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10 Best Linux Distributions That Resemble Windows
Best Linux Distros for Windows Users
Distros

10 Best Linux Distributions That Resemble Windows

So you’re finally thinking about making the big switch from Windows to Linux but you’re not sure which distribution to go with. Maybe you’re only now finding out that, unlike Windows, there isn’t just a single version of Linux that everybody uses. We’ve all been there. Linux is all about giving users the power of choice, but having too many choices can often be intimidating. Don’t worry, though, because we’re very familiar with both operating systems and have a lot of experience with many of the best Linux distros for Windows users.

Before we jump into the list itself it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to stop using Windows in order to try Linux. Most distros have live versions that run directly off a DVD or USB stick and don’t need to be installed locally. Plus, there’s always dual-boot as well. It’s usually a good idea to make the transition smoother by using both for a while. Once you get fully accustomed to Linux, however, you’ll probably never want to go back because Linux is simply better than Windows in many ways.

Having said all that, let’s not waste any more time and get things started with our first entry.

1. Linux Mint Cinnamon

  • Designed from scratch to help users transitioning from Windows
  • The Layout is highly reminiscent of Windows 7
  • Supports some of the keyboard shortcuts you’re already used to

Linux Mint is by far one of the best Linux distros for Windows users and it also happens to be one of the best distributions in general. It’s debatable whether those two accolades are related or not but what is clear is that Mint offers a very smooth learning curve for anyone who is thinking about switching from Microsoft’s operating system. That said, there are a couple of different versions of Mint up for grabs and you’ll want to get the Cinnamon desktop in order to achieve the most Windows-like experience.

Linux Mint 19.3 Cinnamon
Linux Mint 19.3 Cinnamon Desktop

Cinnamon is a Gnome-based desktop environment that was originally built for Mint, though these days you will find a lot of other distributions using it. While Gnome is a fan-favorite among Linux veterans, Cinnamon is very much targeted at Windows users and has been from the very beginning. The layout is quite similar to that of Windows 7, which many consider being the best version of Microsoft’s operating system so far. And since the company decided to end its support for Windows 7 earlier this year, now would be the perfect time to try out Linux Mint as a potential alternative.

Most of the design elements you know and love from Windows will be waiting for you as soon as you boot up Linux Mint. The start menu, taskbar, system tray, and more are all located exactly where you would expect and Mint even uses some of the same shortcuts. For instance, you can hold down tab while pressing the alt button to switch between open windows. Mint also has great support for Nvidia graphics cards and the latest version of the OS comes with some new toys like Warpinator, which allows users to transfer files over a local network easier than ever before.

Minimum system requirements:

  • Unspecified 32-bit or 64-bit CPU
  • 1GB of RAM (2GB recommended)
  • 15GB of storage (20GB recommended)

Latest stable version: Mint 20

2. Zorin OS

  • Lets you set a layout that closely mimics Windows
  • Offers a lightweight version that’s perfect for older systems
  • Comes bundled with the Wine compatibility layer

Zorin OS is marketed as being the go-to alternative to Windows and MacOS. How can it be an alternative to both? Well, the distro comes with a very neat feature that lets you change the layout of the desktop. The default one is based on Gnome, which doesn’t look half bad, but you can easily switch things up to make it very similar to Windows. The operating system gets bonus points for having a lightweight version and being very easy to customize.

Zorin OS 15.2
Zorin OS 15.2 Desktop

At its core, Zorin OS is a fairly minimalistic distribution. It gives you all the tools and features you would expect without trying to be too flashy or get in the way of what truly matters – having a Windows-like experience. Just like Mint, Zorin is more akin to older versions of Microsoft’s operating system. More specifically, it falls somewhere between Windows 7 and Windows XP in terms of aesthetics. Since there are multiple versions to choose from, the look ultimately depends on which one you’re going to install.

