14 votes

Switching from Win10 to something else: what are my options?

Win10's issues and walled-in options are driving me nuts lately. I have a variety of software like Illustrator, Photoshop, Blender, Tidal the Office Suite and Solidworks that I use very frequently. I really can't not use those. I'd also like to play Steam games.

However, I'd like to use a non-bloated and stupid end user-only OS since win10's shenanigans are driving me mad, but I'm not super tech-savy either(though I'm learning).

Is it feasible to switch over to another OS that offers more freedom in the things I want, but still can run the above programs? If so, which? If not, how should I cope with win10?

48 comments

  1. [3]
    Akir Link
    If you need Solidworks, that kind of screws you over. It only runs on Windows. You could try running it with Wine, which may or may not work but isn't officially supported either way. The only...

    If you need Solidworks, that kind of screws you over. It only runs on Windows.

    You could try running it with Wine, which may or may not work but isn't officially supported either way.

    The only option left over is to run Windows in a VM specifically for those windows-only apps. If you do that, you can essentially run any OS you would like.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      pvik Link Parent
      I was in a similar situation. I started learning Solidworks for 3d printing and tried running it in a VM with linux host. The performance was atrocious (Virtualbox, did not try VMWare)....

      I was in a similar situation. I started learning Solidworks for 3d printing and tried running it in a VM with linux host. The performance was atrocious (Virtualbox, did not try VMWare).

      Thankfully, I was in the process of upgrading my desktop, so I made sure I got a motherboard which supported proper IOMMU groups for PCI passthrough. Setup one of my graphics card with PCI passthrough to a qemu/virtd VM with windows 10 (synergy for sharing mouse/keyboard with my host and win10 VM). I have been using this for about 6 months now and am pretty happy with this setup so far. (I have a 3 monitor setup, so it helps to assign one monitor to win10 when the VM is running)

      1 vote
      1. babypuncher Link Parent
        Anything that requires 3D acceleration is not going to run well in Virtualbox or VMWare. I've seen blog posts of people using secondary GPUs passed through to the VM to run games (presumably...

        Anything that requires 3D acceleration is not going to run well in Virtualbox or VMWare. I've seen blog posts of people using secondary GPUs passed through to the VM to run games (presumably Solidworks would also benefit here), but the drawbacks and overall jank didn't seem worth it.

  2. [28]
    ThatFanficGuy Link
    My choices when installing an OS were severely limited by the fact that, while Linux distros work okay from live USBs, no distro would run when installed on the laptop. I tried different drives,...

    My choices when installing an OS were severely limited by the fact that, while Linux distros work okay from live USBs, no distro would run when installed on the laptop. I tried different drives, different distros, maybe even different USBs – no avail. So, it was Windows, and version was the choice.

    There's a little-known edition of Windows 10 that Microsoft doesn't like talking about: LTSC, or Long-Term Servicing Channel. The idea is to supply LTSC on devices that are supposed to work long-term, yet support the functionality of Windows 10 with as little interruption as possible. The examples I saw cited were ATMs, and I presume those include cash registers, as well (I saw one in a local shop rebooting to Win7). You can read more about LTSC here.

    Essentially, LTSC is provided with security updates, but feature updates are seriously postponed. It doesn't have stuff like Cortana, Edge, access to Microsoft Store (and, by extension, the apps), and a whole lot of other included-by-default noise software, which is very appealing. It still features the default apps you'd see in Windows 7, like Internet Explorer, Calculator, Paint etc. etc.

    You won't be able to get LTSC for yourself permanently unless (A) you're willing to update the trial timer on a trial version every 90 days, or (B) are part of a business who buy Win10 Enterprise in bulk (LTSC is an extension of the Enterprise edition). Option A is clunky but workable, and Option B is expensive if you wish to go solo. You can read about both here, way down the article, under the heading "How Can I Get It?".

    Or, you can pirate it. I'm not encouraging you to, but given the difficulties of obtaining what is an OS without the bullshit, which should be the default setup, I wouldn't chastise you for doing it, either.

