9 of the Best Linux Distros for Windows Users

A photograph of a laptop and a computer monitor on top of a white desk.

If you’re new to Linux or are switching to Linux from Windows, you’ll want an operating system that is GUI-focused like Windows. There are many different distros of Linux, and some aim to replicate the look and feel of Windows. This helps when you’re transitioning from Windows, since you don’t have to fight with an unfamiliar interface. In this roundup, we introduce you to the best Linux distros for Windows users looking to switch to Linux.

Tip: If you’re a gamer, consider a distro that supports Steam, like SteamOS or Chimera OS.

1. Best Overall Distro: Kubuntu

Kubuntu is the same OS as Ubuntu but with a KDE Plasma. This is a desktop environment that offers a more traditional experience compared to other Linux distros, much closer to what you know from Windows. Further, Kubuntu also ships with its own suite of tools such as a file manager, text editor, and even apps that can manage your computer’s hardware.

A screenshot of the default Kubuntu desktop.

Other than that, you can also extend Kubuntu using desktop extensions and “desklets” similar to Windows 7. For instance, you can install a desktop clock widget to track time as well as a “Rainmeter-like” system monitor that will keep you up to date with your system’s current load.

2. Best for New Linux Users: Linux Mint

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu but differs in that its developers haven’t included – and have even undone – some of Canonical’s choices. For starters, you can choose between three official flavors, each built around a different desktop environment: Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE.

A screenshot of the Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop.

Cinnamon is the distro’s flagship flavor and offers a modern desktop that’s built on classic “Windows-like” paradigms. Although it takes advantage of the GPU and presents effects (like transparency and shadows), it also doesn’t detour from what most desktop users would expect. It’s familiar, slick, and is also very user-friendly.

MATE offers a more traditional “Linux desktop” experience compared to Cinnamon. Right out of the box, it comes with a simpler window manager, compositor, and even window decoration and panels. This gives it a “Windows XP” look while also conserving system resources.

Meanwhile, XFCE is a “performance-optimized” flavor of Linux Mint. While also a complete desktop, it doesn’t provide as much bells and whistles compared to Cinnamon and MATE. This makes it especially great for running Linux on slower computers.

3. Best Debian-based Distro: MX Linux

MX Linux is a powerful Debian-based distro that is both responsive and relatively secure. It works by taking advantage of Debian Stable packages and the XFCE desktop to provide a complete desktop experience while extracting the most out of your computer.

A screenshot of the default MX Linux desktop.

Aside from that, the developers of MX Linux also included a number of “eye-candy” features that make it stand out against other Debian-based systems. For instance, the default install includes Conky which allows you to create “applets” similar to Rainmeter in Windows.

4. Best Ubuntu-based Distro: Zorin OS

If you love Windows 10 and 11, Zorin OS is an Ubuntu-based distro that can replicate that Windows experience for you. It not only features a desktop interface that looks and feels familiar, but it’s also beautiful and easy to use.

By default, Zorin OS offers both a “Mac-like” GNOME 3 desktop along with a more traditional Windows 10 and 11 layout. This gives you a lot of flexibility with regard to how you want your desktop to look.

A screenshot of the default Zorin OS desktop.

Zorin OS has also been built from scratch to provide a seamless experience for Windows users. To achieve that, the distro uses Wine as a compatibility layer that allows you to install Windows apps natively on Linux.

Lastly, the developers of Zorin OS also provide a wealth of easy-to-understand documentation for doing basic administration tasks in the system. This makes the distro incredibly easy to maintain and repair when it breaks down.

Good to know: learn the tools that you can use to create your own Linux distro.

5. Best for Ease of Use: Elementary OS

elementary OS is a minimalist Linux distro for Windows users. In fact, both macOS and Windows 11 users will find this one familiar and easier to use compared to other systems. Multi-tasking views, a “do not disturb” feature, and a picture-in-picture mode make it a productivity lover’s dream come true.

A screenshot of the default Elementary OS desktop.

As its core, elementary OS is an Ubuntu-based system with a custom Pantheon desktop that can mimic either a macOS or Windows 11. With regard to software, it comes with its own email client, web browser, as well as a file and media manager.

That said, elementary OS also ships with an app store that contains both free and premium content. This, coupled with Ubuntu’s extensive repository, allows elementary to fill in any of the missing programs for your bespoke workflow.

6. Best for Compatibility: Qubes OS

Qubes OS is a powerful privacy-oriented Linux distro that provides a “reasonably secure” operating system for day-to-day computing. It works by taking advantage of kernel-level hypervisors to create isolated virtual machines inside your computer.

Unlike a traditional distro, Qubes OS supports Windows programs by providing an isolated virtual machine for it. Not only does this give you excellent software compatibility, this also ensures that any vulnerability with either Windows or your program will not compromise your entire system. This makes Qubes OS an attractive option for privacy-conscious users who also want the ability to run Windows-only programs under Linux.

A screenshot of the default Qubes OS desktop.

Knowing that, this “compartmentalized” approach isn’t for everyone. One of the biggest downsides of Qubes OS is that it requires a modern CPU with virtualization support as well as a minimum of 6 GB of RAM. As such, Qubes can’t be an option if you’re planning on installing Linux on an older computer.

Tip: learn how to publish privately on the internet by hosting your own Tor website.

7. Best Unique Distro: Solus

Solus is a unique and innovative Linux distro that aims to provide a system that’s purpose-built for personal computers. Unlike other distros, it features the beautiful Budgie desktop that’s intuitive for both new Linux users and Windows veterans.

A screenshot of the default Solus desktop.

Another key selling point of Solus compared to other Linux distros is its “curated rolling release” model. This allows the developers of Solus to deliver an up-to-date version of their system while still retaining control on the stability of their packages.

Having said that, Solus also ships with a host of preinstalled apps, including Mozilla Firefox, the Nautilus File Manager, and GNOME MPV for controlling media playback. Solus is also highly customizable, with every tweak designed to deliver a cohesive computing experience.

8. Best for Older Computers: Linux Lite

For Windows users who are tired of new distros that never seem to be compatible with older PCs, Linux Lite is the answer. It requires very few resources to run, making it perfect for older hardware.

A screenshot of the default Linux Lite desktop.

Based on Debian, Linux Lite features the XFCE desktop, which should make Windows 7 users feel instantly at home thanks to a familiar layout and start menu interface. The intuitive design also makes it easier for new Linux users to dive right in. Plus, you probably won’t need to upgrade your PC just to keep using new versions of the distro as they’re released like you might have to do with Windows.

FYI: learn some of the best lightweight Linux distros that you can install today.

9. Best for Power Users: Fedora

Fedora is a powerful and highly capable Linux distro that serves as the bleeding edge upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It comes with the latest features on the Linux kernel as well as support for the newest hardware. This makes Fedora a great option for Windows users who want to extract the most out of their modern machine.

A screenshot of the default Fedora desktop.

One of the key features of Fedora is that it comes with Flatpak by default. This ensures that you’ll be able to quickly install most of the popular apps available in Windows such as Spotify, Discord, and Slack.

Other than that, Fedora is also a good pick if you’re looking to understand the internals of a Linux distro. Similar to Zorin OS, Fedora comes with a large repository of documentation that teaches you how to manage and maintain your system.

Exploring the diverse world of Linux distros is just the first step in getting into this wonderful operating system. Learn how Linux can protect your files from malicious actors by creating hidden filesystems using Shufflecake.

Image credit: Kari Shea via Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons. All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Red.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox

Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *