You may be considering whether learning Linux is worth the effort since it’s much less popular on the desktop than macOS or Windows. There are plenty of reasons that learning Linux pays off, and here are some of them.
1. Lots of IT Infrastructure Is Linux-Based
One reason for learning Linux is that much of the infrastructure that powers the internet, including routers and servers, is based on Linux. W3Techs estimates that 37.6 percent of websites use some version of Linux for their server OS, compared to the 20.3 percent running Windows, as of June 2022.
If you use Google multiple times per day, you’re actually using Linux. This is also true of many other websites you use throughout the day to shop, stay connected with family and friends, and book airline tickets.
Even many consumer routers use Linux as the OS, and you can also upgrade your router’s firmware to an alternative version like DD-WRT.
If you’re seriously thinking about a career in IT, you should consider learning Linux. Familiarity with Linux will likely be one of the skills that prospective employers will look for on your résumé.
2. Learning How OSes Really Work
If you want to learn more about how the software that drives your system works, Linux is a good choice.
The source code to the kernel and other utilities is available for anyone to look at. This is why university computer science departments have educated their students on Unix-like operating systems for decades.
Due to Linux’s openness, it also seems easier to find information on Linux internals than it is for Windows both in print and online. This may be because more technical authors can pore over the details of Linux source code and explain how everything works.
3. Great for Learning Networking and Security
Linux is a great OS for learning networking and security because so many servers rely on it, as mentioned earlier. This is because the modern internet was based on Unix, and Linux has largely inherited that legacy.
Linux distributions also come with many networking utilities that let you test a network like ping, tracepath, or ip, and you can install more networking tools like tcpdump or Nmap using your package manager to examine network traffic.
This means that you can learn a lot more about how networking and the internet actually work. Because the source code is open, researchers can also find bugs and correct them more easily than they can with proprietary systems.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to code, the best way to do so is on a Linux system.
The biggest reason is that the tools you need to build programs, such as editors, compilers, debuggers, IDEs, and interpreters either come with Linux distros for free or can be downloaded through a package manager.
Software development kits could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars on proprietary systems, but Linux is really a software development kit all by itself.
Do you want to become a data scientist? You can learn Python or R. Want to delve into the details of system programming? You can compile C code with Clang or GCC. Want to learn more about databases? You can experiment with SQLite before moving on to more complex relational database managers like MariaDB or PostgreSQL.
You can find tools for just about any programming language that has ever existed, from COBOL to Perl to Lisp to Bash on Linux systems. Unix-like systems have been popular among developers for so long because so many programming tools have been written, and Linux is no exception.
And you don’t have to give up your existing system, either. If you have Windows 10 or 11, you can run a Linux distribution alongside your favorite Windows apps with WSL. Or Windows games, to be completely honest.
5. You Can Make Old Computers Come Alive Again
If you’re a serious computer user, you probably have several old machines in various states of repair lying around. Some of them may no longer receive software updates from Microsoft or Apple. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could bring them back to life and get some use out of them? With Linux, you can.
With the right distribution, you can install Linux on an older machine to give it a new lease on life. Got an old laptop with a 32-bit processor? You can use Linux to provide a basic but serviceable lightweight desktop for web surfing, email, or word processing.
Do you know someone who needs a computer? You could set up one of your old machines, making sure to erase any personal data, and install a lightweight distro. Chrome OS Flex is a variant that’s designed for exactly this purpose. The great thing about modern Linux is that you don’t have to be a command-line guru to accomplish basic tasks.
Or maybe you’d want to set up a home server on a spare desktop machine? With Linux, you can set up your own inexpensive “home lab” for learning more about networking and setting up servers.
6. Linux Is Just Plain Fun
This is less tangible, but one reason that Linux users have stuck with the system with all of its quirks is that it’s just fun to play around with. This may sound frivolous, but there’s a practical reason. You’re more likely to keep at things you enjoy.
This is likely one reason that Unix-like systems such as Linux power so much internet infrastructure. “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch,” Eric Raymond wrote in his classic essay on open-source software, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar.” Lots of developers have built programs that they needed to get some task done.
Linux isn’t just an operating system, but a lifestyle. User groups have been a part of using Linux for a long time, going all the way back to the early days of Unix.
Linux support has tended to be peer-to-peer, whether online or off. While professional support exists for enterprise deployments, a lot of the support you’ll get as a user tends to come from informal sources, whether that’s an in-person meetup at a local cafe or an IRC channel dedicated to your favorite distro full of people from all over the world.
Despite the anti-social image that computing has, Linux is a great way to meet interesting people and make new friends.
Lots of Practical Reasons for Learning Linux
There are many practical benefits of knowing Linux, from learning how to manage servers and networks to learning to code, repurposing old computers, and meeting new people.
If you use Windows, you don’t have to give up your system or fiddle with complicated virtual machines or dual booting to learn more about Linux. Windows Subsystem for Linux, also known as WSL, is a perfect stepping stone into the Linux world.