    EDIT: you can also disable a whole lot about Windows telemetry and the unwanted services via third-party tools, such as O&O ShutUp10 or Ashampoo Antispy.

    11 votes
    1. [4]
      hungariantoast (edited ) Link Parent
      I heavily advise against downloading .iso files from public torrent trackers, especially since the .iso files for any edition of Windows can be downloaded directly from Microsoft's servers. I...

      I heavily advise against downloading .iso files from public torrent trackers, especially since the .iso files for any edition of Windows can be downloaded directly from Microsoft's servers.

      I recently did three LTSC installs, and this is a general breakdown of how it works:

      • Download the batch script that pulls the LTSC .iso files directly off Microsoft's servers. (Windows .iso files are freely available to download and install, including Windows 10, it's the license for the operating system you're expected to pay for, not the operating system itself.)

      • Install Windows 10 LTSC and skip the key activation section of the installation procedure, since you don't have a key.

      • Download HWIDGEN, which you will use for activating the now installed Windows 10 LTSC operating system.

      • Unzip HWIDGEN, provide the password to decrypt it, run it, and activate Windows with the correct procedure.

      If done correctly, you'll have a vanilla Windows 10 LTSC installation directly from Microsoft's servers with an indefinitely activated product key.

      I would link you to the guide for doing this on /r/piracy, but the moderators have shuttered all old posts on the subreddit in response to abusive DMCA requests. If you really want me to though, I can probably find and message you (or anyone else) links to the batch script and activation tool to complete the procedure. (Neither of which are copyright infringing materials.)

      EDIT: I found the script again. It's actually kept in a GitLab repository, but it currently can't pull LTSC .iso files, which is unfortunate. The guide for finding and using the activation tool can be found in the support thread on /r/sjain_guides.

      Seriously, don't download .iso files off of public torrent trackers, use activation tools instead.

      20 votes
      1. [3]
        ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        Not me, thanks: I'm good. Help the OP: they're the one suffering currently. Good instruction, too! Cheers for that! Also, irrelevant to the discussion, but for the point raised: I find downloading...

        Not me, thanks: I'm good. Help the OP: they're the one suffering currently. Good instruction, too! Cheers for that!

        Also, irrelevant to the discussion, but for the point raised: I find downloading .isos to be okay as long as it's a trusted tracker with a history and a high-enough userbase. If it's shit, you'll know in no time. Never had a problem with a sketchy image-file, personally, and I've been doing OS installations for years now, for myself and others.

        I'm guessing it's a sort of an honor among thieves, especially on the Russian scene, where the pirate market is big.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          hungariantoast Link Parent
          I suppose I should have specified (and I'll edit my comment to clarify) that I meant public trackers. Private trackers are a whole other ball game and, like you said, comes down to an "honor among...

          I suppose I should have specified (and I'll edit my comment to clarify) that I meant public trackers. Private trackers are a whole other ball game and, like you said, comes down to an "honor among thieves" kind of situation.

          2 votes
          1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
            I was talking about public trackers: they're the only ones I'd used. Some of the Russian ones can get hella sketchy will all the ads and the redirects and malicious tracking and CPU mining, but...

            I was talking about public trackers: they're the only ones I'd used. Some of the Russian ones can get hella sketchy will all the ads and the redirects and malicious tracking and CPU mining, but the content has been solid. There's a certain diligence to criminality here, I suppose. :)

            1 vote
    2. [2]
      KapteinB Link Parent
      Is there a minimum number of licenses we need to buy when buying bulk? Could we form a company (Disgruntled Windows 10 Users GmbH) for the sole purpose of buying LTSC licenses for its shareholders?

      You won't be able to get LTSC for yourself permanently unless (A) you're willing to update the trial timer on a trial version every 90 days, or (B) are part of a business who buy Win10 Enterprise in bulk (LTSC is an extension of the Enterprise edition). Option A is clunky but workable, and Option B is expensive if you wish to go solo.

      Is there a minimum number of licenses we need to buy when buying bulk? Could we form a company (Disgruntled Windows 10 Users GmbH) for the sole purpose of buying LTSC licenses for its shareholders?

