Do You Really Need Windows? The Benefits Of Switching To A Linux-Based OS

Written by Tomas Bydzovsky on Sat, Aug 22, 2015 4:00 PM

Most PCs are being sold with Windows pre-installed and so many people probably never even thought about such a question as 'Do you really need Windows?'. Here on GD where most of us are using PCs for heavy gaming or other demanding multimedia tasks, it probably doesn't make much sense to move away from something which works fine.

But let's face the truth, many people use their PCs and laptops for only basic tasks like browsing the internet, checking emails, playing music, watching videos, writing documents, viewing and editing photos... Maybe you'd be surprised to hear there are better operating systems for such purposes, less resource demanding, more secure, completely free... Yes, you're right if you guessed I'll be talking a little bit more about Linux-based operating systems.

(Linux veterans excuse me for writing Linux-based instead of Unix-based, but it's easier to understand for newcomers!)

At first, there are plenty of various Linux-based distributions (=distros). The best thing is each offers something slightly different and you can run them without installing anything - this is something completely unknown and incomprehensible for Windows users - basically you can download an installer ISO, and either burn it onto a DVD (CD sometimes) or make a bootable USB stick, and boot it up without installing anything - without modifying anything on your current disks and systems. Everything is running "live" from the source media and is loaded into RAM. Overall responsiveness may feel little laggy, especially with heavier Linux distros (most of which are still lighter than Windows), especially if run from ancient optical drive or very slow USB stick, but you can of course install them on your disk (I recommend separate HDD just to avoid any problems - if anything fails you can format it and start over again).

A crucial aspect about any OS is software compatibility and overall software offerings. Linux-based distros do NOT open .exe files at all, which on the one hand is an awesome sort of anti-virus protection, while on the other it means you cannot use all of the programs you already use on Windows. But no worries, there are alternatives to choose from and even some popular programs are offered for Linux-based OSes directly. And if that's not enough you can try WINE, which is a free software implementation of Windows inside Unix

Hardware compatibility is somewhat risky - usually any common device you have will work under most Linux-based distros. For common devices you don't need to search for any drivers because those are installed automatically, many of them are somewhat versatile, but shouldn't limit you on common usage. This is particularly great for older integrated audio cards, network interfaces and other legacy hardware where you may have unsolvable problems when trying to make them work in recent Windows versions (7 and newer, like Windows 10 especially). From my own experience, it's less likely you run into compatibility problems compared to Windows.

Which Linux-based distro to try then? Sly answer is that depends what you need. There are plenty of various distros available and if you really want the best, you need to check as many as possible to determine which suits you. Usually you seek for desired combination of core (affects available software install) and user interface (how the OS will look). To start somewhere, let me suggest a narrow list of my personal favourites:

Linux Mint (Cinnamon) - for Windows users, this one is easiest to understand thanks to a very synoptic user interface. If you ever heard the term "Ubuntu" then this distro is using its core, so you shouldn't have problems installing any programs designed for Ubuntu. Cinnamon's fairly stable so you really can't go wrong if you opt for this distro.

Ubuntu Studio - this one is probably the best distro to try if you want a fully-equipped operating system out of the box. Although it may look a little ugly, you can be sure it's because maximum performance is being piped to your tasks and not useless resource-heavy OS runtime applications. As written on its official site, Ubuntu Studio provides a full range of multimedia content creation applications for each of the workflows: audio, graphics, video, photography and publishing

Manjaro (KDE) - this is my personal favourite. Majaro's based on Arch Linux and NOT Ubuntu, which may be more confusing for beginners, but I really like the way you can "learn Linux" if you use Arch Linux. Its sleek design and customization options, together with a very wide range of supported hardware makes it the best choice for people who want to finetune the OS to suit their needs. Also since it's Arch-based, software is installed and managed slightly differently. 

Steam OS (Beta) - it's Debian-based distro, so far in Beta stage. SteamOS is targeted primarily at gaming, which means it has Steam and maybe some other libraries preinstalled. To be honest it doesn't look as aesthetically pleasing or powerful as any of those distros I mentioned above, but I felt it really deserves to be on the top 5 distros list. After all, we're on Game Debate and this may become gaming operating system no.1 within a few years

Lubuntu - again based on Ubuntu, so it's the same core and same software repositories. If you have a really ancient machine and only want to read emails, documents and browse the internet, then this is the distro worth trying. The minimum recommended requirements (which are sufficient for regular use) are: 1GHz cpu, 384MB RAM (with 512MB and more you don't need to worry about RAM usage at all), and up to 800MB disk space (depending on what you choose during install)

