Many consider Linux to be the operating system of nerds. Yet Linux can be extremely user-friendly. It’s free, secure and sustainable anyway: It runs on computers that Windows has long since abandoned.
Linux. What was that again? Exactly: The operating system with the penguin as its symbolic animal. Linux rarely runs on private laptops. For a simple reason: “The normal PC user usually buys his computer with a pre-installed operating system like Windows and usually has no incentive to go to the trouble of installing Linux,” explains Keywan Tonekaboni from “c’t” magazine.
Four reasons that speak for Linux as a system
The emphasis is on mostly. Because there are four good reasons to get Linux on the laptop:
Reason 1: Freedom and flexibility
“Linux focuses on the freedom of the user,” says Matthias Wellendorf from the portal “Inside-digital.de”. In principle, anyone can reprogram or further develop the system according to their own ideas. “Free” also means free of charge. The operating system can be downloaded free of charge and installed on any number of computers,” says Wellendorf.
Thus, there are also work interfaces that differ only slightly from Windows in terms of appearance and operation. “Basically, Linux consists of a number of individual parts. The basis is the kernel, the core of the operating system, which is combined with other components such as the graphical user interface. This combination is then called a distribution,” Wellendorf explains.
The good: Linux distributions for everyone have been around for years. “Ubuntu, Mint and Manjaro are considered beginner-friendly distributions,” Wellendorf says. “They are easy to use, bring a broad hardware support and are characterized by a large software offering.” An overview of available Linux distributions is provided by the Distrowatch.com site.
The user-friendly Manjaro, for example, comes with an office package, mail program, browser, video player, image editing and much more. What is missing can be easily installed on Linux laptops. “There is a software solution for every problem,” Matthias Wellendorf is certain.
2nd reason: Security and data protection
One important security advantage of Linux is that an installed office package such as Libre Office is by no means as tightly integrated with the operating system as, say, Microsoft’s Office is with Windows, explains Keywan Tonekaboni. The notorious viruses in Office documents, for example, cannot harm Linux.
And Linux users are also well protected against other malware. “Because the number of users is low, there is practically no malware for Linux,” says Hubert Popiolek from “Computer Bild”. That’s why Linux users can do without antivirus software altogether. This saves computing power. Privacy is also better protected under Linux, says Popiolek. There is no data collection there.
What many people don’t know: Linux is not a regular on private laptops, but it is much more widespread in everyday life than one would expect. “The smartphone operating system Android, for example, is based on Linux, just as many Internet services run on Linux servers or smart home devices use Linux under the hood,” says Tonekaboni.
Reason 3: Test and run in parallel without risk.
Linux is easy to try out, and without making a single change to the computer. It works like this: On the project page of the desired distribution, such as Manjaro, download the operating system as a so-called image (ISO file). Then transfer this with the help of a so-called flash tool, such as Etcher, to a USB memory stick of at least four gigabytes (GB). Instructions can also be found on YouTube.
The computer can then be restarted from the USB stick under Linux in so-called live mode, Tonekaboni explains. The computer’s hard disk is not written to in live mode.
Those who like Linux can also install it as a permanent operating system from Live Mode – either as a replacement for Windows or in parallel with Windows. In the latter case, the computer will always ask whether you want to start Windows or Linux after booting. Attention: Before installing, be sure to back up your data.
4th reason: Linux runs well on older laptops
While Windows 11, for example, makes very high demands on the hardware, undemandingness is a major advantage of Linux. “Linux gives old computers a second spring, so to speak,” says Keywan Tonekaboni. Linux also supports components for a much longer time: “Older PCs or laptops that are on the fritz, hiccuping or lame under Windows can often still be used well under Linux.
In doubt is adapted downward: A Linux distribution can also be put together without performance-hungry parts, explains Matthias Wellendorf. For example, Ubuntu is 2.9 GB, while the light version Lubuntu is just 0.7 GB.
Linux gaming is a special case
“The situation for gamers has gotten much better in recent years,” Popiolek said. On the game platform Steam, for example, there are many titles for Linux, he said. And, “If a game doesn’t officially exist for Linux, there are quick software solutions for adapting it.”
Overall, however, Linux gaming still suffers a bit from the chicken-and-egg problem: “Developers shy away from the extra effort of adapting their games for Linux because there are so few Linux gamers,” Popiolek explains. “And there are so few Linux gamers because many games aren’t made for them.”