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glenpaton 07-18-2017 01:43 AM

Best Linux distro for a competent Windows user
My first post:
What Linux is recommended for a Linux newbie?
I've recently retired and have extra time to learn a new OS, and like experimenting with computers and software.
I've always used Windows (now Windows 10) and consider myself fairly competent.
I have a spare PC or could duel boot.
A Linux OS that has auto update and a good Restore feature would be a good start as I suspect I will make many mistakes initially.

Turbocapitalist 07-18-2017 02:13 AM

Welcome back.

A strong recommendation would be to look at one of the Linux Mint variants or even one of the Ubuntus. They're similar, just with different defaults. I'd also strongly recommend using your spare machine, especially in the beginning, so you can do your experimentation more freely and won't hold back if you feel that it would be easier to just wipe everything and start over.

There are two things to keep in mind:
  • Empty your cup of tea so to speak. Linux is not Windows. However, if you have experience with Solaris, OS X, any of the BSDs, or similar, then much knowledge will be portable. M$ is the odd man out.
  • It's intended and expected that you customize things to your tastes and needs. The distros just provide a set of default packages and configurations. You can add, remove, or reconfigure things until one distro looks and acts just like another.

Nobutarou 07-18-2017 04:00 AM

If you want a new experience, LFS is the best linux. There are a lot of distributions. But they are not different. What Ubuntu can do is What other distro can do. Just initial settings and initial installations are different. And today, there are a lot of cross platform apps. Then what you can do on Windows are not so different what you can do on Linux. If you go to LFS, you can explore how you can build OS, how you can build your own system. That's great experience.

Turbocapitalist 07-18-2017 04:12 AM


Originally Posted by Nobutarou (Post 5736418)
If you go to LFS, you can explore how you can build OS, how you can build your own system. That's great experience.

It's analogous to the old Heathkit electronics kits but for GNU/Linux distros. You'll know what every component is for when you are done.

pan64 07-18-2017 05:14 AM

I'm not really sure if LFS was the best choice.
You can download and run a lot of different distros without installing them, just from your pendrive. I would suggest you to check Live CDs first. You can easily test them. Almost all of them has auto update feature, or can be set, and actually you can also reinstall in case of a "fatal user error".

IsaacKuo 07-18-2017 05:52 AM


Originally Posted by glenpaton (Post 5736383)
My first post:
What Linux is recommended for a Linux newbie?
I've recently retired and have extra time to learn a new OS, and like experimenting with computers and software.
I've always used Windows (now Windows 10) and consider myself fairly competent.
I have a spare PC or could duel boot.
A Linux OS that has auto update and a good Restore feature would be a good start as I suspect I will make many mistakes initially.

Your request for a Restore feature is a bit interesting, actually. Basically, no major Linux distribution includes such a feature, because it's largely unnecessary. You can optionally make a backup of your OS simply by copying all the files, which is how people used to do things with Microsoft operating systems before Microsoft made it not that simple.

That said, it's a manual process, so you need some explanation how to do it. The best place to put a backup is on a different file system. For example, you could have a small OS partition and a large data partition that you also store backups on. During the initial install, you could create two partitions - one is the "/" partition...maybe 15GB in size. The other is "/home", a common way to split things up.

With things set up that way, you can create an OS backup with something like:

mkdir /home/backup03
rsync -vaxAX --delete /. /home/backup03/

The "su" command lets you log in as root superuser (assuming you're not using an Ubuntu based distribution, in which case you can use "sudo su" instead of "su")

The mkdir command should look pretty familiar for a Windows user. It just creates a folder. You can have different folders to contain different backups.

The rsync command shown will do an incremental backup of the root partition to that folder.

Here's an explanation of the options I used:

-v = verbose (so you can see the progress)
-a = archive mode (tries to preserve permissions, owner, special files, symlinks, etc)
-x = don't cross over into other partitions (this will automatically make it skip various weird partitions, as well as any large media partitions you may have set up)
-A = preserve ACLs
-X = preserve extended attributes
--delete = delete any files which no longer exist in the source

The nice thing about rsync is that it will do an incremental update. It's like robocopy for Windows, but better in various ways. So, instead of copying each and every file, it can just quickly scan through the files and only copy over the changed files.

The annoying part comes if you have to do a restore. It's not really safe to try to do a restore while the OS itself is booted up. You can boot to a LiveCD or do a multi-boot with more than one install so you can do a restore while booted to a different OS partition. Assuming you use a LiveCD/USB, you will want to use the GUI to mount the OS and /home partitions, and then use something like this to restore:


rsync -vaxAX --delete /media/user/HOMEPARTITION/backup03/* /media/user/OSPARTITION/
Alternatively, if you've got at least 3GB of RAM, you could try out my RAMBOOT hack. It's a bit advanced for a newbie, but it might give you an interesting "goal" to go for. Basically, I don't think it's necessarily so interesting to just "try linux". I mean...okay, great. But what is it GOOD for? What do you DO with it? Just experimenting at random might not be so interesting in and of itself.

So, RAMBOOT is one of the cool things you can do in Linux but not Windows. It loads the entire OS into a ramdisk, which makes it incredibly fast - even compared to an SSD. So, the thing loads the OS from a compressed archive file called a tarball. After the tarball is loaded, you can do whatever the heck you want with the original file. This makes it easy to simply copy or rename tarballs to make or "restore" backup copies. You can have as many restore points as you want.

