Linux is not Windows. It is not an upgrade path.

Windows 7

Microsoft Windows 7 had free support expire on January 14th, 2020. It is now considered an “End of Life” (EOL) product. Microsoft advises that it is now time to upgrade to Windows 10. If you use your PC for any banking, social media, you are putting your identity and data at great risk by not upgrading.

This article is advice for the average non-IT savvy person reading the recent spate of #CLICKBAIT tech articles (some by supposedly respected internet news and “tech” web sites) advising them to switch to Linux from Windows 7 as if it’s an easy, hassle-free thing to do with no real consequences. It’s not.

Even the best antivirus software can’t protect you if the Operating System (OS) is too old. This is why most IT managers already see a considerable drop in computer virus, malware and spyware incidents on Windows 10 vs the older Windows 7 units on their sites.

Many so-called “tech journalists” have been suggesting that Linux is a viable upgrade path from Microsoft Windows 7. Switching from any Microsoft Windows to Linux is absolutely not an “upgrade” mainly because Linux has no affiliation with Microsoft. It is, at best, a “cross-grade” and not a very logical one either.

They paint an overly simplistic view of what an Operating System does, how it works and focus almost exclusively on how Linux can “look like Windows 7” as if “what it looks like” has some magical bearing on backward-compatibility, familiarity and ability to run Windows applications.

As if these articles aren’t giving enough bad advice, realize the sort of community you may be joining, from a generally unbiased, polite corporate support team to a toxic army of “Microsoft and Mac” hating / bashing “Cult of Linux” masochistic, tinfoil-hat, conspiracy-theory, elitist fan boys spreading further misinformation and ignorant advice.

I’ve experienced the consequences of people switching to Linux without understanding what they’re getting themselves into. You get people destroying their Windows installations, calling their tech company wondering where their data has gone, why their Microsoft Office, their genealogy application, their games won’t install or in some cases why their computer suddenly won’t boot and is spewing up a random error because their hardware isn’t Linux compatible.

Linux has a place in the world. It has proved itself – especially with (some) servers, security, “Internet of Things” devices. I use it – daily.
I also use a MacBook, an iPhone, an iPad, a Galaxy Note Tab, a Samsung Note 9, a Windows notebook. I use (and support) pretty much anything. This WordPress website is hosted on a Linux server.

Linux’s place, however, is in my opinion, just not on your average PC users’ desktop. That ship sailed ages ago. Their own community destroyed and continue to destroy its adoption on a grand scale. Every other month, an old version (distribution) gets abandoned and a new version pops up with the founder / community / team thinking everyone else was wrong and they can do better. The definition of insanity seems to elude them. Linux on desktop is a solution searching for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Almost every “Linux cult guy” and “visionary” has their favourite distribution and will babble on about why the one you are using is inferior and based on their videos and blogs I’ve seen; if you’re not struggling, you’re probably not using the best version of Linux. Masochism appears to be a thing in the Linux community. Each distribution launched is inevitably touted as “the Linux to use” and “next best thing” and eventually gains a minor cult following that turn on the previous distribution that they were using.

The reality is that Linux is for above average PC users who don’t mind “getting under the hood”, struggling from time-to-time and fixing things that may occasionally go wrong on first attempt. They accept they are going to encounter issues which Mac and Windows users take for granted – like things working “out the box”. For a new user, adopting Linux almost certainly involves learning and switching to new alternative applications because the Windows/Mac versions simply aren’t available on Linux.

People that use a computer generally just want to get things done with their familiar applications with good support, with no hassles. Windows and Mac OS do this.

A myth that is perpetuated is that Linux and “open source is free”. It is not. Yes, there are a lot of good free products, but “free” doesn’t guarantee they will stick around. Usually, like Windows or Mac, the best Linux software and support comes with a price.

