Windows 11 vs Linux: In-depth comparison to make a choice

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Windows & Software Expert
Milan has been enthusiastic about PCs ever since his childhood days, and this led him to take interest in all PC-related technologies. Before joining WindowsReport, he worked as a front-end web developer. Read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Windows 11 is already here, so join us while we take a closer look at Windows 11 vs Linux.
  • Although Windows 11 is easy to use, many prefer using Linux because it offers better security.
  • We’re going to compare Windows 11 vs KDE and other desktop environments and help you make an inspired choice.
windows 11 vs linux
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Windows 11 is here and users worldwide are excited to try it out and see how it works in action. Currently, there’s a Windows 11 build 22000.65 available for Windows Insiders that lets you try some of the new features.

The new version of Windows has a lot to offer, but how does it compare to other operating systems? We already compared Windows 11 vs Windows 10 in one of our previous articles, so be sure not to miss it.

In today’s guide, we’re going to compare Windows 11 and Linux and see which desktop operating system is better in terms of functionality and security.

Windows 11 vs Linux

User interface

Windows 11 brings a fresh user interface with a centralized Taskbar, while the Linux user interface can greatly vary based on the distribution and the desktop environment that you’re using.

Source: Kubuntu

Most Linux distributions have rounded corners so they do look a bit like Windows 11, but they usually have the menu located in the bottom left corner of the screen.

Speaking of Start Menu, Windows 11 Start Menu was streamlined, and not it comes only with the pinned applications and recently used apps and files.

On the other hand, the Linux menu can be a bit cluttered since you can access most applications from the menu. While this is useful, it might feel just a bit overwhelming to some users.

Some distributions have the dock on the left side of the screen, and some allow you to center your dock at the bottom like the Windows 11 Taskbar.

Speaking of Taskbar, in Windows 11 Taskbar is locked in the bottom position, so you can’t move it freely like in other versions of Windows.

As for the general look, it all comes down to personal preference, but some lightweight distributions, such as Xubuntu might not look as visually appealing as other distributions.

Source: Xubuntu

This is why it’s hard to compare the visual interface between Windows 11 and Linux distributions since distributions are so different from one another.

Regardless of the distribution that you’re using, the interface on Linux is consistent and minimalistic, and certain distributions might even look better than Windows, but that all comes down to personal preference.

It’s worth mentioning that Windows 11 is customizable, and there are many great Windows 11 themes that you can download for free.

If you’re interested more in the technical differences, don’t hesitate to discover what sets apart Windows kernels from Linux kernels from our dedicated guide. The Linux code is known to be better for development, it has a has monolithic architecture. and might surprise you when it comes to its multi-user support capabilities.

Architecture

The Windows Architecture has two unique layers i.e. User mode and Kernel mode. While User mode has integral subsystems for fixed system support processes, service processes, the security subsystem, user applications, and environment subsystems, the Kernel Mode consists of Executive, microkernel, kernel-mode drivers, and the hardware abstraction layer.

Windows Architecture main components

At the same time, Linux Architecture is comprised of User space and Kernel space, these layers including the following main components: Hardware, kernel, System call interface, as well as User applications or utilities.

Linux Architecture main components

Security

When it comes to security, Linux is the champion for several reasons. First off, almost 73% of users are on Windows, and that’s a massive number of users that hackers can exploit.

On the other hand, the Linux userbase is a lot smaller, with about 2.6% of the market share, and the number of hackers and potential victims is a lot smaller.

Global market share held by Linux, from June 2016 to June 2021 (Statista)

Since Windows is the dominating platform, it’s no wonder to see that most malware is created specifically for Windows.

It’s worth noting that there are a couple of viruses on Linux, but you won’t need to use antivirus software like in Windows.

Lastly, most malware is in .exe format, and you’ll infect your PC when you run the malicious .exe file. Linux can’t work with .exe files, and it can’t run them, so if you ever download a malicious Windows file, it simply won’t run on Linux.

