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From Windows to Pop!_OS

The switch from Windows and MacOS to Linux Desktop was a big change. The transition took place over several months and began with a crash.


The catalyst for embracing Linux desktop as my main operating system was a total hardware crash. I had been experimenting with several Linux distros as secondary systems—either on other devices or a second hard disk or hard disk partition—for a number of years, but had not dared to make the leap to Linux as my default OS.

The crash occurred when I attempted to clone my main laptop with Clonezilla. This exposed a broken section on my disk drive, which resulted in a complete system crash.

Fortunately, I had been using Backblaze for ongoing data backups, and had started a lifetime subscription with pCloud to sync important data. My data was secure, but my laptop was a mess. I had to get a new SDD and start over.

Rather than attempt to burn an older cloned image of my setup, I decided that the crash was a good opportunity to rethink my workflow and system.


I had up until then been using a rather complicated dual-boot setup which ran both Windows and Linux. The system would automatically boot up with Windows, and I could switch to the Linux drive by rebooting. Both operating systems communicated with a third drive, which held my data and included a massive archive of audio recording projects.

If this seems unnecessarily complicated, it was, but it worked. I stuck with Windows for the audio production. I had experimented with Linux audio production, but decided that wasn't something I had time to explore.1

Using both operating systems side-by-side made me realise that I preferred Linux. I was using Ubuntu at the time. I resented the fact I was stuck with Windows just for audio production.

Back to the drawing board

The disk failure enabled me to analyse my setup and come at it with a fresh perspective. It's actually healthy to do that once in a while! In this particular case, I saw the glass as being half full in the end, though I could have done without the stress that comes with your main system crashing.

With several hard drives, operating systems, cloud backup systems and external drives, I found it helpful to sketch ideas out on A4 paper.

I decided to keep both operating systems, but boot into Linux desktop by default, in order to make switching back to Windows, which I was bound to be tempted to do, slightly less convenient. This half-way step between systems turned out to be the right approach. I got used to solving problems in Linux rather than reverting to Windows whenever I got stuck, and today, I do everything on Linux desktop.

My audio recording and mixing system with Windows was moved to a different computer. I will write about compartmentalisation with separate hardware devices soon!


I was familiar with Ubuntu, but had been hearing good things about another distro based on Ubuntu called Pop!_OS, so I decided to give that a try.2

There are excellent tutorials for dual booting Linux distros with Windows online that are kept up-to-date, so I recommend searching online if you are interested in trying that yourself. I always check the @LearnLinuxTV first, but there are many other good teachers out there.

The experience of transitioning to Pop!_OS as my main daily operating system was good, painless. Dual booting worked without needing to tinker with BIOS settings under the hood. Pop!_OS is about as user friendly as a Linux operating systems get, and I experienced few problems in the years that followed. One of my kids runs Pop!_OS on their laptop (same as mine: Thinkpad T440p) today, because 1) it makes everything feel fast, and 2) it's good for gaming.

Linux desktop in practice

I want to highlight a few issues I ran into running a dual-boot system with Linux desktop as my main operating system, and end with a couple of tips and things to be aware of for readers considering a switch to Pop!_OS. I hope you will find it useful; don't forget the many headaches that come with using mainstream operating systems which we've learned to accept.


This first point is a little bit technical, but if you are planning to use several hard drives that need to work together, make sure they are installed using the same file system type, and that the data drive is formatted so both operating systems can access the data. I got stuck on this for quite a while!

Secondly, I sometimes ran into permissions-related problems accessing the third data drive. This was further complicated by backing up data to the cloud.

While Backblaze had saved my skin with it's steady, unintrusive data backups, the switch to Linux desktop resulted in ending my subscription. I had an interesting and detailed exchange with one of the sales team members about their Linux options for data backups, but decided that what Backblaze offered wasn't for me.

In other words, when switching to Linux desktop full time, you may need to consider finding new solutions for cloud syncing and backup, and perhaps other 'set-and-forget' systems you've gotten used to. pCloud remains an excellent privacy-focused, cross-platform cloud tool, and I use them for data syncing and backup.

I have to admit that the small inconvenience of having to reboot my laptop and holding down the F12 key to work on an audio project in Windows led to a reduction of time spent on music recording projects. I eventually solved that issue by moving all audio work to a dedicated Windows computer which I bought second-hand.

Tips for Pop!_OS specifically

Pop!_OS has its own software manager called the Pop!_Shop. I tried using it, but it is terrible. For some reason, it is extremely slow! Also, some of the software featured in the shop (like Standard Notes) was a 'B Team' version of the application, which would result in late updates and old versions. I would recommend installing and updating applications with the terminal instead.

Some applications (for me, Tuta, Standard Notes, pCloud) require you to download a single file called an AppImage in Linux. These can be stored in your Home directory, and are made executable by right-clicking on them and changing the permissions there.

I have had some trouble with AppImages over the years. To update AppImages, you have to replace them with the new version, a bit tedious. Additionally, I had trouble getting the icons of AppImages to appear in my toolbar. Lastly, on rebooting the system, I sometimes had to go back into the Home directory and manually restart the AppImage software.

One of the best fixes for most of these issues is to install the AppImageLauncher via the terminal. (I'll put a link to further information below.) This tool recognises AppImages when you first start them up and asks for permission to integrate them into the launcher. This helped fix the icon and most other problems.

In Pop!_OS, the desktop is just a pretty background, not a surface to dump files and shortcuts. This took some adjusting, but I like and am used to it now. There are ways to fix application icons to your desktop in Pop!_OS, but I found this to be more trouble than it was worth.

It pays to keep track of the managers you installed specific applications with (AppImage, terminal, Pop!_Shop, other), because you can only update or delete apps with that particular manager.


Pop!_OS was my main desktop operating system until very recently. For me, it was the right Linux distro to help wean me from Windows and MacOS. It feels mainstream, and there is a lot of good documentation, help and support for beginners out there.

As mentioned, one of my children loves Pop!_OS because it works well for Steam gaming. I believe Pop has a good reputation in the gaming community.

I doubt I will ever go back to Windows or MacOS. Using a Linux desktop has enabled me to spend a lot less money on hardware. The laptop I'm typing this on, the Thinkpad T440p, is ten years old, and I use it for all my daily tasks!

I recently wrote about trying out Bodhi Linux, which is even snappier than Pop!_OS. This is an operating system developed with a minimalist philosophy in mind, and I am slowly being won over by it and the supportive community on their Discord. More to follow on that story. Bodhi is not for beginners.

In retrospect, what worked best was making Linux my default system. This forced me to solve problems within Linux, rather than escape back to the more familiar Windows OS whenever I was met by a challenge. You can boot to Linux by default in a dual-boot setup, like I did, or you can by put Linux on your main device and keep an older secondary device for MacOS or Windows, in case of serious emergency. I recommend a period of overlapping operating systems, rather than a hard shift to Linux.

Booting into Linux by default each morning forced me to address issues as they came up, and that, in the end, was the best way to become familiar with it.




AppImages on Pop!_OS


Also mentioned:



Bodhi Linux

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  1. I still feel that way. The many plugins from different companies make transitioning your audio processing workflow to Linux too complicated.

  2. This is the Linux desktop user's downfall: there is always another, possibly better distro for you out there....

#digitalprivacy #journey #linux #pop!_os #review