Five good reasons to switch to Linux

Jack Wallen
Apr 24, 2009
Updated • Dec 28, 2012

One of the most oft-asked questions I get is "Why should I switch to Linux?" It comes to me either via inbox or sound waves attacking my aural system every day. This has been going on for over ten years now I've heard the question from different locations on the globe, in different languages, from all ages, and in some odd locales. What is interesting about this question is that the answers, over the years, haven't really changed that much. The order of importance has altered somewhat, but the answers have all pretty much remained the same.

So I thought I would bring these answer to the outstanding readers here at gHacks to inspire conversation on the topic. Without further adieu, let's answer that age-old question. I am going to apply the order to today's landscape, which of course includes the state of the world's economy (That'd be a hint at number 1).

1. Cost. This is one of the most hotly debated issues surrounding the debate between Windows and Linux. Which is cheaper? One of the reasons this particular point is so hotly debated is because a simple acronym: TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Why this gets in the way is because it makes developing actual, real numbers rather fuzzy. This fuzziness occurs because of the assumption that all involved in the migration would have to be paid to be educated. In my opinion this is an issue fettered to past releases of the operating system that didn't enjoy nearly the user-friendliness that today's Linux enjoys. This issue could also easily apply to migrations from, say Windows XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7. Both are technologies unfamiliar to the users. But the metaphors are the same. The user will still recognize the task bar, start menu, right and left mouse click, notification area, drop down menus, keyboard shortcuts...the basic things an end user needs to know to work. Making a comparison between modern Windows and modern Linux and you see these fundamental issues are pretty much the same.

2. Reliability. This ties in perfectly with the number one. The reliability of an operating system is directly proportional to the over all cost of said operating system. How? The more reliable your system, the less work will be spent keeping it running. The more reliable your system the more productive your users will be. And Linux has been proven, time and again, to be one of the most reliable operating systems available. A study was done by IBM to test the reliabilty of the Linux operating system in an enterprise envrionment. The results were very telling. Read the full results on the IBM Linux Reliability test page.

3. Security. I have said this so many times before. I have been using Linux for over ten years now and not once have I experienced a virus, a worm, a root kit, a piece of malware, or a hacker. Not once. I have also deployed countless Apache servers, mail servers, file servers, etc. and have yet to have issue. I have, on the other hand, had to deal with many, many Windows users who have suffered from malware, viruses, trojans, worms, etc. I have reformatted, re-installed, and trouble shooted (shot?) so many instances of an infected or hacked Windows machines I have lost count.

4. Freedom. From the beginning Linux has been about freedom. This freedom is all about the user and the freedom from software that offers no opportunity for the user to change the way the software behaves. Recently the Linux Foundation held a contest for a "We're Linux" video. The winning entry elegantly explains what software freedom is all about. See the video here. Freedom is one of the main reasons why I use Linux. When a piece of software doesn't behave in exactly the manner I want it to behave I change it. Open source allows me to do that. Try altering the behavior of a piece of Windows software (outside of the preferences window). The old Microsoft question "Where do you want to go today?" With Linux that question would be "Where do you want to go, how do you want to get there, do you want the scenic route, do you want a specific map for your trip (or do you want to wing it), and do you prefer first class or coach?"

5. Choice. Let's face it, with Linux you have more choice than you do with any other operating system. You can choose your kernel, your distribution, your desktop, your window manager, your package manager...the list goes on and on. You can mix and match and even run Windows applications if you want. The way I always explain the difference between the metaphor of Linux vs. Windows is that with Windows you are given a floor and a ceiling to keep you from going too high or? too low. With Linux you are given four walls (all of which can be moved or removed), no floor, and no ceiling so you can go as high or as low as you want.

And there you have it. The five top reasons you should considering switching to the Linux operating system. Do you have reasons, other that the above, for switching to Linux? Do you have reasons for not switching to Linux? Let us know.


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  1. buzzaldrin said on December 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I live in a country where even a government use “free” windows let alone everybody else so free is not an issue here. The reason why I switched to linux (and keep xp just for games and some old apps I have mastered) is viruses and malware. People from my place call me often to fix their malware-ridden PCs which I do for free but as time goes and there are so many of them I began to install linux on their machines as a standalone (for those who use it just for internet, movies, music and to write a letter or two) and as dual boot for gamers and people with legacy apps. I must say I didn’t encounter too much problems with driver recognition and such. Once when it works I have no problems anymore with them. For a “real noob” (as in my uncle) there is really no difference between win and lin. What matters is to get easy to facebook and skype or internet banking and not having the damn viruses.