In terms of numbers, there are about 74.8 million different threats available for Windows, while that number is a lot less on Linux.

Number of threats available for Windows during the past 7 years (AV Test)

As you can see, the main advantage of Linux lies in its smaller userbase, but despite that, Linux limits access to the root or administrator account, so even if you get hacked, without the administrative credentials the hacker won’t be able to do much.

In terms of user privacy, Windows might collect some of your data for analysis unless you turn that off manually.

We wrote about Windows 10 privacy issues in the past, and we’re doubtful that Windows 11 will address these privacy concerns.

On the other hand, Linux won’t ever collect your data or send it for analysis without your knowledge and consent, so you can rest assured that your privacy is protected when using Linux.

When comparing Windows 11 vs Linux in terms of security and privacy, Linux is the clear winner. However, Windows 11 is also a safe choice to consider using, as long as you choose a reliable Windows 11 antivirus software.

Gaming

When it comes to gaming, Windows 11 is the clear winner, especially with the addition of the Xbox Game Pass for Windows 11.

This isn’t the only new feature, and Windows 11 plans to improve game performance and make the loading times shorter with the introduction of the DirectStorage feature.

Although Steam works with Linux, not all titles are available, and some might not be as optimized for Linux as their Windows counterparts.

Source: Reddit

You can somewhat circumvent this by using a compatibility layer called Wine with mixed results. Lastly, Linux doesn’t support DirectX API, which causes compatibility issues with most games.

Although Linux is capable of gaming, the results vary, which makes Windows 11 a go-to choice when it comes to gaming.

Application compatibility

With this one, just like with gaming, Windows 11 is a clear winner. Being the dominating operating system on the market, most developers are optimizing their software for Windows exclusively.

Linux doesn’t work with .exe files meaning that you can’t even run Windows applications on Linux without Wine or a virtual machine.

Running Photoshop on Linux with Wine (WineHQ)

This means that technically, Windows applications can work, especially if you’re using Wine, but the results can greatly vary depending on the application that you’re trying to run.

Linux has alternatives for most regular Windows applications, and while those applications get the job done, they lack the familiarity and ease of use that Windows applications have.

On the other hand, Microsoft has plans to bring Linux GUI app support to Windows, so we expect to see Linux apps running on Windows 11 without issues.

Moreover, note that WSL2 enables Linux GUI applications (X11 and Wayland) to feel natural when used on Windows. Those making use of Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) are entitled to expect a fully integrated desktop experience.

The confirmation comes from a few early benchmarks of the Windows 11 22000.51 build against Windows 10 and Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS/Ubuntu 21.04 on the same hardware.

Windows 11 vs. Ubuntu Linux Benchmarks (Phoronix)

Hardware requirements

Windows 11 hardware requirements have caused a bit of controversy since the announcement of the new operating system.

While the hardware requirements aren’t that high, the biggest change is the requirement for a TPM 2.0 chip, and many early adopters encountered a TPM 2.0 error while trying to install Windows 11.

Fortunately for users, there’s a way to bypass the TPM requirement on Windows 11, but if Microsoft patches it, you might have to buy a TPM 2.0 motherboard if you want to upgrade to Windows 11.

Linux has no such requirements, and certain Linux distributions are optimized for low-end PCs, so the hardware requirements will vary depending on the distribution that you’re using.

Windows 11 is also dropping support for 32-bit systems, so if you’re on an older 32-bit system, Linux is your way to go.

When comparing Windows 11 vs Linux in terms of hardware requirements, Linux comes with more variety, and it offers better support for older computers.

Open source and pricing

All versions of Windows are closed-source applications, meaning that the source code is available only to Microsoft, and only Microsoft can modify how Windows works.

Windows 11, just like all other versions before it, is proprietary software, so to use it on a single PC you’ll need to purchase a license.

However, Windows 10 users should be able to download Windows 11 as a free upgrade, but the pricing is still unknown for the new users.

