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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.

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