the best Linux distro for Windows users, you’ll enjoy a smooth transition from Windows to Linux. But you’ll have to look at many factors before selecting the right distro for yourself.
For starters, check whether your hardware can run the distro, mainly because not all distros run on 32-bit architecture. You’ll want a lightweight distro that’ll run without lagging if you're on older hardware. It always helps if the distro has plenty of documentation available and an active forum where you can seek help. Also, check out the distro’s desktop environment to see if it’s to your liking, in terms of visuals, functions, and customizability.
The best Linux distros for Windows users: How we test
We analyzed various aspects of different distros to find the best Linux distros for Windows users. We looked at how resource-intensive the distros were, what kind of hardware they’d run on smoothly, the documentation available, and the out-of-box experience. We considered the installation time and the additional apps that came with the distro.
We evaluated the desktop environment based on the visuals, functionality, and customizability. We also checked out the online forums to see if there was an active community that could help with doubts.