Please recommend your top 3 Linux distros for Windows users

With the Windows 11 limitations on hardware I need fallback suggestions. This won’t be that big of an issue for me but it’s for my wife.
I’ll test out on Virtualbox.
I checked online and am installing Pop_OS and Zorin. But I thought I’d check with this brain trust.

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I don’t think you can wrong with Ubuntu or Fedora. Ubuntu strikes me as blandly mainstream. Fedora is a rolling release, so it gets new features more often, but therefore is rarely feature stable. Kind of how the Windows Insiders were always trying out the newest Windows features (and bugs.) It does mean you have to be willing to keep learning new things. Red Hat uses Fedora as a means of testing out new ideas that will eventually roll into their paid RHEL.

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In many ways, Linux distributions are like churches: there are dozens of them, and they’re all pretty similar. There are two major groupings in the desktop, Debian-based and Red Hat-based.

All of my experience is in the Debian family. I’ve been a Ubuntu user for over 10 years, and have dabbled in some of the other Ubuntu derivatives such as Linux Mint and Lubuntu.

My suggestion is therefore Ubuntu. If you don’t like the look of Ubuntu, Linux Mint is a good choice.

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Ubuntu as made one
Chorme OS an low in one
Puppy Arcade Linux for MAME boxes.

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This is an interesting question since it feels difficult to answer on the distro level. I am inferring from your question that you are seeking an alternative not for the super-geeky but rather the used-to-Windows and now considering-to-change.

Thus, choosing a distribution might not be as important (too many unseen things changing) as choosing a suitable desktop manager.

That said, many big distributions come with Gnome. Gnome can be a handful to get used to if you are coming from Windows. KDE is much more akin to Windows. And some people get all warm and fuzzy Windows 2000 vibes from XFCE.

Since you can get most distros with most desktop managers, I’d say: choice of distro should be up to what works best on your hardware but choice of DM (often times called “flavour”) might be best if it is KDE or XFCE.

That said, I really liked the hardware-compatibility of Pop_OS! and I am pretty much blown away by Manjaro’s ability to include even bleeding edge hardware more or less out of the box.

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Oh thanks for this. Very interesting about the desktop managers, I think you’re right this is the kind of thing that would make it familiar to her.

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I agree, it is more the skinning, which is often independent of the distribution, in many cases - each has their own look, but the real Windows (or Mac) looks are additional packages.

I use KDE with the Big Sur dark theme, for a dark, macOS like look.

I’ve always been a big fan of SUSE. I am currently using openSUSE Tumbleweed. For more standard installations, I use Debian, Ubuntu will be a more friendly variant of that. I also liked Manjaro, after trying it when @Leo mentioned it, but it wouldn’t install on my system - I tried it in a VM, where it was fine, but the image wouldn’t boot directly on my hardware.

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I use mint, its easy to use…

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I’ll pretty much echo what everyone else already said, Ubuntu just because I’ve found it easiest to search errors and “how-to’s” for. On top of that I’ll add Elemental OS. It’s super simple and well-maintained, and based largely on Ubuntu components.

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I wouldn’t use that criterion. All Linux distros should be relatively familiar. You can apply any Desktop Environment to any distro - and some DEs are more Windows like.

In other words, the DE is separate from the Distro.

I think Gnome is probably your best DE choice. I strongly disagree with the KDE recommendation. KDE is very customizable, which some Windows users like, but its look and feel, as a result, are totally inconsistent. It’s best left for your next install, when you’re more comfortable with Linux itself.

The important thing to know about distros is that there are three major kinds:

Stable - Debian (or its derivatives Ubuntu, Mint, and PopOS)
These are the most mainstream. Solid, if unexciting, choices. I’m not a Mint fan, however, even though that’s often a first choice of newbies. It’s less a distro than a showcase for the Mint DE: Cinnamon. PopOS is the best of this bunch. Stable releases mean you won’t always have the latest Firefox, etc., but you’re less likely to run into issues.

Rolling Release - Arch and its derivative Manjaro
My preference because all installed software is kept up-to-date, but that can occasionally cause problems. Best for more experienced users, although the Arch wiki is widely considered the best documentation in the universe. The Manjaro installer is superb and now offers the btrfs file system and timeshift snapshots, a superior system recovery feature. Manjaro also softens the blow of rolling releases by holding updates for a week or two to make sure they don’t break anything. Manjaro comes in almost any DE you want, but choose Gnome.

Corporate - Fedora/CentOS, etc.
Good for servers and people dressed in suits. This is a branch some love, but I generally stay away from.

SUSE - popular with Germans. But I can’t see any other reason to try it. :grin:

TL;DR I think Pop_OS would be a really good choice for you. It’s installer works on almost all PCs. Cosmic - its flavor of Gnome - is very straight forward and will seem very familiar to Windows refugees. Its stable releases require less futzing. Definitely the best first Linux.

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I do like Linux Lite a lot. Ubuntu-based and very much focused on the ex-Windows user, I’ve found it stable across a number of different laptops of varying ages and particularly like the Welcome screen that by default comes up every startup, offering one-click options to check for updates and create a restore point. It’s pretty good for people who wouldn’t know how to edit a config file.

The forums have seemed quite welcoming when I have been checking for info, not something I could say for every distro. I’d always suggest looking at it as a possibility for someone with no Linux experience.
https://www.linuxliteos.com/

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Gnome has a very distinct design philosophy. Many consider this useful. But it takes getting used to. There are three key differences to pick up:

  • Gnome hinges for UI performance on multiple desktops and keyboard shortcuts. If your user came from Windows, he or she will not be used to it and be missing the task bar.
  • Gnome does not approve of icons or files on the desktop without tweaks. If your user came from Windows, he or she will be missing their icons.
  • Gnome does not have a start button but a dash. Users will miss their start button.

KDE and XFCE, stock, come with a much closer experience to Windows. Sure, KDE is more configurable out of the box, but a novice user will not be exploring that anyways.

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lots of good stuff above, my take is that whichever is chosen will not be the last one used. hard to get it right the first time! but again great info above.

I for one only use cmd line linux so stick with redhat as it helps me with my job

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for new users, i would say linuxmint. its out of the box the most complete one, it even comes with unity style login greeter, which works perfectly to the display where the mouse cursor is.

no distro is perfect, they all have their ups and downs, like many said before once you understand the ease of the terminal any upgrade and tweak is possible,

going linux is like releasing the straight jacket of your pc.

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I would go with a stable Ubuntu release, fewer issues, yet good support if you have problems. Keep it simple, change is the enemy of stability. You can update Ubuntu once a quarter and be pretty safe.
Ask your partner which she likes the look of - as far as DE’'s go - picking the vanilla Ubuntu DE that comes with your flavor will make your life easier too.
If you need to support it remotely, make sure you test it out before offering it as an option.
Cheers…

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