Like many people, I recently had problems with Windows. I do this because I have to, despite my issues with Windows 11 and its demands and Microsoft’s constant encroachment on user privacy. Finally, I decided to do something about it.
I uninstalled Windows 11 on my gaming PC and tried my hand at Linux gaming. The Steam Deck has massively beefed up Linux support over the past few months, and now that I’ve spent some time with Tux, I don’t want to go back.
In the vast catalog of articles and videos attempting to install a Linux distribution on a gaming PC, one central question is missing: why? Why would you choose Linux over Windows when Microsoft’s operating system offers better driver and game support, as well as faster problem responses and access to better utilities?
There are several reasons, although the scales generally tip in favor of Windows. On the one hand, Linux is free from any central authority. You don’t have to worry about advertising IDs, features you don’t want or agree 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 bloat. Windows has a ton of features, and I’d bet most people don’t interact with the majority of those features. Certainly not. I don’t need actions every morning, a rewards program, or personalized recommendations based on the data Microsoft has collected about me. And I really don’t need Cortana.
Due to the lack of bloat, some games just run faster. The margins are small and not always present, but Linux can have tangible performance benefits. Games that support Vulkan (which works natively with Linux, unlike DirectX) generally run faster with it instead of Microsoft’s API.
This explains 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 distros) that allow developers to tailor features for a specific purpose, and there are plenty of options for games.
Pop!_OS is one of the most popular options, and it’s what I’ve used to replace Windows on my gaming PC. However, there are a ton of other options. Lakka is a Linux distro built on RetroArch specifically to emulate older games, while ChimeraOS is a Linux distro that turns your PC into a console for living room setups (and even lets you install and manage games remotely). ).
Linux is not the PC gaming platform; it is an alternative. If you’re playing on Windows without a problem, it’s best to stick with Microsoft’s operating system. For those who are more privacy-conscious and want to try something different, however, Linux is here and better than ever for PC gaming.
Living with Linux
I chose Pop!_OS for my experience, which happens to be one of the easiest Linux distros to use. All you have to do is download the ISO file that matches your GPU (Nvidia or AMD), flash it to create a bootable USB drive (using Rufus or balenaEtcher), and boot to the drive through your BIOS. Pop!_OS supports Steam out of the box, so you can download it from the store and start installing your games.
That’s it – 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 utilities vying for my attention, nor was I buried in settings menus to disable a feature. The main difference between Linux and Windows is that Linux asks you what you want to permitnot what you want disable.
I played Persona 4 Golden, Rogue Legacy 2, God of War, and Cyberpunk 2077 via Steam, neither of which have native Linux ports, and I was shocked at the performance. The biggest problem I encountered was with God of the war, where Vulkan shaders should compile in new areas, causing stutters. A few reboots solved the problem though.
Across the games I played, the main thing I noticed was surprising consistency. I experienced this on my last gen Razer Blade 15, which tends to drop frames in-game when Windows decides to spawn a background task. Once the shaders were compiled, not only was my gameplay more consistent, but my fan noise was also lower.
The main difference is that Linux asks you what you want to enable, not what you want to disable.
Even Pop!_OS proves that Linux gaming is far from just a business. Steam repeatedly refused my controller – honestly, this happens on Windows as well – and trying to play games with the Samsung T7 Shield just wasn’t possible. Not to mention the persistent problem with the anti-cheat software in Linux, which prevents me from playing my beloved Destiny 2.
I was still in shock despite these problems. Valve’s Proton layer is something really special, enabling the vast majority of Steam titles on Linux. It’s not just an on-page medium either. The four games I’ve 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 a tiny 2% of my entire library is unplayable, and that’s largely due to anti-cheat.
You don’t have to choose
You can still dual boot Windows and your favorite Linux distro, so you don’t have to uninstall Windows to see what Linux has in store. I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. I may not want to go back to Windows, but I try my best, I have to.
Windows simply offers better support not only for games, but also for drivers, software, and peripherals that make a gaming setup more than a few components in a box. Additionally, developers are a lot more likely to fix issues on Windows, as just over 1% of Steam users are on Linux.
I’m not sorry I went through the process, though. Learning the ins and outs of Linux has been incredibly rewarding, and it’s given me the 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 from travel).
While I’m not encouraging you to switch exclusively to Linux for gaming, I do encourage you to give it a try. Linux waters are almost at the right temperature, and it’s high time PC gamers gave developers a reason to pay attention to the operating system.