Is Linux really that stable?

So when I was initially moving from Windows to Linux, Stability was a point that kept being brought up... users saying that Linux is very stable, it almost never breaks down, etc. But my experience has been somewhat questionable.
I'll start this by saying that I exclusively used Windows on all of my Computers for more than 12 years and throughout this 12 years, I only reinstalled Windows a total of 5 or 6 times.
I am now a Linux user for less than a year and I already had to reinstall Linux 7 or 8 times (only on my personal machine).
I am not really judging the stability based on my number of re-installs but I noticed that this is the case for others too and it's a thought I can't get rid of.
But before going any further I want to say that this number of re-installs is definitely encouraged by the significantly easier and quicker installation process of an average Linux distro (for example Zorin) in contrast to Windows, and also the fact that I'm a relatively new user. There are probably other factors such as distro-hopping, Straitjacketed Windows design, and more contributing to this phenomena.

So my question is, what are the reasons that desktop Linux operating systems are so prone to breaking down and making the user to re-install? And more importantly, what could be done to avoid debacles and subsequently re-installs?
Have you also encountered similar situations/thoughts?
I'm curious to know if I'm the only one thinking this way or if others feel the same too.

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In my experience, Windows broke all of the time but I usually was able to make painstaking repairs without the nightmare of reinstalling it.

Whereas with Zorin (linux) it is so much easier to back up and reinstall than Windows ever was, I am far more willing to wipe and reload Linux than I ever could have been on Windows.
So, I may ask if the reinstallations performed on Linux are due to a correlation with stability- or an easier solution?

That being said, my experience on Zorin OS Lite was that things rarely broke the system - or at least it was much easier to repair to the point I notice it less. As you know... My experiences on Linux with Gnome were far, far more trying.
I believe that Linux as a whole is more stable in many ways than Windows, as far as Operating System stability. However... in these modern times, the Graphics Drivers on Linux struggle a lot more, especially Nvidia and AMD as Nvidia resents closed source, so kernel and driver updates are riskier.
I think that alone is very noticeable and gives Windows a Definite edge, since Nvidia licks them some Windows.

It is also easier for a user to break Linux on their own - which is why forums like these are essential to help newer users introduce themselves to maintenance on Linux, proper terminal usage and even caution...
I think the Biggest Problem with Linux is that it is Fast-Paced as compared to Windows. Windows standardizes, whereas Linux has Free Development. Many users look up a guide on the internet for an installation or a configuration on Linux, unknowing that they are following a guide that is way out of date.
It is as if Linux Guides need a Cut-Off period on the web, they last three years at most, then the page must be destroyed.

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We've been using Linux exclusively on our home systems since 2001 (except for one netbook we keep XP on so we can continue to sync our eBookMan devices). Linux has been very stable for us. My laptop will run for weeks at a time without needing to shut it down or restart. I just do what I want to do, close the lid and let it go into sleep mode. Then, when I need it again, just open the lid and pick up where I left off.

I agree with Aravisian, that what can make Linux unstable is the fast paced development some Linux distributions go through. This is why I don't update/upgrade the OS very often. On average, I only update our systems maybe three times a year. I don't need the latest and greatest, I just need it to do the job I need done.

I also don't install a lot of "experimental" or redundant applications on our systems, either. We typically keep only one or two that do the same function, just to keep shared libraries and system resources from getting too bogged down.

I'm also pretty picky as to what Linux distribution I choose to use. I typically choose the ones with slower development cycles, which use trusted and stable architectures.

I've been using Linux this way for a long time and it's served our household quite well. Most of my career has been in the world of IT and, although I didn't mind getting paid to deal with the issues that come from using Microsoft, I don't want to have to deal with them at home.

Additional: I guess another thing that probably helps keep my Linux systems stable is that I'm not one for always wanting the latest and greatest computer hardware when it comes out. I stick to the technology that's been around for a while and has proven to be stable and reliable. So, Linux developers have had a long time to get the equipment that I use working with the kernel... which certainly helps make it a good experience for me.

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I recall, when I first started using Zorin OS, I reinstalled a lot in those first couple of months. But after that, it became a very rare occurrence.

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This reminds me of a question I have been meaning to ask, I get an update notice approximately 1 or 2 times a week from Software Updater. Most of the time it involves Zorin OS Base and / or Firefox and some language packages. I have been hesitant to install these updates. I usually wait a week or so after they first come out. Are these updates safe to install or can these sometimes be the cause of issues that need to be fixed or cause a need to reinstall?

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I haven't been using Zorin for very long, so I can't comment on it with any practical experience behind it. But, in the past, I've used some distributions that did produce issues when applying up-to-the-minute updates. I can remember Mandriva causing me boot-up problems after an upgrade like that a few times.

When I used to run my own web server, I always did the updates, as they usually dealt with security issues. But the servers didn't require complex GUI desktop environments, which in my experience always seemed to be the reason for my instability issues, when I got them. I think the more complicated the GUI desktop you're running, the more chances of experiencing stability issues after updates (at least in my experience). Not sure if that is much help to you.

In my old age :wink: I've just become wary of frequent system updates. I'm not as adventurous as I used to be.

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Oh, and I've always been a believer in frequent backups. The first three rules everyone should know about using a computer are:

1 - Backup
2 - Backup
3 - Backup

Needless to say, I always do a backup before I do a system upgrade.

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Generally, safe. In the last couple of years, I have had an update cause some issues. Usually, they are fixed very quickly by another update.
Never had an update cause a problem that necessitated reinstallation.

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This is very good to know and is reassuring.