      3 votes
      1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        I like the way you're thinking. Don't know if there's a minimum number, though I'm sure you can find it if there is. In one of the articles I linked there's a link to a monthly subscription...

        I like the way you're thinking. Don't know if there's a minimum number, though I'm sure you can find it if there is.

        In one of the articles I linked there's a link to a monthly subscription program that apparently gives you access to the Enterprise edition. Might be a good place to start.

    3. [6]
      asoftbird Link Parent
      Heh, I already kicked most of it's crap off over the years, it's just there's little changes to how Windows functions compared to 7 that'd bundle together into one annoying mess. A barebones Win10...

      EDIT: you can also disable a whole lot about Windows telemetry and the unwanted services via third-party tools, such as O&O ShutUp10 or Ashampoo Antispy.

      Heh, I already kicked most of it's crap off over the years, it's just there's little changes to how Windows functions compared to 7 that'd bundle together into one annoying mess.

      A barebones Win10 version would be the best, similar to the WinXP-Performance Edition I used to run years ago. Some guy cut out all the crap and got it down to about 300 MB, which ran lightning fast on my PC at the time.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        Then you're looking for LTSC: the barest-bones Win10 will ever get. There's also the project called ReactOS – which I didn't mention because it's in beta. I doubt you'd be able to run all of the...

        A barebones Win10 version would be the best

        Then you're looking for LTSC: the barest-bones Win10 will ever get.

        There's also the project called ReactOS – which I didn't mention because it's in beta. I doubt you'd be able to run all of the apps you'd listed on it, but there are official screenshots of running Photoshop CS2, which is impressive enough.

        There's also also the thing called GreenteaOS – a fork of ReactOS, of unknown capacity to run at the moment.

        1. asoftbird Link Parent
          I'm seriously considering LTSC now, sounds something I'd like.

          I'm seriously considering LTSC now, sounds something I'd like.

        2. [2]
          Diff Link Parent
          GreenteaOS doesn't seem to actually exist

          GreenteaOS doesn't seem to actually exist

      2. cwagner Link Parent
        Heh, I used to run Windows XP Black Edition. 64 MB or so ISO with anything not needed for playing games stripped out :D

        Heh, I used to run Windows XP Black Edition. 64 MB or so ISO with anything not needed for playing games stripped out :D

    4. [7]
      Crestwave Link Parent
      What was the problem? Did you get to the bootloader? If not, did you try using the USB's bootloader to boot it? You may have a 32-bit UEFI or something.

      My choices when installing an OS were severely limited by the fact that, while Linux distros work okay from live USBs, no distro would run when installed on the laptop. I tried different drives, different distros, maybe even different USBs – no avail. So, it was Windows, and version was the choice.

      What was the problem? Did you get to the bootloader? If not, did you try using the USB's bootloader to boot it? You may have a 32-bit UEFI or something.

      1 vote
      1. [6]
        ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        Didn't even get to the loading part after installing. Blank screen, no response. How would I go about it? I thought I could only load the live OS loaded on the USB using USB. I dunno if that says...

        Didn't even get to the loading part after installing. Blank screen, no response.

        If not, did you try using the USB's bootloader to boot it?

        How would I go about it? I thought I could only load the live OS loaded on the USB using USB.

        I dunno if that says much, but my system is x64. Does that make the UEFI x64, as well?

        1. [4]
          ghostsplosion Link Parent
          Did you use a program like Unetbootin to properly burn the iso to the USB? I've installed a range of different distros from USB and never had an issue. Also, sounds stupid, but did you remember...

          Did you use a program like Unetbootin to properly burn the iso to the USB? I've installed a range of different distros from USB and never had an issue.

          Also, sounds stupid, but did you remember after actually installing the distro, to remove the USB and boot without it? Otherwise you will just be booting the USB constantly and not the distro you just installed.

          2 votes
          1. [3]
            ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
            I used Rufus, the latest version at the time. You know, that's exactly the kind of tech support you need to give. Even the smartest among us may not see all the angles and be oblivious to the...

