There are many more operating systems than just Windows but for the vast majority of people Windows is their first and often only OS. Hence, the majority of people who use Mac OS X, Linux or Unix are people who’ve switched from Windows to those other OSes, i.e. the are ‘switchers’. Contrary to what some people may like to have you believe switching is not always straight-forward and it’s not for everyone, however, for some people it really works and the change really improves their daily lives. So, if you think you might be interested in saying goodbye to Windows this post may be of some help to you.

[tags]Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X[/tags]

Things Will be Different

What ever OS you plan on changing to, it WILL be different to Windows. If that’s a problem then give up on the idea now. Sure, there will also be many similarities, but things will be different. You will have to take time to get used to the way the new OS works. Also, if you like Windows so much that you want your new OS to be just like it then why exactly are you changing?

After the change you will be slower at using your computer for a while. Depending on the OS ‘a while’ can vary a lot. It only took me a few hours to get into the swing of OS X and only about a week to get completely at home on it. Your experience may vary. Expect to be less productive for a few days and plan that into your schedule. If you don’t you’ll just get stressed and grumpy!

Think of Tasks not Programs

Before you make the switch do your home work. Write down the tasks you use your computer for, not the programs you use. Then, make sure you can get software for your potential new OS that lets you do those tasks. Don’t try to find the identical software on your new platform, that will often not work. However, unless your requirements are very very specialised you’ll almost certainly find alternatives on your new platform that will allow you perform the tasks you need to perform.


Different OSes do things differently and have different best practices. For example, just about all modern Linux distributions have some form of package management. You should try to install as much of your software this way rather than doing it manually. Depending on what Linux you have you’ll have to do things a bit different though. There are two main packaging technologies on Linux, .deb files used in Debian and its variants (including the very popular Ubuntu), and RPM files used by the various Red Hat variants (including Fedora and CentOS). There are also different GUIs for managing the various types of package and the various online repositories. The bottom line, read up on your new OS of choice, learn about the maintenance tasks you’ll need to perform and get an understanding of the ‘right way’ to install software on your chosen platform.

Remember – Switching is Not All-Or-Nothing

You don’t have to make the switch all at once. You can dual-boot your machine so you still have access to Windows if you get stuck. You can also use things like CrossOver to run some Windows programs from within Linux or Mac OS X (if you have an Intel Mac) and you can use virtualisation software like VMWare or Parallels to run Windows from within Linux or Mac OS X.

You have lots of options for making a slow and gradual transition. You don’t have to go cold turkey anymore!