Once you get the desired OS you need to learn Linux (free) alternatives for Windows-based software you've been using up 'til now. Most internet browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi etc. are provided natively for Linux-based OSes, with the only exception that Chrome is named Chromium. To replace Microsoft Office you can use LibreOffice (which is available for Windows, Linux, OS X), and it's totally free. For photo and image editing you can use GIMP, which is very popular even among Windows users, and completely free again. A VLC version for Linux is available as well. For vector drawing you can use Inkscape, which is free again. For editing music you can use Audacity, available for Windows too and again for free. If you need hardcore digital audio workstation, Ardour is what you should definitely have, free of course. For 3D modelling and video effects, Blender is what you can use, free again. For converting videos probably best is HandBrake, again for free. For archives, both WinRAR and 7-zip are available, for free of course. FileZilla is what you can use as an FTP client. Steam is available as well, you don't need SteamOS to have the Steam client on Linux. If you want to run a home theatre PC, then probably the best software to manage that is Kodi Entertainment Center, formerly known as XBMC, or Plex, of course both free again.

So what's the problem? Well, DirectX, MSVC (Microsoft Visual C), NET Framework and other APIs and libraries are Microsoft's monopoly, with publicly non-available source codes. So any games and programs which require these are likely not possible to run in Linux-based OSes. Another issue may be graphics drivers. Although manufacturers are providing drivers, the source codes are often unavailable and so it's up to manufacturer's goodwill to provide good drivers. As I wrote earlier, there is WINE, but it doesn't guarantee you anything. The best solution is to get a Linux-friendly version. For example on Steam there's a growing section of SteamOS+Linux games, some of them being free, many of them being paid. Among the top games are DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2 (both free), but you can find also titles like Portal 2, The Witcher 2 and much more.

Are you using any Linux distro already? What do you think about Linux-based OSes? Are you considering a move from Windows? Do you think Linux-based OSes may ever rule gaming? Have you ran into any problems with Linux installation or other issues with Linux? Let us know what you think and don't hesitate to ask below if you need any help.

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13:32 Aug-27-2015

"Do You Really Need Windows?" on GAME-debate? really? i mean, game-debate all about games on Windows(maybe some not)....then why you here(on game-debate)? lol sorry for the bad english :P


sorry, don't take too seriously :)

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13:35 Aug-27-2015

yeah, i agree…Linux way better than windows in term of e.g performance… etc

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13:44 Aug-27-2015

game-debate, not PCgame-debate ;))

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22:18 Aug-23-2015

Alright tzzsmk you got me excited to install Linux distro again..I want to install on my laptop full fledge OS..So I am between Ubuntu, Xubuntu or GNOME..Linux Mint and lubuntu look pretty light and people say KDE is very bloated.What do you say?

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12:58 Aug-27-2015

I say you can't go wrong with Linux Mint then! :D

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15:10 Aug-23-2015

Does this steam Os supports all windows based cracked games? Or its like win 10 already?

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16:36 Aug-23-2015

I don't know how you made that deduction but no :P. It didn't support windows games in general. They need to be Linux/steamOS compatible. As for pirated versions of them I have no idea and I will refrain from talking about it. I would suggest you do the same ;)

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18:29 Aug-23-2015

Actually for all pirated games the crack is mainly created to bypass the steam authentication (most of the games) So in an OS created by Steam will any cracks like that work. Cuz this will be a direct violation to their products.

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21:40 Aug-23-2015

Dude.... Steam OS is Linux, pure and simple, the only thing that really makes it Steam OS is that Valve has integrated the Steam client and big picture mode as much as they could...... there is nothing they can do to control if you're running any cracked games or not....... and furthermore, I don't think they'd even try.

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13:02 Aug-27-2015

SteamOS is a linux distro, so Steam games for Linux will work there flawlessly,
Windows games can be run through WINE, where you basically define "windows conditions" - let's say WinXP or Win7 base, so it then affects compatibility :)
sadly many games work only with hacked executables, because certain protection services or even launchers do not work properly - I even remember I couldn't install Age of Empires III there because installation couldn't accept the key, so I copy-pasted whole game folder from another PC to play it :D
oh and please don't discuss piracy here on GD ;)

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13:09 Aug-23-2015

Maybe ReactOS is worth mentioning too. While not Linux at all, it might be able to partially replace Windows in the future.

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13:31 Aug-23-2015

it's still only in Alpha stage, so I wouldn't recommend it for daily use yet...