If we were to compare operating systems to motor-vehicle engines and software as their fuel (software being the applications we use such as Office, Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc), we’d have Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 as gasoline (petrol) powered with its good fueling infrastructure, tried and tested industry standards. It has massive, wide-spread support with many technical teams (mechanics) to help with any issues you may encounter. A multitude of manufacturers support it and it comes in many models with many third-party accessories. It generally “just works” both in the corporate, school and home environment and that’s why Windows dominates.

We’d have Mac OS as diesel. It works, is reliable, and of course, like diesel has some (allegedly) dirty and unethical industry practices such as (allegedly) using sweat shops in China to produce their hardware, their battle against “your right to repair”, sending cease and desist letters to third party repair companies and banning data recovery people on their forums, charging exorbitant prices for fixing simple things, etc.

They are not as dominant in the industry as gasoline vehicles. Still, they get the job done in certain niche fields such as among the yuppie crowd who enjoy paying more for the same basic looking vehicle with less features and naively believe it is better for no real good reason. As with diesel vehicles, they are also very reliable, but when they break, can be excessively expensive to repair. Good diesel mechanics and support are in short supply, but some third party repairers do a pretty good job of fixing what their manufacturer wants to charge you a lot more for.

Obviously, you can’t directly upgrade to a Mac OS either in my analogy as gasoline (petrol) cars don’t run on diesel, nor do your Windows apps automatically work on a Mac. As with Linux, it’s a different system, different engine. You will, however, unlike Linux, probably at least be able to buy new “Mac Versions” of some of your old Windows Applications. You will also have to buy a Mac as you can’t install Mac O/S (legally) on a Windows computer. Switching to a Mac from Windows involves buying a new computer, usually all-new software.

Then there is Linux. This is a tough one to slot into my engine/fuel analogy firstly because it is so different (although it is more similar to a Mac OS than Windows) as there are several hundred distributions (versions) of it. See this chart HERE for current distributions and their relationships and no, that chart is not a joke. It is ‘that’ chaotic. In the server world, there are versions that are darn reliable and keep the backbone of most of the internet working. They run silently in the background keeping things ticking along such as storing your web pages, routing your mail and posting your social media selfies.

The tried-and-tested Linux distributions are usually used for specific purposes and they work very well. In their native state, however, they look very little like the “Windows” looking Linux distributions being punted as “the next Operating System to upgrade to from Windows 7” and are usually stripped down to the bare minimum (to enhance reliability and security) with a command prompt – looking a lot like old MS-DOS text prompt (or UNIX for those that remember that) or a custom interface.

These distributions do share common ancestors and although things can look similar and do work in a similar way across distributions, sometimes a lot of things under the hood do not and these differences cause stability and compatibility issues .

Even the popular Android Operating system on many phones, tablets and the occasional PC is based on Linux although it is now quite a distant ancestor at this point and most Linux applications simply won’t work on it.

Some “distros” of Linux (as the cool kids call them) have merely been changed cosmetically. Some even look quite similar to Windows. However, we all know that a new paint job on your motor vehicle will not make a gasoline vehicle accept another type of fuel.

Some have been radically changed so that certain applications aka “programs” aka “apps” simply will not work across versions without extensive tinkering to make them work. If an app is not specifically written for your version of Linux desktop, it may be a bug-ridden mess or appear to work and then fail spectacularly when you need to use it most.

Even if it was specifically written for your “distro” of Linux, you may find that an application or software driver behaves erratically and features you may expect to have for your for “Linux Compatible” hardware such as scanners or printers that are there by default in Windows or Mac OS may simply be missing entirely from your Linux version.

Why? Because the market share for desktop Linux is only about 2% of all Desktop Operating systems and that 2% is spread among the hundreds of versions / “distros” of Linux and so the incentive for manufacturers of printers, scanners, etc. to invest development time is just not worth it except for basic functionality.

Also, contrary to the myth, much like that is still perpetuated with Mac OS, the Linux Operating System may seem reliable and you may not have to reboot / restart as often, but as mentioned, the actual applications still crash, so some Linux applications are still buggy, they freeze up, hang the system. Many Linux “distros” and “apps” are a work in progress, a labour of passion by their designer and intermittently reliable, that is to say “unreliable”.

