Why Linux? Better to say: why not?! It is free, open source, stable and secure. Moreover, an equally good (or better) equivalent can be found for almost every program under Windows.
There is not one Linux. There are many distributions that differ from each other in many ways, such as ease of use, appearance and performance on simple systems. Nice, because there is something for everyone. For the average user who just wants a good desktop environment, but also for the business user, the hobbyist, the gamer, the creative or the student.
01 Lots of choice!
Linux is available in many flavors. Some distributions are limited to the basics, where you can expand as you wish and make your own choices. Other versions are already very complete after installation and can be used immediately as an alternative to, for example, Windows or macOS. An important choice is the desktop environment, which determines almost the entire look & feel. For example, with Linux Mint you can choose Cinnamon, Mate or Xfce, Lubuntu uses the lightweight LXDE, while with elementary OS the specially developed Pantheon desktop environment is used, which is very suitable for Windows switchers due to its user-friendliness (but limited setting options). and macOS. Every desktop environment comes with a suite of optimized applications, such as a package manager that allows you to update and install software.
Track and compare distributions
The DistroWatch website is a handy place to compare distributions. Extensive details can be found for each distribution. For example, what the basis for the distribution is, which releases there have been, how current the software is and what users think about it, with extensive reviews. You can also see which are the most popular distributions. Right now, the top five are MX Linux, Manjaro, Mint, elementary OS, and Ubuntu. The website only looks at the number of page views; it is therefore not more than an indication. Remember that distributions come and go. So there are always a lot of shifts, but that also keeps it alive.
02 Stable base
Although there are a lot of exclusive distributions, most of them rely on, for example, Debian, Ubuntu or Arch Linux. This provides a solid foundation and ensures that there is a lot of software available for it. You can also see differences here: some distributions offer the latest of the latest, others are more focused on stability, sometimes with somewhat older software. Depending on your experience level, a derivative distribution is sometimes a better choice. Take Manjaro for example, one of the most popular distributions right now. It is based on Arch Linux, which is a remarkably fast, powerful and lightweight operating system. But the installation of Arch Linux only produces only a minimal system that you have to expand with, for example, the desired desktop environment, package manager and software. That can be an advantage, but is not so useful for beginners. Manjaro, on the other hand, gives you a full desktop environment with a whole suite of software, and is easy to use and accessible during use while still taking advantage of the benefits of Arch Linux.
03 Also for older systems
Linux does not place high demands on the system. Even on heavily outdated PCs it usually still runs fine. If you have less than 2 GB of RAM, it pays to look at the somewhat lighter distributions. An extreme example is Tiny Core Linux, which requires only 16 MB of memory for a graphical desktop. It is very simple in the basics, but you can add exactly the software you need. That might make it a rewarding option for an antique netbook. Although the slightly 'heavier' Puppy Linux immediately gives a much more usable system, while this distribution also only requires about 64 MB of memory. You have a nicer and more complete system for your netbook or laptop with, for example, Lubuntu, the Peppermint OS derived from it and MX Linux. If Windows cannot be pre-burned on your system, there is always a smooth running Linux distribution to be found.
Freeze PC Resource!
A Linux distribution is always handy to have on hand for managing PCs and laptops – even if they run Windows. You can simply start such a distribution from a CD or USB stick on, for example, a crashed PC to solve problems. There is also a distribution that has been specially developed for this purpose: SystemRescueCd, a distro with several handy built-in tools. For example, you can view or repair partitions, back up important files or restore the boot sector. There is also an application specifically aimed at recovering lost videos, photos and documents.
04 User-friendly and familiar
Of course, moving from Windows or macOS to Linux takes some getting used to, but if you select an easy-to-use distribution, it shouldn't take long. If you want an environment that matches Windows 10 as closely as possible, Zorin OS is a great option. It takes the Gnome desktop as its foundation, but with countless customizations and a whole suite of powerful applications. Moreover, with Zorin Appearance, it provides a useful application to further customize the appearance of the desktop. A major update is released every two years. That might make it worth waiting (a little longer) for Zorin OS 15, which already appeared as a beta. It is based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, which has been updated for ten years.
If you're used to macOS from Apple, elementary OS is a nice option. Like Zorin OS, it's based on Ubuntu, but it's simplified a bit further, making the choice ultimately more a matter of taste. If you want to enjoy endless updates, a distribution with so-called rolling releases is also an option (see box).
Always up-to-date with rolling releases
Every now and then a fresh start is nice, but otherwise there is no real need to install a new operating system every so many years. Windows got rid of this with version 10; you can continuously install updates for this. Linux also knows this principle with the so-called 'rolling releases', but it is not yet the standard. Arch Linux is especially good at it, and you also benefit from Manjaro (which is derived from Arch Linux). A nice choice of Manjaro is that it only includes stable versions in the repositories, which have also been tested beforehand. This way, the risks of something breaking are limited, as long as you use the default package manager and don't experiment too much. Not every distribution follows the principle of rolling releases. For example, Ubuntu still sticks to semi-annual releases with a so-called LTS version every two years, which is supported for a long time. That has been increased to ten years since 18.04 LTS. In practice, the long support period mainly means that you receive important security patches, and not necessarily new versions of software. An upgrade to a new release is of course always an option and usually painless.
05 Plenty of software and drivers
Are you afraid that you will miss familiar drivers and software under Linux? That's not necessary. Almost all devices even work directly without having to install a single driver. And if we take Zorin OS as an example, you also immediately get a huge package of software. For example, Release 15 comes with Evolution, which offers Microsoft Exchange support, Firefox as the default browser, and the new LibreOffice 6.2. With its refined user interface, the latter is an even better alternative to the well-known Office applications. The Ubuntu base also ensures that there is a huge amount of additional software to be found in the open source community. Also keep in mind that many games on Steam are already suitable for Linux by default. And thanks to Wine with PlayOnLinux, you can always install and use certain Windows games and software in its own window if you need to.
06 Easy try
Given the wide choice of distributions with Linux, you will have to make a relatively large number of considerations and may even have to try out some distributions first. Fortunately, this can be done with impunity and free of charge. A quick and convenient way to try out distributions is to run them in a virtual machine alongside your current operating system for a while. To do this, install Oracle's free VirtualBox and create virtual machines at will. You can start and try out many distributions 'live' by burning the ISO image to a CD or putting it on a USB stick. A program like Rufus is very useful for this. Take a USB stick that is larger than the ISO file. For most distributions, 2 GB is sufficient. The USB stick is of course also ideal as an installation medium.
07 One of the most secure operating systems
Linux is one of the most secure operating systems. Viruses for Linux do exist, but are very rare. Of course, it helps that Linux isn't quite as popular as Windows yet, and is therefore a less attractive target. But it is also more difficult for a virus to penetrate Linux and cause damage. Also helpful is that the source code of Linux is public and maintained by a huge group of developers. An error will therefore also be noticed and rectified much sooner. And we haven't even talked about privacy yet. Microsoft is known to collect a lot of information about its users, which is a rarity in Linux.