I would say try different Live USBs to make up your mind before installing it on your laptop.
Here are some distros I recommend to first timers:
They are popular enough to get support easily. PopOS is not as popular but has a company behind it and I can personally say they are very responsive, as well as their community. It’s based on Ubuntu, so if you search for help and you come across a guide for Ubuntu, it may very well also work for PopOS.
As for the 3 in general, I love that their default desktop environment is nothing like Windows or MacOS so it doesn’t lull you into a false sense of familarity, but remains easy to discover how to use on your own. Just try each of the three (use Ventoy so you can have all three on a single USB flash drive) and decide which one you like before you install.
There are some distros that looks familiar to WIndows. The problem with these is that I find they’re more of a hindrance to learning a new paradigm because of it’s cosmetic similarity to Windows - if you understand what I mean. It’s like you’ll keep trying to find how to do things the “Windows” way because it looks a lot like it.
Like learning a new language. Your native language may not translate well to a new langauge you’re trying to learn. If you can’t unlearn your native sentence structure, you may unintentionally try to fit the new language words in your native structure and it just… isn’t right. Think how Chinese or Japanese speakers when they are new to English. They may get the words right (or close, but different tense, etc) but say them in the wrong order.
I like to start beginners with something that’s close to stock Gnome. It’s easy and simple to discover how to use on your own without much fumbling, and doesn’t anything like Windows so it doesn’t lull you into a false sense of familiarity. It’s also not exactly like MacOS either. Definitely it’s own thing as well as a unique workflow.
PopOS adds their own tiling app and other extras unique to their distro out of the box, but as with any Linux distro, you can make any distro look/use/act like any other distro if you have the knowledge.
But then again, some people learn differently, so if you want to try these other distros that kinda give you a sense of cosmetic familarity, here are some that you may want to try:
- Linux Mint
- Elementry OS
- Deepin Linux
I’ve only tried Zorin, Mint, and Elemetry, but not the last two. This was while I was also trying to find a distro to call home.
In case you’re wondering, I settled into Fedora 39. I do own a System 76 laptop that still has PopOS.
As for working out of the box in a FW laptop, I see a lot of people using Fedora and Ubuntu with very little issue if any.