Windows user considering to take the plunge to Linux - Looking for recommendations and feedback

Hello there!

As many others, I have moved over to Windows 10, used 7 until the day it went EOL. The short time I’ve used 10 has been enough for me to seriously consider alternatives.

Historically I’ve always used Windows. I started with DOS in the 90s, so command line use isn’t scary for me. My main uses, besides DOS, have been 98SE, XP, 7 and now 10. However, I’m not unfamiliar with Linux and unix-like systems. Over the past 20 years I have used Linux and BSD systems (mostly Debian) for various specific tasks, mainly due to the software stability. I have never been able to actually move over to it as my main desktop workhorse, mainly due to software compatibility.

Linux has come a long way with regards to software and compatibility, and I think the time might be right to actually take the final step. Still, part of me is a bit uncertain. There is a lot of information to digest. Thus, I’m making this post where I describe my computer specifications and usage. For all I know I’ve overlooked something which makes Linux not viable for me.

My computer specifications

  • PSU: Corsair AX1200i
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG Strix X570-F
  • RAM: 32GB total G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3600MHz CL15 (8GB sticks)
  • GPU: ASUS GeForce RTX 2070
  • Storage: (OS disk) Corsair Force Series MP510 480GB m.2, (general storage) Western Digital Red disks
  • Expansion: Blackmagic Intensity Pro 4K, Creative Sound Blaster ZxR, firewire card.

How I typically use my computer

Most games seem to have some sort of workaround or direct support, so I’m not too concerned about this part.

Where things start to get more obscure is digitizing of analog formats and video/audio encoding. Here I use the Sound Blaster, Blackmagic Intensity Pro or Canopus ADVC-300 (firewire) along with software like AviSynth, AvsPmod, VirtualDub, x264 just to name some. Due to physical limitations, cards need to be swapped around.

I do happen to rip blu-ray, DVD, VCD, burn discs, interface with legacy or obsolete hardware as well.

Otherwise it is the usual video viewing, music playback, web browsing, general office suite work.

This part is a bit messy, but hopefully the point comes across. I use a lot of software for many different things, hard to cover everything. Most seem to be caught up with gaming, but this is a small part of my everyday use. I’m concerned my other (sometimes old) software doesn’t transition well into Linux.

To Linux, or not to Linux

This is the big question. Most of my experience is with Debian, so I’m thinking this would be the logical choice to go with. My thought was running Windows in a virtual machine for software that absolutely refuse to work under Linux. I’m a bit concerned if this will severely impact performance, however. The reason I bought this hardware was to get better performance with games, video encoding or other number crunching tasks. Perhaps I’m better off with just using Windows for a few more years? Better distro choices? Hardware that doesn’t play nice with Linux?

Any feedback or recommendations is greatly appreciated!

I’m not as experienced as the rest of the community I’m sure, but the last week made me test my abilities with Vm’ing window and gaming with it. With a dedicated graphic card, i have as good and even better performance than on my dual boot i used a few months back on gaming. With a 3950x, you won’t lack cores for sure if you need a virtual machine at least

I think this has linux drivers, although they might be closed source. If they are closed source then as soon as blackmagic stops updating the driver, you will have a very hard time getting the card to work with new distro versions.

Should “just work” with kernel 5.0 or newer. Source

Should “just work”, you might need to install things for firewire audio.Source

You are going to want to check that all of these work, you could just boot into a live Linux ISO and see what works, or you could search up the models plus linux too see if they work.

CPU performance is fine in a VM, disk performance is worse unless you pass an entire disk to the VM(you lose snapshots then), and GPU is non-existent unless you do GPU passthrough. Don’t expect to run any 3D games in a VM unless you passthrough a GPU.


If you like multimedia playback that just works with minimal setup, WIndows is still the way to go, last I checked.

Linux is coming a long way for gaming, etc. I even met a contractor guy who seemed not tech savvy at all who is using Ubuntu but it felt like he did most things in a browser and I am all for people doing that. I would recommend it for someone who just needs internet.

I used to use vdub back in the day when I ripped my own ST:TNG episodes (then they came out with the DVDs which were better). These days I rip my 4k discs so I can watch them and enjoy full quality at ssd speeds. MakeMKV gets it done.

Every time I look at Linux, it feels like all the codec and playback features require too much tinkering with to make the experience worthwhile. Not up for spending a day or two of my weekend time to get it all set right and I am not sure if I will even have all the needed features.

So like you, I have not committed to Linux yet - but if I am wrong it would be great to be corrected. I am sick of the Windows 10 for several reasons like licensing and being a marketing product for their tracking systems. But Linux is still more work when all is said and done.

