How to switch from Windows 10 to Linux

You can also use Linux alongside Windows 10 for a dual-boot setup

Windows 10 was certainly a huge leap forward when Microsoft unveiled it in 2015. At the time, users were getting increasingly frustrated with legacy Microsoft operating systems. Windows Vista, launched in 2006, was heavily criticised for its poor performance and hefty hardware requirements, while Windows 8 was dismissed for its oversimplification of user functions and mobile-focused UI.

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Windows 7 remained incredibly popular until its end of life in 2020, although many raised concerns about security, particularly around changes made to user account controls.

The user interface for Windows 10 was one of the biggest shifts Microsoft users had ever seen. It was close to a complete overhaul, bringing the platform in-line with other desktop and laptop operating systems (dare we say it - macOS and to some extent, Chrome OS). Simplified menus, new iconography, and a handful of features that really blasted the operating system into the 21st century made it a pleasure to use for the majority.

But, as is usually the case when a company launches such a significant overhaul, there were objectors. For starters, because it was such a change, a lot of applications and programs weren't supported from the outset.

For anyone that isn't happy with Windows 10, there are alternatives. While we don't recommend that users revert back to Windows 8, you do have the option of leaving the Windows platform entirely - perhaps it's time you gave Linux a go?

Select your Linux distribution

Unlike Windows or macOS, there's no one version of Linux. Rather it's packaged into a different 'distributions' commonly referred to as 'distros'.

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These come with their own user interfaces, features and overall experience derived from the underlying Linux code.

You can choose Linux Mint for an easy start, but the likes of Zorin OS, Ubuntu, and Fedora offer difference Linux experiences, some which are similar to Windows and others far removed from the look and feel of Microsoft's OS.

Backup Windows 

Before you commit fully to a Linux OS, you might want to back up your installation of Windows 10 - that way you can revert back to it if need be.

If your computer has multiple storage drives, then you can use the backup function in Windows 10 to create a backup in one of those. 

If not, you can create a back up ‘image’ of Windows 10 on a USB drive or, if you’re feeling retro, you can burn a backup to a CD. In Windows 10, this option sits in the ‘Backup’ settings menu, then under ‘Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7)' - you can use this tool to also restore files from, or revert back to, Windows 7 if you have an install disc or previous system image, but as Windows 7 is at end-of-life, we don’t recommend doing that.

Create a Linux boot 

Before you download your Linux distro of choice it’s worth noting that if you have a machine with Windows 10 preinstalled, you’ll need to boot to the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) menu - hold shift and click restart in WIndows 10 - which is found in the advanced options section of the boot menu. In here you’ll need to disable ‘Secure Boot’ and ‘Fast Boot’. 

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After that, or if you don’t have an operating system installed, you’ll want to download an image file of the Linux distro you want then create a bootable USB drive or disc; we suggest the former. 

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An easy way to do this is to use a third-party tool, such as Rufus, which will create a bootable USB drive for you. 

Installing Linux

Once you have the bootable USB drive you then want to ensure your computer will doot from the drive. You need to set this in the BIOS or boot menu.

When you next restart your computer it should present the option to boot from the USB drive (or install disc if you’re using that method). Select the boot option with the Linux distro and that should trigger the installation process.

From here things get a little skewed as different distros have different installation processes. But a distro like Linux Mint has a fairly straightforward installation process. And it’s here where you can decide where you’d like to install the operating system.

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If you have multiple storage drives or storage partitions, you can select to install the distro in one of those and keep the other space free for Windows 10, if you wish to have a dual boot setup on your PC. You can also create a partition in storage drives at the installation stage, but be aware that you’ll need to assess how much space you’ll want to allocate to Linux if you also have a Windows installation on the same drive.

Keep following the installation instructions and prompts and you’ll then have Linux setup and ready to go on your computer.

From there it’s a case of either familiarising yourself with the distro, or if you are more familiar with Linux you can get to customising the distro to your tastes and start installing apps.

And that’s it. There’s a lot more to Linux and its distros to really dig into and, once your familiar with the new setup, it's worth taking a look at our list of best Linux distros to really start customising your experience.

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