Casual Linux for Windows User

Published on July 20, 2022 at 8:17 pm by LEW


In this post I am going to attempt to talk about switching to Linux for the Casual Windows User.

The desire to write this post came about from a couple of questions I revived from actual supporters, and a review of a large number of “How to switch to Linux” articles, videos, and presentations.

There is a mixture of information out there. Some of it very good to know, some of it of questionable value. Unfortunately the type and amount of information can lead to confusion, and in many cases can be contradictory.

So in this, yet another article on switching, I am going to take the tack of the casual computer user, and not argue why anyone should or should not switch. Instead I am assuming that decision has been made. My intent is to focus on the actual process of switching for the average user.

But before jumping in I should define my casual target user. This does not include hardcore gamers (as much has gaming has improved on Linux it still has a ways to go), nor doe this include professionals who have a hard coded need for application that only really run in the Windows ecosystem. The casual user should not really care what software they use to get a job done, as long as it works.


Backups of your important data are the best way to prepare. If you do not do backups, it is a good habit to get into. This does not have to be some complicated process. However depending on how much data you have, it can take some time.

When I initially switched to Linux, I did my backup by plugging in an external hard drive and dragging everything I wanted to save to it. Ended up letting it run overnight, but I had a copy of everything.

What you should backup is your personal data; pictures, videos, music, documents, etc. Operating system files and program files are easily replaced by reinstalling them.

Testing the Application Waters

A lot of application that run on Linux have Windows counterparts. If you are planning on making the switch, download the Windows versions of some common Linux application and test drive them against what you normally use. Some examples/suggestions for the casual user follow.

I am deliberately avoiding some cross platform apps that most causal users will probably not use like Blender or PuTTY.

Test Driving Desktops

This is the point where most authors start talking about distributions. I am of the view that for the casual user, other than installs, the desktop is far more important than the distribution being used. Lets be real, you the casual user do not really care about the differences between System V and SystemD. You just want the desktop to work.

To test drive Linux, you can use a live distro, so we cannot be getting away from distributions altogether. However your focus should be on the desktop that is used, as that is how you interact with the system.

Windows uses a specific desktop metaphor. Start button in lower left corner, task bar at the bottom, system tray to the right, etc. But you use Windows, so you know what the Windows desktop looks like.

Unlike Windows, Linux has a lot of different desktop metaphors. Some of them completely different from what you are used to in Windows. Some of them quite similar.

You may also run across Windows Managers. I am not going to draw a distinction between Windows managers and Desktops, other than to say most Window managers are lighter and have less features than a desktop. They are something you can look at, if you want, once you are more experienced.

There are two major Linux Desktops, KDE and Gnome. The Gnome desktop metaphor is significantly different than Windows (more like android). KDE on the other hand uses a similar metaphor to Windows. There are a lot more choices out there, but I would suggest starting with a live distro that sports a KDE desktop for an initial trial run (MX Linux or Kubuntu for example). If desired, you can move on to the Gnome distros like Ubuntu.

Two things you want to do. First, check that all your hardware is working under the live distro. Second make sure you are comfortable with the desktop environment.

Most live distros should also have a selection of applications software to test out also.


In this post I have covered some general high level stuff about preparing to switch to Linux. It is important for anyone considering this move to do there do diligence, back up their data, and test drive some of the available options before proceeding.

In a future post I will talk about actually doing the switch, hopefully in some fairy simplistic terms that the casual user can understand.

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