            Did you use a program like Unetbootin to properly burn the iso to the USB?

            I used Rufus, the latest version at the time.

            Also, sounds stupid, but did you remember after actually installing the distro, to remove the USB and boot without it?

            You know, that's exactly the kind of tech support you need to give. Even the smartest among us may not see all the angles and be oblivious to the simpler things. It's just so easy to overlook such a plain fact. So, good on you for asking.

            I don't remember if I booted with the USB in. May have, but even then, in all cases, the distro never loaded.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              ghostsplosion Link Parent
              Fair enough, sometimes it is something quite simple. Maybe give it another bash (if you want) and try to install a distro, and post back here with any issues. I'm sure someone will help!

              Fair enough, sometimes it is something quite simple. Maybe give it another bash (if you want) and try to install a distro, and post back here with any issues. I'm sure someone will help!

              1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
                I want to try. Having separate environments – leisure and working – would be fantastic. Maybe when I get a desktop.

                I want to try. Having separate environments – leisure and working – would be fantastic.

                Maybe when I get a desktop.

                1 vote
        2. Crestwave Link Parent
          It depends on the bootloader used, as it doesn't have the entry for your system, of course; I use minimal distros and all of them have just used plain GRUB, which has a shell you can use to boot...

          How would I go about it? I thought I could only load the live OS loaded on the USB using USB.

          It depends on the bootloader used, as it doesn't have the entry for your system, of course; I use minimal distros and all of them have just used plain GRUB, which has a shell you can use to boot another system. Others will likely also use GRUB, but I don't know if some disable the command-line to prevent newbies from getting confused or something.

          I dunno if that says much, but my system is x64. Does that make the UEFI x64, as well?

          Not necessarily; most computers with 32-bit UEFI actually have 64-bit CPUs, as they just use them because they're cheaper. 32-bit computers generally use BIOS. It's not very common, though, so if your computer isn't some weak and cheap laptop, it's likely 64-bit UEFI. Unless it's old, then it might be plain BIOS.

          There are other reasons for a bootloader to fail, though; for example, I had a similar situation where I could use a live USB but not an installation and it turned out that my computer fails to use a bootloader that isn't in /EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI. I just installed it to that path and everything worked perfectly.

          1 vote
    5. [8]
      teaearlgraycold Link Parent
      I pirated LTSC. It's pretty easy and I've enjoyed it so far.

      I pirated LTSC. It's pretty easy and I've enjoyed it so far.

      1. [3]
        asoftbird Link Parent
        Does that circumvent the 90 day trial thing?

        Does that circumvent the 90 day trial thing?

        1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
          If you activate it – yes, you will no longer need to worry about trial. Technically, you would have a licensed OS on your drive, as far as the OS itself is concerned. Had mine for about two months...

          If you activate it – yes, you will no longer need to worry about trial. Technically, you would have a licensed OS on your drive, as far as the OS itself is concerned.

          Had mine for about two months now. No issues with credentials so far.

      2. [4]
        Grzmot Link Parent
        I've read that there are occasional issues when it comes to GPU drivers and games. Do you play at all and have encountered any? I'm currently considering switching.

        I've read that there are occasional issues when it comes to GPU drivers and games. Do you play at all and have encountered any? I'm currently considering switching.

        1. [3]
          teaearlgraycold Link Parent
          Never had any issues that I know about. I can even use RTX features. The current LTSC version is just new enough to be supported.

          Never had any issues that I know about. I can even use RTX features. The current LTSC version is just new enough to be supported.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Grzmot Link Parent
            Thanks for the info, might make the jump now as I do play a lot of games, so Linux is out of the question for now.

            Thanks for the info, might make the jump now as I do play a lot of games, so Linux is out of the question for now.

            1 vote
            1. teaearlgraycold Link Parent
              I dual boot. Maybe one day I'll be able to play the hottest new AAA games on Linux. Back when all I played was Minecraft Linux worked perfectly fine as a gaming OS. I actually got much better...

              I dual boot. Maybe one day I'll be able to play the hottest new AAA games on Linux.

