If you’ve been familiar with computers over the last 30 years, you’ve likely heard of Linux. Maybe you’ve seen the iconic Linux logo, Tux the penguin, when downloading software. In fact, a lot of people have probably used Linux without even knowing it as phones running Android are based off Linux. Linux refers to a large group of open-source operating systems that are based on the Linux kernel which was originally released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Over 30 years later, the Linux kernel has evolved and there are now hundreds of different variations of Linux known as Linux distributions. Each distribution is essentially its own operating system that includes different graphical user interfaces, file management systems, and features. Typically, these distributions are free and open-source, meaning that anyone with technical prowess can modify or customize all aspects of the distribution to their individual liking. This is the opposite of Microsoft Windows or macOS which are closed-source and do not allow any tinkering with their source code. Linux distributions are mostly created and maintained by community-run tech groups, individual developers, or small indie companies.
In the past, the level of entry to Linux has been fairly high as you were required to understand a great deal about computers to use the operating system. However, in the last decade, there have been many incredible advances in the world of Linux that have made it accessible to a wider variety of individuals that are less tech savvy. While the stereotype of Linux being for hackers or tech nerds may have been true 20–30 years ago… today, most Linux distributions are very easy to use and feature highly polished graphical interfaces, app stores, and easy installation! All you really need to install Linux on your computer is a 4 GB+ USB stick. There are also countless YouTube videos taking you step-by-step through the installation process, which only takes about 5 minutes. In this article, we will discuss 5 reasons why you SHOULD switch your computer operating system to Linux.
1. Your Computer is Slow!
The first reason why you should switch to Linux is that your computer is running terribly slow… So slow that you can barely use it any longer! One of the greatest benefits of Linux is that it is able to resurrect old computers. Linux operating systems aren’t infused with any magic, but they are usually much smaller and use far fewer computer resources than traditional operating systems like Windows and macOS.
A clean installation of Windows 10 uses roughly 15–20 GB of storage. Whereas Pop!_OS (a Linux distribution) only requires roughly 2 GB of storage. If your computer has very little storage space after installing Windows, or if you can’t update Windows because it requires too much space, Linux could be a great option for you! Linux works particularly well on old laptops that have very little storage. I had an old laptop from 10+ years ago that couldn’t even update Windows because there was not enough storage space. I installed Elementary OS (a Linux distribution) on this laptop and now it works great for light tasks like web-browsing, writing documents and spreadsheets, and playing media. Resurrecting an old laptop with Linux is also an affordable option for parents that are looking for a computer for their kids to complete virtual schooling during the pandemic! If storage space isn’t a problem, Linux is also great on old laptops that are running slowly with Windows. Windows 10 generally has a lot of background tasks running constantly that can eat up the resources of an older laptop or computer. Most Linux distributions do not have nearly as many tasks running in the background which allows the computer to run faster and likely have a longer battery life!
2. You Want to Customize!
One of the greatest benefits of Linux is that it’s completely customizable! If you’re someone that loves to tinker or mess around with customization options then Linux could be a great fit for you! If you’re very tech savvy and experienced with coding you can change almost every single aspect of your Linux experience… graphical interface, windows manager, package manager, file system, themes, docks, you name it, and you can change it in Linux. If you’re not into altering or compiling code, there are still a huge amount of customization features available to you in most Linux distributions. For example, in the Linux distribution Manjaro KDE, just through the settings menus, you can change the entire graphical theme of your computer (which includes the taskbar, windows control buttons like minimize/maximize, application icons, etc…). You can also add various widgets to your desktop and manipulate the behaviour your operating system. Some people, me included, get a bit overwhelmed by too many customization options. If this is the case for you, there are other Linux distributions like Elementary OS that provide their users with a curated, polished graphical user interface that only allows you to change themes, switch to dark/light mode, and other smaller customization options. Linux allows the user to design their computer interface however THEY want. Compared to Windows, where you can only really change your background and outline colours, Linux is another level with its customization… if you want it, Linux can usually do it.
3. You Value Privacy!
In our digital world today with Facebook, Microsoft, and other big tech companies selling user data, more and more people are becoming privacy-conscious and looking to distance themselves from big tech for more private alternatives. Most of the popular Linux distributions are very privacy-conscious and are largely developed by community funded projects and like-minded groups of individuals, not big tech companies looking to profit. They don’t steal your data, force you to submit diagnostic information, or secretly send information back to the creators like Microsoft does with Windows. Almost all aspects of Linux are open-source which means that tech sleuths would be able to determine if certain developers or companies were injecting malicious code into the operating system to spy on users. If you value your privacy and want to stop supporting big tech companies that sell your data, Linux is perfect for you!
Along with the privacy, Linux is very secure! There is no need to pay for antivirus software on Linux since there is almost no possibility of getting a virus. Because almost all Linux apps are open-source, it is very unlikely (almost impossible) to get a virus. This is because tech savvy individuals will notice any malicious changes made to the open-source code and fix it. It’s also highly unlikely you’ll get a virus on Linux because virus-creators or hackers don’t make viruses for Linux… they make them for Windows because it has the highest market share of users. Approximately 70% of all computers and tablets in the world use Windows, whereas only 1.8% use Linux. It would not be efficient for hackers to create viruses for Linux just to target such a small percentage.
4. It’s FREE!
Almost all of Linux is free and open-source! You do not need to pay an activation fee or buy a subscription to use Linux. Even the apps are almost all free! A great part of Linux is that some distributions give you the option of paying for apps or supporting the development of a distribution. If you want to use an app, you can download it for free. Later on, if you find yourself enjoying the app and want to support the creators, you have the option of paying them whatever you believe the app to be worth. It’s a great feature of some distributions like Elementary OS because it allows users to test out applications before supporting financially. Free and open-source Linux operating systems are a clear choice compared to Microsoft who charges $140 for Windows 10 Home and $200 for Windows 10 Pro.
5. There Are Many Alternative Applications!
One major concern people have about switching to Linux from Windows or Mac is that they won’t be able to use their essential applications. It’s true… you cannot use Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or other proprietary software on Linux. However, don’t let this discourage you from switching to Linux as there are plenty of free and open-source alternative applications for all your essential needs. Libre Office is one example. Libre Office Suite is a complete replacement of Microsoft Office Suite that has all the same features, for FREE! Microsoft Office 365 costs roughly $70 per year, whereas Libre Office costs… nothing! With Libre Office you get an open-source version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. It might take some getting used to, but all the same functionality of Microsoft Office is available for free on Linux. Another example of alternative applications is GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP. GIMP is a free and open-source replacement for Adobe Photoshop. Again, there might be a beginner’s learning curve when switching to GIMP, but the program has all the same features as Photoshop, available for free! With the hundreds of free and open-source apps available on Linux, you’ll likely be able to find a replacement for almost all your Windows or macOS software!
Those are my 5 reasons why I think you should switch to Linux! In my opinion, Linux has something for everyone. There are hundreds of different Linux distributions so I’d recommend jumping in and trying out the ones that catch your eye! You’ll hopefully find something that you really like. If not, you can always learn to change your Linux system to your liking or even go back to Windows or macOS. Why not give Linux a try!
If you’re still not sure if Linux is right for you, check out my article 5 Reasons Why You Should NOT Switch to Linux!