Zorin is known as being a very good distro for beginners so you don’t have to worry too much about the learning curve. You won’t be able to find all the applications you’re used to right off the bat, however, the distro does come bundled with Wine, a very useful tool that lets you run Windows applications on Linux. Wine doesn’t work with every application but it does support most of the common ones. And if you’re favorite application doesn’t happen to be supported, you can be sure there’s probably a good alternative somewhere in Zorin’s repositories.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 64-bit Dual-core CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 10GB of storage

Latest stable release: 15.2

3. Manjaro KDE Plasma

  • Powerful operating system with many tools for developers
  • Can be customized to resemble almost any OS
  • Starts minimalistic but can become very flashy with a bit of tinkering

Manjaro is the best Linux distro for Windows users who are looking for a professional and powerful operating system that can handle anything you throw at it. While a lot of Windows-like distributions are aimed exclusively at casual home users, Manjaro is also suitable for programming and developers. That’s because Manjaro is an Arch-based distribution and that allows it to take full advantage of Arch Linux’s inherent flexibility. At the same time, Manjaro is famous for being extremely user-friendly, so you’re getting the best of both worlds here.

Manjaro KDE Plasma 20
Manjaro KDE Plasma 20 Desktop

Manjaro serves as a very good introduction to the world of Linux but you may run into a couple of bumps in the road while you make the transition because the OS doesn’t necessarily try to mimic Windows. Or at least, not all of its versions do. If you’re looking for the next best thing, we recommend getting Manjaro KDE Plasma, which comes with a highly customizable and feature-rich desktop that’s famous for its versatility.

KDE Plasma comes with a built-in interface that lets you install new themes and widgets with ease while also providing various styles of application menus. The desktop looks fairly minimalistic when you first install the distro but can be turned into a veritable Windows lookalike with a little bit of tinkering. But if that’s not your thing, there’s also a community-developed Cinnamon version of Manjaro that looks and functions similar to Linux Mint. And there are about a dozen other desktop environments to choose from as well so you’re guaranteed to find a version that’s right up your alley.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz CPU or better
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 30GB of storage

Latest stable version: 20.0.3

4. Deepin OS

  • Offers one of the best-looking desktops out there
  • Comes bundled with many useful applications
  • Interesting features like Gestures and touchscreen support

Deepin is an operating system that has been making a lot of waves lately thanks to its superb desktop environment A Debian-based distro, Deepin’s goal is to make Linux accessible to newcomers by providing familiar applications, tons of functionality, and a very attractive user interface. Deepin is currently in the process of making a big jump from version 15 all the way to version 20. This is one of the biggest updates ever received by the OS and looks to bring some very interesting new additions to the table.

Deepin Arch Linux
Deepin Arch Linux Desktop

Unlike some of the other distributions, Deepin OS doesn’t just try to provide a Windows-like user experience, its ultimate goal is to take things one step further. This is evident when looking at the upcoming update, which introduces a stylish new graphical interface that puts even Windows 10 to shame in many ways. Say goodbye to rigid angles and say hello to smooth, rounded window corners if you decide to pick up Deepin. In addition, you’ll also be able to enjoy fantastic animations and colorful icons.

As you can probably tell by now, Deepin is a flashy operating system and seems to be getting even flashier with each new update. Admittedly, that’s not for everyone, and having a lot of animations and special effects can put a strain on older systems. If you’re rocking a powerful rig, however, the distro is definitely worth checking out. Looks aside, you can also expect plenty of pre-installed apps, including some Windows staples, but mostly proprietary alternatives to Windows applications that aren’t available on Linux.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 64-bit quad-core CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 30GB of storage

Latest stable version: 15.11 (version 20 still in Beta)

5. Linux Lite

  • One of the lightest distros around
  • Ensures a smooth transition from Windows to Linux
  • Comes bundled with loads of familiar applications

As you can easily tell based on the name, Linux Lite is one of many lightweight distributions available for Windows users who want to make the jump to Linux. The latest version of Lite released not long after Microsoft cut support for Windows 7. Whether coincidental or not, this gave many Windows enthusiasts a chance to leave behind the now unsupported operating system and try out something different instead of upgrading to the divisive Windows 10.