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13:36 Aug-23-2015

Based on my testing, it's not even Alpha, but pre-Alpha :)
But it has potential.

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13:59 Aug-23-2015

I think Linux + Wine > ReactOS, because: A) Wine seems to have better compatibility and B) You can use native Linux programs

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12:57 Aug-23-2015

Where is Xubuntu in the list? Faster and IMO better than Mint Cinnamon :)
Also, you can download a Chrome .deb from Google, but from the repos you indeed only have the Google-free Chromium.

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13:30 Aug-23-2015

Ubuntu Studio is using same GUI as Xubuntu, and Lubuntu is even lighter ;))

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17:24 Aug-23-2015

Hmm, however, UbuStu comes with a truckload of programs, whereas Xubuntu is made for the regular user. And I prefer Xfce over LXDE greatly. Plus UbuStu (14.04 at least) uses the default Xfce menu (which is more like Win9x), whereas Xubu uses the more Win7 like Whisker menu, and I think it just is more user-friendly than what ships with other distros (Lubu, UbuStu)

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10:42 Aug-23-2015

i thought this place was about gaming...
i doubt you'll be playing fallout 4 on linux

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10:57 Aug-23-2015

what if yes? xD

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09:41 Aug-23-2015

I'm using Ubuntu for learning purposes, but it doesn't stop me from playing some games like Terraria, Warcraft III, Diablo 2, etc on UNIX-based systems through WINE. Yes, it might be a pain in the arse to make them work, but still it's worth it, and makes learning Linux much interesting, in my opinion.

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09:53 Aug-23-2015

adventure awaits all

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09:04 Aug-23-2015

Which distro is good for gaming?And is this laptop spec good for gaming for several year(3-4 max year)
Intel i7-4720HQ(6MB L3 Cache,2.60GHz)
GTX960M 4GB
8GB RAM
500GB SSHD
The laptop price around $1000.

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09:14 Aug-23-2015

Lubuntu no question

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09:23 Aug-23-2015

Thanks.And about the laptop spec that i mention above?It is good for several year and in term of price,it is worth?

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09:32 Aug-23-2015

the cpu would be fine for a while with it's performance on the other hand the gpu should do fine but with medium settings or high in some 2011-2012 games other then that solid minimum specs on the sshd and ram

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09:38 Aug-23-2015

Thanks again.I dont need fancy graphic to play games.Just need a stable fps even on demanding games.

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10:15 Aug-23-2015

Lubuntu is one of lightest,
but my vote would go to Linux Mint..

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10:26 Aug-23-2015

Hehe.i have an exprience with linux so i know a little bit about terminal and so on.But dont know which distro is good for gaming.Anyway thx for the suggestion.xD

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08:49 Aug-23-2015

It's not better for people who want to perform basic tasks, if something is "basic", it wouldn't require 50 lines in the terminal but only two clicks, people who want " basic" are def. no veterans, I myself found it really hard to get accustomed to Ubuntu, and I've been a geek for more than half of my life.

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10:14 Aug-23-2015

in user-friendly distros, there is always some sort of software center (something like free steam library) where you just click which software to be downloaded and installed, simple as that :)

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04:30 Aug-23-2015

We don't need Windows because of what it has. We need Windows because of what microsoft doesn't let others have.


We need an international organization (EU, UN, WTO, etc) to forbid Windows monopoly and force them to open source things like DirectX, MSVC and NET. Or to forbid the use of those proprietary codes.

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04:37 Aug-23-2015

For professional purposes, it is essential a dual-boot with Windows + Linux (and optionaly a MacOS virtual machine).
As far as productivity goes, Linux is years ahead of Windows. Some of the features introduced in Windows 10 already existed in Linux for many years. And some of them are still not in Windows 10.

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05:07 Aug-23-2015

Couldn't have said it better myself....... I know I need windows to play most of the games I want to play.... but I don't want to need windows, and I don't think i should have to need windows...... Microsoft basically just has the industry by the throat and there seems little that we can do about it.

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10:13 Aug-23-2015

pure truth exactly.
on the other hand, Windows cannot jump forward because of backwards compatibility, that's also why Windows 10 is not a step forward from Windows Vista

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12:01 Aug-23-2015

So you're basically saying that software developers should not make money from their work and just give it all away for free. Good one. Same as supporting piracy here, really...
Imagine you were talking to Bill Gates - he'd call you all the different (bad) words for thinking that work and technologies should be given away to other companies!

