Linux is free to install

Linux version feels like Windows: Everything about the free operating system

Linux is still regarded by many as a platform for nerds. It has become much more user-friendly over the years - and has long been a real alternative to Windows.

The operating system with the penguin as its mascot is, thanks to lean and resource-saving distributions, even - or especially - suitable for older systems. But not all Linux is created equal, and beginners have to get used to it first.

Try it for free

There is a whole jungle of different Linux systems, the so-called distributions. The art is to find the right one for your own use. One of the biggest advantages of Linux is the price: the distributions are usually free for private users. Trying it out only takes time.

Liane Manuela Dubowy from the specialist magazine "c't" recommends Ubuntu, OpenSuse or Linux Mint for beginners. All of them are easy to install and come with a decent basic set of programs. The user interfaces of the three distributions are also logically structured, easy to use and also to adapt. Those who are familiar with older Windows versions will find their way around there quickly. If you are looking for an even stronger Windows orientation, you should try the Ubuntu variant Xubuntu, which does not place any great hardware requirements on the system.

Linux Mint looks like Windows

It gets even more stylish with Linux Mint, which is based on the latest Windows versions with its Cinnamon interface. Those who come from the Mac should try Elementary OS to get started with the Linux world. The aesthetics and function of the user interface is strongly oriented towards MacOS. In return, it looks a bit sparse with the preinstalled software.

Many Linux distributions are also available as a so-called live system. This means that they can be started directly from a DVD or a USB stick and then used without installation. This offers many advantages for beginners: You can first test the respective distribution and determine whether the system suits you and harmonizes with your own hardware.

Free alternatives

Linux users not only save on the operating system: the programs also usually cost nothing for private users. Most Ubuntu distributions, for example, come pre-installed with LibreOffice, an open source competitor to Microsoft's Office.

If you cannot find a Linux equivalent for a certain Windows program, you have to take the detour via auxiliary programs in order to be able to continue using the Windows software under Linux. Wine is such a software. "You can check the Wine app database to see how well the software is supported," explains Dubowy. "Crossover, the commercial version of Wine, has focused in particular on improving support for popular Windows software such as Microsoft Office and Quicken."

Two operating systems in parallel

If you want to use Linux, but still often need Windows, you can also install both operating systems side by side on one computer - and then always select which system you want to start when booting up. Detailed instructions are easy to find on the Internet, but only more advanced users should attempt a parallel installation. In any case, a data backup is advisable beforehand.

Another Linux plus point is security. "Linux distributions are usually open source and checked by a global community," says Matteo Cagnazzo from the Institute for Internet Security in Gelsenkirchen. "There are also more restrictions on user accounts." But Linux systems are not invulnerable either. Cagnazzo recommends encrypting the system during installation to prevent misuse. And as always and everywhere, updates also have to be installed immediately with Linux. Most malware is written for Windows, but there are also Linux viruses.

Linux users are never alone with questions and problems. There are numerous groups on the internet where experiences are exchanged and assistance is given. This includes "Linuxforen.de", where beginners can find support in almost every area. Each Linux distribution also has its own help and discussion forums. Contact points for Ubuntu are about "Ubuntuusers.de" and "Askubuntu.com".