Thinking About Ditching Windows?

Category: Windows

For millions of people running Windows 10, a decision is looming. When Windows 11 was announced, Microsoft made it clear that it would support only certain “newish” computers that have the latest hardware security features. That means the majority of Windows 10 users will soon face a choice: buy a new computer, switch to another operating system, or both. Here are some of the options to consider...

Alternatives to Windows

Microsoft isn't backing down from requirements that a PC must have UEFI, Secure Boot, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0, and an approved CPU in order to run Windows 11. You don't need to understand what all those things mean. The Windows 11 PC Health Check App will tell you if your computer meets the minimum system requirements upgrade to Windows 11. If your PC is more than two years old, there's a good chance it won't. If not, you have until October 2025 to decide if you'll buy a new computer, or try an alternate operating system.

Even if you've got the right specs, for most people, moving to Windows 11 will mean learning something new, and possibly updates to both hardware and software. One may as well consider other operating systems if there's going to be a learning curve anyway. Your options include Linux, Mac OS X, Android, Chrome OS, and others. Here are several alternatives to running Windows on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

You may have known no other personal computer operating system besides Windows, if you are a typical consumer/home user. But other alternatives are becoming well-established in consumer computing devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. People are becoming accustomed to the ways of non-Windows operating systems, and with ease-of-use of alternatives may come the realization that something is actually better than Windows. Or that it just doesn't matter.

Operating Systems: Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, Linux, Android

Of course, you can always cling to your current version of Windows as long as possible. Microsoft support for Windows 10 will end completely in October 2025; that means no security or vulnerability patches will be provided after that date.

If mobility is the future of your computing, then your alternatives to Windows are Apple iOS and Google Android. The iPhone and the iPad are Apple’s very popular smartphone and tablet offerings. They run the iOS operating system, which is noted for simplicity, but not so much for flexibility. Android smartphones and tablets are available from a myriad of vendors in all sorts of configurations. Some of the most popular now are the Samsung S20/S21 series, and Google's Pixel lineup.

Because Android was designed to be open, flexible, and modifiable, it is typically molded or "skinned" to suit the whims (and business goals) of the vendor or wireless carrier that offers the device. For example, the look and feel of the Android OS running on the Lenovo Yoga tablet is rather different from that of the Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone. But under the hood, 99% of the code is the same.

"And in This Corner…"

In the compromise range between mobility and comfort lie laptops and Google's Chromebook. The Apple Macbook line runs Mac OS X, the older brother of the mobile iOS mentioned earlier. Macbooks get high marks for quality and usability, but command a higher price than similarly equipped laptops that run Windows.

Chromebooks running Google's ChromeOS are designed to be web-centric. They have minimal hard drive storage, relying on the cloud for both apps and file storage. And they're very inexpensive. Check out this Acer Chromebook 311 Chromebook for $149. You can also install ChromeOS on desktop or laptop currently running Windows. See How to Install Chrome OS on PC.

Windows still reigns supreme on desktop PCs, excluding Apple machines used primarily by graphic-intensive professionals. And then there are all sorts of Intel-based desktop computer systems running versions of the free Linux operating system, such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Fedora. You can bypass the corporate hegemonies, and dive deep into the world of open-source software. You'll find more free software than you can ever use.

I installed Peppermint Linux on a 10-year-old Toshiba laptop that was struggling to run Windows 10. It runs the free Libre Office wordprocessor and spreadsheet very nicely. Peppermint comes with tons of free software - games, media player, calculator, and the Firefox web browser. I downloaded Chromium, an open-source version of Chrome, because it syncs with my Google account for bookmarks. The file manager gave me access to all the documents and photos on my Windows partition, which was another plus.

So don’t ever say you have no choice but Windows.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?

I didn't write this article to convince anyone to switch from Windows to Mac, iOS, Linux, Chrome or Android. I currently have an assemblage of desktop and laptop computers running Windows 10, ChromeOS and Linux. There are also some Apple products and a few Android gadgets in the family. I mention all this to underscore the point that you have choices. And I love the fact that competition fosters innovation.

But ironically, operating systems are starting to matter less, as web-based and cloud-based computing become the norm. Cloud services like Gmail, Outlook, Google Docs, and Office 365 run right inside your browser, and they don't care what OS you have.