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13:29 Aug-23-2015

it's all about compromise,
just take a look at Adobe, they're no.1 for some multimedia creation tools, they offer free trials and don't care that much about piracy because, guess what, they need to allow people learn it, so companies can they pay even more money for enterprise licenses when their employees use it daily

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14:46 Aug-23-2015

That's not the same thing at all; you said that MS should make DirectX and .NET, etc. open source. That makes no sense, those are their products that they created. Why would someone else be able to force them to give them away after they put in the work to make them work so well? A Linux-based developer could well do the same as MS in regards to creating their own software, but they haven't...

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19:10 Aug-23-2015

No, what he;s saying is that Microsoft has been allowed to completely monopolize the OS industry through their brilliant yet questionable business tactics...... they've been to court for this before, and apparently it needs to happen again..... at current state there is NOTHING that could fairly compete with Windows in any regard, and that's called a monopoly, and that's illegal.

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18:55 Aug-25-2015

I just see it as business without hand-holding. So Microsoft created something spectacular that works for us, secured many great deals to get their name and software out there, etc. and became the best. I don't see how any other company didn't have a chance at it. Of course they can do the same! But I don't see anyone bothering. Apple was bigger than MS at some point and then poof.
It's not a monopoly, but just shows how hard others fail.

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18:59 Aug-25-2015

Is hand-holding REALLY the answer? How is it fair to take DirectX from MS (who works to maintain and improve it) and give it to someone else saying 'here, little boy, now it's your turn to play with this...' ???
I beg to differ. If I created something so brilliant that made me a millionaire - I'd milk the sh#t out of it and then help others (A.K.A.: Bill Gates)

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04:10 Aug-23-2015

Linux distros are nice for basic browsing/email/text editing/youtube. I run Ubuntu on my laptop for that very purpose. Less stuff on OS-level hogging memory and general resources (than Windows) means a more responsive machine. And most Linux distros are infinitely customizable.


But ah, either way...tl;dr.

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17:26 Aug-23-2015

Ubuntu = resource hog IMO. Xubuntu and Lubuntu are a LOT snappier.

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03:13 Aug-23-2015

Linux is for poor people. ;)

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03:17 Aug-23-2015

oh but windows is alright?

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03:44 Aug-23-2015

Troll xP

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03:48 Aug-23-2015

all that troll did was come out from under the bridge

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08:10 Aug-23-2015

Bite me.

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10:11 Aug-23-2015

then more and more people are getting poor recently xD

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12:02 Aug-23-2015

That would be exactly the case...

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15:45 Aug-23-2015

yeah I guess so :D

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17:26 Aug-23-2015

Well, there has been an economic crisis for 7 years now...

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02:17 Aug-23-2015

If you're a Programmer i think Linux is a big help for you most Programming Language are in there and if not its easy to be installed if you know using terminals, i only use Windows for my GAMING but im not saying that windows is a bad Operating system its just that both have some advantages in some task for what to do.

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03:49 Aug-23-2015

Well it's definitely alot easier to get started programming in Linux "sudo apt get install codeblocks", "apt get install QT4", etc..... but most of the languages available for Linux are also available for windows..... you just have to scour the net for them.... and packaging your finished projects for distribution can be a bit of a pain, since you'll also need to pack all the required DLLs.

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10:10 Aug-23-2015

Linuxes are way to go for most file servers and web servers,
just look at Game-Debate and all the storage clouds, they all are running on Linux because it doesn't freeze so easily compared to Windows servers :P

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02:03 Aug-23-2015

Tl;dr.


Honestly didn't bother to read the article because I already know the answer and it's yes I absolutely need windows. Linux doesn't have support for most of the games I want to play and because I am an avid fan of PC gaming (I love Nintendo games too just so you know.) it would make absolutely no sense for me to use Linux, no questions asked.

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10:08 Aug-23-2015

let's hope you generate generous amount of money to Microsoft thanks to privacy data collection used for advertising purposes :)

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12:04 Aug-23-2015

Tazz, let's hope next time you think before patronizing people for their opinion?

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13:33 Aug-23-2015

let's hope I am wrong then :P

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19:03 Aug-25-2015

If you've got a mobile phone and/or an internet connection - both cellular and ISP know your EVERY move (radio tower location data can be used for or against you in court, for example and the ISP knows exactly where you go on the net), and if you download an app from the store (google play, etc) - your personal details go straight to the app developer. So I don't really think Win10 is any more invasive than what we use today. Like AT ALL...

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01:06 Aug-23-2015

I have a dual boot MAC OS-X Yosemite hackintosh ,windows for gaming and mac for other stuff Mac is also based on Unix so am good. Big ups Tzzsmk for the article.