As for comparison to a engine or fuel source, I would call it a multitude of experimental renewable energies, maybe compare them to an ethanol engine for most and hydrogen for some of the more specialized corporate-backed versions because they are so far apart.

The problem? You can’t put pure hydrogen or pure ethanol in a gasoline (Windows) powered vehicle. So, none of your gasoline ie. software is going to work on Linux – not without some drastic tinkering with the engine and experimenting and extensive modifying and even then, it won’t work as well as native Windows. You are also going to find the support infrastructure lacking and have to scour the “distro fan clubs sites” aka “Linux Communities”. Repairs will cost more. When it works, it’s great, but when it breaks, it’s a costly disaster. Finding solutions to problems can be harder.

So where does Windows 10 fit into my analogy? Well, the earlier versions of Windows could be compared to low octane fuels with Windows 10 being a high octane gasoline engine being leaner, faster, more efficient, more secure and it gets regular updates and maintenance (which are free).

In addition, Windows 10 probably be a Gasoline / Electric Hybrid. It’s a vehicle engine that will still accept most of your low octane fuel (older apps) – it won’t work at best performance the lower the octane of fuel (older the applications), but it’ll work in most cases and it has an eye on the future (electric) with cloud integration and other services and features being added FREE every 6 months.

If you already have an activated (your license is digital) legal version of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, Windows 10 is still FREE to upgrade right now. Most of your old applications, your computer hardware will work with Windows 10 unless you’re using about pre-2010 software.

If you want to upgrade, always do a full backup of your documents, pictures and anything on your desktop (as a minimum), but a full backup is recommended.

Windows 10 upgrades also have a lower chance of failure or issues if you do some preparation first such as uninstalling all antivirus software before upgrading. You can put them back afterwards. By default, Windows 10 has free Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware tools built in. However, I recommend that if you are the least bit unsure about any part of the upgrade process that you first consult a decent IT consultant / “techie”.

You may have been told some myths about Windows 10 that are holding you back from upgrading and these can be dispelled by clicking HERE.

Start the process by downloading the Windows Update Tool here: CLICK HERE

If you still decide to follow someone else’s advice and install Linux over your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, please do the Windows 10 upgrade for FREE regardless before installing Linux and ensure your license is activated for Windows 10. You are probably going to erase your Windows installation and files anyway if you choose to install Linux, but by doing this step first, at least your Windows 10 license would have been activated with your PC hardware and if you find Linux to be a disaster, you easily reload Windows 10 again as the license was activated. It should remember that.

As to what Linux “distro” I suggest for a “first time” install (and to obviously troll the elitist Linux crowd) because it’s pretty much common sense, ensure that you install one of the better supported desktop distributions – this would usually be Ubuntu.

If you want to follow real common sense, however, upgrade to Windows 10.

Did I mention that it’s free?

Craven Coetzee is an ICT Consultant with over 25 years experience in the I.T. field, using computers since 1981, having a career as a database computer programmer for over a decade, later moving on to network/server support, consulting, security and owned/managed an IT Consulting Company for over 20 years.


“CLICK BAIT” articles
(some articles that acted as incentives for writing this long opinion piece)

Why and how to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint | ZDNet
The Easiest Way To Switch From Microsoft Windows to Linux
5 Reasons You Should Switch From Windows To Linux Right Now
Meet The Linux Desktop That Wants To Be An Ideal Upgrade For Windows 7 Users
How to Make the Switch From Windows to Linux
Why and how to switch from Windows 7 to Linux
Why Windows 7 Users Should Switch to Linux – OMG! Ubuntu!
Why you should replace Windows 7 with Linux
Windows 7 is dead — switch to the Ubuntu-based Linux Lite 4.8 NOW!
Campaign to get Windows 7 users to upgrade to Linux?