  2. scribbler said on October 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Windows is still a viable solution for many people. Gamers, professional photographers, game developers, bureaucrats. But it’s not the universal solution for everyone.

    Case in point:

    Having a computer in the house is a must these days, but to run the latest software, one must have the latest version of Windows, and to run the latest version of Windows, one has to have the latest hardware, and to have the latest hardware, one must have a considerable disposable income.

    What attracted me to Linux in the first place was that it doesn’t matter what system I own (and I own everything from a 172MB RAM 1Ghz single core Intel Celeron processor deskstop to a dual-core 1GB RAM nVidia enabled laptop) I can find a distro that will run it, and with a bit of tweaking, do everything that a modern computer needs to do with software and hardware that’s still supported. Linux has given new life to computers that anyone else would simply trash and replace. The solution seems simple: just upgrade, but not everyone can afford that. Times are tough and jobs are scarce. Because of that, Linux has been a real blessing for us.

    After using it for a while, I discovered that for what I use computers for (web surfing, writing, a few indie games, cartooning, music production, etc.) Linux served me better than Windows. I don’t play too many games, I don’t need Photoshop, I actually PREFERRED pre-2000 Microsoft Works and Word, and everything I needed to do was either insanely easy under the GUI or needed a simple one-time fix. I grew up with MS-DOS, so the terminal didn’t scare me away.

    Linux is often cited as being a useless pile of trash in comparison to Windows and MacOS, but Linux is only an instrument, just like anything else, and in capable hands, it can make just as beautiful music as anything else.

    Different systems for different needs. It’s not so difficult to understand.

  3. Marcus said on April 19, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Yes I realize that no one has commented on this article in ages, but one thing I’d like to add about Linux is that it is so refreshing b/c it just leaves you alone- with Windows there are constant dialog boxes popping up asking you to do this or to do that or if you want to install updates, etc etc. With Linux there are none of those annoying pop ups and that is one of the things that is so refreshing!

    Also, it seems like when my computer is running Linux it is much quieter than when it used to run Windows. When running Windows it seemed as if my HD was constantly grinding away.

  4. Don said on May 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

    But the Linux system was created with an ideology behind. But some people “love” the system but do not like the ideology because they want to take the it, change it a little bit and sale it for a profit.

  5. dave said on March 20, 2010 at 3:23 am

    why does it always have to be presented as some sort of philosophy or ideology? what good is the perspective of some gushing fanboy, to say.. a person running a business? most of the reasons you present are fluff that do not apply to real people, living and operating in the real world.

    I love linux, but I’m not gonna sit around and pretend like it’s gonna save the world. Go eat a granola bar, hippy.

  6. Fab said on January 20, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Linux… in Ubuntu just does it for me. It’s a total relieve to have a choice then to live with the same crap year after year and paying and paying year after year for the same crap. I hope in the future more OSs come up and more dedicated so that they do not use so much of our PC like the Windows crap does. All mostly done with the intention of protecting their greedy economic self interest. I hope the open source community keeps moving ahead and make computers and communication what was originally meant to be; free and for everyone.

  7. Bret Moretti said on January 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Sorry for sounding like a noob but what is Windows?

    1. pinguinlover said on February 13, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      your definitly on the wrong website :/ windows is the most crappy piece of man made technology ever. just use linux. believe me. :)

  8. DaNang said on June 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

    [] There’s LINUX… but then there is UBUNTU
    I played around with alot of LINUX distros. Some were nightmares. I landed into UBUNTU 9.04 JAUNTY JACKELOPE recently and that did the trick.
    WINDOWS is now my second choice.
    [] UBUNTU 9.04 is a snap to install…
    [] UBUNTU 9.04 is a snap to back up (Clone) my entire Hard Drive using “ddrescue” while the laptop is actually running: from a terminal just type in:
    sudo ddrescue -v /dev/sda /dev/sdb
    [] Free sotware, “Hipo” for my IPod… so much more.
    [] Using Firefox is a snap, using all there Add-on’s who needs any extra WINDOWS extra software?
    [] NO Virus’ just run UBUNTU and life is a pleasure.
    [] I Waited for UBUNTU to come to prime time, and UBUNTU 9.04 Jaunty is the answer. I Bailed out on WINDOW$ this year when UBUNTU 9.04 was released, I use WINDOWS XP only for a backup.
    [] IF you played around with LINUX before, return back and USE UBUNTU 9.04 Jaunty. You’ll love it!!
    [] “Friends don’t let friends use WINDOW$”

    Enjoy… I am:
    UBUNTU 9.04 Jaunty Jackelope! Love it!!!!!

