Congratulations on your choice of Linux to replace obsolete or troublesome Windows on your existing computer, or even instead of Windows 10 on a new computer.

Linux is an economical way to update and keep using your older computers, and to avoid the cost, forced updates, embedded advertising and data collection, high hardware requirements, and other problems of Windows 10. 

Linux is a secure, stable, efficient, high performance, well supported mainstream operating system.

In one form or another, Linux-based operating systems and software are used on billions of computing devices worldwide:

  • The top 100 supercomputers in the world use Linux
  • The majority of web servers on the Internet use Linux and Apache server
  • The Android operating system for smartphones and tablets is based on Linux
  • The firmware of most routers and other network devices is Linux-based
  • The firmware of Smart TVs and other programmable appliances is likely to be based on Linux

Technically the term  “Linux” refers to the Linux kernel which is the core component of the operating system.  A complete Linux personal computer operating system is called a distribution and consists of the Linux kernel and a desktop environment which includes the graphical user interface and other programs. Linux Mint is currently the most popular Windows-like desktop distribution.

I install Linux Mint XFCE most older computers. It is super efficient and runs well with limited processing power and RAM while still offering a desktop experience that is familiar to Microsoft Windows users. Because it is optimized for efficiency, it is a bit plain-looking and lacks a few ‘bells and whistles’ compared to Windows 10 or some other Linux distributions. But it is 100% functional and fast, which is more important.

I may install Linux Mint Cinnamon on computers with more powerful processors and more RAM. It has a little better-looking desktop and a few more features at the expense of using a little more computer hardware resources, but overall there’s not much difference.

Here are some important point to understand about switching to Linux and how it may affect your computing experience:

  1. Linux is not Microsoft Windows. Windows programs will not run on Linux. This is a very good thing because it means all the viruses and other malicious or unwanted programs that attack Windows can not infect Linux. However it also means most Windows programs you may currently have can not be easily transferred to or directly installed on Linux. Some Windows programs can be made to run by use of special ‘compatibility layer’ software.
  2. All your user files can be transferred. Common file formats such as word documents, spreadsheets, pictures, music files, etc. can be opened in Linux. Many programs that handle these files look and work very similar to the Windows equivalents.
  3. For most Windows applications, there are similar programs available for Linux. All the common things you can do in Windows, you can do in Linux. Programs for web browsing, email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, pictures, and music are already installed. Many more are available. Most are free and can be easily located and installed directly and safely from the Software Center. Most Linux programs will open the files created by Windows programs. For example Libre Office (preinstalled in Mint) will open such as Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheet. There may be no Linux program to open certain types of files, for example those created by Quicken, Quickbooks, Print Shop, Family Tree Maker, etc.
  4. Your Internet connection is the same. Linux will work with your DSL, cable, satellite, or whatever connection.
  5. The Internet is the same. Any web site you can go to with Windows you can go to with Linux. The default web browser in Linux is Firefox. Google Chrome or Chromium (the open source equivalent) will also be available to install. They look and work virtually identical to the Windows versions.
    Your favorites/bookmarks can probably be transferred from Windows but this requires extra work.
  6. Your email address, password, and mail servers will not change.
    If you do email by going to the webmail page in your web browser, nothing will change. All your old mail and your address book will be available  because everything is stored at the webmail server, not on your computer.
    However, if you are now using an email client program such as Outlook Express, Windows Mail, or Windows Live Mail, nothing will be transferred. You can choose to switch to webmail or have an email program set up in Linux. If you use a client program, address books and old mail can be converted but this requires additional work.
  7. Linux Mint looks and works a lot like classic Windows. If you liked Windows XP or 7, you will like Linux Mint. There will be a learning curve, but probably less than if you switched from older Windows to Windows 10.
  8. Linux is most definitely not Microsoft Windows. While the Linux Mint graphical user interface is designed to look similar, “under the hood” it is very different. The file system structure and how things work at a technical level is not at all like Windows. This should not be a problem for the average user, but if you expect exactly the same command line, file system, ‘control panel’ and other utilities etc., you may be frustrated until you learn the Linux equivalents.
  9. Linux is not for everyone:
    • If you are a real basic computer user who mostly uses the Internet for web browsing and email, maybe does some word processing and spreadsheets, downloads pictures from a camera, and so on, you will probably like Linux.
    • If you are an advanced user who understands computers in general, and is willing to learn some of the technical aspects of Linux, you will probably enjoy it.
    • If you are an intermediate user who is used to downloading programs and making cosmetic or other simple changes to Windows but you really don’t understand much about computers and are not willing to spend some time learning the Linux way of doing thing, then Linux might not be for you.
  10. Linux Mint is free open source software and is provided as-is. It is  used on the majority of commercial web servers and e-commerce sites. It is secure, stable, and efficient. However, there is no warranty (unless you buy a commercial distribution such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux.) This is not a big deal because unless you have an expensive  ‘software assurance’ contract with Microsoft, there is no real software warranty for Windows either. Nor does Dell, HP, or whatever company may have originally built your computer provide a software warranty..