Tired of Windows? It’s time to give Linux a try.
It’s been two years since I’ve written about how Linux is now a viable operating system for PC gaming and during that time a lot has changed. The open source desktop operating system isn’t just for gaming. It’s also ideal for a bunch of other computing tasks that one usually does in Windows or even macOS. After using Windows for over two decades, I can’t stand it anymore.
Windows XP was the glory days of Microsoft’s operating system. I wouldn’t be able to guess the number of hours spent in IRC apps and games like Unreal Tournament 99/2004 with friends. Then came Windows Vista and it was a hot mess with the hardware nowhere near ready to run such a package. Windows 7 was a game-changer and unfortunately was followed by Windows 8.
Windows 10 wasn’t terrible and has remained my go-to operating system for gaming, but that has changed over the past couple of years with advancements in Valve’s Proton compatibility layer. I can now pretty much do everything on Linux with Windows and this has forced Microsoft’s operating system to step back in 2021 on my main PC.
There is so much freedom
One of the most attractive aspects of Linux is the choice. Even up to the distro (or distro) you prefer to use, be it Ubuntu, Arch or Manjaro. There is a distro for everyone and even after choosing one it is possible to customize it at will. Don’t like the new snap package manager in Ubuntu? Go ahead and remove it completely with a few Terminal commands.
Using Linux on a daily basis with the latest distributions is a joy.
It’s also incredibly user-friendly. You can install a distro like Linux Mint that attempts to replicate the look of Windows and help bridge the gap between the two platforms. Once up and running (which takes around 5 minutes), you’re good to go. There’s no pop-up asking the operating system to send data to the servers, and you won’t have to accept targeted advertising either.
Using Linux on a daily basis with the latest distributions is a joy. Everything just works out of the box. Some distributions may even come with the latest drives from NVIDIA already included, but it’s just as easy to install them on other distributions. Some software suites are not supported on Linux, but there are many alternatives and they are usually free.
Want to use Microsoft Office? There is Libre Office ready to use. Fan of Adobe Photoshop? GIMP is your new best friend. The most popular apps like Slack, Discord, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Thunderbird, Steam, VLC player, Plex, etc. are all available for Linux. Some distributions even have an app store that can handle installing and updating each app.
Valve’s proton is literal software magic
Proton is Valve’s answer to getting more people to use Linux for games. It’s a compatibility layer that works with other open source tools to make Windows games work on Linux. I noted in my previous Linux gaming post that gaming performance was generally lower than Windows, but more and more PC titles are not.
Even when using Proton, you can often find performance comparable to what you would find with a Microsoft powered PC. The best part is that the whole process of downloading, installing and playing Windows games on Linux is as easy as Microsoft’s operating system. Proton works with WINE and DXVK, among others, and everything is handled by the Steam client.
ProtonDB is a website that tracks the performance of games using Proton on Linux. The list of supported games that perform at least well enough to play is constantly growing with each update. Even the likes of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord perform exceptionally well, aside from a minor stutter here and there.
Online games that use anti-cheat software haven’t played with Proton, but Valve has worked with the developers to add support for their toolset. Now you can install and enjoy games that use tools like BattleEye and not need to run a Windows install to play a game every now and then.
Microsoft still doesn’t know how to approach PC gaming. After what happened with Windows Live and the still poor Microsoft Store, it’s on Steam and other distribution platforms that players are flocking. Linux will only get better with each release released by the community, and distribution managers are working hard to improve the user experience to get more people to make the switch.
Gaming is no longer one of those reasons to choose Windows over Linux, unless it’s a specific game that just isn’t native or supported by tools like Proton. .
Windows 11 has become a living nightmare
I’m a fan of what Microsoft ultimately brought to the desktop with Windows 11. Our resident Windows expert, Zac Bowden, gave the operating system a positive rating in his incredible in-depth review and I agree with most of what has been written. Where Windows 11 falls flat for me, however, is with the installation process. It’s absolute mess.
I have a few testbeds set up for various PC components that we’re looking at here on Windows Central, and installing new copies of Windows for the 12th Gen Intel launch was problematic from the start. The installer would refuse to load or fail to see the drives. In fact, one installation required connecting a 2.5 inch SATA SSD to the card for Windows 11 to successfully boot from the M.2 NVMe drive.
Interestingly, I’ve never had a problem with the latest security measures that require Trusted Platform Modules (or TPMs) since most motherboards and processors released in recent years support it immediately. . Rather, it was Windows that had problems with SSDs, sometimes even outright refusing to install Windows on specific drives.
For fun, I installed Linux Mint on all machines and didn’t see any issues. Not one. This is a billion dollar company that faces the average Joe and loses in my anecdotal experiences.
But Windows is not completely out of my life. I still use it regularly to stay on top of all the latest news and because we continue to compare products using the OS. For my primary PC, Windows isn’t even installed on a secondary drive anymore.