Over the past couple of years, interest in Linux on the desktop has slowly increased. While running any Linux distribution on a personal computer is still uncommon, an increasing amount of people have heard of it. Thus, it would be good to talk about the steps that it takes, in case you’re interested in trying another operating system. Today we’ll talk about migrating to Fedora Linux.
A primary goal of this article is to also dispel some myths about changing your operating system. There is a tendency amongst niche audiences to over-promise their preferred product, and it would be disingenuous to claim that anybody can install Fedora Linux today.
As to why you might want to migrate to Fedora Linux, that’s a bit beyond the scope of this article. But if this is the first time you hear about Fedora, then feel free to read here Fedora’s mission statement: Freedom, Friends, Features, and First.
The core of using your computer, is the things that it allows you to do: Work, study, play or relax, can all be supported by computer applications. Your operating system is as good as its ability is to run those applications. In some sense, running an operating system like Fedora Linux is simply a means to an end. There are certainly ways how Fedora can help, but it’s always in a supporting role.
That is also where the biggest hurdle lies: Linux has its own application ecosystem and that ecosystem is not compatible with other ecosystems. The biggest factor on whether you can or should give Fedora Linux a try, is in your personal selection of applications.
MoSCoW of applications
A MoSCoW is a technique to make plans, focusing on priorities and requirements. It would be good to make a list of applications, ranked by their importance to you. With that you can see if migrating to Fedora Linux is worthwhile, and if there are hurdles.
These applications are essential. You’ll not be able to keep a job, maintain a healthy social live, or finish an education without these applications.
Common examples would be Adobe Photoshop for graphic designers, SolidWorks for industrial engineers, Microsoft Office for accountants, the LockDown Browser for students, or Docker for software developers.
You use these applications daily, for things like browsing the internet, watching series, or gaming with friends. These applications can be very important, but missing out on one will not have ill consequences.
Common examples would be Google Chrome, video-games like Fortnite, Minecraft or Counter Strike, Zoom, or VS Code.
These applications would be nice to have, but they are in no way important. You could do without for a long period of time, or you could easily compromise.
Common examples would be a music player, a simple text editor for your Christmas letters, or a utility to rip YouTube videos.
What will you never miss? What applications do you have installed, but never touched? You don’t have to care about Fedora Linux’ compatibility if you don’t use them anyway.
Common examples include that touchpad-configuration utility, or the Help tools generously provided by your computer manufacturer.
MoSCoW of compromises
If you have a clear idea of what you use your computer for, it’s good to take a hard look at the list and see what can be done before migrating to Fedora Linux.
This is the make-or-break category. You’ll have to see if all these applications have a Linux version. Preferably a Fedora or Red Hat specific version. If not, then it’s likely better to stop right here. It’s not reasonable to migrate to Fedora Linux if you’re in any way dependent on certain applications.
Second, you could make an economic calculation. Especially in business settings, you can look into the costs of switching to Fedora as an investment and you can do a cost benefit analysis. Perhaps you should buy a new camera that has Linux support, but you might save out on operational costs for your current hardware.
The last cause of action, is to see how you can remove this dependency in the future. Having many ‘must-have’ applications puts you in a vendor-lock which could negatively impact you. Companies can over-charge you for example, or they can force you into a product-tying ecosystem. Keep this list small, even if you’ll never run Linux on a desktop computer.
Here, you have more leeway in doing things. After all, you won’t get hungry if an application is unreliable. First, see if there is a Linux version. A native Linux version will generally be more reliable then any other solution.
If not, then you can start looking for alternatives. Some websites like https://alternativeto.net/ allow you to search for Linux-compatible tools. Also, keep in mind that you’re not necessarily looking for a certain brand product. You can watch a film with a variety of applications. Some of these alternative applications are included by default with Fedora Linux.
Flathub makes it easy to install many FLOSS and non-free applications on Fedora Linux.
This is also where you can look into compatibility tools like Wine. While it’s fairly technical to set up properly, it is a way of making many Windows-only applications functional on Fedora Linux. For video games, there is a dedicated article about Gaming on Fedora Linux.