              Back when all I played was Minecraft Linux worked perfectly fine as a gaming OS. I actually got much better framerates than on Windows.

  3. vivaria Link
    Which ones?

    since win10's shenanigans are driving me mad

    Which ones?

    6 votes
  4. [5]
    cadadr Link
    Win 7 is a good "upgrade" from Win 10. Personally, I am good with Debian. But if I had to use windows, I would Win 7. IDK much about Macs, but that might be a good option too.

    Win 7 is a good "upgrade" from Win 10. Personally, I am good with Debian. But if I had to use windows, I would Win 7.

    IDK much about Macs, but that might be a good option too.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      vektor Link Parent
      Windows 7's end of life is early next year. I would advise against switching to it at this point. I'm still on it, but I'm slowly migrating to linux at this point.

      Windows 7's end of life is early next year. I would advise against switching to it at this point. I'm still on it, but I'm slowly migrating to linux at this point.

      17 votes
      1. [3]
        cromiium Link Parent
        Anybody have any experience with Win 8?

        Anybody have any experience with Win 8?

        1. deing Link Parent
          I used Windows 8.1 for quite some time and it can be made very tolerable using utilities like Classic Shell if you dislike the Metro start screen. Though it's pretty inconsistent about where you...

          I used Windows 8.1 for quite some time and it can be made very tolerable using utilities like Classic Shell if you dislike the Metro start screen. Though it's pretty inconsistent about where you can find some items — some are in the Metro styled settings app, some in the traditional Control.exe. Just minor issues though.
          The only real problem for me was that AMD doesn't offer graphics drivers for Win8. The Win7 ones worked out of the box, but they'll probably lose updates once Win7 does. I switched through various Linux distros later, but my games VM still runs on Win8.1 and I'm happy with it.

          3 votes
        2. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
          My laptop came pre-installed with Windows 8. The first advice I was given as to the performance of the laptop was to (1) get more RAM, (2) install Windows 10, 'cause Windows 8 was hogging memory...

          My laptop came pre-installed with Windows 8.

          The first advice I was given as to the performance of the laptop was to (1) get more RAM, (2) install Windows 10, 'cause Windows 8 was hogging memory like it's alone on the HDD.

          1 vote
  5. loto Link
    I'd like to suggest a linux distro as an escape from win10's walled garden, but given all the software you need that isn't on linux that's not an option (office, solidworks, illustrator - some of...

    I'd like to suggest a linux distro as an escape from win10's walled garden, but given all the software you need that isn't on linux that's not an option (office, solidworks, illustrator - some of it may work in wine, but your millage may vary). I'd go for windows 7 or windows 10 LTSC (I think some other folks have explained it well already, but it's a version of win10 with slightly less bloat and no/infrequent updates). I'm relatively certain windows 7's still getting security updates, so personally I'd go with that to not have to deal with windows 10's other objectionables (ads/tracking/etc.), but there's the danger that newer stuff will potentially not support it, in which case go LTSC's probably the way to go (I think the main thing that doesn't work on windows 7 is Directx12 stuff, but there may be more I'm not aware of)

    3 votes
  6. babypuncher Link
    Turning off the crap that makes Windows 10 annoying isn't exactly difficult. Most of it can be configured in the Settings app. More of it can be outright avoided by buying a Pro license. It's hard...

    Turning off the crap that makes Windows 10 annoying isn't exactly difficult. Most of it can be configured in the Settings app. More of it can be outright avoided by buying a Pro license. It's hard to offer much help beyond this without knowing what exactly about Windows 10 bothers you.

    Do not use Windows 7. It will stop receiving security updates in less than a year. Windows 8.x also has a limited shelf life left, so it's not the best long-term option.

    3 votes
  7. [2]
    no_exit Link
    Unless there's a particular reason you can't do so, I would just dual-boot with a Linux distro.

    Unless there's a particular reason you can't do so, I would just dual-boot with a Linux distro.

    2 votes
    1. Diff Link Parent
      This is what I did for years, really just trying to avoid buyer's remorse with Win10. I ended up just spending all my time under Linux though. But if I ever did really need it, it was there. It's...

