A virus attack could be the ideal opportunity to get rid of Windows – and install Linux, which is considered to be safer. If you don’t want to do without Microsoft’s operating system, install Linux in parallel and use the OS alternately. Linux offers advantages, especially when it comes to security: There are only a few malware samples for the system, and their derivatives (distributions) are generally immune to Windows malware. You have plenty of choice, as Linux distributions number in the hundreds. Our overview presents the promising systems.
Like most Linuxes, these are free. There are paid Linux variants, but they are the exception. Another advantage of Linux is that there is no maintenance work: Windows requires defragmentation (for hard drives) and virus scans; for Linux there are (only a few) programs of both genres, mostly they are not needed.
Linux Distributions: Free Windows Alternatives
The best Linux systems
Approximately is recommended Linux Ubuntu: It is based on a contemporary Linux kernel and uses the Gnome interface. Gnome was also used in the past; A few years ago, Ubuntu’s main sponsor, Canonical, switched to its own development, Unity, only to abandon it later and then return to a current Gnome.
Operation is simple. Due to a large user base, you will find it easier than anywhere else to get help on forums if you have problems. While Windows uses Internet Explorer and since Windows 10 20H2 “Edge Chromium” as the browser, Ubuntu uses Firefox as the standard surfing client. Thunderbird serves as an e-mail program.
Download Ubuntu (64-bit).
Linux Mint has overtaken Ubuntu in terms of popularity. It is based on Ubuntu and, due to its user interface, is well suited for those switching to Windows – there is also a start menu here. You have the choice between different Mint variants, which differ in terms of their design and handling.
Download Linux Mint Cinnamon (64-bit).
Download Linux Mint MATE (64-bit).
Download Linux Mint Xfce
fedora is not the simplest Linux, but is characterized by the included open source software. It is suitable for users who already have Linux experience and do not like commercial programs.
Download Fedora Workstation Gnome
Design-conscious people speaks Linux Deepin on: It imitates the look of Apple’s macOS. Whether Apple will eventually take legal action and the distribution will then disappear is uncertain. Therefore, interested parties should hurry up.
Download Linux Deepin
Download Windowsfx WX Desktop
Ranking: The most popular Linux distributions
The Distrowatch website provides lists of the most popular Linux distributions. Use the drop-down menu to specify the period to which the evaluation should relate. It is interesting that Ubuntu is considered by many to be the best and most popular Linux, but this is not reflected in the ranking: The OS “only” comes in 6th place – based on data collection for the last six months. Here is the Distrowatch leaderboard for the past six months:
1.MX Linux 2. Endeavor OS 3.Mint 4. Manjaro 5. Pop!_OS 6.Ubuntu 7. Fedora 8. Debian 9. Garuda 10. Zorin
Anyone who uses an Android smartphone or tablet is probably (unknowingly) already using Linux: it forms the basis for Android. You can experience Linux in its pure form with the distributions compiled above. Important: Despite the security advantages over Windows, you do not get 100 percent protection: Virus attacks based on EXE files that threaten Windows fail, but exploits (pests) that target gaps in installed programs and plug-ins also thrive Linux systems their mischief. The non-working Windows programs brings the additional software Wine up and running – useful, but not without risk: EXE malware may work with it. Due to the recurring Linux/software security gaps, you should install the many updates, some of which appear more frequently than for Windows, manually or automatically.
In addition to numerous distribution components, the system’s own automatic system for updates even includes programs; Windows 8.1/10/11 only automatically import system and app updates (but not for classic desktop applications, but this is possible under Windows 11 via winget). You install programs using the appropriate applications in your distribution; they are comparable to app stores. Ubuntu masters another way for installations: It supports and has promoted the innovative Snap format. Installation packages for programs already bring all dependencies (files, libraries) with them – so you can put preferred applications into operation with few complications. Snaps are sometimes larger than classic DEB packages (compatible with the Ubuntu/Debian family).
The many Linux versions differ depending on the distribution family – sometimes significantly, sometimes in nuances. The surface style is defining: while Gnome is simple, KDE/Plasma is more complex and playful. XFCE revs up older PCs that lack performance; because the XFCE GUI (Graphical user Interface, graphical user interface) is functional in design and economical in terms of resources. Similar to KDE, the MATE desktop appeals to many users as a beautiful environment. Depending on the distribution, you select the preferred look during installation or afterwards. The overview above includes distributions that mimic the look and feel of Apple’s macOS – you typically get the system with higher-priced Apple hardware, so Linux offers a saving here.
