Linux Distributions That Look Like Windows

On January 14, 2020, Microsoft stopped providing support for Windows 7.  Essentially, this forced most Windows users to switch to Windows 10, which is a remarkably different visual environment.   It’s also been criticized a lot for privacy and security holes.  Because of this, many Windows users are looking to switch to Linux.  The switch can be intimidating for new users who think that all Linux distributions are command-based, resembling an old CRT-type computer.  However, there are several distributions that were designed for beginners and have the look and feel of a Windows system.  Here are our top five choices. You can install most of these Linux distributions using Rufus.


LinuxFX 10 is your Windows gateway drug to the Linux world.  This is an Ubuntu-based distribution that was created by Brazilian Rafael Rachid in 2007.  Of any other distro, this one comes the closest to resembling Windows.  It uses the Cinnamon desktop and if you put a die-hard Windows fan on this computer, he could easily mistake it for a Windows machine.  That is because the LinuxFX desktop comes with many features included in Windows.  You will see a start menu icon, a file explorer, similar wallpaper and even a digital assistant called “Helloa” works nearly identically to Cortana.  When you first install LinuxFX, Helloa will walk you through your monitor display and graphical device settings.  LinuxFX also comes bundled with several pieces of software that most Windows users are already comfortable with, such as TeamViewer, Zoom and Skype.  Combine that with the Wine compatibility layer that allows users to install Windows executable files, and you have got a computer that makes a nearly seamless transition from Windows to Linux.

Zorin OS

Zorin OS 15.2 is another distribution that is based on Ubuntu and closely resembles Windows.  The creators’ goal from the outset was to make a Linux distribution that would provide an easy Linux transition for former Windows users.  It uses a purely graphical interface and installer, and comes with software called a “Look Changer” that allows users to make their desktops look (and act) like Windows 7.  This means that Zorin OS user can get access to a graphics-based start menu that is organized very much the same way that a Windows start menu is organized.  Zorin OS 15.2 also comes with Zorin Connect, which provides users the ability to sync their phones to their Zorin computers.  It includes features such as replying to SMS texts from the Zorin OS desktop, transferring files between devices and using your phone as a remote to control music or video on the desktop.  Additionally, because Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu, it is an extremely stable and secure and is updated regularly.  This is a graphically beautiful distribution and the zero-dollar price tag makes it an attractive choice for a former Windows user.

Linux Mint

Third on our list of distributions that resemble Windows is Linux Mint.  This is a Debian based distribution that was originally created by Clément Lefèbvre.  Currently, development is being handled by Linux Mint themselves as well as its community of users.  Linux Mint offers an out-of-the-box multimedia experience to users.  Installation is web-based and noob-friendly.  This distribution comes already bundled with all of the general applications that most former Windows users have come to expect.  One of the most common complaints about Linux is that it is hard to install programs, but Linux Mint makes this easier by employing the Software Manager.  Software Manager utilizes a point-and-click installation process, making the background installation process (using Deb and Flatpak packages) invisible to the user.  Another feature available on Mint is called Timeshift, which allows users the option to create system restore points.  Windows users will be familiar with this feature as System Restore, which is generally used when users install a new program and it ends up causing unforeseen problems.  With these user-friendly system processes and features, we feel that Linux Mint is a solid choice for any Windows convert.

Elementary OS

Next on our list is Elementary OS.  This is a graphically elegant distribution based on Ubuntu LTS.    This distribution comes with many custom applications, including the desktop environment Pantheon.  There are several other custom applications; here are a few: 

  • Plank – a dock
  • Switchboard – similar to Windows Control Panel
  • Calendar – desktop calendar
  • Files – a file manager
  • Gala – a windows manager

Developers of Elementary OS have stated they wanted a minimalistic but accessible operating system, and most users would agree that they have succeeded.  Additionally, Elementary OS offers many features that are often omitted from Linux distributions.  There’s a feature called Parental Controls, which allows parents to restrict individual applications or websites, or computer usage hours.  It also handles multiple use profiles much more gracefully than other Linux distributions.  Logging in, users will see their name alongside their corresponding profile picture and wallpaper.  The entire operating system experience is visually beautiful, simple and cohesive—and all of this does not come at the expense of speed.  Elementary can be installed on an older computer and run wonderfully.  Elementary OS is an excellent choice for Windows users that want try to Linux in a simple, user-friendly environment.


ChaletOS is a great choice for beginners who are looking to try out Linux.  It is based on Xubuntu and has a striking resemblance to Windows 7.  Creators have said that their mission was to create a simple way for Windows users to transition to Linux.  To meet that goal, they developed a distribution that was simple, familiar and aesthetically-pleasing.  The Xfce desktop interface is simple and intuitive.  There is a start menu, which most Windows users will be very familiar with, of course.  Additionally, users will find a system try and widgets.  It’s rare to get these features out-of-the-box in any other Linux distribution.  And if users happen to dislike the look of the desktop and start menu, they can change it by using the distribution’s Style Changer option.  Also included in the bundle are applications like Firefox and VLC, which most Windows users are likely already familiar with.  Like many other Linux distributions, this works well on older systems, so there’s no reason why former Windows users can’t try it out.