      This is what I did for years, really just trying to avoid buyer's remorse with Win10. I ended up just spending all my time under Linux though. But if I ever did really need it, it was there. It's gone now, but I still keep the copy on my laptop snoozing in some tiny, dark corner of the hard drive.

      2 votes
  8. firstname Link
    You could do what i do and use an older version of Windows, i myself use 8.1. Its been a general rule of mine as a Windows user to never use the newest version. And an updated version at that,...

    You could do what i do and use an older version of Windows, i myself use 8.1. Its been a general rule of mine as a Windows user to never use the newest version. And an updated version at that, hence the .1. Its an option if you dont feel like spending a lot of time learning a new OS.

    1 vote
  9. [2]
    Kraetos Link
    Budget permitting, just get a Mac mini.

    Budget permitting, just get a Mac mini.

    1 vote
    1. nothis Link Parent
      There's a lot Apple does wrong. Operating systems isn't one of them. I can recommend macOS (at this point), it's basically Unix with a sane GUI.

      There's a lot Apple does wrong. Operating systems isn't one of them. I can recommend macOS (at this point), it's basically Unix with a sane GUI.

      1 vote
  10. mrbig (edited ) Link
    Try reinstalling Windows and running Tron Script to remove the crap (you can run on your current system, but backup your files). Windows 8 is not a bad option if you make it more like 7. You can...

    Try reinstalling Windows and running Tron Script to remove the crap (you can run on your current system, but backup your files). Windows 8 is not a bad option if you make it more like 7. You can run the Tron script on it too. Other than that the only option is Mac OS.

    Or you could ditch all this proprietary software and come to the free side of the force ;)

    1 vote
  11. win8linux (edited ) Link
    Knowing some of the software that you use, you're pretty much stuck with using Windows for the time being. Unless, of course, if you're willing to learn alternatives to them that are also...

    Knowing some of the software that you use, you're pretty much stuck with using Windows for the time being. Unless, of course, if you're willing to learn alternatives to them that are also available for both OSes.

    For Photoshop and Illustrator, GIMP and InkScape/Krita would be their equivalents. As for MS Office, there's LibreOffice which has a notebook bar setting in the most recent releases that looks similar to the Ribbon UI; if you're online most of the time, then Office Online through Chrome or Firefox is a very good option.

    Not too sure about Tidal, but you'll probably need Wine (Windows compatibility layer for Linux) to use it or within a whole Windows VM (virtual machine).

    If these don't work for you, then you'll have to use Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 LTSC. While the first one is the best IMHO, support will end in a year and users will start getting nagged to move away from it soon. Windows 8.1 has quite a different user interface from the others, but can be changed via third-party utilities. However if you are on relatively new hardware (2 years old or newer), then you will have to use some version of Windows 10. Others here have already provided ways to get it, so do check them out.

    EDIT:

    Even with the use of third-party utilities to curb Windows telemetry, there are multiple scattered reports of updates nullifying their changes. While LTSC lets users postpone updates to a far greater degree than any other W10 edition, this is just delaying the inevitable. Also, Windows is still heavier than Linux even with the unnecessary bits cut out. You can stay on Windows if you want, but I'd advise learning the alternatives that I've previously mentioned and Linux for the long-term. Having a dual-boot setup is great for this as it will allow you to work in Windows when needed but in Linux for anything else.

    1 vote
  12. cromiium Link
    You use a lot of proprietary software that's pretty much available only for Windows and MacOS. You could try Windows 7 or Windows 8. You can run Linux using Wine but I don't know what your...

    You use a lot of proprietary software that's pretty much available only for Windows and MacOS. You could try Windows 7 or Windows 8. You can run Linux using Wine but I don't know what your experience is going to be like.

  13. JustABanana Link
    If you are ok with piracy try out windows 10 ltsc. It's windows a version of windows 10 designed for enterprises without all the bloat and telemetry

    If you are ok with piracy try out windows 10 ltsc. It's windows a version of windows 10 designed for enterprises without all the bloat and telemetry