Speaking of macOS: You can’t just install it on a desktop PC – and it costs money. Linux is free to run; if Linux causes costs, then usually in the company use for service support contracts (which you can do without as a private user). Linuxfx mimics Windows 11 and the OS is also available in an extended Pro version, which can be equipped with a few extra features by purchasing a license key; the serial key is not typical for Linux and can be entered in the settings app in the Windows manner.
Linux in live operation: Installation unnecessary
You can try out many Linux distributions at your leisure without installing them: After starting from CD/DVD (or stick), the system runs live. There is no installation required, Linux runs at reduced speed from the optical drive or via USB. USB operation, ideally from a USB 3 instead of 2 stick, is faster than live mode using an optical disc. To install, call up the installation wizard using the desktop icon. You then have the choice of deleting the content on your hard drive/SSD and reinstalling Linux – or performing a parallel installation (dual boot). In the latter case, when the PC starts, a boot manager (usually Grub in Linux) asks whether Windows or Linux should start up. Don’t worry, entry-level distributions such as Ubuntu lower the setup hurdle significantly, and the “only for professionals” reputation is only valid to a limited extent.
Accessibility starts with the installation: Similar to Windows 10/11, some installation routines take care of a lot of work for you and take care of an easy-to-manage partitioning. If your hardware isn’t all that new, there’s a good chance that the right drivers are available to ensure it’s up and running. Since Linux kernel 2.6, the speed of SSDs has remained consistently high thanks to the TRIM command. The practical thing is that some Windows restrictions do not apply to Linux: the Microsoft system prevents you from naming files and folders with special names such as “con”. Linux is not subject to Microsoft’s shackles and masters that. For such gimmicks and for data backups on a USB medium – if Windows has booting problems – Linux is already suitable in live mode. Meanwhile, distributions from major vendors also boot in UEFI mode without any problems and are not limited to only booting BIOS (or UEFI CSM) PCs.
Try Linux with Windows tools
Do you want to try several Linux systems and install them if you like them? Save yourself the trouble of writing each distribution individually to a blank disc using ImgBurn or the standard ISO burner that has been integrated since Windows 7. Better: Use a USB stick for testing and setup. Sufficient for simple purposes Rufus. The tool is mostly used to extract bootable Windows ISO files onto a stick. However, Rufus also accepts Linux ISOs and unpacks them bootable onto a memory stick. The tool supports BIOS and UEFI firmware.
Create (multi-boot) installation stick
Claim a stick for every interesting system? Unnecessary: YUMI packs several of them onto a USB medium. Of the Linux Live USB Creator does not master this, it is sufficient for experiments with only one possible (live) system.
Download LinuxLive USB Creator
If you don’t want to sacrifice storage media (temporarily), install Linux in a virtualizer like VirtualBox. The application runs operating systems in a Windows window. The real Windows and the second system, which is Linux in addition to the Microsoft OS, then share the PC resources. You don’t work perfectly smoothly like this, but it is acceptably fast for sporadic visits to unknown websites – where Trojans may be lurking. Depending on the performance requirements of the desired Linux distribution, 4 gigabytes of RAM should be the minimum for VirtualBox. If you have significantly more RAM installed, assign more virtual memory as a test.
Speaking of secure surfing: there used to be BitBox for this purpose, which was commissioned by the BSI (Babsolutely for Ssecurity in the Iinformation technology) was developed by Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity. BitBox is a virtualizer that comes with Linux Debian encapsulated and (depending on the BitBox version) allows surfing with Firefox or Google Chrome. Further development has come to a standstill, with R&S®Browser in the Box there is a successor. It is designed for companies and is paid for. An alternative: Use VirtualBox on Windows or (less convenient) boot a Linux live DVD. If you choose VirtualBox, you’ll be running Linux instead of Windows for maximum security. Speaking of security, there is a small scene of (updated) bootable Linux-based rescue CDs with virus scanners, with which you can examine a potentially infected Windows “from the outside” and, if necessary, usually clean it extremely effectively of malware.
Wine: Use Windows programs on Linux
If you want to run Windows programs under Linux, Wine is recommended; some Linux distributions include it from the factory. The program name is a recursive acronym: the letters are an abbreviation, where the first letter stands for same – written out: Wine Is Not on Emulator. The compatibility layer primarily brings older Windows programs to life. This works, for example, under Ubuntu with the card game “123 Free Solitaire”, even including game sounds. Note that Wine opens the door to some viruses: malware from the Windows world runs partly in the Compatibility Tool, so you’d better only run programs in it that you trust.
Linux feature for Windows and Windows feature for Linux