I’ve had generally poor experiences with native gaming on Linux. A ton of games in my library don’t run natively, and those that do all have some kind of bizarre issue (sideways analog sticks or something). Although, my sample size is small since I got discouraged early on. I’ve also never had good results with Wine (again, limited experience, and maybe just not enough tolerance for tweaking it to perfection). Feel free to try for yourself—after all, it’s free software—but I would expect to set up a VM with GPU passthrough or a dual-boot at some point.

I have no experience with any of the hardware you mentioned, but again, it’s simple and risk-free to load up a USB live-install and just check the compatibility.

Otherwise, TheCakeIsNaOH’s reply provides an excellent summary.

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Please make a backup before trying anything.

Also try to read about Jack, Reaper, Ardour, PulseAudio and all other audio related stuff for Linux before jumping in.

Also consider a real time kernel for your audio needs.

a lot of people here will be very keen to brush off any doubts you might have and steer you into Linux without really considering you, the person. There are a lot of cases where people are almost ready to switch, but they still worry about X Y or Z being compatible, and it’s my opinion that if everything is working on your machine, you shouldn’t switch.

I held out on windows 7 like you, until it was almost last call, but I’ve been on 10 for about 5 months now and I’ve had zero problems and complaints have been minimal at best. The first thing I did was to install OpenShell, which replaces the w10 menu with one identical to 7, and that helped me get settled much quicker.

But since you’re interested in Linux I would say avoid all the hacky complicated VM nonsense and simply purchase a cheap SSD, unplug your Windows boot drive, and then install Linux Mint or an Ubuntu variant, and then restrict yourself to one or two months only using that distro for all your needs. You may find things don’t work or work better than you thought, and a month is more than enough time for you to try out troubleshooting issues as they surface. Then you can accurately assess if Linux will work for you on your specific hardware, without bothering with VM and all the fiddling that entails.

If you do switch, I’d strongly strongly advise not browsing/posting tech support issues on other forums or reddit outside of r/linuxquestions, r/linux4noobs, and possibly the official Ubuntu forums. The Linux community is quite frankly a minefield and the best thing you can do is simply assume someone else has had whatever problem it is before you, and Google error messages or specific things you’re facing rather than having to wade through unhelpful attitudes and become turned off.

I’d still recommend staying wherever you’re already set up, though. Why move if everything works?


This is excellent advice. 98% of the Linux questions I have had have been answered by google/duckduckgo rather than making a post somewhere.

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Totally agree with this suggestion. Sometimes getting simple things working on linux like a printer or scanner can require some tinkering and may frustrate you depending on your patience. You definitely do not want to wipe a fully working windows setup to end up in that situation.

This, so much this. VMs and dual-boot setups are nice and all, but they make things needlessly complicated.

I’d get a second drive to install linux on to try it out or in a vm, before full committing. I think a second drive helps with the transition.

I have my oses seperated by 2 drives. I do most of my work and personal browsing on fedora. I save my windows installation for gaming and windows specific programs. I will keep the windows drive until linux fully catches up.

As other people have mentioned, you will need to search for your answers. Not every post will get a response, but giving as much information (error outputs and drivers), will help people diagnose

IIRC @wendell mentioned in a video that Fedora was going to get a update where gpu passthrough was going to be a easy click

If you want to full commit, look through gpu passthrough.

I thank for all the replies so far! I’m always open for a challenge. Setting up a fresh Windows install exactly the way I want it is always a pain. It takes weeks before everything is dialed in just right. Got a server running where I installed Debian without GUI. Not exactly the most friendly enviroment at first glance, but I somehow got through the process and got that set up to work how I wanted it too. As mentioned, I have been using *nix on and off the past 20 years for specific tasks, like firewalls and servers. Just not as a general purpose desktop.

As for dual boot… well… Past experience tells me I do not want to do this, since it often turns out to be awkward. I think the VM route is a better option, as it allow me to use both systems at the same time without having to reboot between them. Looks like I have to sacrifice two expansion slots and run a second graphics card. This at least allow me to run software that just does not work under Linux.

I will try out the second drive suggestion, try to get things set up properly or fall back to a working Windows drive if it doesn’t work out.

Regarding this GPU passthrough, is Debian the right choice here? I got told by someone that it is considered experimental (for Debian) and all documentation is built around Red Hat/Fedora/CentOS? I need to dig deeper into this now.

It is a fine choice for passthrough. Ubuntu and Arch might be slightly better, but the software is the same, so it does not really matter.

It may not be the best choice for you since the current stable Debian, Buster has kernel 4.19 by default, which does not support your Soundblaster I think. You can get a newer “backports” kernel, but that you might run into issues with the Nvidia driver, or with your blackmagic drivers.

So Ubuntu 20.04 might be a good choice. Since it is based on Debian you should be right at home. Also, it is the Distro that Steam has official support for, and there are other third party programs as well that officially support Ubuntu.