Do consider Wine a last-ditch effort though, and don’t plan your Fedora migration around it. It’s a great tool, but people also tend to oversell it’s value. Without commercial support by Valve or Code Weavers, your changes are limited.
If all these solutions seem ill-fated, then you might have a single application that you can’t use, but which should not negatively impact your life. Keep in mind that if the list of unsupported applications becomes too large, you might still not want to move to Linux. Fedora should empower you to do what you want, and accepting that Fedora Linux is not for you is equally valid.
For the majority of non-descriptive applications that you need occasionally, you can assume that there are multiple roads to Rome. Try the Software Center or look around on Flathub, and you’ll find applications that can help you with simple things.
We’ve now also reached the point where personal preferences come into play. Would you like to control your music from your mobile phone? That’s not supported on Fedora Workstation with GNOME, but you could use the KDE Spin of Fedora Linux which supports KDE Connect for Android.
It could also mean that you should use a browser-version of a certain application. Even major applications like Microsoft Office can be used through the web, as long as it’s limited to casual use. Same for the occasional cropping of an image; you don’t need a pirated copy of Photoshop to do that.
That should be easy! But fear not, although you might not be able to migrate many of your useless applications, Fedora Linux also has its own collection of beautiful applications to try and then forget about. Even better, if there are applications that you don’t need, you can always uninstall them: Your browser-choice is respected on Fedora Linux.
Trying Fedora 35
At this point you should have a pretty clear understanding about migrating to Fedora Linux, and if it’s something for you. But how to start? There are some basic steps that you can go through, trying Fedora Linux without committing to anything yet.
You can run a computer on a computer! With a program like Oracle VirtualBox, you can start Fedora Linux on almost any operating system, so you can poke around without risking anything. This will allow you to look at the UI and the basic set of applications. Keep in mind that a virtual machine is not very good for performance so you can’t make any educated guesses about how well Linux will run on your computer.
Fedora Linux running inside VirtualBox
To use VirtualBox, you can head over to their website and take a look at their documentation and installation instruction for your machine. We even have an older Magazine article about installing Fedora Linux inside VirtualBox. The only thing I must warn you for, is that VirtualBox is not FLOSS. There are some legal trapdoors so be careful: Use it for personal, non-commercial, purposes only.
Another way of trying Fedora Linux, is by booting it off a USB Stick. You can prepare a USB Stick with the Fedora Media Writer, so that it can start Fedora Linux the moment you restart the computer. You can then try Fedora Linux and use the browser, media applications, and basic office applications.
Fedora Media Writer
This is also the best moment to see if all your hardware is properly supported. Go into the setting panel and see if all the audio devices are visible. Also check your wireless options. The only hardware that will not be properly detected although it might still work, are NVidia graphics cards. This is sadly a known fact and continues source of frustration. The article about Gaming on Fedora Linux can tell you how to deal with that.
This is a side-step in migrating to Fedora Linux, because nobody says that you can’t use two different systems. During the installation process of Fedora Linux, you can tell the system how to partition your hard-disks. You can install Fedora Linux next to Windows 11 if you want to.
Image curtesy to TecMint. Their website has a full guide.
The only risk to keep in mind, is that while Fedora Linux likes to play nice with other systems, nothing forces other systems to be equally generous. You will not be the first person to lose access to their Linux installation because some other operating system wipes the start-up configuration.
You likely already know if there are any specific applications that will stop you from migrating to Fedora Linux. This is not bad, and simply thinking about possible alternatives makes you a more educated computer user. As elaborated earlier, it’s about empowering you.
If all the roadblocks are cleared, and you’ve tried Fedora Linux in a controlled environment, then this is the point where ideas can be put into action. Head over to the official documentation for the installation guide.
Care to comment? Feel free to tell us why you use Fedora Linux or why not, and tell us how you managed to deal with the inevitable application-ecosystem incompatibility. Do you use Wine a lot? Have you changed your software habits?