Congratulations for making the decision to move from Windows XP to Linux! You won't regret your decision. Why? Well, as Shakespeare would say, "Let me count the ways."
1. Your computer won't slow down due to malware you accidentally downloaded from your PC when you either surfed the web, clicked on some weird looking dialog box or opened up an attachment by a trusted person you know. (Say "good-bye" to issues like this.)
2. You won't have to run an anti-virus software program which updates the latest virus and malware definitions every time you touch your PC.
3. You won't have to scan your PC every time you need to use your PC.
4. You won't have to quarantine some malware or spyware that your anti-virus software caught and remove it.
5. You won't have to defrag your PC at all, which you got used to routinely doing every week or every time your PC had a major slowdown.
6. You won't have to restore your PC after frequently getting "Blue Screen of Death" crashes.
7. You won't have to spend a dime on Linux equivalent alternatives for wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentation, database and email software that you're accustomed to paying a subscription or licensing fee on.
8. You can choose from the many Linux distros found here and try them out for free to determine which one suits your needs best.
9. Once you get the hang of using Linux, you can go distro-hopping and learn more about Linux programs which pertain to you.
10. When you go from newbie to an experienced Linux user, you can change your desktop look and feel, besides distro-hopping, to designs which appeal to you.
11. You can participate in a Distro community to shape future designs and functionality of your distro of choice.
12. You have now expanded your capacity to use tools not locked into specific vendor ecosystems, which will lower your total cost of technology ownership in the long run.
To make sure you create and maintain a pleasant experience with the Linux distro you've chosen, make sure you use a LTS version. LTS means "Long Term Support" version. Why? Because it will be supported longer in terms of bug fixes or security patches. For example, Ubuntu 12.04 and Linux Mint 13 are LTS versions.
Sure, it may be sexy to use the latest release of a distro with all the fancy bells and whistles of new functionality that may come with it. However, you must also make sure the functionality you rely on works for your current computing needs. Chances are the new release hasn't ironed out all the bugs and compatiblity issues yet so you're better off being conservative. Trust me on this.
The other important task you need to familiarize yourself with is backing up your Linux system. Here, it will serve you well to err on the side of caution before installing any Linux system updates, upgrading your Linux distro or installing new software on your Linux OS. You MUST back up your Linux OS before you do anything new to your Linux OS. Why? Because you don't want to be dealing with figuring out "technically" how to fix the software program you relied on daily that got broken from an update or some rogue code you downloaded. Trust me on this!!!
I use Clonezilla, which takes an image backup of your entire Linux OS. That means whatever was stored on your Linux OS at that time, whether it be data, programs, configuration details, file system, etc. is all zipped up and stored on that image backup. I followed the Clonezilla instructions to store it on a USB. Then I plugged in another USB to store the image backup. It's worked out very well for me. Just make sure that your USB, DVD or extra Hard Drive has enough capacity to store the image backup. That's the only caveat.
This blog and my website has many more tips on using Linux. Welcome aboard to a new adventure and newfound freedom from tedious system administration tasks and from proprietary, locked in ecosystems.