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Why choose Linux or Windows when you can have both?

Linux might not be able to replace Windows outright, but it can bring a lot to the table for your users if you pair the two OSes.

In The Brady Bunch Jan famously whined, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" when her more popular older sister stole attention away from her. In the enterprise desktop OS family, Linux shares Jan's plight, always overshadowed by something more popular.

But being part of the same family, Marcia and Jan were actually capable of working really well together ("It's a Sunshine Day" anyone?) and the same can be said for Windows and Linux. It's time to spread the love and shine a light on Linux. Linux distributions rarely have licensing fees, so you can have 100 -- or even 1,000 -- Linux instances. You never have to worry about upfront costs; you can run as many instances as you want.

If you have some hardware that the manufacturer no longer supports, you can turn to Linux. Many distros have drivers that support aging hardware. Another Linux perk is that some distributions can run as virtual containers on a desktop. If a user wants to run Linux as a host and Windows as a guest (or vice versa) he can.

Linux is not perfect though, particularly in terms of support. Only you can identify and fix your Linux problems. You can search online for ways to fix things and you'll probably find answers, but ultimately it's up to you to figure out what's wrong and make the changes. Alternatively, you could pay the creators of your Linux distro or a third-party consultant to make the fixes.

When it comes to running apps on Linux, they are almost all open source. But if an app isn't directly designed for your Linux distribution, it might not work correctly. And you could run into problems if you need a client app to hook your Linux distribution into your backend infrastructure -- apps such as Microsoft Outlook can only run in Windows.

Now that you know some of the pros and cons of Linux it's time to learn more about it, including what the advanced package tool (apt-get) is, how to install the OS, and whether you really need to choose Linux or Windows.

What are the two types of Linux files?

With Linux, installation file type determines the distribution and brand of Linux you are working with. The first file type is Debian or APT-based packages, which includes Zorin, Ubuntu and Xubuntu distributions among others. The second file type is Red Hat-based packages which include Fedora and CentOS. So what's the difference between the two? It comes down to the programs they include and how they compress software and metadata. Debian uses .deb and Red Hat uses .rpm.

Speaking of apt-based packages, what is the advanced package tool?

Released in 1998 so IT admins could retrieve and load apps in Debian systems, advanced apt-get is the application manager for Unix and Linux systems. It uses .deb files and is most useful in resolving software dependencies. You can even modify apt-get to manage Red Hat's Package Manager with apt-rpm.

In Debian or Ubuntu Linux deployments, apt-get is generally a command. The command form of apt-get is sudo apt-get install [package name]. The sudo line gives temporary admin privileges to apt-get.

How can you install Linux with Windows?

Dual-boot setup is your best choice if your users want to run Linux for some tasks and Windows for others. The key is to install Windows first; when users install Linux, the OS generally recognizes that Windows is already on the device too. At boot it will give them the option to choose how they want to launch their computer, either with Windows and Linux together, or with Linux on its own. If you want to run Linux desktops, then Ubuntu is probably your best option. But if you want to deliver the most Windows-like experience possible, then go with Zorin.

Another option for installing Linux is to run the OS in a virtual machine (VM), which is ideal when your users just need to run a few Linux apps. Once you have secured a VM -- with Oracle Virtual Box or VMware Player for example -- download a Linux ISO file to the VM and it will function like a Windows app.

What if I just want to give Linux a test drive?

Adding a new OS to your users' hard drives will take up disk space, which they sometimes can't spare. In that case, users can install and run Linux with a USB stick. This approach is perfect if users want to test out Linux to see how the OS works before committing to a complete download.

Before they do anything, users should complete this checklist:

  • Backup all the data on their hard drive. Installing Linux reformats their disk and alters the partitions.
  • Install a USB creator tool (such as Rufus) and the latest version of the Linux OS of their choice.
  • Make sure the USB stick they plan to use has at least one GB of data. And be sure it's empty, or at least that it doesn't have any important information on it. Running Linux deletes all the data on the stick.

With the basic setup out of the way your users can plug the USB into a port on their device. They should then open their USB creator and select their USB device. In the USB creator, users can adjust the File systems, cluster size, portioning scheme and more. Once they are satisfied with the settings, they should shutdown Windows and restart their device. When the device restarts, they should choose to reboot from the USB drive. A Linux desktop should come up shortly thereafter. If they want to download Linux to their hard drives, they can simply click the install icon on their desktops. Keep in mind, USB-based Linux runs more slowly than the OS normally would.

Although Linux could fill in for Microsoft's OS, because of its drawbacks, you're probably better off pairing Linux with Windows instead of using it to replace Windows altogether.

Next Steps

Explore alternative OSes and productivity suites

Linux vs. Windows servers

How to build Linux from scratch

Guide to open source alternatives

This was last published in October 2015

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Do you prefer Linux or Windows?
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I choose Windows because my clients use it. I have Desktop PC at home and an iPad and I use both. But really, the answer is: I prefer Web.
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I'd have to say WIndows for now as it's still seems to be more mainstream. I do have a secondary desktop running Linux as I like to play around with open source when I get a chance. As a bonus, it does not hurt to know what the other side has to offer. I may have a better, mor customizable solution than Windows can offer at a cheaper cost, if not free,  because of open source.
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Only excuse for Windows is Games and possibly some CAD or other highly specific packages that have never been ported.   Most organizations would do better... now... with Linux.   The problems I find with linux  mostly relate to sound integration in those games and other multi-media.    With linux I stick to the "long-term support" versions of the distributions.  LibreOffice is able to do all the tricks most of us need, and provides all the features that most of us ever use. 

Linux is absolutely preferred for servers.   Using windows as a server is beyond absurd.    Using Linux for a games platform is not a lot better.   Each has its strengths.   I don't see my windows partitions often, no time for playing... but it is desperately important for us, when speaking AS engineers, to remember that this is about what is best for the intended use.  

Not every problem is a nail, so we should not have just a hammer. 


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Prefer is broad. I like Windows, Mac and Linux for different purposes and in different ways. I like Linux because it has many different possibilities to configure and try different tools at zero cost in most cases. I appreciate windows solutions because they are pervasive and are in many ways easy to install and maintain, although their development environment can be frustrating and overblown at times. Mac and Linux share many similarities at the command line, so since I spend most of my time on a Mac, and interact with more Linux boxes in my day to day work than I do Windows, I guess preference goes to what I work with regularly. Overall, though, I want to be versatile in as many places as possible.
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I have been mainly a Windows user. I have seen a lot of nice features with the  Linux OS and have an old Windows desktop that has been converted to Linux. I don't get as much time to play with it as I'd like but I do like the open source aspect.
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