On the other hand, Linux is completely open-source, and the software is maintained by the community of developers, which means that anyone with enough skill can customize Linux according to its needs.

Being open-source software, Linux is completely free, and you can install it on as many computers as you want, for both personal and business uses, without any restrictions.

As for applications, there are many free and open-source applications for Windows, but many require a license to use them. On the other hand, the vast majority of Linux applications are completely free and can be used without restrictions.

Ease of use

Windows 11 is just like its predecessors, incredibly simple to use, and in order to do so, you don’t have to know how to work with the command line.

All settings are accessible from the graphical interface, allowing you to easily change any setting. If you’re an advanced user, you can also use Windows PowerShell to modify settings with the command line.

Installing applications is pretty simple and you just have to download the setup file, double-click it and follow the instructions on the screen.

With the recent changes to the Microsoft Store, you should be able to install Win32 applications directly from it, so you won’t even have to use the browser to download setup files.

Linux on the other hand does require a bit of technical knowledge. While the operating system has its store that you can use to download apps, some apps are only available for download through the Terminal.

Installing apps is simple, as long as you know the download location of the app that you want to install, and it’s faster than downloading the installation file manually and running it.

As for configuration, you might have to change certain settings in Linux through the Terminal. This can be a bit daunting to first-time users, and it does have a learning curve to it.

Deleting/removing files and folders through the Terminal (Ubuntu)

If you’re not familiar with the Terminal, Windows has its own Windows Terminal that works similarly to the Linux Bash, so you might want to give it a try and see how it works.

As for Windows 11 vs Linux ease of use debate, Windows is a more user-friendly solution compared to Linux, allowing you to easily change settings and install apps without ever having to open the command line.

If you want to try Linux on your Windows PC, you can do so easily with Linux emulator software and see which operating system is easier to use.

Support for Android apps

Linux doesn’t have support for Android apps natively, and the only way to run them is to use a compatibility layer such as Anbox for example. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it should work on any PC that has enough power to run it.

On the other hand, Windows 11 will bring support for Android apps natively, so you won’t have to use third-party applications or emulators to run it.

TikTok app running directly on Windows 11 (Microsoft)

Android apps will utilize Intel Ivy Bridge technology, but you should be able to run Android apps even if you’re using AMD CPU.

Windows 11 vs KDE

KDE is a popular desktop environment for Linux, and many users are wondering how is Windows 11 comparing to KDE.

All that we said about Linux in the previous section applies here for KDE as well, however, there is one similarity between KDE and Windows 11, and that’s the user interface.

Source: KDE

The menu is slightly similar to the new Start Menu from Windows 11 with its big icons, but unlike the new Start Menu, the menu in KDE has a sidebar that you can use to access applications and settings.

The interface is highly customizable, and you can even set the dock to be in the center like on Windows 11 or macOS.Widgets are also available in KDE and you can add various widgets from the widgets panel to your desktop.

Unlike in Windows 11, KDE widgets don’t have their separate panel, so they are always on your desktop, like in the older versions of Windows.

It seems that Windows 11 widgets are designed to show you information from other online services, while in KDE the widgets are used to show you mostly system information, or act as shortcuts.

As for Windows, KDE seems to have slightly rounded top corners while keeping the bottom corners sharp.

Microsoft has revamped the File Explorer and removed all Ribbon menus, and instead of them, the File Explorer now has a set of most used functions in the icon toolbar.

This is somewhat similar to what KDE and other Linux distributions are doing, and with a fresh set of icons and a more streamlined File Explorer, Windows 11 might look just a bit like KDE.

The next generation Desktop for Linux (KDE)

While the two systems might have some visual similarities, picking the better one depends on your needs, and the pros and cons are the same as with the Windows vs Linux debate.

In terms of visual interface, KDE might look a bit more minimalistic and streamlined, and some users might prefer that.

Other than that, it comes down to if you’re Windows or a Linux user and what do you expect to get from an operating system.