Also, and here's the fun part, you can safely experiment with all sorts of software and whatever and then not have to worry about how to fully clean up afterward. With a linux distribution like Debian, you can easily install and auto-update all sorts of software with apt-get. It can be fun to install stuff just to see what it's like, and then just do a reboot to the last saved tarball.

If you're interested in RAMBOOT, here's my how-to:

I wrote that one specifically for Debian 8, but it also works for Debian 9. In fact, the method has remained the same since I first came up with the hack for Debian 4 a decade ago.

sundialsvcs 07-18-2017 10:46 AM

Although Apple (of course) elevated backups to a convenient science with their Time Machine, the underlying technology of it all is actually ... rsync-style. And there are some pretty good web pages out there which describe how you can do a very similar thing yourself, such as this page.

Backups should run constantly ... and I do mean constantly ... and they should be directed to a directory, on a separate, external volume, which is read-only protected from everything else, such that even the owners of the backed-up files cannot touch the copies on the backup volume. Since you can buy 3-terabyte drives and enclosures for a song, I'd buy two (on a fast external bus such as USB-3 or FireWire), chain 'em together, and direct the backups simultaneously to both: "poor man's RAID."

Unlike Windows and Apple, Linux distros don't undertake to "do everything for you and leave you in the dark." Instead, they empower you, and my use of that catch-phrase is not empty marketing talk.

rokytnji 07-18-2017 11:07 AM

Being retired myself. Not a computer geek per se.

Based on Ubuntu like Mint. But I like it better for ex window users. Locally. Because it is lighter on computer resources on older computer gear.

Backup/System Restore? Here is my screenshot in Linux Lite.

Try it. You might like it. After I learned the ropes a bit. I myself prefer using

which is also a fine xfce distro for migrating Windows users. Here is a Feb review.

I might mention that both of their forums (Linux-Lite and MXLinux) is top notch and helpful also when asking questions on how to drive them.

6th_sense 07-18-2017 08:31 PM

Hi GlenPaton,

Welcome to Linux Questions - I am a bit of a newbie myself - even though I have many years experience using linux - I still discover things...

I first used slackware in 1993. I guess I needed documentation and a CD to start with.

Nowadays, you can download and burn a CD (called live-CD) to test drive various flavours of linux - if you have a CD drive which you can boot off of - that will give you an initial "feel" for things.

I can't tell you what the best distribution would be.... there are a lot of people who have reported here of versions I am hearing about for the first time! There are so, so, many versions of linux.

I myself use fedora from - It is perhaps easy to use, and perhaps it isn't. There is a *lot* of documentation on fedora under it's documentation project - so, that might help - you will be able to do a lot of homework on your own - whereas I can't tell you how the other distributions work.

I more recently installed centos 7.0 on my webserver - boy! What an eye-openner that is! I ended up learning a lot more about linux than I thought I would for sure.

But, anything you choose I wish you good luck, and there is always help here at Linux Questions.

sundialsvcs 07-18-2017 09:08 PM

Initially, I would just use VirtualBox. It's free, full-featured, supported by none other than Oracle Corporation(!), and gives you an easy and perfectly-painless way to load up Linux and start kicking its tires. I would not fool around with "dual booting." To me, it's simply not worth the hassle.

Later on, I'd take (or buy at the Goodwill store or somesuch) an existing machine that you can dedicate to Linux, wipe the sucker clean, and install onto it.

Mill J 07-18-2017 09:30 PM

I agree with using virtualbox and trying out distros(you can't ruin anything in there unless you try very hard). On the distro side.... I'd go with Mint it's just plain hard to beat for beginners. Than when you get acquainted with Linux a little more it's time to try harder distros.

AwesomeMachine 07-18-2017 09:49 PM

There are only a few unique versions of Linux: Redhat, SuSE, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo, Mandriva; most other distributions are based on those 6 distros.

Redhat, Fedora and Centos all use the same basic tools and operating principles, so Fdora and Cnetos are clones of Redhat. OpenSuSE is the free version of SuSE. Almost every distro is based on Debian, because Debian proposes no obstacles for its reuse.

Slackware, Mandriva and Gentoo each have a few derivatives, but they are not Debian forks. They are totally unique Linux distros.

I learned using SuSE, and then quickly adopted Debian and Fedora too. But back then there were not hundreds of Debian forks. I would say openSuSE is the easiest to learn.

frankbell 07-18-2017 10:05 PM

I would hardly recommend LFS for a new Linux user. In my opinion, one needs to know something about Linux to understand LFS.

I normally recommend Mint, Mageia, or OpenSUSE. Me, I started with Slackware and I'm glad I did, but Slack does not offer to autoformat your partitions. I was familiar with DOS fdisk, so I was able to figure out cfdisk without any issues.

The three I recommend all have menus with menu buttons that allow you to start programs, but, as someone else mentioned, Linux is not Windows. It may have a GUI interface that is not too foreign, but expect it to be different under the hood. It's not hard, but it is different.

There will be a learning curve, but there was a learning curve with Windows also. It just that many Windows users traversed it gradually and have forgotten rounding the learning curve.

Welcome to LQ.

clifftec 07-18-2017 10:35 PM

I run along side, LinuxLite 3.2, PCLOS 2017 (used this one for several years, really good), Ubuntu 17.04, and I find these quite easy to learn. I would like to make one clear questioning comment....

... why would any computer user use any other operating system, Linus Torvalds... you sir are a GENIUS, and I can see the future of everything using Linux, as it nearly is the case now! Step down Billy and Steve, you have had your 15 minutes!

frankbell 07-18-2017 10:57 PM


why would any computer user use any other operating system,
Linux has certainly come a long way, that's a certainty.

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