I uninstalled Windows on my gaming PC and I don’t want to go back

I uninstalled Windows on my gaming PC and I don’t want to go back

Like many others, I have recently had problems with Windows. I deal with it because I have to, despite my issues with Windows 11 and its requirements and Microsoft’s consistent intrusion into user privacy. Finally, I decided to do something about it.

I uninstalled Windows 11 on my gaming PC and tried Linux gaming. The Steam deck has beefed up its Linux support massively in recent months, and now that I’ve spent some time with Tux, I won’t be going back.

Why Linux?

A sad penguin on a rock.

In the vast catalog of articles and videos attempting to install a Linux distro on a gaming PC, one key question is missing: Why? Why would you go with Linux instead of Windows when Microsoft’s operating system has managed to provide better driver and game support, as well as faster responses to problems and access to better tools?

There are a couple of reasons, although the weight generally falls in favor of Windows. First, Linux is free from any central authority. You don’t have to worry about advertising IDs, features you don’t want or disagree with, or updates that might change the way you interact with your PC.

I really don’t need Cortana.

Plus, you don’t have to deal with bloating. Windows has a ton of features, and I’d wager that most people don’t interact with most of those features. I certainly don’t. I don’t need the shares every morning, a rewards program or personalized recommendations based on data Microsoft has collected about me. And I really don’t need Cortana.

Due to the lack of bloat, some games simply run faster. The margins are small, and they are not always present, but Linux can have tangible performance advantages. Games that support Vulkan (which works natively with Linux, unlike DirectX) usually run faster with it instead of Microsoft’s API.

It answers why you shouldn’t use Windows, but not why you should use Linux. That’s because the answer really comes down to how you want to use your PC. Linux comes through various distros (or distributions) that allow developers to tailor features to a specific purpose, and there are many options for games.

The Retroarch home screen.

Pop!_OS is one of the more popular options, and it’s what I used to replace Windows on my gaming PC. However, there are plenty of other options. Lakka is a Linux distro built on top of RetroArch specifically to emulate older games, while ChimeraOS is a Linux distro that turns your PC into a console for your living room setup (and even lets you install and manage games remotely).

Linux is not the platform for PC gaming; there is an alternative. If you play on Windows without problems, you’re best off with Microsoft’s OS. However, for those who are more concerned with privacy and want to try something different, Linux is around and better than ever for PC gaming.

Living with Linux

A laptop running Linux with a controller on it.

I chose Pop!_OS for my experiment, which happens to be one of the easiest Linux distros to get started with. All you need to do is download the ISO file that matches your GPU (Nvidia or AMD), flash it to create a bootable USB drive (either with Rufus or balenaEtcher), and boot to the drive through the BIOS. Pop!_OS supports Steam out of the box, so you can download it from the store and start installing your games.

It is – and that’s what shocked me so much about using Linux instead of Windows. Using my PC felt like using a console; I wasn’t distracted by dozens of tools vying for my attention, nor was I buried in settings menus to turn off a feature. The main difference between Linux and Windows is that Linux asks what you want enablenot what you want disable.

I played Persona 4 Golden, Rogue Legacy 2, God of War, and Cyberpunk 2077 through Steam, none of which have built-in Linux ports, and I was shocked at the performance. The biggest problem I encountered was i god of war, where the Vulkan shaders have to be compiled into new areas, causing stuttering. However, a few reboots fixed the problem.

Persona 4 Golden runs on Linux.

Across the games I played, the main thing I noticed was surprising consistency. I did this experiment on my last generation Razer Blade 15, which has been prone to dropping in-game images when Windows decides to show a background task. Once the shaders were compiled, not only was my gameplay more consistent, my fan noise was also lower.

The main difference is that Linux asks what you want to enable, not what you want to disable.

Even Pop!_OS proves that Linux gaming is far from an easy endeavor. Steam refused my controller several times – in fairness, this happens on Windows too – and trying to play games from the Samsung T7 Shield just wasn’t possible. That’s not to mention the ongoing problem with anti-cheat software on Linux, which locks me out from playing my beloved Fate 2.

I was still shocked despite these issues. Valve’s Proton team is something very special, enabling the vast majority of Steam titles on Linux. This is not just support on the side either. The four games I played all have a Gold rating on ProtonDB, and more than two-thirds of the games in my library of 706 titles meet that standard. Only 2% of my entire library is unplayable and that’s largely due to anti-cheat.

You don’t have to choose

Flash drive goes into the USB port.
Сергей Тряпицын/123RF.com

You can always dual boot Windows and your favorite Linux distro, so you don’t have to go to the lengths of actually uninstalling Windows to see what Linux has in store. In any case, I would not recommend it. I may not want to go back to Windows, but try as I may, I must.

Windows simply has better support for not only games, but also drivers, software, and peripherals that make a gaming setup more than just a few components in a case. In addition, are developers a lot more likely to solve problems on Windows, as just over 1% of Steam users are on Linux.

I’m not upset that I went through the process. Learning the ins and outs of Linux has been incredibly rewarding and has given me some skills to set up a console-like PC for the couch, or build a retro emulator with a Raspberry Pi (or maybe even a router).

While I don’t encourage you to switch exclusively to Linux for gaming, I do encourage you to give it a try. The Linux waters are almost at the right temperature, and it’s about time PC gamers gave developers a reason to pay attention to the OS.

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