The bottom line is this: the operating system doesn’t matter so much if all you do is standard computing stuff such as web surfing, email, office apps, video viewing, photo management, and so on. You're only stuck if your work or hobby requires a specific program that only runs under Windows.

Far more important these days is the computing device form factor that best fits your lifestyle. Sedentary or office-bound folks find desktop PCs comfortable, and it’s rarely necessary to move them. They'll choose between Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Power users on the move favor Windows or Mac laptops with plenty of storage space and horsepower. Mobile students, sales people, and others who have to move fast and frequently may opt for lighter, simpler Chromebooks.

And of course there are hundreds of millions carrying tablets and smartphones running Android or iOS. They may not even be aware that they have an operating system. And that's a good thing. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Thinking About Ditching Windows?"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Kathleen A Dombrowski
18 Jan 2022

Zorin is probably the best replacement for a Windows type experience replacement. It's been around since 2008.
For an experiment: I just installed Windows 11 Home on an old Asus X541S Laptop, w/workarounds (using Rufus) and it is running without any problems. It has gone through two patch Tuesdays without a glitch. I am anxious to see if Microsoft pulls the plug on updates in the near future as promised.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2022

Cloud based computing is all well and good. But millions of users are in places where power or the internet, or both, are still not reliable. So offline processing is still very important.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2022

Ron Mullard
18 Jan 2022
Bill Gates did not lie, he made a prediction, quite a different concept. BTW Bill Gates has nothing to do with Microsoft OS's for a few years now. So you'll want to take the issue you mentioned of "that being beaten into submission" with the current CEO, Satya Nadella.

I on the other hand am moving back to Apple soon

Posted by:

Steve Kohn
18 Jan 2022

October 2025? Almost four years from now? Too early to start worrying.

Win 11 may well go the way of Millenium Edition, Vista, and Win 8, ie, make a small splash and then gone from sight.

Posted by:

Sandy Jewell
19 Jan 2022

I think I'll wait until the death knock to make any decisions. A couple of friends have downloaded Windows 11 and said .... wait.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

I ditched windows after NT. No regrets. I only need windows now for Turbo Tax. So I download a free evaluation version and install on a virtual machine. Once taxes are completed, that virtual build is deleted.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

You really don't have to change operating systems. EVER. Win 10 machines will work beyond 2025. AMD, if Microsoft is not happy with consumer acceptance, should and would make it possible to enjoy Win 10. Remember this is a company that runs BETA systems on your dime. How about 8, 8.1, and some of the other crappy o/s Microsoft dumped on the users.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

Note Apple, Linux, ChromeOS and Android have even shorter support times than Windows, or in other words, a given OS version stops supporting older hardware faster than Microsoft does. That said, in Linux's case one can find *newer* OS versions that support the old hardware - something Microsoft, Apple and Google will never do. One can use old, unsupported versions at one's peril.

If you really want to upgrade to Windows 11, you can, on any hardware that runs Windows 10. Just Google "how to install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware." The process isn't hard or hackerish, either replace one install file or add a couple of (Microsoft-documented!) registry keys. I've done it with a clean install on a 10 year old Toshiba (maybe the same one as Bob's?) Microsoft says you might not get updates in the future, but for now it's getting updates just like anything else. It worked the way it's supposed to.

But ... BIG BUT ... the argument is why would you want to do that? The complaints we hear aren't about upgrading, it's about all the unnecessary *changes* Microsoft keeps doing rather than fixing all the problems in the first place. Why do they have to 'fix' over 100 problems *every* *month*?

Did they really have to put rounded corners on everything? Did they really have to change the Menu? And remove any way to customize it? And arbitrarily move the taskbar and also remove customizations? Forget that and just fix it!!

Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

I am writing this on an XP computer that is over 10 years old. I have MANY Win 10 machines but for a variety of reasons stick with XP. There are an increasing number of issues with browsers that do NOT support current HTML standards or codes. This is an issue of software and choices made by Firefox et al.
I have multiple backups and many computers, so if I am hacked I will just reformat, but that has never happened yet.
I have noticed a gradual slowdown of mu older Win 10 machines as the code gets even more bloated. Over time we need more powerful machines just to operate the OS and all its subsystems. Frankly, I wish there was real help available to switch to Linux, with its driver issues and command line obfuscation.
Thanks Bob for your repeated attempts to offer help in this difficult situation.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

Why do you think Microsoft has just made the biggest deal in IT history for the largest gaming company?

