With the end of support for Windows XP and the coming end of support for Windows Vista next year, many of you have asked about switching to a Linux-based system.

It sounds like a great idea. Linux-based operating systems are free to download and you’ll probably be able to find one that will work with even a very old PC. But is a good idea for you?

Before switching a Linux-based system here are a few questions to ask yourself.

1. How well do you cope with change?  Linux will feel somewhat familiar to Windows users, but there’s still an entirely new way of doing things to learn.

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2. Are you willing to learn? Many people work hard to avoid learning tech jargon. But if you want to use a new Linux-based system you’re going to need to pick up a new vocabulary and understand what words like “distro” mean.

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3. Are you willing to become your own techie?  You’ll need to be. Because you’re going to have make decisions like which one of the many Linux-based operating systems you want to install. You may also need to troubleshoot drivers for your keyboard, mouse and wireless.  There’s not central tech-support location to call or e-mail for help with a Linux-based system. If you need assistance you’ll have to rely on help from other users in forums to help you out. And sometimes they aren’t going to be speaking in terms a beginner will understand.

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4. If you aren’t technically minded, do you have a tech-minded friend?  If tech-terms absolutely throw you for a loop, you’ll need a technically-minded friend or a professional technician that you trust to offer assistance from time to time.

5. Are there certain Windows programs you absolutely have to have? You’ll find an array of free programs available for download in the store for your particular flavor of Linux.

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But they won’t be the exact same programs you used in Windows in most cases. Now, it is possible to install a Windows emulator and run some Windows programs within a Linux distro, but that’s going to take some work to set up.

~ Cynthia