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I should point out- I stick to Zorin OS Lite...

On Zorin Core, there seem more issues with gnome-shell.
Just being brutally honest...

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I've been using 16 beta since it became beta, have updated every time i boot into zorin and have had no issues whatsoever. I had to go to 16, and i have appreciated the opportunity to test the alpha and beta versions, because of getting new hardware. 15.3 didn't have the support for the newer processor, nvme drives and the video card. The 5.6 kernel introduced a lot of support, but 5.8 was the minimum to recognize and support the hardware. Upgrading the kernel semi-broke zorin... only half supporting the hardware and not really integrating with the os completely. Other than the move to newer equipment, both versions have served me well and been more stable than windows ever was (blue screen... Again).

Win 10 has improved and doesn't blue screen as often as past versions, but drivers and software have both tanked windows (as well as updates). I can't say the same for zorin.

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I appreciate all of your insights. Thank you.

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Thank you everyone for sharing your insights. It's really helpful to see all your thoughts.
I took my lesson and now I pay more attention to backups :smiley: I setup a whole partition to only serve for Timeshift backups.

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You have a far better attitude toward change than I do.
It's funny how a person can live life thinking they are an above average driver or above average talent... You wonder where the averages come from.
When I migrated over to Linux, it was less by choice. My HDD went out and I only had a Blank one to spare and a Zorin OS 12.1 core disk some guy gave me at the flea market. The idea of buying Windows irked me... I opted to try out Zorin.
And all I did was complain.
I messed up my system repeatedly, requiring a wipe and reload often. I am so used to "being in charge" that I was trying to be in charge of my computer before I properly learned the system.
Looking back, I see far more flaws in myself than I do in Linux. I am working on changing my attitudes about change.

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@taha_mcp
That is such a great idea! Taking "baby steps" and keeping things as simple as possible, while you get your Linux bearings will serve you well and make the experience much more enjoyable.

@Aravisian
What drove me to Linux was the desire of not being forced to do things (by Microsoft) that I didn't want to do with my own computer. With Windows, I always felt that I was forced to upgrade equipment on Microsoft's schedule. I was forced to spend more money on software just to keep my system secure and running. I was forced to do things Microsoft's way. When I'm forced to do something I don't believe in or enjoy, I'm driven to do things my own way no matter how much I have to change. And if I'm told that I can't do it that way, I get stubborn and go out of my way to do it anyway. Here I am, twenty years later still out from under the heels of Microsoft or Apple, doing what I want to do with my own computer. :smiley:

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That is exactly how I feel about Gnome. Gnome is forcing it's wants and what it thinks is best on the user. Gnome firmly believes that minimalism and reduction on functionality to resemble Mobile UI is the way to go. That is fine... except that they force that onto everyone using Gnome and like Microsoft, Gnome is the dominant desktop environment in Linux. Even XFCE is turning gnomish, now. Adopting the Gnome icon naming conventions and csds...
What makes it so galling is that they behave this way under the Gnu license- and it restricted them so much, that they tried to leave the Gnu License in order to better restrict users to the Gnome Mission Statement.

My point: On Linux, things are shifting the Microsoft way.

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The Linux kernel is remarkably stable and reasonably secure.

As a general rule, Linux server installations are almost always very stable. Linux desktops are much less so.

I think that many Linux desktops are relatively unstable because of a number of factors: (1) many of the popular distos drag along a lot of cruft, in the same way that Windows drags along a lot of cruft, because the distros are not laser-focused on desktop use, but instead try to meet the needs of a wide variety of uses; (2) many users overload the desktop with this, that or the other modification/addon/extension, creating conflicting dependencies and other self-inflicted wounds; (3) community development/maintenance, which is Linux's greatest strength, is also a weakness when it comes to maintaining stability in the desktop environment, because development/maintenance is too often out of sync internally and externally; and (4) third-party drivers are often an afterthought and poorly executed and maintained.

My experience is similar to yours, in the sense that I've been using Windows for 35 +/- years and Linux for 15 +/- years (Ubuntu 2006-2017, Solus OS 2917-present). I've encountered few stability issues over those years, although I remember the pre-XP Windows years as being a lot less stable than the Windows environment since then. With Linux, early Ubuntu was nothing to write home about in terms of stability but that got better -- not great, but better -- over time, and I've been running Solus OS since 2017 without a single stability issue. I'm evaluating Zorin for a potential use case, but I'm wary because Zorin is a Ubuntu derivative. I've been reading the forum (both old and current) looking for systemic issues. I've got to make it over the Ubuntu hurdle before I install Zorin in a business situation.

I run on relatively new, relatively vanilla (Intel Core processors and onboard graphics) hardware, am meticulous about system maintenance and updating (monthly with Windows, weekly with Solus), run vanilla software for the most part (LibreOffice, Edge/Firefox and so on), generally run out-of-the-box installations (both in Windows and Linux), and rebuild each of my computers from the ground up every January to rid them of accumulated cruft.

As to which is more stable? It is hard to tell. I haven't had a crash on any of my systems in years that wasn't caused by a hardware issue. DE's (both Windows and Linux) tend to carry/accumulate a lot of cruft, and cruft causes crashes.

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That's a real shame. My other OS of choice these days is Exe GNU/Linux. One of the reasons I like it so much is because it uses the Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE) by default. Although it has it's issues, I think it's about as close to the original Linux philosophy as you can get these days. It's also well suited for the older hardware that I currently use.

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Yes, this is a concern for me, as well.

@tomscharbach, @davidb_sk why are Ubuntu derivatives a turn off for you? Is it because of systemd?

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