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23:59 Aug-22-2015

Very nice article. I agree with you tazz. If not for gaming I am pretty sure I would be able to use a linux distro that could cover my needs. But since I already have windows anyway for gaming I see no reason to have a different main OS. I use some Linux versions for specific tasks or projects only and usually on virtual machines.

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23:32 Aug-22-2015

Quick note - NET did go open-source last year ;)

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23:36 Aug-22-2015

I see..... it's a step in the right direction.... now they need to quit hogging DirectX..... but I'm not sure that'll ever happen since it's the one thing that keeps gamers running Windows..... but if they did make DX Open source, they will have definitely earned my respect.

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01:44 Aug-23-2015

Microsoft could also bring back all of Open GL, but that might not happen, since that would make it very easy to run and make Open GL games on windows, which could kick Direct X out.

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07:34 Aug-23-2015

If Microsoft has to choose between your respect and indirect millions and billions of dollars....
No offense. :P

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12:05 Aug-23-2015

If you were a software/technology developer - would you also just give your work away for free? Let's not be stupid here or you might as well be supporting piracy too...

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10:06 Aug-23-2015

ah true, but I am not sure if it applies to previous versions or just the currently developed one...

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23:00 Aug-22-2015

Lubuntu>all windows

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22:36 Aug-22-2015

I've tried a number of different Linux Distros over the years, some even were recommended by you(Mint, Manjaro). I never really got a understanding of why Linux was better than Windows. It was weird to use the package mangers were a strange concept, and installing things from the terminal didn't make any sense. Also not being able to play all my games was a huge let down.
But about 3-4 months ago I took the jump and tried Arch Linux, with only my basic knowledge of Linux's way of doing things and the Arch Linux Wiki to help. It didn't take long to have my laptop up and running under Arch, with just what I wanted installed. Doing this I learnt and got a better understanding of what makes Linux so great. Having my OS run how I wanted, with only the software I need/want makes for...

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22:36 Aug-22-2015

...one speedy OS.
Now with Arch on my Desktop, I find it very hard to switch to my Windows patition. I think as good as WINE is there will always be a place for Windows 7 on my rig, but Arch Linux has won me over as my preferred OS.
Which I should thank you for that tzzsmk, if I hadn't of tried Manjaro I probably wouldn't have looked into other Arch Linux Distros and eventually tried Arch, so Thanks :)

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22:41 Aug-22-2015

heh you're welcome :)
funny thing is how all people are so unpleasant about Linuxes, because they are used to Windows (which has the registry nonsense, spying and all that crap) and cannot pass the initial learning stage and often painful troubleshooting stage, but most people I know who went through that all are now happy to have an alternative OS to use, even if they use it 50/50 with Windows :)

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22:27 Aug-22-2015

I might consider the change to Steam OS, but for now I think I would not be able to step to another OS.

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22:37 Aug-22-2015

no need to hurry, Windows 7 End of extended support is on January 14, 2020 ;)))

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23:13 Aug-22-2015

What you could do is dedicate around 50GB or so to a Linux partition, play around with it a while, see if you like it, the more you find yourself using it, shrink your windows partition a bit more and add to the Linux partition.
What alot of people considering Linux don't know is you don't have to get rid of Windows, the Linux tool Gparted can split your windows partition ;)

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23:23 Aug-22-2015

Thats sounds viable but not for me since I only have a 500GB HDD and got only about 100GB left..
One day tho...

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23:29 Aug-22-2015

Hmmmm, if you could free up a little space by uninstalling some old stuff you never use anymore, and maybe start out at 20Gb for Linux instead of 50, then it should give you enough room to work with to atleast give the OS a good try, I've been meaning to give Steam OS a try as well, being a gaming distro, it just really seems interesting to me.

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01:47 Aug-23-2015

You can run Linux off of the CD/USB drive, which means no install necessary.

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10:05 Aug-23-2015

I generally do not recommend splitting partitions and putting multiple systems on one disk,
if you remove Linux partitions then Windows will not boot, and you need to repair its bootloader, additional hassle imo

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Can They Run... |

Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
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Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
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Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
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100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Xeon E3-1230 GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 12GB
66.6667% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i3-10100E 4-Core 3.20GHz GeForce GTX 750 Ti Asus OC 2GB Edition 16GB
Ryzen 5 3500X 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB 16GB
| 30FPS, Ultra, 1440p
Ryzen 5 3500X 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1440p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Asus Dual OC 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| High, 1080p
Core i5-10400 6-Core 2.90GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Super 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]