BECAUSE it knows it has not been truthful to us EVER about Update problems costing us idiot faithful followers a fortune.

It knows that the days its almost 90% monopoly are
nearly over and that the Windows name will not live forever which it once thought would be the case.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
19 Jan 2022

I started designing the build for my current desktop PC in mid-summer 2021. Once I organized a list of what I wanted to include, I ordered everything from Amazon after a horrific experience with another very popular seller. Everything I ordered form Amazon came together, in good condition, on the same day. I cannot say the same for the two items I ended up purchasing from the other seller. I got a case and my CPU from them. The CPU arrived about q week later than the estimated delivery date, and the case was damaged in transit, so I had to go through filing a claim and getting the case re-placed. After everything finally arrived, it took me the better part of two days to assemble my new PC and get everything installed. I started with Windows 10 (dual booting with KDE Neon GNU/Linux), then did the upgrade to Windows 11. I have since wiped everything in the Windows partition and re-installed Windows 10. My mouse was acting very flakey in Windows 11, but it works as expected in Windows 10 and KDE Neon GNU/Linux. After the fall 2022 update, I will probably try Windows 11 again. To tell the truth, I like the Windows 11 user experience, and it IS customizable, it simply is not as easy to find the required settings to make changes.

I also got a Lenovo Legion 5 gaming laptop about the same time I ordered the components for my desktop build. It runs Windows 11 without problems. I dual boot it with KDE Neon GNU/Linux too. I really like Neon. It is a very stable distribution (based on Ubuntu LTS) coupled with the latest KDE bits for the desktop UI.

I have a Dell laptop which will never be supported on Windows 11. It currently dual boots Windows 10 with Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE). LMDE is a sister distribution to Linux Mint. Linux Mint is forked from (based on) Ubuntu while LMDE is forked from (based on) Debian. I decided on using LMDE because it is based on Debian, and the Debian community has actively developed and supported their distribution for a very long time, so it is very unlikely that they will ever go away.

Let me explain. When I decided to try out Linux, I attempted to install several distributions. Very few of them would even boot up to anything resembling a desktop environment. Red Hat did not even boot, the same for Suse. I tried a few others, and finally got Mandrake Linux. It worked right out of the box! I was excited! They even provided guidance for getting, building, and installing device drivers for not yet supported hardware (my internet adapter, my sound card, etc.). It took some time, a lot of reading, and a ton of patience, but I got every device on my PC to work with Mandrake. I stuck with that distribution, through several changes, until they decided to stop supporting their community distribution (Mandriva) and fired their developers. A short while later, the Mandriva developers organized a new community and started developing a new distribution named Mageia (a fork off of Mandriva). I stuck with that distribution for several years, until they released Mageia 8. I just could not get it to install and boot on my then current desktop PC (it doesn't work on my new PC either). I looked around and found LMDE and KDE Neon. I like them both. LMDE makes my older Dell laptop run like a much newer PC, and KDE Neon is very easy to use on my newer hardware.

Both distributions work well on all three of my PCs. Their installation programs are very similar, and graphical, so installation is very easy. If you want to abandon Windows, you can choose an option to erase everything and use the entire hard drive for Linux. If you want to dual boot, there is a choice to install Linux alongside Windows. If you are knowledgeable about partitions and understand how they work, you can choose the option to manually partition the drive as you see fit (my preferred choice). I create an 8GB (8192 MBs) swap partition (the equivalent of the Windows swap file), a 40 GB (40960 MB) system partition for the OS files, and the remaining available space for my /home partition (the equivalent of the Documents folder in Windows). Note: I allocate about 1/2 of my system drive for Windows, and the other half for Linux, so on a 1TB drive, that provides about 500 GB for each OS - lots of room :)

I am a senior citizen, over 70 years of age (for those who may want to use their age as an excuse. If you can read, you can learn to install Linux, or any other OS> :)

I hope this information is useful to someone,


Posted by:

19 Jan 2022

For Greg C - about the 'bloat' that seems to drag down PC's over time. I recommend that you back up your disk, and then run PrivaZer (freeware, but you can and should make a donation).