  9. dna said on May 22, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Don’t forget performance. I dual boot vista and Ubuntu (jaunty) and vista is already using over 1GB of RAM immediately after booting. Ubuntu is using a little over 300MB immediately after booting. Even after killing a bunch of unnecessary processes in vista (which I never wanted anyway) I can’t get vista close to what Ubuntu does.

  10. autumnlover said on April 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Some reasons not to switch:

    – reliable CD/DVD/BR recording software – I mean Nero, Infrarecorder or CDBurnerXP. No matter what mainboard/recorder I try to use with k3b it has problems with starting recording and/or verification. Same goes to Brasero.

    – speed! Try XP/Vista on Celeron 1700 with 1GB RAM and Nvidia 6200 video card. And then try one of current distros – Ubuntu, Mandriva, Fedora. KDE/GNOME/XFCE runs much slower on same hardware than XP and even Vista. “lightweight” environments? No thanks, I do not want to go back to Windows 3.0 level of functionality

    – games!

    – GNU/Linux is more stable than XP/Vista? Maybe before starting an X server :)

  11. RG said on April 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Very difficult to argue that user experience is better with Linux. 2 and 3 help but are nowhere near the benefits the average user sees in Windows. Not forgetting that answers are easier to find and actually carry out for Windows. For average users and below Linux is not even half of Windows is.

  12. Fabian said on April 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

    I have tried different Linux Distributions and I find them very ..very interesting. I have heard, however, that some hardware do not work properly with Linux. Any comments..Thank you!

  13. davethebald said on April 25, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Linux is simply more fun, although you have to like this idea of fun. It is not as user friendly if you don’t want to dig into it a little, but it is way more fun than M$.

    I use Ubuntu now, as my first step into Linux, but I already don’t like it, in the sense that it has too much stuff in it. I am looking into Gentoo, because I want a minimal system to do what I want and nothing more. We all know that the PC can do way more than we will ever need. Other than gaming and video, which I do not do, I don’t need all this power. I paid too much for a Dell XPS M1330 with Ubunto. Next time, I will get a little Netbook with a minimal system. But even though I spent too much on the hardware, I did not spend > 350$ for the software. Learning Ubuntu is a snap.

    Linux is the way to go because of the choices, but you have to love tinkering.

  14. Genisis said on April 25, 2009 at 5:01 am

    I like the new Linux distros…Im using Ubuntu and now playing around with LinuxMint. I think LinuxMint is a variant of the original Ubuntu, but, in any case I actually like the layout a little better than Ubuntu.
    I admit that I still dual boot with 2 XP pro boxes and dual boot with Vista on my laptop. The ONLY time I will boot to any of the MS OS’s anymore is if I want to waist a little time on a game. Thats it! I have no other use for Windows any longer….just for a little gaming. There is nothing that I cant do on a Linux box, that Windows can do OTHER THAN playing games from large game companies. I know that they make some games for Linux, but, when the day comes that you can play a games on Linux like you can on a Windows box….I will be a 100% Linux user…PERIOD!
    I look forward to the day that Linux will bring the giant of MS crashing to the ground. It will happen…..someday.

  15. drakshug said on April 25, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Dan TE :
    Errrr. Have you tried Linux in the past 10 years?
    KDE – so usable you can even make it look like the windows box or MAC you left, and with copy to, move to in the right click menus by default. You can have all the useful eye candy you want.
    Gnome – not my favourite but nice and minimalist but everything to hand. No cluttered desktop.
    XFCE, ICE, all the rest of the window managers, with their usability built in.
    Add in multiple desktops, Mac type task bars, widgets and gadgets, compiz…………….
    The average Linux user uses the CLI as much as they used the command line in xp or vista, ie as a last resort. It is Gui, d to the max.
    Add in repositories and you have it all.
    Dan, if you don’t want to load up a live disk then I suggest you watch some linux distro vids on You tube and you’ll realise that Linux is up their with Mac. Vista and Win 7 is playing catch up to Linux. Oh, by the way, Mac and Linux are Unix type OS. Mac isn’t a Linux variant. Get it right before you spout.