Linux Lite Desktop Preview
Linux Lite Desktop

If you’re looking to do the same you’ll definitely enjoy what Linux Lite has to offer. The developers of the distribution specifically note that Lite is a gateway operating system designed to make the transition from Windows to Linux as smooth as possible. With a mission statement like that, you pretty much already know what you’re getting into. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that Lite’s desktop looks almost identical to what you can find on Windows and the OS also comes bundled with many of the programs we all know and love.

Immediately after installing Linux Lite, you will be able to use things like Google Chrome, VLC, Teamviewer, Thunderbird, Dropbox, Steam, Spotify, and many more. There’s also good support for Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and other similar platforms you’re probably using on a daily basis. The LibreOffice suite is included out of the box as well and is fully compatible with Microsoft Office, allowing you to take any documents you have on Windows and open or edit them on Linux Lite.

Linux Lite Minimum System Requirements:

  • 1 GHz CPU or better
  • 768 MB of RAM
  • 8GB of storage

Latest stable version: 5.0

6. Robolinux

  • Lets you run full instances of Windows inside a VM
  • Supports both Windows and Linux applications
  • Capable of cloning and migrating Windows installation drives

Robolinux doesn’t usually come up if you’re looking into most types of distro lists but you’ll usually hear about it when someone is talking specifically about the best Linux distros for Windows users. That’s because the operating system exists for the sole purpose of enabling Windows users to experience Linux. And the way it does this is quite unique since the distro doesn’t simply try to provide an alternative to Windows but rather, it tries to be Windows.

Robolinux 11.02
Robolinux 11.02 Desktop

While a lot of other distros rely on tools like Wine for compatibility with Windows programs, Robolinux does this natively by incorporating a proprietary virtual machine known as StealthVM. The virtual machine is said to be able to run any Windows program inside Linux without any issues and can even covert full instances of Windows XP, Windows 7 or Windows 10 to make them compatible with Robolinux. In other words, you can run a Windows operating system on top of a Linux operating system. All while still retaining the ability to use all the Linux-specific tools and features that come with this Debian-based distribution.

Things get even better when you consider that Robolinux comes equipped with a tool that lets you clone the drive that contains your Windows installation. The tool can be used to migrate your existing data and programs to Robolinux, giving you the opportunity to pick up where you left off instead of having to start from scratch. Robolinux has a number of other innovative features designed for Windows users but all these radical concepts do come at a cost. While mostly stable, having a Windows OS running on top of Robolinux can cause certain issues, which is why the distro isn’t higher up on our list. Otherwise, this would be the ultimate Linux distro for Windows users, and may very well reach that point in the future.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 64-bit dual-core CPU or better
  • 2GB of RAM (4GB+ to run Windows on top)
  • 20GB of storage (+ additional storage for the Windows VM)
  • Desktop or laptop not older than 10 years

Latest stable version: 11.02

7. KDE Neon

  • A nearly unparalleled level of customization
  • Puts a lot of emphasis on proprietary bleeding-edge software
  • Easy to learn but difficult to master

We already mentioned that you can check out KDE Plasma via Manjaro, as well as a few other distros, but if you want the original experience, you can get it by using KDE Neon. The Ubuntu-based distribution may not seem very impressive in its base form, but a patient-user who can take advantage of the countless customization options can easily transform it into something that looks exactly like Windows. To the point where you wouldn’t even be able to tell that this is a Linux distro.

KDE Neon 07.10
KDE Neon 07.10 Desktop

The folks over at KDE strongly believe that all users are unique so it stands to reason that each of them should have a unique operating system. That concept works better in theory than it does in practice but the amount of options you have at your disposal here is truly very impressive. You can jump into every component of the operating system and tweak it to your liking. And we’re not just talking about the visual side of things either. Of course, you can also use the distro as is, and it will work just fine, but it may not be as Windows-like as you may want out of the box.