Windows 11 vs GNOME

GNOME is a great operating system with a unique and minimalistic design, and if you’re looking for a new Linux distribution to try, the new version of GNOME might be just what you need.

This version called GNOME 40 was released recently, and it has a lot of visual similarities with Windows 11.

The interface comes with a minimalistic design and rounded corners, so it does resemble Windows 11, but that’s not the only similarity.

GNOME has a dock that is located on the center bottom position of your screen and you can use it to access your apps quickly.

Source: GNOME

With the App grid button, you can easily find any installed application, and you can rearrange apps for quick and easy access.

Source: GNOME

Workspaces have improved in this version, and they are now arranged horizontally, which seems more intuitive. This version also has a new three-finger gesture support that allows you to switch between workspaces easily.

This is quite similar to the virtual desktop feature and the new gestures that we got on Windows 11. However, on Windows 11 you can switch to a different virtual desktop right from the Taskbar which isn’t available in GNOME.

GNOME and Windows 11 have certain similarities mostly in the terms of visual appearance, but this is where the similarities end.

Windows 11 vs Kali Linux

Comparing Windows 11 and Kali Linux isn’t really fair since Kali Linux is designed for pen-testing and it comes with a wide array of tools to check the system for security vulnerabilities.

Some of these tools include Nmap, Wireshark, Responder, Hydra, and many others. With these tools preinstalled, you don’t have to configure anything, just start Kali Linux and you can get to work.

Xfce desktop environment in Kali Linux (Kali)

Kali Linux can also be run on Windows using a Windows Subsystem for Linux, so you can use Kali tools seamlessly with other Windows applications.

Kali also comes with several desktop environments and you can choose between Xfce, GNOME, and KDE depending on your preference.

Ubunto, a great choice for beginners

In our opinion, Ubuntu or any other distribution that is based on Ubuntu is an ideal choice for beginners. We find it so user-friendly thanks to its easy install and intuitive desktop, while the LTS releases are supported with security updates for no less than five years from the initial date.

Moreover, we see it as the first turn-to choice for those who also like the idea of not exploring on their own when others are eager to step in whenever you need to get things on the right track.

If you happen to experience certain issues, rest assured that all you need to do is to be active on forums on simply search the web, and you’ll find someone else who’s been in your shoes. There’s truly a Ubuntu community out there, just waiting for you.

Can I use Linux and Windows on the same PC?

Using Linux and Windows on one PC is incredibly simple, and to do that, you just need to dual boot Windows with another OS. By doing so, you’ll create a special partition with Linux on it, and boot from it when needed.

We have to mention that with this method there isn’t a quick way to switch between systems, so if you want to switch back to Windows from Linux, you need to restart your PC and boot again.

You can also use virtual machine software and run Linux in a virtual environment inside Windows. However, this method can put an extra load on your hardware because you’ll be running two operating systems simultaneously.

If you need to multitask and switch between Linux and Windows quickly, virtual machine software is a better option than dual booting.

Can I run Windows files on Linux?

Many file extensions are universal and they will work on both Linux and Windows platforms. This includes image, video, music, text, or document files.

As long as you have the software that can open a specific file type, you’ll be able to open that file on both Windows and Linux.

EXE and MSI files won’t work on Linux out of the box, but you might be able o run them if you install Wine software. Once you install Wine, you can run the aforementioned file types by using these commands in the Terminal:

  • wine /path/to/windows_sofware.exe
  • wine msiexec /i /path/to/windows_installer.msi

Closing thoughts on Windows 11 and Linux

Now that we’ve compared Windows 11 vs Linux, the question remains, which one is the recommended operating system choice, and the answer depends solely on your needs.

Are you using exclusively Windows software and do you happen to like this operating system? If so, Windows 11 is the way to go.

If you’re comfortable with using alternative applications, or you’re tech-savvy, and you want a secure, private, and completely free operating system, maybe you should give Linux a try.

What are your thoughts on these OS versions, are you a Linux user, and have you ever tried it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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