  16. Votre said on April 25, 2009 at 1:35 am

    You left out reason #6: It’s fun!

  17. DanTe said on April 25, 2009 at 1:08 am

    The main problem with Linux is the lack of a user friendly graphical interface. Windows and Mac OS (which is just merely another Linux variant) has better packaging.

    Now if the Linux crowd can convince some ergonomics expert to help them code without shouting out the experts with techie speak, Linux would have a shot at the title.

    1. maker said on April 24, 2010 at 12:55 am

      you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

      The comment about Mac OS being a Linux variant proves it. It isn’t. Mac OS is Unix based.

      As for the other comments about the lack of friendly graphical user interface. I…..ugh. It’s not worth it. You just don’t have a clue.

  18. mrogi said on April 25, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Vista Ultimate is the Lamb of God. All ya gotta do is disable UAC, Aero eye candy and the extra bloated services ya dont need. Linux is requires too much manual intervention for my taste. That sudo crap is annoying. I’m sick and tired going into Synaptic every five minutes to look for drivers & applications. And enough with the Samba config crap. Windows Explorer sees all the machines on my LAN and shares all the files automatically. And WMP 11 kicks the dogcrap out of all the Linux media players.

  19. Hollywood ParkRacing said on April 25, 2009 at 12:17 am

    The biggest issue I have with Linux is the drivers, after that is fixed, I will use linux in a dual boor system.

  20. Womble said on April 24, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    With Points 1 and 5 we agree.

    Reliability : This is simply a fallacy. XP never blue screens unless my hardware/drivers are bad or I try something that with hindsight is plain dumb. Windows is viewed as being less reliable because the average user has zero operating system level skills and it’s far easier to blame the OS than yourself.

    Security : Although I agree Linux is more secure unfortunately this boils down to the userbase and retarded dev’s who STILL don’t get the multi-user concept. Take UAC, although they would never admit it this is effectively MS’s answer to sudo, guess what the biggest complaint with Vista was? I never heard of a Linux user who complained about providing a pass to use synaptic, yet a Windows user will complain about being asked for a password to make system level changes.

    Freedom : For once I will associate myself with Joe User and say, Who cares?

    I would agree that in many ways Linux is streets ahead of Windows unfortunately I could drum up as many reasons why it still feels like Windows 95. Despite the wrinkles XP is still the best Home OS out there for me, the vista architecture sucks and Windows 7 is just Vista marketed properly.

    So there you go I don’t like Windows anymore, don’t like Linux enough either. On a positive note, the weather is now good enough so that I can now get out more and start enjoying the things in life that actually matter :D

  21. Brett said on April 24, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    While I use linux for fun, the main reason I can’t entirely switch is because I need Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as Mathcad and Matlab for school.

    OpenOffice isn’t nearly compatible enough for what I need for group projects, long reports, etc. and doesn’t have VBA support whic I use with Excel. Octave is fairly compatible with Matlab and actually saved me when my peronal copy of Matlab didn’t have the control system toolbox that I needed for homework (unfortunately I had to strip out all of my figure and graph formatting for GnuPlot to work). Then Mathcad is an example of software that is Windows only. I also have to use other CAD and modeling software at school on the computer lab computers (SolidEdge and Patran).

    In addition I enjoy using many portable apps and such that I can run on Windows computers allowing me to carry my software with me and use it within windows on public computers. If I do that with Linux, I have to boot Linux on a neighboring computer and share files through Dropbox or similar.

    The compatibility just isn’t there between Office 2003, Office 2007, Open Office, Gnumeric, Abiword and whatever other apps are out there. I have never been able to open up a decent sized file that I made in Windows and not find something wrong or incompatible in OpenOffice.

    I’m about to be out of school and working for the summer so I think I’ll be using Linux (as I am right now) until I want to play some games. Sadly I play Open Arena on Windows because it runs much smoother. My computer happens to have integrated graphics instead of Nvidia or ATI. If gaming and office compatibility become OS-independent, then Linux will be THE choice.

  22. hybrid-kernel said on April 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    @mrogi: such as? I can’t seem to remember a time when I needed some windows only software (except photoshop).

    1. Martin said on April 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm

      A good newsreader (-downloader) would be a start ;)

  23. mrogi said on April 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Best reason not to switch to Linux: 90% of home user software is written for Windows.

  24. thedude said on April 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    #5 is Spot On.

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