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7 Ways Windows 11 Is Similar to Linux Desktops

While Windows and Linux have long since been rivals, Windows 11 is more like a desktop Linux distribution than you might think, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. Windows 11 Runs Graphical Linux Apps (and Android)

Windows 10 introduced Windows Subsystem for Linux, allowing Windows users to run text-mode Linux apps natively, but now Windows 11 can run full Linux graphical apps with WSLg. With a few clicks, you can run the same editors, IDEs, and even web browsers you would use on a desktop Linux system. You can run both X11 and Wayland apps alongside your favorite Windows apps.


For a lot of people, Windows 11 and WSLg could replace a separate Linux partition or virtual machine entirely.

And that’s not the only Linux-based system you can install apps with on a Windows 11 device. You can now install Android apps from the Amazon Web Store as well. This is something that you can’t do on most desktop Linux distros.

2. Windows 11 Doesn’t Support All Hardware, Just Like Linux

One reason you might want to run Linux apps on Windows with WSL over a desktop Linux distro is that as awesome as Linux is, it doesn’t always agree with everyone’s hardware. This is a real sticking point for laptop users, as Wi-Fi and power management seem to be the biggest hardware compatibility issues.

Windows 11 also has its issues preventing some users of Windows 10 from upgrading to the new OS. The biggest is the requirement for a TPM module. While this makes it more difficult for malware to take over the machine, it’s only standard on machines that were made in the last few years.

While it is possible to bypass Windows 11 minimum requirements, you should do so at your own risk.

3. Windows 11 Has a Different Look, Like Some Linux Desktop Environments

The most radical change in Windows 11, from a user’s point of view, is the desktop. The taskbar design that has been around since Windows 95 has been moved to a centered design, and it looks more like the dock that’s used in macOS or in some Linux desktops, including GNOME.

While you can’t currently move the taskbar, Microsoft is promising that you can in future updates.

When Microsoft says that they “love Linux,” perhaps they also secretly love Linux desktops? If imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, then that might be true based on the way that Microsoft has imitated some other Linux desktop features.

For many years, one technical advantage that Linux desktops had over Windows was virtual desktops, where you could have many desktops on one physical screen. While this was possible on Windows using add-ons, Windows 10 added Task View and Windows 11 has made it easier to access from the taskbar.

4. Installing Software in Windows 11 Is a Lot Like Installing Linux Software

Another thing Linux users liked to brag about was how installing software was easier than on Windows. While Windows users had to contend with downloading installers from all over the internet, all Linux users had to do was fire up their distro’s package manager to install software from a central repository.

Microsoft seems to have been taking notes. They’ve streamlined software installation with the Microsoft Store. You can install many popular Windows apps (and even Linux distros with WSL). And with Winget, you can even install programs from the command line in PowerShell.

5. Both Windows 11 and Linux Have Powerful Terminals Available

Another thing Linux users liked to rub in the faces of Windows users was the power of the terminal. While Windows did have a command-line interface available, it seemed like a relic of the MS-DOS era.

Even worse, Windows didn’t implement a pseudoterminal until Microsoft built one for WSL, which made porting many console-based Linux apps difficult. Windows users who wanted a powerful command-line environment often turned to third-party tools like Cygwin that promised a Unix-like experience on Windows.

The command-line environment on Windows 11 is much better. You can use PowerShell as the default command-line interface, but Linux is also available under WSL. And both of them use the Windows Terminal by default on Windows 11.

If you’re used to terminal applications on Linux, you’ll feel right at home in Windows Terminal. You can have multiple tabs and multiple themes.

Windows 11 has continued using desktop widgets, though they’re not exactly on the desktop. Pressing Windows + W or clicking the icon on the left of the taskbar will reveal the widgets. You can catch up on the latest news, see the weather forecast, and track stocks in a sidebar.

Linux desktops and macOS have had a similar feature. Microsoft had its own “gadgets” for a while before discontinuing the idea, but it seems to have come back. It’s the latest iteration of an “active desktop” incorporating content downloaded from the internet. It seems that Microsoft can’t give up on the idea as other OSes implement this feature.

7. Some Users Don’t Like Windows 11 Changes, Just Like With Linux Distros

As much as Linux and Windows userbases like to square off in comment sections, they have one thing in common: they like to complain about changes to their system. It seems that any change, no matter how trivial, will unleash a torrent of nerd fury in forums and subreddits.

Windows 11 is no exception. One issue seems to be the altered taskbar mentioned earlier. It’s a radical redesign, so this reaction might be expected.

It’s similar to the reaction to major changes to distros like Ubuntu, from the introduction of the Unity interface to systemd, to Snap packages. There’s always someone who’s sure these changes will mean the end of the world.

Whenever Microsoft introduces a new version, it seems that there are those who loudly proclaim that this is the last straw and they’re finally moving to Linux. This is amusing when you realize that Windows and desktop Linux are more similar to each other these days.

Linux and Windows 11 Are More Similar Than You Think

With all of Windows 11’s changes, including a new taskbar, the ability to run Linux GUI and Android apps, problems running on some hardware, Linux package manager-like software installation, and the inevitable complaints about changes, it seems that Windows 11 and desktop Linux are getting harder to tell apart.

If you’re wondering why Linux isn’t more popular on the desktop despite the number of people who say they’ve had it with Windows, read on to find some of the reasons Windows still dominates.

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