PrivaZer is an aggressive cleanup program. Bob Rankin has reviewed this product from time to time - positively. I just did my New Years clean up on a 5 year old Win10 laptop. PrivaZer found and I let it clean over 100,000 junk items. The time to boot and load applications was cut in half or better. 'Should have run it sooner!
I always make a disk image before letting PrivaZer loose, but have never had a problem or have needed to restore from the image.

Regarding the Apple OS's. My wife's Apple devices need replacement every 3 years or so because the newer OS's will not run on them - and all too often the apps, updated for that latest OS, will not run on a device with the previous OS. At least Microsoft OS's have more like an 8 year life. Most PC apps are compatible with the previous OS.

Posted by:

Ken McInnes
19 Jan 2022

I found that using Windows 10 was so damned intrusive I tried to un-install it from my pc -- only to discover that now my links dont work..:-( . When I used to click on a link I could barely read the article for all the popups that Win 10 displayed-- ads and promotions that displayed all over the webpage...Microsoft seems to not care in the least how they abuse their own customers...and then at the top---Bill Gates of MS in a fit of generosity acts like some noble person donating away the proceeds of their abuse to us to some great cause!! give me a break!! I want them to treat their customers reasonably first... that to me is true generosity!!! Do you hope that Win 11 will be any more generous to us? I wonder--

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
20 Jan 2022

Ken McInnnes, you have some control over advertisements. Open Settings, select the privacy item, choose the options you want to keep or disable.

I agree that Msoft does not treat its customers as they should, however much of the advertising we see on a web page does not come from Msoft, it comes from the website itself. That's how they provide 'free' content and still make enough to stay in business.



Posted by:

20 Jan 2022

I know jack about installing operating systems, but I know someone who does. I pay him a very nominal fee and bring home a fully functional computer, just like if I'd bought it from a store. Except my computer runs Manjaro. It's a 'rolling distro' so it updates itself completely, never goes out of date. The last MS system I used was Vista, so it's been quite a few years. Manjaro has been rock-solid for me, and any minor glitches have been fixed by an update a day or two later.
As others have said, you can dual boot. If you're not sure about Linux I'd recommend that, as I did that too. After a couple of months I had Vista removed - I never used it.
It might take a bit of time to get used to the new look and feel, but in a couple of weeks most should feel quite comfortable.

Posted by:

20 Jan 2022

I'm with Fred; poor rural internet (and no starlink here yet). So I cannot use something relying on the cloud. I would be willing to try Linux, but my concern is about Microsoft Office. T communicate with customers and colleagues; I MUST be able to present documents to them in MS Office format and vice versa. But I have heard nothing that indicates Libre Office (et al) word processing programs are effectively interchangeable with MS Office with no glitches. Are they?

Posted by:

Robert van Ruyssevelt
21 Jan 2022

To Citellus - yes Libre Office is effectively interchangeable with MS although some MS functions are not available. I haven't had any problems. And on the OS front I and many small (and some larger) businesses are still using Windows 7 unsupported though it be!

Posted by:

David Baker
22 Jan 2022

I own a Dell Desktop PC that runs on Windows 10. I haven't run in over a year. I mostly use my Chromebook or Android Tablet. It sync's with my Android Phone. I like the mobility. Android/Chrome boots and updates fast. No noisy fans, etc. I have an old laptop that runs on Puppy Linux. I don't know if I'd ever go back to Windows.
Thanks Bob for your knowledge!

Posted by:

27 Jan 2022

To Robert van Ruyssevelt
Thanks for the Office Libre info.

Posted by:

Gary in SE Wisconsin
15 Feb 2022

I have a wide range of machines from 20+ year old WinXP pcs to several laptops with XP, Win7 and Zorin16 which is easily the one distro that is as easy to run as windows. I have units with Win10 but my Win7 pro units are my all time favorites! Windows should have stopped after Win7. They just plain work! I have Pc Matic on my daily use machines so I couldn't care less what Windows supports. Not a big fan of 10 and don't care about 11. I have a few android tablets and some old samsung unactivated mobiles that I use around the house with wifi and an old Apple 6s plus for my main phone. From another senior - ymmv!

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