Assuming you’re not a developer, make sure to get the User Edition of the distribution if you’re thinking about trying out KDE Neon. There are also Testing, Developer, and Unstable editions of the operating system, which are meant for specific use cases. None of these three versions are stable and may contain bugs, but they also feature pre-released software that you won’t find in the User Edition. If you don’t mind the occasional bug, getting one of these versions is a great way to get a sneak peek at all the bleeding-edge tools and features currently in development not just for Neon but for Linux in general.

Minimum system requirements:

  • Dual-core CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 30GB of storage

Latest stable release: 2020.07.10

8. Ubuntu Cinnamon

  • Very user-friendly and intuitive interface
  • Reliable long-term support for up to 5 years
  • Plenty of helpful resources designed specifically for Windows users

Ubuntu has a tendency to make its way on most of our lists, which should probably not be too surprising given that it’s by far the most well-known Linux distribution of all time. Even people who don’t know anything about Linux have usually at least heard of Ubuntu. But is it one of the best Linux distros for Windows users? Despite the fact that it doesn’t visually resemble Microsoft’s operating system as much as some of the other entries on this list, it’s more than an adequate entry point for Windows users thanks to its many features.

Ubuntu Cinnamon 20.04.1
Ubuntu Cinnamon 20.04.1Desktop

Ubuntu is known for being one of the most stable distributions on the market and also has some of the best support, both from the developers and the community. If you get the LTS (long-term support) version of Ubuntu, which we wholeheartedly recommend, you can expect up to five years of free updates. That’s five years for every version and, of course, you can always upgrade to the next version for free whenever you want. The legendary support offered by developer Canonical has become even more relevant since Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 and the Windows 10 updates have been hit or miss from the very beginning.

Canonical is very committed to helping Windows users transition to Linux. The company has a handy step-by-step guide on how to transition from any version of Windows to Ubuntu along with an in-depth tutorial that will teach you everything you need to know about Gnome 3, Ubuntu’s default desktop. Or you can simply get the Cinnamon or KDE Plasma versions of Ubuntu and have a familiar desktop right off the bat. Interestingly enough, Canonical also offers an application that lets you install a complete Ubuntu terminal on Windows 10, so you can get accustomed to Linux before making the big switch.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 2 GHz dual-core CPU or better
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 25GB of storage (only 2GB for Ubuntu Server)

Latest stable version: 20.04.1

9. Elementary OS

  • Combines elements from both Windows and MacOS
  • Unique custom desktop environment known as Pantheon
  • Pay-what-you-want AppStore with a generous selection of applications

Often touted as being one of the best looking Linux distros out there, Elementary OS is generally considered an obvious pick for users who are switching from MacOS. At the same time, though, Elementary is close enough to Windows to warrant it a spot on this list. By taking elements from both operating systems and combining them with a healthy mix of unique elements the developers managed to create a distribution that not only looks beautiful but also offers a lot of interesting features.

Elementary OS 5.1
Elementary OS 5.1 ‘Hera’ Desktop

Elementary OS comes equipped with a custom desktop environment known as Pantheon. Unlike a lot of other desktops, Pantheon is used almost exclusively by Elementary. Pantheon has some very nice looking themes and fonts that contribute to its distinctive design. It also includes some small touches that you may not notice at first glance but will come to appreciate once you get used to the desktop, such as the translucent top panel, multitask view, and file name highlighting, to name just a few examples. The true beauty of Pantheon is in its many subtle details.

Desktop aside, the other major component of Elementary worth looking into is the AppCenter. The distro does come with a decent selection of pre-installed apps but you can get a whole lot more of them from the AppCenter, provided you don’t mind the business model. It’s a commonly known fact that Linux applications tend to be free but there are some exceptions and you can find some of them here. Luckily, Elementary’s AppCenter features a pay-what-you-want model so you don’t have to break the bank in order to get the best applications.