Definitely not true. The maturity/experimental more depends on what versions the software is (QEMU, KVM, Libvirt, Virt-Manager, the kernel, etc) rather then on what distro you pick.

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I’m a total linux newbie, I just installed linux (Manjaro) 2 weeks ago, (which surprised me when I checked the date because it feels like a month at least), but I thought I’d share my experience so far. I should preface this by saying I really had no experience with command line or unix systems in general, so like I said I’m a total newbie to linux.

Troubleshooting and learning, oh my word the amount of troubleshooting and just “what do I even do?” I have experienced so far, this is why it feels like I have been using this OS for at least a month. Why does my internet through wifi suddenly drop (oh, broadcom wifi adapters don’t play well with linux?). Why isn’t this path recognized in the terminal (oh spaces in the folder name require using quotations around the path?). Why did the pasted command auto execute? I wanted to edit it! (oh, if there is a space copied at the end of the command it auto executes). How the heck do I add a second hard drive? Why do I get dropped from a game that I had no problems with on Windows? Why is screen sharing a single screen with multiple monitors a chore? There is actually quite a lot of other stuff, this is just what I thought of off the top of my head, and yes a lot of it is minor and a lot of it can be figured out with some googling, but the sheer amount of little, and some major, things I have to do to make things work the way I want is a little tiring. I do expect it to get easier though.

None of that is to be discouraging for switching to linux. I’m still glad I did it especially since I’m learning more than I probably would have ever learned sticking with Windows. But as noob (and you may find it a lot easier than me) so far it has been a lot of work each day, and I expect it will be for at least a few more weeks, and this may be your experience as well. Just something to consider when you switch, and personally I think the whole linux is the future of gaming thing, pffffft . . . bologna (especially with the poor state of anti-cheat/linux compatibility). But you can join r/linux_gaming to read more of peoples opinion on that kind of stuff.

I will also say I have not experienced the linux community minefield thing, although I’ve been going (mostly) to the manjaro forums so far, and people there seem very helpful.

Overall, it’s fun, just tiring right now.

People on level1techs will probably be generally encouraging about linux which I like, but try watching this:
A youtube video about why linux sucks from someone who loves linux.

Thanks for the heads up, @TheCakeIsNaOH I completely missed that fact regarding the kernel version. I have done some more digging around, and I have settled with Fedora. Debian seems to be a bit too conservative for my use. Ubuntu is a solid option from what I have read, but it also feels it might be a bit bloated. I’d like to just stick with something more vanilla as my starting point.

@MicahK555 I totally get you. Even if I’m not a complete novice, I will still have my fair share with getting things going properly. Doing a fresh install of Windows, especially a new version, has taken me weeks to be fully up and running the way I want it. Always something small that needs to be installed or tweaked. Which is why I tend to stick with the installation much longer than what is probably recommended…

With the new hardware I bought, and Windows not liking drastic hardware changes, I might as well go through the same tiring process in Linux. I would have to do it in Windows anyway.

I don’t really do much gaming, which is why I’m not too concerned about that part. I can’t even remember the last time I opened up Steam… I have a couple of games I play, but they should be fairly simple to get going.

There are things with Windows 10 I just don’t like, and I think moving over to Linux will be an overall experience well worth the hurdle if I can make it.

Yes this triggered me as well the first time it happened until I realized they copied the carriage return as well. On the flip side, this makes quick and dirty pasting possible for short scripts.

if you go with it, have linux be first in your boot priority, keep your windows drive plugged in when installing linux on your other drive and also make sure to disable secure boot.

I want to express my gratitude for all the replies I got in this thread. As suspected, there were a couple of things I missed, but the feedback helped me get back on track.
There are a couple of hardware pieces missing still before I can start the transition process, but hopefully it can begin in a couple of weeks.
Things are looking optimistic, especially with the vitual machine option. I need to sacrifice some expansion possibilities due to the extra GPU, but I expected a compromise would happen in one form or the other. I think the end result will be well worth it.

Did anyone mention the new WSL 2?
Here’s Wendell’s interview with Hayden Barnes about running Ubuntu on your Win10 box:

[] ( Hayden Barnes: Windows Subsystem for Linux - Interview!)

May be a simple way to explore ?

Just wanted to mention that you can still go the VM/ vfio passthrough route if installing Linux onto a separate drive. I would suggest leaving only the target linux drive plugged in when installing your linux choice. When you want to “Dual Boot” do it via your BIOS quick boot option instead.

Eventually if you decide to go the VM route, you can passthrough your entire Windows drive to the VM which usually yields better performance. This way if anything goes wrong with the VM, you can fall back to booting directly into the bare metal windows installation.