Minimum system requirements:

  • Intel i3 or equivalent dual-core 64-bit CPU
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 15GB of storage (SSD recommended)

Latest stable version: 5.1.6

10. Solus Budgie

  • One of the best looking Windows-like distributions around
  • Comes bundled with loads of useful applications
  • Designed for everyone – developers, content creators, gamers, and more

Speaking of great looking Linux distros for Windows users, the last pick on our list is Solus, another beautiful operating system that comes with a unique desktop environment. The desktop in question is Budgie, which managed to transcend Solus OS and is now supported by a lot of other distributions. But much like Cinnamon or KDE Plasma, we think Budgie is best experienced when paired with the operating system it was originally designed for.

Solus Budgie 4.1
Solus Budgie 4.1 Desktop

Solus is very easy to install and comes with everything you need out of the box, including a nice selection of familiar applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, and more. The taskbar, start menu and even the icons are all strikingly similar to what you can find on Windows. There’s also a separate menu located on the right side of the screen that’s quite reminiscent of the notifications and settings panel found on Windows 10. It doesn’t provide exactly the same type of functionality, giving you access to other types of settings, but it does help Solus feel even more familiar.

Another thing the operating system has in common with Windows is the fact that it was designed for everyone. The Software Center contains a lot of productivity apps and you also get access to the Microsoft Office-compatible LibreOffice suite. Meanwhile, developers get access to powerful editors and IDEs along with support for all the most popular scripting languages. Content creators can take advantage of Synfig Studio, Avidemux, Musescore, GIMP, and many other editing software while gamers can expect controller and Steam support, pre-installed games, and more.

Minimum system requirements:

  • 64-bit Intel or AMD CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 10GB of storage

Latest stable version: 4.1

Windows vs. Linux – Should You Make the Switch?

We’ve talked at length about some of the best Linux distros for Windows users but we haven’t touched upon a very important topic – should you even make the switch? We know it seems like this question may lead to a biased answer but we’re actually big fans of both Linux and Windows. That’s why we feel confident in saying that Linux has some very important advantages over Windows.

As mentioned near the start of the article, you don’t have to completely transition as there are plenty of ways of using both operating systems on the same computer, whether you want to alternate between the two or run Linux in a virtual machine. This gives you the freedom to learn your way around Linux at your own pace.

A big advantage of Linux is its free and open-source nature, which is something that Windows doesn’t benefit from. As a result, Linux is constantly evolving and innovating. A lot of the cutting-edge technologies we have today are being improved thanks to Linux, including AI, automation, space exploration, and many more. Most of the world’s supercomputers and a huge portion of servers are also powered by Linux.

Quite clearly Linux has a lot going on for itself but what does it have to offer to the average user? For starters, a lot more variety. With close to 600 distributions to choose from, Linux is by far the most versatile operating system out there. Add to that the fact that most distributions offer a very high level of customization and it’s easy to see how Linux can be turned into the perfect operating system for any user, regardless of their requirements.

Another important factor to consider is resource consumption. While some distros approach the hardware requirements of current versions of Windows or MacOS, most of them will be way less taxing on your system. If you’re using an aging computer or laptop, it’s pretty much mandatory to switch to Linux in order to ensure smooth performance. Especially now that both the beloved Windows XP and Windows 7 are no longer supported.

Final Thoughts

Switching from Windows to Linux can seem like an intimidating prospect, particularly when there are so many myths surrounding the later. Linux is often seen as difficult to learn or an operating system aimed at developers but both of those are only partially true. Linux can be incredibly user-friendly and welcoming to all types of users. It all depends on what distribution you’re using.

While we only covered 10 of the best Linux distros for Windows users in this article, it’s worth noting that the available selection is a lot more varied than that. However, we do recommend trying some of our picks before exploring other options, as the distributions found on our list are among the most Windows-like currently available.

Then again, you might be looking for an operating system that does certain things differently and isn’t necessarily a replica of Windows. If that’s the case, we invite you to check out our list of Linux distros for beginners if you need a few other good options. Or if you want to switch operating systems in order to enhance your security, you’ll find what you’re looking for on our list of most secure Linux distros of 2020.

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